President’s update

Thank you to ASC President Craig Cormick for the update. Below is the transcript from his first address at the 2017 ASC National Conference.

Let’s talk about these times we are living in.

Times of False News and times of Alternative facts.

Times of popularist politics and times of contested truths.

Times of polarised opinions and times of diminished trust.

Times of intuitive knowledge and times of reinforced biases.

Times of denial of scientific truths and approval of scientific falsehoods.

Times of anti-science and times of silencing of scientists.

Silencing of Scientists!


Let’s talk about these times.


Times of growing alternative beliefs and times of self-styled experts.

Times of decreasing impact of the media and rampant impacts of new media.

Where everyone is an authority and strength of opinion is confused with being correct.

Times of diminished funding for science and science communication.

And times of such very creative science communications being created,

But not always seen nor heard by vast numbers of the population.

Not seen nor heard!


Let’s talk about these times.


For we are also living in times of great enthusiasm for science communication.

Times of growing numbers of talented communicators,

Across a very wide range of disciplines and knowledge and mediums.

Times of a focus of understanding in the challenges facing us.

Times of an imperative to do better.

To do more with less.

To measure impacts, not smiles.

To convince not oppose.

To nudge not unsettle.

To find new tools and new methods and new understandings

Based on solid research into how communication works

–  and how it does not.

And how it does Not!


Let’s talk about these times


And be the voice of reason, not of antagonism.

To listen before we tell

To educate rather than indoctrinate

To be right rather than righteous.

And to accept that not everyone is going to get it.

And that for many our science-centric view is not the way they see their world.

Not the way

They see their world.


Let’s talk about these times.


We will stand upon the shoulders of giants to see further

And we will see far beyond the dusty monolith of the deficit model.

We will see how people’s values are the key to understanding their choices and behaviours.

We will see how framing can be used to unpick and alter perceptions

And we will see genuine engagement with publics is integral to two-way communication of science and to social licence.

Genuine engagement.


Let’s talk about these times.


For above all these are times for standing up for what you believe in.

For fighting the good fight.

For calling out bad science

And vested interests

And dangerous bad medicine

And piss-weak government decisions

And anti-science scare campaigns

And fear mongers and dick-heads,

And Haters of all kinds.

Of all kinds.


Let’s talk about these times


Without being superior or arrogant or dick-headed ourselves.

For we have so much to do.

And so much still to learn to be able to do it.

So we can look back over what we have seen and heard and shared and learned and taught, and then say, with a humble sense of pride:

‘We are science communicators. And we are making a difference!’


Let’s talk about that.




Online editor position at COSMOS magazine

COSMOS is a popular science magazine based in Toorak, Melbourne. It publishes both a hard copy quarterly magazine and online daily news and features.

With a meteoric rise in its online readership, they are continuing to grow our audience while diversifying the range of high quality online offerings.

As part of that growth they are looking for a talented online magazine editor to take the magazine the next step of the way.

The successful applicant will have a scientific background combined with proven writing, editorial and online skills.

The primary role will be to work as part of the news team to select, assign, write and edit news stories as well as to develop other online material.

Want to find out more? The job is listed on SEEK here.

Applications close 25 February 2017.



President’s Update

Thank you to Joan Leach for the President’s Update!

Welcome to 2017!

I hope ASC members are starting out 2017 on a high note. The end of last year brought a new report from the US on Science Communication—it’s available for download here. While ASC members will be well aware of the communication techniques it advocates, the report also motivates a future research agenda for science communication. I look forward to talking with ASC members about how these suggestions work in the Australian context in the coming months—one to discuss at our February conference for certain.

Our AGM will be held at the 2017 ASC conference in Adelaide. It’s an excellent opportunity for you to let ASC know what is important to you. I’ll also be passing the President’s baton on at this meeting. I’m delighted that Craig Cormick has contacted me to confirm he is interested in standing for ASC President. We will post his proposed platform with the AGM papers. Others may yet be interested; do let me know if you’d like a conversation or you, too, wish to stand so I can draw members’ attention to the candidates. I’m delighted that Craig has put up his hand—he comes with 25 years experience across multiple science communication sectors. When I asked him why he was interested, he was also characteristically witty and said, “My reason for standing for President is, quite simply, the knowledge that one day we are all going to be asked, what did you do in the subtle war against science and the advancement of truthiness?”

Australian Broadcasting Corporation – Executive Producer, Catalyst

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (‘ABC’) is Australia’s main national public broadcaster, providing television, radio, online and mobile services throughout metropolitan and regional Australia, as well as overseas through Radio Australia and Australia Plus.

