Reflections from the 2024 Australian Science Communicators Conference

Getting Australian researchers on the global stage and bringing in end-users from the beginning – Reflections by Rachael Vorwerk;
Science Communication, Education and Outreach Manager Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Optical Microcombs for Breakthrough Science (COMBS)

From arming our future politicians with scientific literacy skills, to analysing what people were saying on Twitter when COVID-19 first arrived, to working with an Indigenous community to build a school curriculum that changed to match its environment – these were just three of the 30+ topics on at the Australian Science Communicators Conference this year.

While it was impossible for me to visit every conference talk, I’ve pulled out some of my key learnings!

We need storytelling to show our Australian researchers’ international standing – Professor Peter Klinken AC

Peter Klinken AC began with a keynote about the need to tell stories about our
science. He stated that within 10kms of the University of Western Australia in
Perth, there are half a dozen companies remotely working on mines, and more
ex-NASA people compared to anywhere in Australia.

Klinken said:

“No one
knows we’ve got this remarkable capability. We don’t tell the story. We need to
be able to tell the story, shine light on that. And then other people will say,
‘I want to be there’. Then that becomes a self-fulfilling thing. Something is
happening there. I want to be there.”

takeaway from this keynote? Storytelling is fundamental to our work as science
communicators – the more we tell the stories of our research success, the more
our Australian researchers’ international standing will grow!

champion politicians before they get into power – Dr Temilade Sesan

government partnering with community members, local scientists partnering with
traditional rainmakers, and aspiring politicians partnering with waste
management experts – Dr Temilade Sesan’s case studies provided lesson after
lesson in the long-term power of the transdisciplinary approach.

Using the
humble stove to investigate how sustainable energy technologies could alleviate
poverty, and showing local scientists and traditional rainmakers that each of
their methods were complementary and mutually beneficial, this presentation
spoke about how combining the most polarising stakeholders can yield long-term

transdisciplinary approach involves things like:

  • joint
    framing of the research agenda
  • co-designing
    methods for knowledge generation
  • co-creating
    policy recommendations

This last
point is where the true long-term change comes in.

One of the
best ways to create long-term change? Build champion politicians before they
get into power. Dr Sesan spoke about creating true long-term change in a
waste-management project, by upskilling aspiring politicians with
evidence-based knowledge in a non-partisan way.

I love this idea – just as we upskill researchers with communication skills early (hopefully!), why not do the same with politicians to help them become more scientifically literate, and a scientific ally!

focused science communication – Preeti Castle

Normally as
science communicators, we come in once the breakthrough has happened, ready to
come in and promote it. But Preeti’s approach at the Western Australian
Biodiversity Science Institute (WABSI) has flipped it, where the team has gone
out talking to government, funders, industry and community about their research
needs at the beginning.

They asked their stakeholders: “What are your
key issues regarding biodiversity science, and what are your emerging issues
over the next 10 years?” And from these answers, the research themes were developed.

The benefits
of this approach? Stakeholders have buy-in from the beginning. And also that translating
and transforming happens at the start of the journey so (as science
communicators) we are not an afterthought.

I’m a big fan of this approach and have seen similar success in bringing in science communication in at the start of the research project. My Director Arnan Mitchell championed this approach in a previous Centre (the Integrated Photonics and Applications Centre, InPAC) I worked at, as he saw the importance of involving science communication from the beginning, particularly in understanding what our end-users need first, then creating our technology to match (this is very much the Lean Startup model!). I hope more organisations bring in science communicators from the beginning!

How do you identify and train future thought leaders to speak across boundaries? Geoff Batt, Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia

We have an enormous divide in the amount of research we are pushing out
in Australia (where we rank 7th in the world!), compared to our
amount of knowledge and technology outputs (where we rank 32nd in
the world). Geoff Batt argued that if we can help to upskill our researchers to
span the boundary between research and industry, then we may have more of a
chance of our ranking lifting on our research outputs.

training PhD students in science communication skills help them to advance
their careers? Geoff Batt’s presentation results said yes. The students say
this program has helped to advance their career, and has also helped them to
change the way they think about their research.

The takeaway message? Train PhD students – no matter the discipline – science communication skills and it will pay dividends.

were people saying on Twitter when COVID-19 first arrived? Jo Savill,
Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC)

The new Australian
Text Analytics Platform makes human data from the internet accessible to
researchers: think comments on news blogs, Reddit and Twitter.

Jo Savill
talked us through an example of what people were saying on Twitter when
COVID-19 first arrived, particularly as researchers wanted to gain insight into
society’s response.

Take a look
at how the lexicon changed over time – “quarantine”, “lockdown” and “spread” –
and as Jo joked, imagine if we could see how the word “toilet paper” evolved
over time!

You can read the full story (and see the graphs better too) on
the Australian Research Data Commons!

together a school curriculum that reflects the changing landscape: Caitlin
McLeod, David Broun, Rita Lusted, Kiwirrkurra community and staff

Four times a year Kiwirrkurra campus – 700
kilometres west of Alice Springs – community members and Elders have a bushfire
planning meeting with school teachers to have a say about what is happening on
country to inform the curriculum for that term.

In these
meetings, the community members speak about what they want their children to
learn, what knowledge they’d like passed down, and whether it’s the right time
– based on seasonal changes – for knowledge to be passed down.

genuine two-way communication means that the changing landscape is reflected
rapidly in the curriculum, meaning that traditional knowledge is connected
closely with the curriculum.

approach has led to many benefits, including:

  • empowerment
    for the school, their community, and the local rangers
  • reminding
    teachers across WA that they’re learners
  • empowering
    the Aboriginal community and the need to get rid of misconceptions
  • new
    research opportunities – new species have been found, sometimes by the students
  • the
    Indigenous community reconnecting more with their Indigenous knowledge.

