President’s Update

There is no One Public!

With thanks to Dr Craig Cormick, President, Australian Science Communicators

I think we all know there are two different types of people in the world (those who think you can divide the world into two different types of people, and those who don’t!). But understanding different types of similar people is a very useful tool for science communication.

Segmenting your audience is one of many marketing tools that have found their way into the communications world. The concept is simple enough: there are those who prefer Diet Coke over Classic Coke, or Coke Zero, or Pepsi, or those who wouldn’t drink either if they were dying of thirst. Marketing teaches you the very important lesson that there is no one public – rather lots of publics.

And replace the word Coke, for Astronomy, Physics, Biology etc and you’ll be reminded that no one size ever fits all.

You can segment your audience in many different ways: by the types of mediums they use to obtain information, by their levels of education, or indeed if they are even interested in science at all. Or you can segment your audience by how people think.

According to Jungian psychology there are 16 different personality types. You may have done a Myers-Briggs personality indicator test at some time, which is based on Jungian personality types.

A CSIRO segmentation study based on attitudes to climate change found five different segments:

Segment 1: The Sceptics (8%)

Segment 2: The Abdicators (16%)

Segment 3: The Undecided (31%)

Segment 4: The Eco-Friendly (30%)

Segment 5: The Eco-Warriors (14%)

Another segmentation study by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, found six segments by attitudes to science:

Segment 1: Mr and Mrs Average (23%),

Segment 2: Fan Boys and Fan Girls (23%)

Segment 3: I Wish I Could Understand This (8%)

Segment 4: Too Many Other Issues of Concern (23%)

Segment 5: Not Interested, Not Trusting (14%)

Segment 6: I Know All I Need To Know (2%)

For a science communicator it is useful to know the behaviours and ways of thinking of each segment. Segment 1, for instance, are your average audience who use the most common communication mediums.

Segment 2 are so keen and interested they will find you and whatever you put out there.

Segment 3 are often considered the low-hanging fruit, and are the main audience and reach to grow your audience size by explaining the science behind something more simply.

Segments 4 to 6 however can be a lot harder to reach.

Segment 4, for instance, is just too busy with all their other issues in life to pay much into science issues, be that work or kids or debt or taking dogs to the vet etc.

Segment 5 isn’t much interested in science and don’t particularly trust it.

And segment 6 feel that they know all they need to know already – often from alternative non-scientific sources.

You may need to come up with a different segmentation model for the audiences you need to reach, based on factors more relevant to you, for as we don’t all preference the same types of Coke, we don’t all preference the same information formations, content or media channels.

So there really are two different types of people out there – those who know the benefit of segmenting their audiences, and those who don’t.

ASC Grant write-up: the MD Writing and Editing Coaching Program

By Sarah Bradley, 2016 grant recipient

I would like to thank Australian Science Communicators offering me the MD Writing and Editing grant to aid my academic writing.

At the end of 2016 I graduated from the Australian National University with a Masters in Science Communication Outreach. This should have been the end of my academic career, but I didn’t feel ready to head into the workforce. Throughout my academic career I have completed short pieces of writing, but had never undertaken a long project. I decided to embark on a second Masters and improve my writing.

I started my thesis at the beginning of 2017. The idea was inspired by the popular Facebook page Humans of New York. Humans of New York takes the stories of everyday people and communicates these to people all over the world. I was interested to see if the personal stories of scientists and how they became interested in science, could be used to inspire people who didn’t previously have an interest in science.

Although I had an idea, I was not confident in my writing ability. When the Australian Science Communicators offered several grants, I decided to apply and was awarded with the MD Writing and Editing grant.

My longest project previously had been 2000 words chemistry laboratory report. I had never before written a literature review or designed a research project from start to finish. Understandably, I was nervous about embarking on a research project of this magnitude.

The MD Writing and Editing course was excellent. Malini was very supportive and full of knowledge. If I had a question about the structure or appropriate language, she was more than happy to help. Her planning method really made me revaluate my approach to each new writing task, making me more critical of my writing and evaluating each word before I put words on paper.

I would like to thank MD Writing and Editing course for improving my writing ability and for the Australian Science Communicators for providing the opportunity to improve my writing.

Season’s greetings and a free gift for ASC members!

