From the President, October 2010: Too much, yet not enough

Communicating Climate Change workshops: The last two of a three workshop series in Communicating Climate Change were held in Sydney. ASC, Sydney Environmental Educators Network (SEEN) and International Association for Public Participation Australasia (IAP2) collaborated to put on this series. The events were of high quality and well received. The main attendees were from sustainability and adapting to climate change departments in local councils. Overall numbers were below expectations but we broke even. It may be worth making the workshops a full day each, repeating the series in another city and seek to broaden the appeal to attract a larger and more diverse audience.

Member’s comments about the Inspiring Australia report: I finally got around to editing Rob Morrison’s report of member’s comments and his analysis. As I mention in a separate article this document is worth a read, especially the first 6 pages if you are short of time. The document covers much ground and offers many suggestions for action.

Science communication services to science organisations: In late August I asked you to nominate services which science communication companies can offer to science research organisations. I collated your excellent replies and have posted them to the website. I hope the list proves useful and will be added to in the future.

National Science Week – been and gone: I had time to attend only a few National Science Week (NSWk) events in Sydney but enjoyed every one of them. The official launch of NSWk was at the Botanic Gardens and offered a good opportunity to talk to key players in NSWk and the Inspiring Australia report. Phil Dooley, chair of the NSW ASC branch, presented an exciting science talk with demonstrations to around 250 people at the Powerhouse Museum. I believe many ASC members were busy delivering science engagement activities this year. Post an article to the ASC website if you had a significant science engagement experience during NSWk.

Eureka Awards big night: renewed funding and review of science prizes: It is good to hear that DIISR will continue to support at least three of the Eureka Awards. Please see my article requesting information about other science award programs that have science communication as a criterion.

Young Tall Poppy Awards: I attended the Young Tall Poppy awards event in NSW and then met with Elektra Spathopoulos, Executive Director of the Australian Institute of Policy and Science and the Tall Poppy Campaign. We discussed how our organisations can assist one another especially as the Tall Poppy science awards has science communication as a key criterion. Elektra was interested in the improvisational theatre training workshops I’ve been trying to get going. Much more needs to be done to make this happen.

2012 National Conference Planning Committee: I had a great response to my invitation for members to join the planning committee for our 2012 National conference. I’ll announce the people selected in late November. Much thanks to those who put up their hands.

Networking in NSW: Going by invitations to events and exchange of information I see an increasing appreciation of the ASC by the NSW Office of Science and Medical Research (OSMR) and its parent department. It takes time to make connections and then maintain them but is worth it for the potential support we stand to gain. I know that our branches are developing or building on connections with their state and territory governments and chief scientists.

ASC-AAEE professional development workshops: The proposed workshops in collaboration with the Australian Association of Environmental Education have fallen into the ‘much needs to happen’ category although the Sydney Climate Change workshops have provided a useful learning experience. I still think this is something we can look forward to happening.

What is science?: Great idea for an ASC project but I need to write a brief to get this started with Rob Morrison’s help. I spoke with the Executive Officer & Editor of the Australian Skeptics and he says that this may be something we can work together on.

Membership renewals: Please renew your membership if you haven’t already done so. We have a pretty good renewal response and we will send final reminders to those still to renew.

Jesse Shore
National President

Observations on the Inspiring Australia report and its relevance to the ASC

Not before time, and yet still timely, I’m pleased to release ASC’s digestion of the Inspiring Australia Report. This document is partly our response to the report, partly a framework for constructive actions and partly a reworking of the report from an ASC viewpoint.

ASC vice-president, Rob Morrison, has done a masterful job of collating members’ comments about the Inspiring Australia Report and synthesising them with his own detailed analysis. It has taken me some time to make some judicious edits and identify the actions that ASC could, should and has taken for each recommendation in Inspiring Australia. The ASC Executive has approved the document for circulation.

We view this as a living document which will evolve and inspire other papers and actions, such as my request for members to comment about science prizes.

I advise that you read at least the first six action packed pages of this document. Pages 7 to 12 also make good reading as they go into deeper analysis of major themes.