This case study really showed the power of having a flexible curriculum that can adapt to our changing environment – at the seasonal level – and the power of really bringing students along on the journey to make our science curriculum more accessible and engaging.

If you’re interested in the project, the documentary called ‘Tjungu Nintirringanyi Ngurra Walytjangka / A Learning Journey for all – Two-way Science Kiwirrkurra’ is on YouTube here:

I’m looking
forward to putting these tips, frameworks and strategies into practice! There
will be other presentations I’ve missed, so please feel free to condense your
notes too!

Looking forward to ASC2025!

Post by Rachael Vorwerk

Informal dinner and/or drinks in Melbourne

Belgian Beer Cafe Melbourne

An invitation to all SciComm people in Melbourne next week! On Tuesday, a group of science communicators are meeting up after work. We’d love it if you could join us for a drink and/or dinner.

When: Tuesday 28 May, from 5:30pm

Where: Fathers Office, 249 Little Lonsdale Street (note there are 2 locations!)

This event is intended to be an informal catchup. Pay your own way: pop by for a drink or stay on for dinner.

Please RSVP via email to so that she can give the pub appropriate numbers.And if you lose the team on the night, feel free to call 0413 332 489 to find the group.

ABOUT THE VENUE: Speakeasies were prohibition’s worst-kept secrets. One century on, you could say Father’s Office ® meets that criteria. Walk down Little Lonsdale St and find a set of doors with the 18th Amendment on entry. Walk up the ‘old oak’ stairs and you are transformed into an old world version of the 1920’s prohibition era with some twists to create a truly authentic experience. Find out more.

This event is organised by Michael Wilson (Science Mike) and Sarah Brooker (Science in Public). Science in Public is a corporate member of the ASC. A big thank you to Sarah and Mike for coordinating.

ASC2024 Support, Connect Grow


New Registration Deadline
Program Update
Keynote Speakers Announced
Demo Extravaganzaaah


Good news! We are extending the conference registration deadline. Those who have registered and requested an invoice by 12:00pm AEST on Friday 31 May 2024 will be guaranteed conference attendance, catering and inclusion at all the social events. (Deadline for payment of invoices is Monday 3 June 12:00p AEST)

“Cooked Bird” Tickets, or those purchased after 12:00pm Friday 31 May 20024 AEST can still attend the conference but we can not guarantee catering or inclusion in the social events.

Register via the conference website before you miss out!


To those who have submitted abstracts for consideration in the program, thank you! We know you are waiting on final confirmation and your allocated session length and time. Thank you for your patience with this, we have received more abstracts than expected, many after the submission deadline that we are working hard to incorporate.

We anticipate that the program will be shareable very soon, and encourage you to book your flights, accommodation and to PLEASE complete the registration form if you haven’t already!

If your attendance is dependent on a confirmation of being accepted in the program, please email us directly at for clarification. 


We are SO excited to share with you three more super exciting keynote speakers.

Kaelin DeLong, MSc

Athena Institute, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Kaelin DeLong is a Junior Lecturer & Researcher at the Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam working on master’s courses about science communication, science journalism, and inter/transdisciplinarity. Kaelin is a Researcher on the COALESCE project, which is building the future European Competence Centre for Science Communication, and a Science Communication Trainer for an Aurora project that provides dialogue trainings at various European universities.

Kaelin also recently received a grant for an education innovation project about how generative AI is impacting the field of science communication.

With a background in biology and anthropology, Kaelin is broadly interested in the intersections between science, culture, language, identity, and social justice. She has researched everything from human-baboon interactions in South Africa to in/exclusion issues in Dutch science museums, and is currently fascinated by the intersection between climate change and mental health and the role of emotions in science communication. She enjoys incorporating storytelling, art, and humor into “traditional” scientific work, and is passionate about creating more diverse, robust, and just scientific communities.

Renae Sayers

 Director, Strategic Initiatives | School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Curtin University

When your career includes running away to join the Science Circus, getting the Prime Minister into the lab and helping launch things into space, you know scicomm is at the heart of the journey.

Renae has carved out a leadership position by solving strategic problems with science communication. She loves building new things, translating, connecting, and helping people see the world in a different light.

Today, passionately applying herself to amplifying and activating strategic projects and partnerships with Earth and Planetary Sciences, Renae is tackling new organisational frameworks and elevating opportunities for students, staff, and our wider community to experience the impact and importance of research to our everyday lives.

She remembers what it was like, not knowing a “scientist”, but consistently ogled the night sky in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, until 16-year-old Renae sent an email to NASA that kick-started her journey through a degree in Astrophysics and onward to a career in STEM engagement across the globe.

Now, some 22 years later working with NASA and space leaders globally, Renae’s leadership acumen has supported the development of the West Australian Space ecosystem through the establishment of the Space Science and Technology Centre and its Binar Space Program (Noongar for “fireball” or shooting star), and as part of the founding team for the Australian Remote Operations for Space and Earth (AROSE) consortium. In 2021, Renae helped spearhead the biggest university media event in the country, with the launch of Western Australia’s first spacecraft, Binar-1, and was recognised as a Finalist for the inaugural AMCHAM Alliance Award for Emerging Leadership in Space.