On behalf of the ASC Executive I would like to wish all members a Happy Holiday season, or Seasons Greetings, or Merry Christmas – whichever best accords with your personal beliefs (except if you believe in wearing a tinfoil hat to ward off alien broadcasts – if that’s you we need to have a serious talk about whether you are in the right organisation!)

And a free gift, courtesy of our Membership with the World Federation of Science Journalists*, all current financial members will get free access to Wiley online journals (So you can scrub that off your gift list).

For access, contact the Executive Officer (office@asc.asn.au) to request your login details.

And thank a science journalist next time you meet one.

And finally, whether you cross the finish line for the end of the year victoriously, or just limp across it in more muted triumph, I hope you end the year well and start 2018 with a positive but objective critical analysis of any New Year’s platitudes (supported by peer reviewed data-based findings, of course).

Dr Craig Cormick
President
Australian Science Communicators

President’s Update

Risk communication – when traditional communications don’t work

With thanks to Dr Craig Cormick, President, Australian Science Communicators

I have been doing a lot of work on risk communications lately – demonstrating to scientists why standing up in front of a community group with the best scientific data sometimes doesn’t mean very much – and I thought it worth sharing some of the key principles, since there is probably a time in most science communicators’ careers when they will need to address risk communications and they will find that standard communication principles don’t work so well.

Traditional communication strategies need to turn to risk communication principles and methodologies when there is a predominance of:

  1. Outrage
  2. Low levels of trust
  3. High perceptions of risk
  4. High circulation of alternative reports or different positions on the science that are getting a lot of traction with the community.

Many of the problems relating to risk communication stem from the fact that scientific definitions of risk can be very different from community attitudes to risk. I sum this up as the scientific formula for risk is;

Risk = probability x impact

while the public view is;

Risk = OMG x WTF.

Very few members of a community will have a scientific view of risk and are more likely to tend to have a more emotional view of risk – but rather than trying to correct people’s views and explain the scientific view of risk to them, it is more effective to work with their views. For people who hold strongly-held beliefs will not easily abandon those beliefs – even when shown contrary evidence.

Discussions about risk need to take into account the different perspectives of risk that can exist and, to have a genuine conversation, different understandings of risk need to be accepted as valid. In some instances, risk can be perceived to be much higher than it actually is – as in the case of infant vaccination. And in other instances, risk might be perceived to be much lower than it actually is – as in the case of bushfires.

If you want to get people to understand the scientific data-driven levels of risk, you will first need to acknowledge their own perception of risk and then bring them to a scientific view in very small steps.

Trust is an important part of this. If you lack trust you are not going to have much impact on communicating a different view of risk. And when meeting spokespeople or ‘experts’, most people assess their trust in them in the first 30 seconds or so – often based on how empathetic and caring the person is, rather than how much technical expertise they have.

And to build trust with a community it is more important that you listen to them rather than speak to them, as people generally want to tell you what they feel before they are willing to even hear what you have to say.

The benefits of understanding good community engagement principles to communicate risk are that it can lead to both better understanding amongst a community to the risks they face, and empower them to become more involved in activities to mitigate these risks.

If you find you are working in a risk communication environment, some key principles to be aware of include:

  1. Managing Risk Perceptions is not about explaining the data, but about reducing the outrage
  2. Equity and control issues underlie most risk controversies
  3. Risk communication is easier when emotions are acknowledged and legitimatized,
  4. Risk decisions are better when the public shares the power
  5. The Public don’t care what you know – they want to know that you care

(For more details on effective risk communication, look up the work of Vince Covello and Peter Sandman.)

Also, on behalf of the ASC Executive I hope everyone has a risk-free holiday period over the summer and I would also like to send a very, very big thank you to our hard-working Scope Editors, Tara Roberson, who is retiring after this issue, and Jess Scholle – who will be stepping down early 2018 – and I hope that Santa Claus is especially kind to them!

Congratulations to the 2017 ASC Unsung Hero of Science Communication!

The 2017 Unsung Hero of Science Communication is….

Kylie Andrews
Kylie Andrews is the hidden, unstoppable driving force behind the major citizen science projects that have enthused the Australian public during National Science Week, every year since 2009, with great success but very little public recognition.

Kylie works in the science unit formerly known as ABC Science, now a part of ABC Radio National, in a role that specifically focuses on citizen science projects (and is supported by Inspiring Australia and National Science Week). She has worked full time creating these citizen science projects for many years, delivering initiatives that both engage a wide audience and facilitate genuine scientific progress. As the sole driver of these projects, year after year, she has become a leader in citizen science – an expert in every aspect of these projects, from concept, to design, to implementation, to marketing and audience engagement.