Catalyst is the ABC’s flagship science television show. It showcases significant Australian and international science discoveries that have an impact on the broad Australian public. In response to changing audience demands, along with the aim of creating the greatest possible public impact, Catalyst will change in 2017 from half-hour “magazine-style” episodes—each exploring multiple subjects—to 17 one-hour episodes—exploring a single subject.

Reporting to the Head of Factual, the Executive Producer (‘EP’) will assume end-to-end responsibility for developing, producing and commissioning Catalyst. This includes all internally-produced and externally-commissioned content for distribution on television, iview, online and mobile.

The priorities for the role include:

  • developing innovative, high-quality, distinctive, relevant content for multiple platforms;
  • building and maintaining external relationships, particularly with Australia’s scientific community and independent production sector;
  • driving greater accessibility, particularly through digital and partnerships;
  • ensuring the dollars go further and managing the budget;
  • leading, inspiring and developing a small team; and
  • working effectively across the Television Division and Corporation.

The ideal EP will be an innovative, successful producer with experience gained within the television broadcasting or production industry. While she or he may have worked across multiple genres, a spike in science is imperative. She or he will have good relationships with both the scientific and production communities. The EP will bring a deep understanding of the needs and preferences of Australian audiences and how to cater for these with innovative, high-quality science programming. A Bachelor degree or equivalent—probably in Science, Production or Communications—is desirable.

The position is based at ABC’s head office in Sydney where it will be collocated with other science program makers in the Radio division.

For a copy of the detailed Role specification, please contact Helen Johnson at Challis & Company, the consultants advising the ABC, on +61 2 8039 2223 or at

Applications close 21 December 2016. Challis & Company is simultaneously conducting an executive search. The ABC supports workplace diversity and is an equal opportunity employer.

President’s update

Thank you to Joan Leach for the President’s Update

Happy End, 2016!

2016 winds its wicked way to the end. Dickens to comes to mind: “it was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” The ‘best of times’ included the recent SCANZ conference in Dunedin.  Despite an earthquake (!), the conference went ahead with stimulating papers and enormous generosity from our NZ colleagues—we got breaking science news on the earthquake and got some wonderful opportunities to catch up with NZ science communicators. This year, Kali Madden has treated ASC with a weekly opportunity for us to get to know each other by featuring a member each week, and the opportunity to listen in afterward. This has resulted in an amazing resource for ASC and when people ask me about potential roles in science communication—I can point to the 48 on the ASC website. Buoyed by our conference earlier this year in Brisbane (yes, really—that was in 2016), we’re forging ahead to a larger conference in Adelaide in February—a dedicated volunteer committee is reviewing and organising panels—that should be just about done by Christmas. So, get those early flights and the earlybird rates for the conference.

For ASC, there is a lot to draw our gaze forward. Our conference is going to give us an opportunity to discuss what science communication is like in a post-truth world. Enjoy a safe and happy end of year break. See you in 2017 in Adelaide!

President’s Update

Thank you to Joan Leach for the President’s Update.

I’m writing this on the plane as I return from a work trip around China and am reflecting on the extraordinary interest in science communication currently emerging there. What I found were University presidents and organisations across China who want to learn from Australia about science communication – and there is also much we can learn from the Chinese; they are aiming to take what they call the ‘science literacy rate’ from 9% to 25% in 5 years. They are building science museums, growing capacity in their media sector (and have started a Chinese Science Media Centre to mirror our own AUSSMC). The science advisor at the Australian embassy in Beijing hosts nearly nonstop science events and has showcased the connections between Australian and Chinese science. The time is ripe for meaningful collaboration.

I’m thrilled that this issue of SCOPE announces the next winners of the professional development grants at ASC. Thank you to Ian McDonald, Miriam Sullivan and Kali Madden for making these happen – they are a great opportunity for us to give support to our members when they want to ‘skill up’.

Finally, the year is counting down now… I’ve fielded a few queries about the ASC presidency. If you think this is a role for you – just drop me a line; I’m available to talk further. I won’t be standing for President again for 2017 but will be very happy to help the next ASC president to do great things.

President’s Update

Thank you to Joan Leach for the President’s Update.

