Job – The Australian Science Media Centre is looking for a Supporter Relations Officer

1 year contract with the possibility of extension Salary: $50,000-60,000 plus superannuation

Location: Adelaide, South Australia

An exciting opportunity has arisen to join the team at the Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC). We are looking for a Supporter Relations Officer who has a passion for maintaining and building current stakeholder relationships within the tertiary and research sectors.

The AusSMC is a national, independent, non-profit service for the news media, giving journalists direct access to evidence-based science and expertise. We strive to encourage and assist journalists to cover science and to help scientists and institutions engage with the media. Our aim is to empower the Australian public, and ultimately to help build a more scientifically literate society. We provide commentary and analysis from scientists, take inquiries from journalists, run online briefings and help train scientists to engage more effectively with the media.

As the Supporter Relations Officer your main role will be to nurture and manage current stakeholder relationships, reduce stakeholder attrition and grow loyalty.

We are looking for an enthusiastic and confident individual with experience in client relationship management who enjoys meeting and speaking to people with experience working with the tertiary and research sector.

Experience working with the tertiary, science or research sectors is desirable. General office administration, database management and social media experience would also be highly desirable.

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For a full job description, go to: www.aussmc.org/about-us/positions-vacant/

Apply with a CV and covering letter to jobs@smc.org.au by Friday 19 May 2017

Power tribes

By Craig Cormick

President, Australian Science Communicators

 

There are many people out there who understand that science helps us make sense of the world around us, through discoveries based on analysing data, measuring impacts and drawing conclusions from evidence-based thinking.

  • I’m sorry, I’ll just start that again.

There are many people out there who see science as a rather limited way of explaining the world, and that it is elitist, blinkered and hampered by its insistence on obtainable data.

You might not be pleased to know it, but both statements are equally correct – for there are many competing world-views that exist within our families, our communities, across our nation and around the globe.

And not all of those world-views belong to those of us who might be members of the Science Fan Boys and Fan Girls Tribe.

For despite thousands of years of civilisation, and many years of uniform access to Facebook and Twitter, we are still inherently tribal – and prefer to define the world into those who are like us and those who are not like us.

Modern tribes though are less distinguished by whether we have stars on our stomaches, or whether we paint our faces blue, and are more defined by our similarity of beliefs and world views.

And of course, no matter what your tribe, it is the one that sees the world as it really is.

Our tribe is the right tribe!

And our tribe is the righteous tribe!

Let me explain how this works. We have an inherent world view – formed by a complexity of things – that might be individualistic, communitarian, hierarchical, conservative, progressive, fearful, frivolous, consumer driven, sustainable etc.  And we are driven to not only look for things that reinforce our world view – but we look for people who have a similar world view to us.

Our tribe!

With as simple a thing as a Friend Request or a Friend Delete we can surround ourselves with other members of our tribe.

UFO believers, anti-vaccination advocates, economic rationalists, neo-liberals, climate change deniers  – you name it – there’s a tribe for you.

And here’s the thing, once you have surrounded yourself with a solid tribe of similar thinking, it is very, very hard to convince you that there might be an alternative world view of any merit.

Especially if it is coming from people who are not like you.

Facts and data will not do it.

Numerical weight of evidence will not do it.

And online brawling and name calling certainly won’t bring about any change of position.

Of course the same happens for Science Fan Boys and Fan Girls.  We surround ourselves by our tribe and engage in social-media war on the other tribes – shaking our virtual slings and arrows at them.

And why not? For we are the superior tribe, yes? We are the ones who can see through the short-term thinking of those seeking profits over sustainability, or real estate over research, or can see the danger of species loss, or monocultures. And we are the ones who can see that sensible investment in research will lead to widespread social and environmental and individual benefits.

We can see why it’ s good to drive a hybrid car and have solar panels on our house, and subscribe to Cosmos and listen to the Science Show and take our kids to National Science Week gigs – and maybe – just maybe – feel a little warm and smug about it.

Because our tribe has never had it so good! We have access to more good science podcasts and talks and programs and events and ways to follow science than we have ever had.

But – as I pointed out – there are actually a lot of other tribes out there who don’t see the world the same way. Who don’t think there is much of a pay off from science research, and don’t think that science is either interesting or relevant, and feel it can’t really explain all the things that are unexplainable in the world.

If you want confirmation of that – just have a closer look at the majority of politicians on your local council, or in your State or Federal Governments – and look at their world views.

And they are worth looking at. For they are Power Tribes.

There are lots of such Tribes out there – generally cashed up and well connected – and like it or not – Science Fan Boys and Fan Girls are not a Power Tribe. We have more clout and numbers than the I’d Rather Be Fishing Tribe or the I Vote and I Shoot Tribe – in most cases. But we’re not up there with the big Power Tribes.

In fact evidence shows we are actually a shrinking tribe – particularly amongst young people – which is often masked by our increased interconnectedness with each other and our heroes.

We can feel a bit superior, sure, but that doesn’t mean those in a real Power Tribes think we are.

Even the general public don’t necessarily think we are. Evidence shows that while scientists are still respected by the general public they are not so much trusted by them as they once were.

One of the problems is that while we are a tribe that does a lot of talking – it is predominantly … amongst ourselves.