Judges comments:
“Kylie is a world leader in citizen science, from selecting intriguing projects to building and promoting them. Thanks to her work, hundreds of thousands of particpants have contributed to science by creating millions of data points to advance real scientific projects.”

“Kylie has achieved an enormous amount in enabling large numbers of the public to actively engage with science in participatory citizen science events. Without her the growth if citizen science in Australia would be notably less.”

The selection panel would also like to make special mention and offer a highly commended mention to

Rod Taylor
Rod has produced and presented countless shows of The Fuzzy Logic Science Show, a staple of Canberra’s community radio airwaves and one of Australia’s longest running science shows. Broadcasting every Sunday on 2XX FM community radio, this show is a stepping stone for many scientists and science communicators and this is due to the voluntary work of Rod Taylor.

While working in the media might come with a byline, this is not the sort of attention Rod craves. Rod continues in his work to help broaden the reach of science communication, engaging scientists with the public and science communicators with the world of media.
When Rod works with people – scientists or science communicators, students or professors -it’s always to push them further and help them achieve their goals. Community radio might be considered a small reach, but Rod ensures that Fuzzy Logic packs a big punch.

Judges comments:
“Rod is a passionate volunteer producing professional level material over a sustained period.”

“Rod is a living legend for the years of work he has put in – voluntarily – in promoting science through Fuzzy Logic and his other initiatives. He has been particularly influential in assisting others to expand their communication skills. Onya Rod!”

Lessons from my COSMOS internship

I heard my name and the applause started.

As I walked to the front of the room to collect the award there was something I hoped my smile concealed – I felt like a fraud.

Over the previous two years, I’d become increasingly interested in the communication of science. I had started a blog, produced a fun video for Australia’s Science Channel, started the best podcast in the world – Publish, Perish or Podcast – and I was lucky enough to be writing for Australian Quarterly as their science communication columnist.

Despite winning the 2015 Unsung Hero of Science Communication, something still didn’t feel right.

You see, I had the sheets of fancy paper with university emblems on them and plenty of experience in a research lab, this meant I felt comfortable calling myself a scientist. But calling myself a “science communicator” always felt wrong.

I had no qualifications in writing, science journalism or communication, but I found myself doing it more and more. It was a hobby that I really enjoyed, however, it seemed unlikely that I’d be able to turn it into a career without further qualifications or experience.

So, to ease my existential career crisis, I needed to see if I could survive the scary world of science journalism and communication.

The perfect opportunity appeared in my inbox.

I applied for the 2017 internship at COSMOS magazine through Australian Science Communicators and, after a phone interview where my chair collapsed and I spend most of it with my knees near my face, I was selected.

In January this year, I squeezed into my skinny jeans and headed to Melbourne. I grew a rubbish beard and studied the difference between a Latte, Piccolo Latte, Macchiato and Affogato so I could impress the natives and fuel the impending writing frenzy.

It was quite a change from the university research environment I was so used to. Gone were the closed shoes, lab coats and safety glasses. They were replaced with a dictaphone, a flatulent dog called Bessy and a swanky boardroom where we’d go through the most impressive science news from the week while Bessy tried her best to cut the meeting short with mild biological warfare.

I had so many fantastic experiences during my 3 weeks with COSMOS and here are the 3 biggest lessons I learnt.

  1. Don’t be afraid of the unknown

Having spent so much time in a research environment an internship in science journalism was a massive leap into the unknown.

When I told my colleagues I was embarking on a transitional phase of my career everyone kept saying “You’re brave”. But it didn’t feel brave, perhaps a little stupid, but not brave.

The unknown is merely the chance to learn and transform it into the known. I didn’t know how to pitch to an editor. I didn’t know how long it takes to write an article. I didn’t know how to interview a scientist.

But now, I do.

Without stepping out of my comfort zone I would have never had the opportunity to grow. New things can be scary, but I turned the fear of the unknown into a love of not knowing what opportunities are around the corner…you just go looking for them.

  1. You’ve never lost your mojo, it’s just hiding

My last year in academia was somewhat turbulent. I felt beaten by the academic system, the relentless quest for money and the never-ending cycle of paper writing. I had forgotten what I loved about science and became embittered by the lack of future I saw in my current career path.

This opportunity changed all of that.