She is particularly proud about BinarX – the outreach program putting space exploration in the hands of high schoolers with student-designed and built payloads on-orbit the Binar spacecraft – going to the heart of “making space in service of others”.

Aedan Pope

Aedan Pope is a Principal Engineer at Google DeepMind. He is currently working on generative AI efforts (Gemini) in modelling, evaluations, and applications.

Aedan has worked at Google for over a decade, including engineering roles on various products (Blogger, Android / Google Play), leading the DeepMind Research Platform Team, and now as a senior individual contributor role in the large models space.

Aedan graduated from the University of Western Australia with degrees in Computer Science and Pure Mathematics.


Reminder: submit your entertaining demo to the Extravaganza welcome event that will be co-hosted by Scitech 

Want to present a new or exciting way to demonstrate a scientific concept or message? Get involved and share your ideas as part of the Extravaganza!

Your presentation could be something you’ve used for years, something you’ve whipped together last minute or something you want to try out for a bit of fun. It can be any style of engagement, poetry, interpretive dance, explosion. It is up to you! 

While we are flexible, we’re looking for demos that can be shown in around 5 minutes. Let us know if you need longer.

After filling in the detail in this form, you will be contacted by the team at Scitech who will work with you to make sure you have access to everything you need.

A demo isn’t a good demo if it doesn’t have adequate risk management. The Scitech team will also liaise with you to ensure everything is safe and that you have risk mitigation in place.

ASC2024 Support, Connect, Grow Conference Website is now live!

Take a look at the schedule and you won’t be able to help but get excited about the fantastic socials planned. Events like the Scitech Extravaganza, the Sundowner Networking event that’s sponsored by CPAS and WABSI, the Gala Dinner at the gorgeous Western Australian Museum and MORE! 

We have built this site dedicated to all things conference related. You’ll be able to learn about our Keynote speakers, and see updates on talks and presenters as we confirm the program. 

Please note – we are already building the program with the fantastic and diverse abstracts already submitted however we can still accept late abstracts that will be considered should there be thematic gaps in the program. 

Many of your questions will be answered in the FAQ section – particularly the “are there any hotel discounts?” 

Lastly, we hope you’ll find the mobile app that’s linked to the program helpful. Customise your own agenda and easily stay updated on the go! 

More questions? Get in touch via email at or send a note in via the contact page on the new website.

ASC at Science Meets Parliament 2024

Shanii Phillips, ASC Council Member: Vice President, Policy

The Australian democratic system is truly like no other. In no other country in the world are ordinary citizens allowed to walk into Federal Parliament and bump into MPs, Senators, and political staffers to have open and honest conversations. Science Meets Parliament 2024 (SMP), hosted by Science and Technology Australia (STA), provided a unique opportunity for researchers, industry professionals, science communicators, policymakers and parliamentarians to come together, share, listen and learn from each other about the best way to incorporate science in public policy.

Tahnee Saunders, Jacqueline Stephens, Shanii Phillips, Camille Thomson and Jodie Haigh

Several members of the ASC Council attended the two day event, including:

  • Shanii Phillips: VP, Policy,
  • Camille Thomson: Secretary, Events,
  • Preeti Castle: Secretary, International Engagement,
  • Tahnee Saunders: Secretary, Awards, and
  • Jacqueline Stephens: General Council Member.

Note: Jodie Haigh ASC’s VP, Treasurer was in attendance at the event in her role as STA’s Communications Manager.

While ASC President, Tom Carruthers, didn’t attend the daytime workshops and meetings, he was able to join us for the SMP Gala Dinner and National Press Club Address, delivered by STA President, Professor Sharath Sriram.

The event

Most of us were wearing multiple hats at SMP, juggling priorities of our own work and research, as well as advocating for the role of science communication and the opportunities the ASC could provide. Like any good team of science communicators, we set up a group WhatsApp to share updates and commentary with each other during the event. Throughout our shared conversations, there was a strong theme of hope yet frustration. The key themes discussed by the keynote speakers and panellists focused on the importance of using good communication principles when scientists were engaging with parliamentarians and policymakers, but there was a distinct lack of acknowledging that what they were talking about was science communication. In a room filled with over 350 incredible STEM professionals, recognised and celebrated for doing cutting-edge research and excelling in their respective fields, why weren’t the professional and scholarly pursuits of those whose role it is to facilitate knowledge creation between science and other stakeholders being recognised?

We all breathed a collective sigh of relief (and did a silent happy dance at the back of the room) when, after us strategically posting two probing questions in the live Q&A, Anna-Maria Arabia (CEO of the Australian Academy of Science) picked up the torch during the Day 1 post-lunch panel and eloquently explained the role and value of professional science communicators in improving connections and discussions between the worlds of science and policy.

“[Science communication skills] are typically not trained for [during science degrees]. There are some [scientists] who are naturally good communicators … but not everybody is that person.”

Enter the science communicator, who has specific skills in bridging the communication needs of whatever that audience might be with the scientist or technologist or STEM professional. It is a unique set of skills. There is a practice and a science behind it … It is very much an engagement exercise, it happens at lots of levels, and part of that science communication will unfold when you meet with parliamentarians, it will unfold when you speak with policymakers, with media, and each one of those takes different strategies.” 

While Anna-Maria’s words were welcomed and encouraging, and provided us a fantastic ice-breaker to discuss our work with other delegates, it was just one step in the right direction. It highlighted that, as science communicators, we need to actively take more opportunities to advocate for the value we can provide in fostering connections between science and policymakers, the media and the community. As discussed by Jodie Haigh during our post-event debrief, science communication needs to get better at our ‘corporate communications’ and showcase what we can do and the services we can provide to the STEM community and other stakeholders, including media, community leaders and policymakers.