So here’s the issue put simply. How do we become a Power Tribe and actually influence things more?

Well there are really two key ways – either infiltrate existing Power Tribes more effectively, or grow the size of our tribe and make it more dominant and powerful numerically. Or both.

And that brings me to a key question: if you are a member of the Science Fan Boy and Fan Girl tribe, what have you done recently to try and grow the tribe or to influence existing Power Tribes?

What have you done to put away your virtual slings and arrows and engage with other tribes – while acknowledging their different world view and values, rather than criticising them?

This is an important issue – and it goes beyond who to add to your Facebook and Twitter Feed and who to invite to your next barbeque – though they are useful first steps.

For we will never become The Power Tribe – and that’s probably not a bad a thing, as we are just as susceptible to group-think as any tribe.  Such is life!

But we need to talk more to other tribes and less just to ourselves.

We need to find ways for other Tribes to consider science thinking more often, and consider it a part of their own world view, by us framing it through their world view.

We need to talk science without ever using the word science sometimes.

For the good of everyone we need our Power Tribes to contain diversity of thought – less a monoculture – and to be more often considering the things that Science Fan Boys and Fan Girls think important when making decisions.

As I like to say at my Tribal barbeques – the stakes are high.

For as Jared Diamond points out, there are more than enough examples over the centuries of Power Tribes who have ignored the evidence-based voices around them, and died out when their world views proved inconsistent with sustainability.  Just as there are examples of Tribes of Evidence, who could see the problems facing them, but weren’t in a position of power.

There is not really going to be a lot of smugness in saying, “I told you so!” as we spiral downwards.

So – get out of your Tribe a bit more often. Invite other Tribes to your things. Listen to what they have to say, and then don’t necessarily talk about science. Talk about evidence. Talk about consequences. Talk about the things they value – family, home, career, security, well-being, natural surrounds, health – and if they’d put them at risk.

Find those commonalities – not the differences – and you might find that we all belong to one larger human tribe.

And that is something worth discovering.

Listen out for a broadcast of this article on ABC’s Science Show in coming weeks.

What does a National Science Statement mean for Science Communicators?

So the Government has released a National Science Statement.

That is always something to get excited about, right? Well, perhaps, but not too excited.

The latest Minister (Senator Sinodinos) in launching the Statement last month at Science Meets Parliament, gave all the usual phrases about the importance of science and innovation to our economy and national wellbeing, and the importance of evidence-based decision making. That was all welcome even if nothing you wouldn’t expect a Science Statement to have. But he also talked about the importance of engaging all Australians with science.

He said, “In a nutshell, the Statement sets out our long-term vision for Australia: a society that is fully engaged with science, and fully enriched by science.”

That was promising. And looking to the Statement itself, there is a section that provides more detail on this. The report states:

“The benefits of science can be fully realised only when society is fully engaged with science and science actively engages with society.”

Two-way engagement! Gotta be happy with that.

The report goes on to say:

“This means that we need to ensure that:

  • science and mathematics education are interesting, relatable and valued by parents and teachers, supporting high levels of participation and appreciation at all levels of education
  • scientific knowledge and skills are valued by employers and in the workforce
  • the general public are engaged by and appreciate science, building support for investment in science
  • all Australians have the opportunity to engage with scientists and contribute to scientific processes and discourses
  • decision and policy makers use science, draw on expert scientific advice and see science as a contributor to problem solving and evidence‑based policy.”

Still sounding pretty good.

  • STEM in schools – tick!
  • Valuing science skills – tick!
  • The general public engaged more in science – albeit to build support for investment in science – half a tick!
  • Everyone should get to engage with a scientist – sounds overly ambitious – half a tick!
  • More evidence-based policy being used in Australia – with no reference to our current spate of politically-driven policy formation, even more ambitious – half a tick!

The next thing we’d like to know is how the Government plans to actually do these things. And – that’s when the Statement starts to run out of steam. The Statement largely repackages a lot of existing funding initiatives to look like they are doing something new.

The Statement does give Inspiring Australia a good mention though, deservedly, and then goes on to acknowledge the fine work being done in Science Communications by other agencies.

“Science engagement is delivered not only by the Australian Government, but also by state and territory governments, many local authorities, the scientific knowledge and outreach sectors, and many parts of the private sector and the community.”

That is YOU! ASC members across Australia! Acknowledged for the integral role you do in this space.

The Statement then gets very interesting in saying, “The government will work with these other key participants in science engagement programme delivery to support activities that communicate science, encourage wide community participation in science and inspire excellence in the sciences.”

So I am very keen to apply that afore-mentioned evidence-based test to that statement and see if the Federal Budget in May actually has any new initiatives or funding for science communication cooperative activities, as is implied.

But it may be that the paragraph above actually means – “science communication cooperation will be business as usual.”

We know that in the era of spin you often have to wait a week or more to read the views of independent expert commentators to understand what any given Government Statement actually means – but I would get very excited if beyond the nice rhetoric there was evidence of a stronger commitment to supporting the activities of Science Communicators to match the vision in the Science Statement.

 

Dr Craig Cormick

President

Australian Science Communicators

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 catalyst@challis.co.

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.