The ASC Executive, Rob, and I thank those members who offered comments about the Inspiring Australia Report and welcome theirs and others comments on the current paper.

Jesse Shore
National President

Summary of Rob M’s comments re IA, with Exec summary 3-10-10

ASC-WA goes wild at Perth Zoo

Wayne Walters, Perth Zoo’s Acting Education Manager, organised an action-packed program for the ASCers, with attendees taking part in the same education and communication activities used with school, community and corporate groups.

Upon arriving, Wayne and Education Officer Claire Gaskin guided ASC members through an African Painted Dog scenario, in which two teams were required to navigate their way across a grid whilst avoiding some of the dangers the dogs face in real life.

This first activity was an engaging introduction to communication and education at Perth Zoo, in which a range of tools and approaches are used to encourage visitors to connect with animal ‘ambassadors’.

From a science communication perspective, Perth Zoo not only works to raise awareness of issues such as conservation and sustainability, but also encourages visitors to change their own daily behaviour to address these issues. Often these actions are simple, but can conflict with existing attitudes. To illustrate these concepts in action, Wayne
explained one of the Zoo’s current campaigns – encouraging people to choose recycled toilet paper.

The group was then immersed in a selection of the Education Team’s ‘educational experiences’, which are designed to allow hands-on experiences around the Zoo’s own programs and operations. For example, one group of ASCers was put to work solving the problem of finding enough termites to feed the Zoo’s numbats.

It was an entertaining and engaging showcase of the many educational programs offered at the Zoo. However, the final part of the visit was the most special, in which Wayne led the party through the Zoo’s African Safari section after dark.

Many of the animals viewed were particularly active and ASCers were fortunate enough to witness the Southern White Rhinoceroses from less than a metre away, and to hear the lions ‘singing’.

ASC-WA must thank WA Secretary, Miriam Sullivan for organising the visit and Claire Gaskin from Perth Zoo for assisting with the educational activities. A special thanks to Wayne Walters for organising an excellent program and sharing Perth Zoo’s approach to communication and education.

Sarah Lau
ASC National Secretary


Changes to CQ University’s science programs

CQ has updated its science programs with a range that can provide you with general and specialist subject knowledge, as well improving your skills in problem-solving, teamwork and communication.

Campuses: Gladstone, Mackay, Rockhampton & External Delivery (Distance Education). Please note that course offerings may differ between campuses.



Bachelor of Applied Physics

Bachelor of Applied Physics(Co-op)/Diploma of Professional Practice (Physics)

Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science

Bachelor of Medical Sonography & Graduate Diploma of Medical Sonography

Bachelor of Medical Imaging

Bachelor of Medical Science (Specialisation)

Bachelor of Paramedic Science

Bachelor of Science (Applied Biology, Industrial Chemistry)

Bachelor of Sciences (Honours) (Specialisation)

Postgraduate (Research)

Master of Applied Science

Master of Health Science

Master of Communication

Doctor of Philosophy – Sciences, Engineering & Health

For more information:

Or contact the Student Contact Centre on 13CQUni (13 27 86)

Posted on behalf of Emily Franke, e.franke [at]

A masterclass on the strange beasts of New Holland and the social media world

*The platypus and the whizzywig: A masterclass on the strange beasts of New Holland and the social media world Tuesday 19 October 4.00 – 6.30 pm, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne *

Join James Hutson, ASC Webmaster and Des Cowley, Rare Printed Collections Manager at the State Library of Victoria for a special masterclass on social media techniques followed by a viewing of some treasures from the Library’s Rare Books Collection.

Find out about the kangaroo, platypus, banksias and other fauna and flora discovered by the first explorers to Australia, and how these mysterious creatures shook the 18thcentury worldview. Des Cowley has more than twenty years’ experience working with the Library’s Rare Books Collection, which comprises over 100,000 items.

ASC web expert James Hutson is an experienced graphic designer and internet maven. Join James on a taster tour to get started on WordPress, Twitter for business, NINGs, LinkedIn, and WYSIWYGs (What You See Is What You Get text editors for websites).