Meetings with Parliamentarians

One of the unique aspects of Science Meets Parliament is learning how to effectively pitch your research and engage with parliamentarians, and then being able to put that into practice right away with pre-organised meetings with federal politicians. 

The ASC Council representatives had the privilege of having meetings with the following parliamentarians:

  • Ms Kate Thwaites, Member for Jagajaga
  • Mr Daniel Mulino, Member for Fraser 
  • Ms Allegra Spender, Member for Wentworth
  • Ms Janet Rice, Senator for Victoria
  • Mr Peter Khalil, Member for Wills
Camille Thomson meeting with
MP Ms Janet Rice
Preeti Castle meeting with
MP Ms Allegra Spender
Jacqueline Stephens meeting with
MP Mr Peter Khalil
Shanii Phillips meeting with
MP Ms Kate Thwaites

Prior to the two day event at Parliament House, STA ran online workshops for delegates to hear from previous attendees and experts, providing pro tips on how to pitch yourself effectively and prepare for a meeting with a parliamentarian. Most of us only learned who we would be meeting with a few days before the main event, leaving limited time to research our parliamentarians, understand their priorities and what they were working on, and then find a way to communicate our work and research in a way that they would connect with and understand. In other words, there was a little bit of scicomm improv going on! The good news is, everyone left their parliamentary meetings feeling positive. ASC Council members discussed the importance of science communication to aid buy-in from institutions to support science-led policy, enabling industry and government to access new knowledge for better policy outcomes, promoting diversity in STEM, and highlighting the need for science communication to be recognised as a specific area of expertise.

Why should Australian Science Communicators members attend Science Meets Parliament?

Science Meets Parliament is an event targeted at early-to-mid-career STEM researchers who want to learn more about the best ways to engage politicians and policymakers with science research – so why should science communicators attend? For those of us that work daily to break down complex topics, get to the point quickly, and already understand the importance of our targeting messages to our audience, the sessions may simply feel like a refresher. For those of us still honing our skills and building up our scicomm repertoire, these sessions could be just the additional support you are looking for. Even some of us veterans still took away key insights, like refraining from being a “waterfall” of information (as described by Dr Cathy Foley, Australia’s Chief Scientist, in her opening speech), but focusing on being a “well”, allowing your audience to ask questions and draw out information from you that is relevant to them and their needs. Most importantly, you will be placed in the same room as hundreds of other people working in STEM, and the same building as the people in charge of running the country. 

Science Meets Parliament 2024

Apart from the scheduled meetings with parliamentarians, we all found it was a fantastic opportunity to network with other members of the Australian scientific community, understand their needs and challenges, and identify collaboration opportunities. It’s also a valuable opportunity to increase awareness about the ASC to both STEM professionals and parliamentarians and their advisors, positioning ourselves as “go-to experts” for issues related to science communication. Making yourself a useful asset to people trying to make a difference in the world can go a long way, and continuing those conversations beyond Science Meets Parliament is important to nurturing those relationships so we remain at the forefront of people’s minds when they need someone who can bridge the gaps between science and other stakeholders. 

What can we do next?

During our debrief session, Tahnee brought up the excellent point that a lot of scientists choose their career paths because they want to do science research. The current expectations of researchers to not only conduct their research, but develop curricula and teach university students, manage labs, write grant applications and now find time to participate in community outreach and effectively communicate their science can be overwhelming. While some scientists have embraced the opportunity, it is not universal – and this is where science communicators can fill a need. We can ‘remove the burden’ from science researchers by offering our expertise as science communicators, who have the skills and time to translate findings, craft messages for different audiences and, equally importantly, are up to date with the latest science communication research (which is a vastly different scholarly pursuit from natural and physical sciences). By identifying a clear need and demonstrating that we can fill that, while improving our ‘corporate communications’, we can continue to elevate science communication and increase awareness of the important role that we fill in the worlds of science, policy and the wider community. 

Overall, #SMP2024 was a unique and fantastic experience, with amazing opportunities to network with scientists, science communicators, politicians, policy advisors and everyone in between from across the country. In a world where we have grown so comfortable with virtual meetings, it’s still nice to step back and (re)connect with people in the same room as you. And finding a way to be “in the room where it happens”, showcase your passion, advocate for your field and highlight the importance of what we do, is something you can’t really put a price tag on. 

ASC Council Representatives: Preeti castle, Jacqueline Stephens, Shanii Phillips, Camille Thomson, Jodie Haigh and Tom Carruthers

What’s next? It’d be great to see the ASC cohort at Science Meets Parliament continue to grow so we can continue to create awareness of our value, both adjacent to the lab and the party room. If you’re interested in learning more about the Australian Science Communicators’ goals for Science Meets Parliament, please reach out to us via, and we can start making our game-plan now for the ASC at Science Meets Parliament 2025!

ASC2024 – Conference Venue Announcement

We are very excited to announce that the Australian Science Communicators 2024 national conference: ASC2024: Support, Connect, Grow will be held at the University of Western Australia!

This is a particularly special conference as we celebrate the 30th year of Australian Science Communicators,  and the first time the national conference has been held in Perth. We really hope you can join us. 

Keep up to date with news and announcements including Keynote speakers and deadlines on the ASC2024 conference page.

Early Bird Registrations close soon!