Long-term goals of papers and grants were replaced by the excitement of short-term deadlines and the thrill of learning about science from every field. I became reconnected to the one thing that made me choose a career in science in the first place – the excitement of discovery.

  1. Networking is not just turning up to events

It may seem strange, but until this internship, I thought of networking as an awkward exchange of business cards at an event or conference while trying not to say inappropriate things.

I now know there’s much more to it than that.

During my time at COSMOS I met a wide variety of professionals. It included social media managers, publishers, artistic directors and journalists. And although I didn’t know it at the time – these connections are continuing to help me nearly one year down the road.

Surprisingly, the mere association with my time at COSMOS has opened plenty of other doors for me too. For example, this year I ended up writing for ScienceAlert with a reach of over nine million people on Facebook because of my new-found COSMOS alumni status.

Networking is also doing the best you can, remaining enthusiastic and meeting deadlines. Which, although small acts in themselves, become much more important than a well-designed business card and sweat free handshakes.

Since leaving Melbourne, I have produced a podcast for MIT’s Undark series and I have written and produced audio for Radio National’s Science Show. I’m now regularly creating content for Australia’s Science Channel and the writing portfolio I’ve created means that I’ve got the evidence I need to pitch to the scariest of editors.

I’m so thankful to Australian Science Communicators and the team at COSMOS magazine for the opportunity. It has provided me with the perfect springboard to launch the next phase of my career.

But the best thing is I no longer feel like a massive fraud…well, most of the time, at least.

Follow Andy on Twitter @andyjstapleton and at his website www.andymatter.net.

Science journalists gather in San Francisco

By Bianca Nogrady

“With science under attack, should science journalists get off the sidelines?”

This was the question posed by a House of Commons-style debate held at the World Conference of Science Journalists in San Francisco in October. But with the spectre of Trump and all that his administration represents looming large over the conference, it was also an unspoken theme that echoed throughout many of the presentations and discussions.

As the first such conference held on US soil, the 2017 World Conference of Science Journalists was always going to be huge. It attracted more than 1300 delegates from over 70 countries, representing all continents except Antarctica. Attendees were a fairly even mix of science writers – both in-house and freelance – editors, science communicators/public information officers, and scientists. I was fortunate to receive a grant from the Copyright Agency Limited’s Career Fund to attend the conference, which was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

While the plenaries featured some serious scientific fire-power – including CRISPR-cas9 co-inventor Dr Jennifer Doudna, and former Obama science advisor Dr John P. Holdren – the most engaging discussions and presentations were found in the break-out sessions.

The House of Commons-style debate was one of the stand-outs. Led by science journalist Kai Kupferschmidt and science communicator Peter Vermij, this interactive session got the audience voting with their feet on a range of propositions, including that:

  • any story on forest fires and storms should include mention of the role of climate change (the audience voted generally no: there will be stories where that is not relevant or appropriate.)
  • science journalists should work to rebuild people’s trust in science (the vote – generally no. That’s the job of scientists and science communicators.)
  • in the age of Trump, I am more likely to pass on a weak study that questions the safety of vaccines (strongly no, as they would pass on a weak study anyway).
  • All journalists should participate in the March for Science (no; one audience member expressed his aversion to any statement that began with “Journalists should…”.)
  • I would support my publisher’s campaign against fossil fuels (mixed response; when does a campaign cross the line from journalism into advocacy, and what does that mean for the media’s objectivity and perceptions of bias).

The moderators asked various audience members to explain their position, and sometimes these responses were convincing enough that people on the opposing side crossed the floor to reverse their original decision. But there were no unanimous decisions for any of the questions, reflecting the many shades of grey that exist on the border between science journalism and science communication.

An illuminating discussion of how statistics can mislead the unwary drew the curtain back on the practice of ‘p-hacking’; which FiveThirtyEight’s science writer Christie Aschwanden described as fishing around in a data set until you find something statistically significant. There was also a workshop for journalists on uncovering stories from industry documents held within the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, which has now expanded to include documents from the pharmaceutical, sugar and chemical industries.

In another session, two science journalists reported on their experiences going undercover to report on alternative health practitioners in Germany, and online pharmacies in the UK. And there was a practical session on data visualisation by Professor Alberto Cairo, who generously made his slides available online.