This special ASC event in partnership with the State Library of Victoria is FREE for ASC members, $25 for non-members. Non-members join ASC today to get a free place at this event, see: for details.

Places are limited to 15 so book early by e-mailing Laura Miles, ASC Victoria Vice-President,

Big Blog Theory finalists and the winner is…

Bec Crew, author of the entertaining animal behavioural science blog Save Your Breath for Running Ponies, won the National Science Week 2010 Big Blog Theory competition. I’m pleased to note that all four judges of the blogs, including myself, are ASC members. We examined 31 Australian based science blog entries to select the ten finalists. Look at to see how the public voting went. A separate group of judges assessed the microblogging category, won by Corri Baker, chemistry PhD candidate and lecturer at the University of South Australia.

Even with well defined judging criteria it was no easy task to assess the blogs but worthwhile to get a snap shot of the excellent local science communication efforts on the web. I’d like to acknowledge Laura Miles, our Scope editor, for her contributions to the judging criteria.

Here are the finalists and the links to their blogs:

Running Ponies (winner – Bec Crew)

Mr Science Show

A Schooner of Science

Brave New Climate

Homologous Legs

Pod Black Cat

Conservation Bytes

All in the Mind

Environment Blog

The Skeptics Book

The microblogging finalists were:

@cbsquared_ (winner – Corrie Baker)





Bec Crew will officially start her National Science Week tour Friday 13 August at the launch event at the Royal Botanic Gardens. During her blogging tour she will cover events in Sydney, Melbourne and the Northern Territory. Corri Baker will tweet about events in Perth from 15-17 August.

Jesse Shore
President and Big Blog Theory judge

Mentoring programs – new ideas from WA worth talking about

A frequent request over the years from a number of student and early career members of ASC is for a mentoring program. Mentoring can be very effective in developing skills but it requires a lot of people’s time and organisational resources to sustain a properly managed program. At my recent dinner with WA members, Emma Donnelly, chair of the WA ASC branch, and some WA members came up with two ideas for mentoring which I think are worth sharing with the entire membership. Both ideas are for activities can be run at the branch level and offer abbreviated time and resource effective versions of the usual prolonged mentoring relationships.

Idea 1: Science communication speed dating event‘

‘Science speed dating’ events usually match up scientists with the public. These are fun activities which give a lay audience, or even science students, a chance to talk for five minutes at a time with a variety of science practitioners. The mentoring twist to this event is to match up novice science communicators with a range of long practicing science communicators.

Each branch invites around ten science communicators (the featured talent) from their local area who are well established in their careers. You’ll need to have people who communicate science in diverse ways and media such as a science centre presenter or interactive developer; a science curator; science presenter or producer of radio, television or blog; newspaper science journalist; free-lance writer or consultant, science organisation (government and industry) communications officer; science graphic designer; science lobbyist; science advisor to local politician; science policy developer for a government department; science teacher; science curriculum developer; university dean of science; and so on. The wider the variety of ways of communicating science and the wider the range of sciences being communicated the better. Involve government, academia and industry. This mix should be easy to achieve within each metropolitan area.

The next step is to contact a wide range of the student and early career science communicators in the area. Promote the event to the local university science communication programs as well as to all the university and TAFE science departments and science teacher training programs. Basically invite anyone you can think of who might benefit from finding out the range of science communication careers which might be available to them. Contact local branches of other professional associations who share an interest in communicating science, such as the Australian Association of Environmental Education, Australasia-Pacific Extension Network, Interpretation Australia as well as ask the ‘talent’ to encourage any novice communicators they know to attend.

Promote the event as career development, mentoring on skates (‘mentoring on speed’ may give the wrong impression), kick-start science communication, whatever. If you have members in your area who want to get a sense of what sci-com careers are like this is the event for them. Make the event free for ASC members and charge a small but meaningful amount for others.

If your event is successful in attracting more apprentices than you have masters then two or more novices can chat with each experienced person during the five minute sessions.