Register by 1 April for a reduced rate to join us for the conference. Share and grow your communication skills while surrounded by the nature, culture, and diverse dining experiences of Perth.

Submit your abstract for your talk submission by 15 April.

ASC President’s Message, Tom Carruthers

I pen this note a little late after having just returned from a whirlwind personal- and work-weeks that saw me in Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne, Cairns and then last week, Perth, where I was able to spend some time with Heather Bray at UWA. I was also pleased to be able to fit in a catch up with Preeti, Rocky and the broader Perth branch.

During my visit, we were able to make significant strides in advancing preparations for our upcoming conference in June. We anticipate more detail with a locked in venue very shortly. A quick reminder that the call for talk, panel and workshop abstracts is open, and I encourage all members to consider contributing their insights and research, as well as recommending to any colleagues to share also. Early Bird tickets are now available, so don’t miss out on this reduced rate. I am personally excited for this conference as it promises to be a landmark event during my tenure in this role, a celebration of our past 30 years, and a platform for knowledge exchange and networking.

On a bittersweet note, you will have seen Jirana’s note three weeks ago announcing her sudden resignation from her co-presidency. Jirana’s contributions over the past two years have been invaluable to the ASC and the progress we’ve made toward planning for the future. Her dedication to our collaborative cause has provided a springboard for this year and will leave an enduring positive impact. While it is difficult to see her leave, I wish her nothing but the best in her future endeavours and am sure she will continue to achieve great things.

All the best,


A little operational note for awareness: Emma is on a well earned break exploring New Zealand with her husband. Kate is covering this time can be contacted via the office inbox as per normal.

ASC Student Symposium Presentations

For those who missed the recent student symposium and the insightful and varied talks, the recordings are now available for viewing here.

To see the full list of speakers and a summary of their presentations, please refer to the previous post.

ASC Annual General Meeting Summary

Our 2023 Annual General Meeting was held recently on 29th November. There was a fantastic turnout of engaged members and it was a timely opportunity to re-connect and to provide many important updates on ASC activities, successes, opportunities and financial position. 

Here is a summary of the key messages that were discussed, with more detail found in the minutes

  • 2023 had been a year of action with notable mention of the National Conference, the PCST Bid to host, being invited as a voice in the policy space and participating in a panel hosted by the Learned Academies.
  • Membership fees are to increase on 30 Nov 2023:  
    • Standard membership = $216.14
    • Students and Associate membership = $86.56
    • Corporate membership = $649.89
    • Corporate linked individuals = $64.99
  • A new strategic plan was approved along with a draft model for ASC Branches.
  • Tom Carruthers and Jirana Craven were voted in again as co-presidents, with 12 members elected to join council (plus 3 branch representatives). You can meet these council members and their roles here.

Looking ahead: ASC will continue to focus on creating impact and meaningful value for members as well as a focus on improving operational efficiencies. 

Welcome to our new ASC Council

A very warm welcome to our new Council as we head into 2024! These members were elected to Council at our recent AGM and have since chosen to fill a range of roles that support ASC’s strategic vision.

Please join us in welcoming the new team! Their diverse and rich experience will help to lead ASC strongly through an exciting 2024.

Council Roles

Co-President: Tom Carruthers
Co-President: Jirana Craven

Vice President, Policy: Shanii Phillips
Vice President, Treasurer: Jodie Haigh
Secretary, Membership: Claire Chakrabarti
Co-Secretary, Events: Jen Martin
Co-Secretary, Events: Camille Thomson
Secretary, Awards: Tahnee Saunders
Co-Secretary, International Engagement: Preeti Castle
Co-Secretary, International Engagement: Lucy Zhou

General Members:
Anna Quinn
Jacqueline Stephens
Jin-oh Choi
Shelley Wilson

Branch Representatives:
Melina Gillespie (S/E QLD)
Isabella Robinson (Canberra)
Rocky McGellin (Perth)

Learn more about our wonderful council!

Dr Tom Carruthers (Co-President)
Canberra-based, freelancing at Carruthers Studio and Science in Public, and adjunct lecturer of science communication at UWA

Dr Tom J Carruthers is a science communicator, thinker and creative based in Canberra, Australia. He passionately advocates for diversity and equity, the need for science engagement that goes beyond scientific literacy, and to increase the community’s value of specialist expertise across all sectors.

With professional experience in the academic, government, private and not-for-profit sectors, Tom is a creative and purpose-driven communications strategist and science communicator. He has developed digital audiences exceeding 2.4 million followers, led science festivals with hundreds of events and staff, and provided crisis counsel to business leaders.

As a science commentator, he comments on breaking science news and has featured in podcasts and webinars on the communication of science and social media engagement. He is a thought leader in the space, calling for better recognition of science communication research learnings within the practice, and an appreciation of science communication expertise in government and the broader community. 

Tom holds a PhD in biological chemistry (ANU), a Master’s in science communication outreach (ANU), and has experience working in the Australian university, government, not-for-profit and private sectors. He is the former Digital Strategist and Communications Operations Manager at the Australian Academy of Science, client partner at Ogilvy PR, and co-Chief Executive Officer at Pint of Science. Along with his co-presidency role, he is freelancing at Carruthers Studio, is Media Director for Science in Public, and is an adjunct lecturer of science communication at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Western Australia.

Jirana Craven (Co-President)
Melbourne-based, Online Events Coordinator at the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP)

Jirana is an education and engagement professional, with experience in some of Australia’s most well-known science organisations. Presently the online events coordinator at the Royal Australian New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), she is passionate about creating community change and does so within her extracurricular projects.