A sponsored lunch on pre-print servers, the end of Ingelfinger rule – which laid the groundwork for journal embargoes – and open access publishing explored how scientific publishing is changing, and what that means for both scientists and science journalists. One speaker argued that the existing model of peer review was fatally flawed, relying as it does on three anonymous reviewers, and that the comment facility available on some pre-print servers did a far better job. He also suggested that journal embargoes slowed science down, and should be eliminated altogether.

The session on ‘Science Journalism, Authoritarian Regimes and Pseudoscience’ heard from science journalists – including newly-elected World Federation of Science Journalists president Mohammed Yahia – who have risked their jobs and even their lives to uncover regimes’ use of pseudoscience.

The closing plenary featured science journalists who have found themselves reporting on natural disasters in their own communities, from earthquakes to bushfires. As someone living in a highly bushfire-prone area, their advice had particular relevance. Freelance science writer Erik Vance, who has experienced numerous earthquakes in his home of Mexico City, said freelances in this situation can’t compete with the day-to-day disaster coverage from major network reporters, but their advantage lies in preparing ahead and “bringing the science” to their reporting. KQED science reporter Lesley McClurg said reporting on disaster could be emotionally exhausting, and writers need to be honest with their editors about how they are feeling.

As a freelance science journalist, the conference offered me not one but two extraordinary opportunities to meet and pitch to editors from around the world. The first Power Pitch session was like a speed-date, with freelancers given seven minutes with one or two pre-selected editors, to sell their story idea. This got me in front of The Atlantic’s senior editor Ross Anderson, and The Verge’s Elizabeth Lopatto, but it also provided an invaluable ‘Who’s Who’ list of science editors. Demand for the session’s limited spaces was so high that a second, less-formal ‘pop-up’ pitch session was organised. This was a wonderfully-chaotic hour in a noisy, hot, cramped room packed full of writers and editors from science publications such as Nature, Hakai, Sapiens, bioGraphic, Science News, and many others.

I also hosted my own panel at the conference, discussing conflicts of interest for freelance science journalists and featuring US-based freelance writer Brooke Borel, Argentinian freelancer Federico Kukso, and Nature Middle East editor Mohammed Yahia. The session revealed that very few freelance journalists have been directly questioned about conflicts of interest – such as being asked to report on an organisation that they also provide writing services to, or accepting travel support from a research organisation to report on a story or attend a conference.

But there was acceptance that conflicts of interest are a significant issue for freelances and the editors they write for. In an age when the media is under increasing scrutiny for perceived bias or conflicts of interest, it is in the best interests of writers to be transparent and honest with their editors, and decide together whether a conflict of interest is significant enough to require action.

And finally, at the World Federation of Science Journalists Annual General Meeting, the Swiss city of Lausanne won the right to host the 2019 conference, with a spectacular bid that involved the multinational team literally climbing a mountain as part of their pitch.

President’s Update

With thanks to Dr Craig Cormick, President, Australian Science Communicators

So it was pretty awesome watching Dr Jenny Graves win this year’s Prime Minister’s Prize for Science at Parliament House. Not only because she is the first female to win the prize in her own right, not only because she is still being busily active at 75, and not only for her erudite and playful approach to science (and not only for the elegant way host Dr Jonica Newby threw a subtle same-sex marriage line to the PM – ‘Yes, Prime Minister!’).

Dr Graves is a science communicator’s dream, as she shares not only her passion for science but knows how to tell a good story. And her work has covered some great stories. She has

  • Told us that the Y chromosome is slowly disappearing (sorry fellahs),
  • determined the relatively recent origin of the human XY sex chromosome system;
  • collaboratively shown how temperature increases can lead to the bearded dragon lizard changing sex.
  • Been a pioneer of our understanding of genomic and epigenetics.

In addition to her scientific achievements Dr Graves has been the Secretary of Education at the Australian Academy of Science, promoting science education, and has been a role model for girls and women in science, promoting gender equity.

It would be nice to think that every scientist who wins a major prize like this is as accomplished at communication – rather than having stamped on their file ‘Not to be let out in public!’ Though in the years I have been attending the awards ceremony there have been an overwhelming preponderance of good communicators standing at the podium accepting the main Prize for Science.

I can’t say the same for all the politicians charged with representing the science sector – some looking distinctly uncomfortable in a room full of scientists. But it was good to hear Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spruiking science and innovation to a receptive audience for once.

I sometimes worry that many members of cabinet are as reluctant to hold a serious discussion about science and innovation as they are on same-sex marriage.