Idea 2: Science communication shadows

This is easier to do if organised in concert with the Science communication speed dating event. Arrange for a student of novice science communicator to ‘shadow’ an established sci-com person for a day at their workplace. The novice will observe what’s involved in a typical working day for a particular type of science communicator and should provoke useful Q&A during the day.

Some types of science communication work will be more interesting to observe (shadow) than others. But even some desk based jobs have days when there is more action than just sitting using a quill or computer.

As opposed to ‘mentoring on skates’  this is a day-long mentoring experience. The point is that it is only a one day commitment for both parties with a once off evaluation page to submit to the branch or national body for reporting and bragging rights. This activity will need a page of guidelines each for novice and mentor but is a lot simpler than a longer term mentoring project.

Both ideas, especially the ‘shadow’, can do with further development. I welcome your thoughts on the value and workability of either mentoring idea. If you like them suggest how to make them better and if you see problems let me know. Hopefully we can find a way to provide members with meaningful and cost-effective mentoring activities.

Jesse Shore
National President

Position vacant: SMART science communicator, NSW

Posted on behalf of Terry Burns (terry.burns [at]
The SMART program at the University as grown to the point where we are looking to employ a full-time science communicator from 7 February 2011. The position is funded initially for 10 months but we aim to make it ongoing.
SMART is based in Newcastle NSW but there is the opportunity to travel quite a bit.  The person we are after would need a solid grounding in contemporary science show presenting and be a capable leader. The appointment would be at the Team Leader, HEW 5 or 6 level (depending on experience).
General information about SMART is available from

‘Why is it so?’

“Why is it so?!” is a science catch-cry from 20 years ago whose time may have come again. Those of us familiar with Julius Sumner Miller’s science programs on ABC TV ( from 1963 to 1986 or his 1980s Cadbury commercials have his catch-phrase, “Why is it so?” etched into our minds. Sumner Miller would demonstrate some surprising physical phenomenon, exclaim “Why is it so?” and then go about exploring and revealing the underlying science.

I recently attended the National Steering Committee Meeting on Developing an Evidence Base for Science Engagement in Australia. This group is part of the action to implement recommendation 15 of the Inspiring Australia report, “That the national initiative support a program of research in science engagement – such as baseline and longitudinal and behavioural studies, activity audits, program evaluations and impact assessments – to inform future investment decisions by government and its partners.” As part of our discussions we concluded that around 10 of the 15 recommendations required evaluation to determine their potential or realised effectiveness.

At the end of the meeting we realised the widespread need and importance of evaluation and related measures but wondered how to get our message across to the decision makers in the funding agencies. How do we cast the last of 15 recommendations, the one which sounds like an arid accounting activity, as the foundation for most of the rest of the report? “Recommendation 15 is the Julius Sumner Miller question,” I said. Perhaps we can sell evaluation to the money people as the justification to ask ‘Why is it so?’ to every question of expenditure in the report.

Evaluation has many purposes. In the context of science communication it measures whether our activities change the way people engage with science. We observe a phenomenon of audience behaviour and ask “Why is it so?”. Then we investigate using a reliable way to gather and measure evidence and seek to formulate the science of what is happening. Evaluation may be a form of ‘market research’ but its potential is far beyond the meanings associated with that term. Evaluation is still in its early days.

I’m pondering whether evaluation will be to science communication as peer review is to the scientific process. Science communication has some peer reviewed journals but science communication research is a small part of our overall work to make science accessible. Perhaps not everything needs to be evaluated there are plenty of activities that would benefit from a rigorous evaluation of expectations and outcomes.

Peer review evolved gradually with the scientific process over the last few hundred years. I suspect that evaluation and the wider field of evidence based measures are at an early stage of the development of their species. They will mature through advancements in behavioural psychology, the use of increasingly insightful interview techniques and a deeper understanding and more rigorous application of statistical analysis.

I welcome your thoughts on this. All comments will be carefully evaluated.

Jesse Shore
National President

What counts in science communication?