She has led teams at Pint of Science where she was a finalist for the 2020 Telstra Business Women’s Award, ACT Emerging Leader category; inspired Australia’s kids as a science communicator with Questacon, and helped leading academics progress their discipline at the Australian Academy of Science. Prior to joining the national chapter, Jirana was previously President for the ASC ACT branch. 

Shanii Phillips, (Vice President, Policy)
Perth WA, Senior Customer Insights Analyst at Scitech

Like most people, Shanii fell into the world of science communication through a little bit of luck and meeting a lot of good people, and now identifies as a passionate science communication researcher-practitioner. In her current role leading the Customer Insights team at Scitech Discovery Centre, Shanii is responsible for the development and implementation of evaluation tools, and analysing and reporting data regarding visitor experience and impact of Scitech’s programs in the science centre, in the community (through school incursions and community events) and professional development programs for educators. This role combines her passions for science communication, high quality evaluation of practice and new interest in social impact. 

Shanii is particularly interested in the opportunities science communication can play in social justice and informed decision-making. Prior to pivoting into evaluation, she worked as a science centre presenter (and performer) for 7 years, and loves any opportunity to blow up a fiery hydrogen balloon or set off a fog bomb with liquid nitrogen! Over the next 12 months, Shanii is excited for the ASC to advocate for the professionalisation of science communication. This includes recognising the important role of science communicators, the unique skill-sets required, and the importance of investing in science communication research to better understand how we can continue to empower the community to engage with and make informed decisions about science that affects their lives every day, based on best-practice and contemporary research.

Jodie Haigh, (Vice President, Treasurer)
Canberra ACT, Communications Manager at Science Technology Australia (STA)

I’m a communications professional and trained scientist with a solid technical background. I possess a rare combination of multi-disciplinary experience across large scientific international organisations. I’ve led high-performing digital content and communications teams in complex organisational environments. I’m a purpose-driven leader who enjoys collaboration and transparent partnerships that engage and create impact.

I’ve dedicated my career to research- and science-based communications roles driven by my experience as a first-generation university student from a low socioeconomic background. Through this experience, I understand first-hand the importance of equity and inclusion (E&I) in society and passionately believe that effective communication ensures E&I while advancing the public good. I’m the Communications Manager at Science & Technology Australia (STA) – the nation’s peak body in science and technology, representing 115,000 scientists and technologists. Until 2023, I led the whole-of-organisation social media strategy for Europe’s life science research organisation – EMBL – targeting key audiences across thirty member and associate states, including Australia, and encompassing EMBL’s six sites across five countries. I’ve previously worked as a scientific journal editor, lead production editor for a science news website and scientific video production team leader.

I take pride in training and guiding junior colleagues and supporting colleagues to build high-performing teams in creative and collaborative environments. I’m technically proficient across various digital products, including content management systems, social media platforms, and content creation software. I excel at understanding the user journey through channels and demonstrate a keen eye for detail to ensure a cohesive brand identity across all content. I’m passionate about digital accessibility and inclusion.

I’m thrilled to support this vibrant, diverse community of dedicated individuals over the next 12 months. I eagerly anticipate collaborating and gaining knowledge alongside the membership as we advance ASC’s strategic goals and uncover valuable opportunities for our community.

Dr Claire Chakrabarti, (Secretary, Membership)
Brisbane QLD, STEM Program Manager at Austmine

As the STEM Program Manager at Austmine, Claire is a key figure in Australia’s Mining Equipment Technology Services (METS) sector. She holds a Ph.D. in Biogeochemistry from the University of Sheffield, UK and is an alumna of both the Oxford Women’s Leadership Development Programme and the Homeward Bound Women in STEM Leadership Programme.

In her career, Claire has made impactful contributions to STEM education and outreach, particularly at the Queensland Museum Network and SparkLab Sciencentre. Her leadership in developing and executing innovative STEM engagement programs has been notable. Currently, she leads Austmine’s ‘Accelerating Women in METS’ program, dedicated to enhancing career opportunities for female university STEM students and graduates through leadership training, practical work experience, skills development, and extensive networking.

Claire’s expertise is multifaceted, encompassing strategic leadership, project management, scientific research, effective communication, and educational mentorship. She is a passionate advocate for women in STEM, committed to showcasing the diverse career opportunities within this field. Her interests extend to environmental sustainability, climate change, and addressing ecological issues.

As a member of the Australian Science Communicators (ASC) council, Claire is excited to help foster a connected, professional community of science communicators, advocating for their recognition, and promoting meaningful, impactful dialogue in the field.

A/Prof Jen Martin, (Co-Secretary, Events)
Melbourne VIC, Academic at University of Melbourne

Associate Professor Jen Martin spent many years working as a field ecologist until she decided the most useful thing she could contribute as a scientist was to teach other scientists how to be effective and engaging communicators. Jen founded and leads the University of Melbourne’s acclaimed Science Communication Teaching Program. She is deeply committed to helping scientists develop the skills they need to be visible, make connections and have impact.

Jen also practices what she preaches: for 18 years she’s been talking about science each week on 3RRR, Australia’s largest community radio station. She writes for a variety of publications, co-hosts the Let’s Talk SciComm podcast, MCs events, was named the 2019 Unsung Hero of Australian Science Communication and received the 2020 University of Melbourne David White Award for Teaching Excellence. She is also a member of the Homeward Bound Teaching Faculty and a Board Member of the Australasian Dark Sky Alliance. When she’s not talking or writing about science, you can find Jen running marathons or singing with her choir. 