‘Yes, Prime Minister!’

President’s Update: Critical Thinking Lessons from the Same Sex Marriage Debate

With thanks to Dr Craig Cormick, President, Australian Science Communicators

Listening to the arguments being made about Same Sex Marriage causes me to ponder how well critical thinking is being used in public debate. Some of the flawed arguments that are being made – predominantly by the No side it has to be said – are similar to arguments being made by those who oppose infant vaccination, climate change, stem cells and other contentious sciences.

That people make illogical arguments to fool themselves is nothing new, but I feel we need to call out those who make illogical arguments to fool others. Particularly those illogical arguments that ‘feel’ right and have become the tools of misinformation.

The reason false arguments work well, in many cases, is that while the world is large and complex our brains favour simple explanations. We tend to seek out ideas to confirm what we already suspect, trust people we find more appealing, and take our own individual experiences and treat it as evidence.

Some of the illogical arguments that are used that you should look out for include:

Broken Logic. An example of broken logic is citing a child who got sick from a vaccination as proof that all vaccinations are dangerous and may make your child sick. Sometimes broken logic statements feel accurate, and only when really analysed do you find they are not. Sometimes they are just clumsy, like finding an error in a report on climate change and then using that to imply that everything in the report is in error. The danger is that those looking for ammunition to support a position that is already anti-climate change science, will hook onto broken logic as if it is actually logic and refuse to be convinced otherwise.

Straw man arguments. This is something that is easily knocked over, like a person made of straw – and is usually done when an opponent claims you are saying something that you actually aren’t, and proceeds to demolish your supposed arguments. An example of this Allan Jones stating: “And of course carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant. It’s a harmless trace gas that’s necessary for life.”

Michael Brown from Monash University has said, “Straw man climate science ignores real world complexity. Variations from year-to-year and place-to-place are assumed to undermine the case for anthropogenic climate change.”

False equivalence: False equivalence is usually made by comparing something morally and emotionally outrageous to some aspect of science that someone is attacking. One of the worst cases of false equivalence I have heard in recent years is when the Australian Vaccination Sceptics Network in 2015 compared infant vaccines to rape.

Case Study of One:  This is usually preceded by a statement like, ‘Well when my aunty visited the Great Barrier Reef and she said…’ Although it is more often based on a person’s own single experience of an incident, such as Pauline Hanson stating that the Reef was clearly in good condition because it looked okay when she visited Great Keppel Island.

John Cook from George Mason University, has described the illogical fallacies often used by science deniers as FLICC. This stands for:

So keep an eye out for them, whether the argument is being made about same sex marriage or science – and as a science communicator don’t be shy of calling ‘Illogical fallacy’ (or just plain ‘Bullshit’) on them.

President’s update: The great science joke search

By ASC President Craig Cormick

 

Calling all science communicators…

So it has become abundantly clear that despite many years of work and millions of dollars being invested, the science community has been particularly unsuccessful in developing any breakthrough science jokes. So I am putting out the call to all science communicators to see if we can help address this sad state of affairs.

It might be a short one or two liner, like:

Q. What does DNA stand for?

A. The National Dyslexic Association.

Or it may be a much longer joke, but I challenge you all to send in your best science jokes, either on the ASC Facebook page, or post in the comments section of the newsletter. Let’s show you have what it takes to reach out and communicate science in diverse mediums, including humour.

My best effort:

There were three scientists attending a conference in New York – a geneticist, a nanotechnologist and a nuclear physicist. As they were leaving the conference centre late in the evening a robber jumped out in front of them with a gun. ‘Give me your money or I’ll shoot you,’ he said.

‘No, no, don’t rob us or shoot us,’ said the geneticist. ‘We’re scientists. We are trying to better the world.’

The robber thinks about that a moment and then says, ‘Okay. Here’s what I’ll do. If you can convince me that what you are doing is for the betterment of the world, I’ll let you go. But if not. Bang!’

The three scientists agree and the nuclear physicist goes first. ‘Well nuclear power has a lot of potential for addressing modern problems and it has a bad reputation I know, but I believe nuclear power is the way of the future…’

Bang! The robber shoots him.

Then he turns the gun to the nanotechnologist. ‘You next!’

No, no, me next,’ says the geneticist. ‘I’d rather be shot than have to hear one more time how nanotechnology is going to save the world!’

Over to you, ASC members…