Coonabarabran, NSW
I just had an amazing weekend at StarFest at Siding Spring Observatory in the Warrumbungles; inspiring to see the observatory at work after it was threatened by fire in 2013. They’ve added a renewed exhibition space and there was a lot of energy around the research. Astronomers seem to have ‘got’ science communication early in the piece but it is still inspiring to spend time at a world-class research facility and interact with the researchers there. And then there are the great views both skyward and over the Warrumbungles themselves…

Upcoming AGM
Unbelievably, 2016 is heading into the final quarter. This means the SCANZ conference is upon us, planning for ASC2017 in Adelaide is in full swing, and of course, it’s time to plan for the ASC AGM. So, keep alert as we set a date and place for the AGM—if anyone would like to host the AGM or put something on the agenda, please let me or Kali know. After 3 years as President of ASC, I will not be standing for President in 2017. I’ve really enjoyed the role and am pleased that ASC is a healthy organisation with many plans for the future. If anyone would like to have a conversation about the role and are thinking about running for ASC President at the AGM, I’m happy to have an actual or virtual coffee with you.

Making Connections with the World Federation of Science Journalists
As many of you know, ASC is a member of the WFSJ. I had a great conversation with Damien Chalaud, the Director of the WFSJ last week. He’s quite keen on hearing more about what we’re doing in Australia and has invited Bianca Nogrady, ASC vice-president, to take over the WFSJ twitter stream for a week in November. We’ll post more information on that and other joint initiatives very soon. It’s always worthwhile checking out what the WFSJ are up to—they’re currently planning their next conference in San Francisco early next year.

Science communication stars at the Eurekas

Thank you to Bianca Nogrady for this article.

It’s fitting that, at the so-called Oscars of Australian science, your entrée is described as a ‘gastronomical geode’ that must be excavated from a box of edible dirt.

The Eureka Awards

Eureka winner Renae Sayers

As amusing as that was, it was but a minor moment in a night that delivered plenty of rousing cheers for the science communication community. The highlight was ASC’s very own Renae Sayers, whose Fireballs In The Sky citizen science project rightly earned her and colleagues at Curtin University the inaugural Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science. In true science communicator fashion, Renae delivered the most passionate and entertaining thank you speech of the evening.

Another highlight was, as always, the Eureka prize for science journalism, which was won this year by Wain Fimeri, Sonya Pemberton, Dr Derek Muller and Steve Westh for their documentary Uranium – Twisting the Dragon’s Tail. Sonya Pemberton took the opportunity on stage to call for greater support of science journalism and science communication in Australia, although she was nearly drowned out by the infernal music designed to usher excessive talkers from the stage.

The fabulous astrophysicist Dr Lisa Harvey-Smith from CSIRO took home the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research. She also earned the greatest number of celebratory tweets, which is equal testament to her popularity and reach.

And the winners and runners-up of the two University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize showed that the future of science communication is in capable hands. Hayden Ingle from Banksmeadow Public School channelled David Attenborough in his documentary on The Bluebottle and the Glaucus, which took the primary school prize. Claire Galvin and Anna Hardy from St Monica’s College Cairns, undertook a painstaking reconstruction of the animal skeletons extracted from owl pellets to explore their significance in conservation and ecological studies, in Owl Pellets: A Postal System to Scientists.

It was a night to remember, and not just for the eye-watering pink-and-purple colour scheme of the Town Hall lighting, or the smoked potato masquerading as a dragon’s egg in the edible dirt.

The science communication community was out in force and in finery, filling the room with familiar faces and strong voices. The pomp and ceremony, and several speakers, also sent a clear message that Australian science are alive and kicking, despite best political efforts to the contrary.

All the 2016 Eureka Prize winners are listed here.

Image credit: Australian Museum Eureka Prize

President’s Update

Get ready for #ASC2017
After reviewing some fantastic bids for our 2017 conference, I am excited to announce that the Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus) is our host.

ASC will come together on February 23-24 next year in Adelaide at the Science Exchange. Right in the middle of the Adelaide Fringe Festival, if you’d like to make a week of it.

We’ll be hard at work confirming sponsors in the coming weeks and looking to our program, so if you have any suggestions please let us know.


ASC reflection: Deceptology

ASC member Sarah Turnbull won free tickets to Nicholas J Johnson’s show (also an ASC Member), Deceptology, as part of the Melbourne Magic Festival in July. She wrote up this reflection of attending:

When Nicholas J Johnson opened his act by making his head expand and then shrink, I found myself giggling with delight.

Deceptology, which was part of the Melbourne Magic Festival, is a mix of magic, critical thinking, comedy and theatre. As the “honest conman”, Johnson uses sleight of hand and mentalism to wow the audience, then educates us about confirmation bias, misdirection, hypothetical projection and how our brains can be fooled.

His skilful interaction with the many volunteers he pulled up on stage was funny without being embarrassing. A rare trick.

The show ended with a change of pace – a shadow-play that stood on its own as a tiny work of art. And if you want to know how Nicholas managed to project it into an audience member’s head, you’ll have to see the show for yourself.

Thanks to Nicholas and the ASC for a fun night out in Northcote.