Camille Thomson, (Co-Secretary, Events)
Canberra ACT, SciComm Specialist at House of Kitch Communications and Treasurer Pint of Science

Camille is a Science communicator and Educator who has worked closely with both schools and scientists for almost 20 years. She sees herself as more of a translator and facilitator, creating events and content with leading researchers nationally, linking them to audiences live and digitally. Her career has included time with the Australian Institute for Policy and Science, Geoscience Australia, the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. Most recently she has moved to House of Kitch Communications. She has also volunteered with Pint of Science Australia and been on the committees of the Australian Science Communicators in NSW and the ACT.

She is always striving to communicate science topics and current research in a way that is engaging and accessible to all.

Dr Tahnee Saunders, (Secretary, Awards)
Melbourne VIC, Postdoc researcher at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI)

Tahnee studies how our cells clean up when their powerhouses (mitochondria) get damaged. This process is important for a range of diseases, in particular neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease. With close to a decade of lab experience, Tahnee holds a BSci and MBiotech from the University of Melbourne, and a PhD from Monash University. Tahnee believes that the role of a scientist doesn’t end in the lab, and that discoveries need to be communicated with the public. Whether this be scientists communicating their science, or scientists working with science communication professionals. Tahnee wants to ensure and facilitate the proper communication of science research in Australia. After all, much of Australian science is funded with taxpayer money, and is done with the end goal of benefiting Australians. Why shouldn’t we be updated on the amazing work and discoveries Aussie scientists are making? 

Tahnee is excited to contribute to ASC to further prop up Aussie science through clear and engaging science communication.

 Preeti Castle, MBA, GAICD (Co-Secretary, International Engagement)
 Perth WA, Strategic Engagement Director at the Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute (WABSI)

Preeti has specialist expertise in developing strategies to build trusted partnerships and engage stakeholders with complex scientific and technical concepts. With more than 25 years’ experience in strategic communications and engagement across science, environment and sustainability, Preeti has held leadership roles in financial services, and established and operated a niche consulting firm which developed successful market positioning strategies for national and international firms.

As the Strategic Engagement Director at The Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute (WABSI), Preeti leads stakeholder engagement and communications strategies that inform the development of end user led, prioritised biodiversity science research.

Preeti is on the National Council of the Australian Science Communicators and is a Board Member of the Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia, contributing specialist skills to promote engagement with international standards on best practice land restoration. Preeti has served as Deputy Chair and Non-Executive Director of the Munda Biddi Trail Foundation where she led the development of a successful organisational strategy.

Preeti holds a Bachelor of Arts (Communications), a Master of Business Administration (The University of Western Australia) and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Working with science and technology communities is both exciting and rewarding. I love learning something new each day and the challenge of taking complex concepts and transforming them, through language, to convey clear and concise value propositions that resonate with target audiences. Enhancing accessibility to knowledge and lifting awareness of how to use that knowledge, is critical for solving the complex issues of our time, such as climate change and nature loss.

The Australian Science Communicators (ASC) is a great network of enthusiastic, skilled professionals working towards better outcomes for society. We have a real opportunity to lead cross-sector collaboration, develop effective communication pathways and enable meaningful change nationally and globally. I look forward to contributing to the ASC as a member of the National Council.

Lucy Zhou (Co-Secretary, International Engagement)
Marketing Director at Beijing Practicable Technology Co. Ltd

Member of ASC (Australian Science Communicators), AAAC(American Association for the Advancement of Science) and CSWA(China Science Writers Association).

Lucy’s passion in science and technology since childhood. She believes STEM is the key factor to develop the world and human life. Lucy Zhou has comprehensive experience in exhibition planning, budget management. She has run her own businesses since 2013 in Australia, and 2023 in China.

Lucy believes in the “integrity, passion, dedication” principles and appreciates “team work and embrace changes” attitude.

Lucy is proud of her services and also positive changes to the community. She provided office and treasurer support to Clota Cottage in Box Hill VIC between 2007 to 2013; Event Planning Services for Australian Hainan Association of Victoria since 2013; Co-Chair for Australian Hainan Chamber since 2022.

Anna Quinn, (General Member)
Melbourne VIC, Senior Comms Advisor at the ARC SRI Securing Antarctica’s Environmental Future (SAEF)

Anna leads the communications for the ARC SRI Securing Antarctica’s Environmental Future (SAEF). Drawing upon a decade of experience in communications, media, marketing, storytelling and digital, she manages a broad range of communications initiatives to support SAEF to achieve its vision. This includes developing and implementing communications strategies to amplify the program’s research to broad audiences and translating science for various platforms and content types.

After stints in the arts industry at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Anna discovered her passion for science communication while working at Museums Victoria. While here, she promoted science research, exhibitions, events, museum collections and Phar Lap. She now loves working with scientists to get their work out beyond the pages of science journals and ensuring people know that if we don’t meet the Paris Agreement targets, Antarctica is coming for us.

As a new member of the ASC, what excites Anna is supporting work to ensure the association is in the best possible position to promote science.

Dr Jacqueline Stephens, (General Member)
Adelaide SA, Associate Professor in Public Health at Flinders University

Dr Jacqueline Stephens is an epidemiologist who conducts research focused on improving access to healthcare, particularly for those living in rural and remote locations. Her research uses data linkage in a mixed methods approach by contextualising the epidemiological findings with community narratives to better understand the context of the epidemiological data. She is an avid supporter of science communication and has spoken about her science career at school events, has organised STEM events for young people, and is the Chair of the South Australian National Science Week committee. She engages regularly with local and national radio, TV, and newspapers, as well at public events.