These days many science awards, although being primarily for research, also require evidence that the candidate has played a role in science communication.  Because of ERA descriptions and other measures of research and publications, most judges can evaluate the strength of a researcher by using clear and agreed indicators (peer-reviewed publications, citations, ARC grants, patents etc), but it is harder for them to evaluate the submitted claims about involvement in science communication. How does “subject of media interview” compare with “gave presentations in schools,”  or “participated in National Science Week” with “delivered several talks for Rotary” and similar?

Sometimes the standard of competing entries is so high that the perception of good science communication can be a deciding factor in who wins or loses an award. As science communicators, we can help in this process by detailing some of the activities embraced by the broad brush of science communication and giving them a rough hierarchy (at least within categories) to show what we consider to be significant work in our field and help to have that recognized within the nation’s science awards.

The following is neither comprehensive nor prescriptive, but may start the ball rolling. It has received some input from experienced science communicators already, but science communication is such a broad field that there will be other activities that we will have missed, and there are varying activities and awards in different states.

The final list will be audited by the executive, but remain open for suggestions.  Please send any to rob.morrison [at] One note of warning: it is impossible to get down to very fine detail so a huge list of headings will not help.  Please use existing headings where possible, adding examples to show what such a heading might be interpreted to include. Of course, if there is something new to be included which does not fit an existing heading, then please submit it.

Significant Achievements in Science Communication

This list is neither comprehensive nor prescriptive, but gives some guidance as to the relative importance of various science communication activities when considering these in science awards. No section is considered more important than another but, within each section, those items of higher significance are placed higher in the list. Please note that awards etc are those that specifically  recognise science communication, not science research.  Allowance should also be made for the fact that various awards, activities etc may be available in some states and territories and not in others.                                                                                                                               (Updated: 1 July 2010)


National Awards
* Eureka Prizes for Science Communication (especially Science Promotion; Science Journalism, People’s Choice)
*  Prime Minister’s Prize for Teaching
* National Media Awards for Science Journalism (Michael Daley, Walkley etc)
*  National Teaching Prizes
*  National Unsung Hero of Science Award (Aust Science Communicators)

# There are many awards made by particular societies and agencies. It is impossible to list these but, in general, the more significant the body, the more significant the award.

State Awards
* State Science Excellence Awards: eg SA Science Educator of the Year (School , Tertiary, Community)
* Tall Poppies Awards
* Unsung Hero of Science Communication  (SA only at present)
*  State Media Awards for Science Journalism (eg Archbishop of Adelaide Media Citation; Margaret Tobin Award for Mental Health journalism etc)
*  State-based teaching prizes

# There are many awards made by particular societies and agencies. It is impossible to list these but, in general, the more significant the body, the more significant the award.


* Initiation of Community/School Science Activities (eg Double Helix, naturalist societies etc)
* Executive/Committee of state educational organisations:  ( eg State Science Teachers’ Assocn etc)
* Participant in Scientists in Schools Program
* Occasional school presentations

* Executive/Committee of state organisations:  (eg National Science Week, Australian Science Communicators SA)
*  Significant public science presentations (eg Thinkers in Residence, Festival of Ideas, National Science Week etc)
* Chair/organiser of significant Community Science Event or Conference
* Regional Program/presentation of science to community


* Author of commercially published popular science book (Field Guide, Textbook etc)
*  Writer of substantial open broadcast Television or Radio documentary (may be more than one part)
* Author of science book for schools (commercial publisher, Primary reading program etc)
* Chapter in book as above
* Writer of regular column or presenter of regular series/segment  (mainstream media, science journal etc)
*  Subject/Author/Presenter of significant story/broadcast  in national popular science journal/media outlet (Cosmos; Australasian  Science, Sky and Space; Catalyst; The Science Show, Ockham’s Razor etc)
*  Included in database and used as expert commentator in media by Australian Science Media Centre
*  Subject of significant story in national mainstream media
*  Subject of significant story in state media  (Feature story;  Feature in Education Pages)
*  Subject of story in local media
*   Subject of story in regional media


The field of science communication is a young and growing one. Many initiatives within it are similarly new, and not incorporated in the categories above that refer to more conventional activities. They may well, however, provide evidence of significant contributions to science communication.