Jin-oh Choi, (General Member)
Launceston TAS, Co-CEO Pint of Science

Jin-oh Choi is the Co-Chief Executive Officer of Pint of Science Australia, an innovative and dynamic branch of the global science festival that brings scientists to the public in local bars and pubs to discuss their research and findings in a relaxed and informal setting. He is a passionate advocate for science communication and education in Australia, and works to make scientific knowledge and research accessible to the Australian audience.

Jin-oh is also a lover of craft beer and enjoys combining his passion for science and beer through his work at Pint of Science Australia. He believes that by connecting science with something as relatable and approachable as a pint of beer, it allows people to engage with science in a new and exciting way. He is committed to making science accessible to all and his work at Pint of Science Australia is a testament to that. He is constantly looking for new ways to bring science to the public, and is always open to new ideas and collaborations.

Jin-oh looks forward to engaging and making positive contributions to the National Council for the Australian Science Communicators. He is excited by the possibilities and future of the ASC. Not only in the form of the 2024 conference but also other forms of engagements with both the membership and the broader community.

Shelley Wilson, (General Member)
Newcastle NSW, SMART Program Team Leader at the University of Newcastle

I’m delighted to be joining the ASC Council for 2024! I’m inspired by the leadership of the members and vision of the executive committee, and I’m excited to more actively contribute to the organisation moving forward.

Shelley Wilson is an educator, engineer, and science communicator based in Newcastle, NSW. She is a passionate advocate for equity and inclusion, and dedicated to making science education accessible and engaging. She currently leads the University of Newcastle’s longest running, not-for-profit science outreach program, SMART: Science, Maths and Real Technology (est. 1998). In this role, she mentors undergraduate students in effective science communication, creates Science Shows, and facilitates hands-on STEM Workshops. Shelley delivers curriculum aligned Professional Development workshops for pre-school and primary school teachers, and is a Little Scientists Trainer and Google Computer Science Education Outreach Partner.  

Shelley has presented to diverse technical and community audiences across Australia as an engineer and educator, on topics from Water Sensitive Urban Design through to Inquiry-Based Learning in STEM. She holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil)(Honours) and Bachelor of Engineering (Surveying)(Honours) from the University of Newcastle, and is completing a Masters of Teaching (UNE). As a casual academic at the University of Newcastle, Shelley introduces undergraduate students in the Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood and Primary)(Honours) and Bachelor of Teaching(Primary)(Honours) programs to the study of science and technology.   

Melina Gillespie (SEQ Branch Representative),
Brisbane QLD, Communications at CSIRO

Melina is a science communicator with a background in ecological research and expertise in science communication and engagement. As the Communication and Stakeholder Engagement Manager for GISERA at CSIRO, she works in a contentious space to communicate about the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the onshore gas industry to a wide range of target audiences—industry, government, academia and publics. She has experience in project management of research in the ecological rehabilitation of disturbed lands and bridging the divide between the science and practice, which ultimately led her to a career in science communication. Melina has worked in university, non-profit, consultancy and government environments. Her objective is to develop and implement effective communication strategies and activities, to encourage best practice science communication that is informed by scientific research.

Melina’s research interests include:
• Science communication – strategies for communicating research findings in contentious spaces
• Engagement with communities and organisations on science and research
• Biodiversity and sustainable ecosystems
• Rehabilitation of degraded lands, mine closure, completion criteria and rehabilitation success
• Seed biology, germination and establishment requirements of Australian native species
• Global food security
• Australia’s energy transformation.

Melina joined the ASC in 2014 and became actively involved in the South East Queensland branch where she is based. She acted as Secretary for this group for several years before becoming Branch President. She loves the networking and professional development aspect of this active branch, and enjoys running ASC science events online and with the members in Brisbane. Participating in National ASC activities and the annual conference is also a highlight of being an active ASC member.

Isabella Robinson (Canberra Branch Representative),
Canberra ACT, Science Communicator at Australian Academy of Science (AAS)

Isabella is a science communicator, digital content creator and artist with extensive experience translating scientific ideas for a variety of platforms and audiences.

Isabella has a background in molecular plant science and entomology. In 2020, she described four new species and a new genus of flies and named them after Marvel characters. She has also written and illustrated science comics for online platforms and print, hosted webinars for National Science Week, and presented science workshops online and in person for schools and holiday programs.

Currently, she produces videos, articles and social media content for the Australian Academy of Science and serves as the Branch Representative for the ACT Australian Science Communicators branch.

Beyond her work, she is passionate about storytelling in every form, including literature, video games, Tabletop RPGs, comics, ARGs and video.

She is dedicated to fostering connections and meaningful relationships within the science communication community and providing members opportunities to build and develop their skills.

Rockwell McGellin (Perth Branch Representative),
Perth WA, Digital Content Coordinator at International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) UWA

Hi! My name’s Rockwell, but Rocky is fine for short. I’m a jack of all trades with a Masters in Science Communication.

Right now, I hang out behind the scenes at ICRAR, sharing stories about our universe and the really big telescopes we use to study it.

In the past, I’ve written articles, designed learning, produced podcasts, scripted live science shows, published papers, and spent many, many daytimes pretending it was nighttime in planetariums.

I’m excited for the national conference to come to Perth so I can show you all my beautiful home town!