The 2013 Unsung Hero of Science Communication Award #ASC14

Thank you to Simon Chester for preparing this piece.

The Unsung Hero of Science Communication award is offered annually by the Australian Science Communicators (ASC), and recognises and celebrates excellence in science communication across Australia.

Science communication is the process of making science accessible, and encouraging engagement with scientific processes and outcomes. This engagement allows people to make better-informed decisions about some of the most critical issues facing society and the planet.

Science communication can come from many sources, including scientists, teachers, journalists, writers, entertainers, students, and other communicators including, most noticeably, radio and TV personalities.

One of the members of the judging panel from last year’s award, former ASC President and Eureka Awards Science Book Prize winner, David Ellyard, recognises the importance of communicating science out to the public, but that science communication isn’t just about the top-level celebrities.

“Science communication is at the heart of the scientific enterprise,” said David. “The everyday people who pay for science to be done, and who will be impacted by scientific discoveries, are entitled to know what is going on. And they will commonly find it fascinating.

“Science communication goes on at many levels, from high profile journalism, conferences, and TV documentaries to informal person to person chats,” said David. “The high-fliers get a lot of kudos, but those who work productively in other dimensions are also worthy of acknowledgment.”

The ASC has traditionally acknowledged unsung Australian scientists, but, last year, felt that it was past time to shine the spotlight onto those who communicate the science – especially as the scope of the award is not covered in existing national science award programs. Thus, in 2012, the Unsung Hero of Science Communication award was born.

“The ASC created this award to honour a person or group who exemplify science communication, who have not yet received significant recognition for their contribution to science and its promotion, and for work done in Australia over a considerable or prolonged time” said Jesse Shore.

In 2012, that person was editor and publisher of the magazine Australasian Science, Guy Nolch.

According to the judges, Guy Nolch was recognised for: his long period of distinguished science publishing (more than 20 years publishing Australasian Science); training and mentoring science communicators; making scientists’ work accessible to and understood by the public; dealing with controversial issues; his major contributions to the discussion of science policy and scientific issues in Australia; and for the fostering of good science journalism in Australia and for promotion of leading Australian scientists and their research.

As a publisher of a long-standing science magazine, Guy sees targeted publications as becoming ever more important as tools for quality science communication.

“The mainstream media has a greater reliance on syndicated stories these days, and pitch their stories at the centre of the demographic bell curve,” said Guy. “Niche publications like Australasian Science can focus more on local research and researchers, and provide more in-depth analysis of a broader range of research and its potential consequences.

“Newspapers have let science reporters go and the most noise is made by shock jocks with a particular entrenched view that is based more on the proprietor’s objectives than true objectivity. There are good writers out there, but, on the whole, they’re under pressure to file something short on a sexy topic before the rest of the pack run with it.”

But hope is not lost, as technology has turned any writer into a potential publisher, and budding communicators are now able to perfect their skills on their own blogs. Guy had this advice to offer to anyone interested in communicating science:

“In many ways it’s easier these days to get a portfolio of work together by self-publishing online in blogs, podcasts, and social media. Many niche magazines like Australasian Science will also welcome you to pitch story ideas. Check out the contributors’ guidelines so you can tailor your idea to the audience you’ll be reaching, and have a crack!”

The Unsung Hero of Australian Science Communication 2013 award will be presented during the Australian Science Communicators National Conference, held from 2-5 February 2014 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The 2014 ASC Conference also marks the 20th anniversary of ASC, so come join delegates from agencies like CSIRO, ANSTO, ATSE, Cooperative Research Centres, NHMRC, museums, universities, research institutes, and privately-run technology companies, as they celebrate the anniversary, learn about innovative practice and new initiatives, and hear from national leaders across research/technology, communication, media, business, industry and education.

Event review: Canberra’s deadliest air disaster re-examined

Thank you to Melissa Snape, Secretary of the ACT branch, for providing this event review.

With the 73rd memorial of the Canberra Air Disaster fresh in the minds of those who attended the crash site at Fairbairn Pine Plantation (near the Canberra Airport) just a day before, the ASC-ACT branch brought in the experts to delve into the mystery surrounding this historic episode – with a bit of a science twist.

The sell-out National Science Week event was held in the Japan Theatre at Questacon on August 14 and gathered a diverse crowd of local eye witnesses, aeronautical enthusiasts, relatives of the deceased and detectives at heart – and thrilled them all with never-before-seen in public footage of the wreckage (filmed within hours of the crash), a lesson in state-of-the-art forensic techniques by Mardi Southwell (AFP Forensic Science Team) and an in depth interview with Mr Andrew Tink, local expert and author of ‘Air Disaster Canberra: the plane crash that destroyed a government’.

A close re-examination of the fatal event, which killed ten people in total (including 3 war time government ministers), uncovered evidence indicating that Air Minister Fairbairn (and not the experienced RAAF pilot Bob Hitchcock) may have been flying the plane when it met its fiery destiny. Tales were also told of the charred bodies of victims being misidentified as smouldering stumps and improper collection and documentation of evidence resulting in the true nature of the tragedy being shroud in mystery forever.

To add our science twist, Mardi then gave a fantastic presentation briefing the audience about how forensic scientists in 2013 would approach such a scenario and what techniques are available to us now that were not in 1940.

The evening was rounded off by competitions for prizes (including two signed copies of Andrew’s book), a bite to eat and a glass or two to drink – all on the house. We only hope that those attending had as much fun as we did hosting.

Want to see what we go up to?

  • Short video clip produced by Alex Harrod (played at the event) – click here
  • Photos of our event taken by David Wong – click here

We also had a massive amount of local media attention surrounding the event including TV, print and radio interviews. Also, two days after our event the ABCs 7.30 report even got on the band wagon and did a story about the Canberra Air Disaster- see the link here which mentions our society.

The ASC ACT Branch would like to thank those who helped make the event a major success:

  • ACT Branch of the Australian New Zealand Forensic Society
  • Questacon
  • Inspiring Australia
  • ACT National Science Week committee
  • ACT Government

Member profile – Sarah Lau

Thank you to Sarah Lau who shared her deepest darkest secrets with us for this Q&A profile!

When not working as Communication Manager for ChemCentre in Western Australia, Sarah spends her time keeping things in order as the Secretary of the ASC. As a long-term member, Sarah’s commitment to the ASC is a great example of what keeps a volunteer organisation like ours running like clockwork. She kindly took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some ASC profile pop-quiz questions.

Read on to find out about everything from ASC WA events to malformed origami!

 

When you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As a small child, my career choices were heavily influenced by books and television, so I went through phases of wanting to be a journalist, a police officer, a lawyer… at one point I’d even settled on being a spy. Eventually when I hit high school I decided I wanted to get into science, but a disastrous Year 12 practical chemistry exam made me realise that lab work wasn’t for me. So I decided to combine my passion for science with my love of talking and working with people, which led me to science communication.

Apart from being superstar secretary of the ASC, what work do you do?

In my daily role, I am the Communication Manager at ChemCentre, the WA chemical and forensic science facility. This is a fascinating and varied job which sees me doing everything from briefing media on synthetic drugs to devising marketing strategies for air monitoring analysis. Right now I am working with our team to deliver a series of August outreach activities, tying into National Science Week, and culminating with ChemCentre’s annual Open Day. (Shameless plug – if you’re in WA, come by on Saturday 24 August!)

With another hat on, I work as a science communication and presentation consultant. The most exciting role I have taken on recently was for The University of Western Australia, working with some of UWA’s highest profile scientists to deliver the Science for our Future Festival program across South East Asia.

Has your time with the ASC helped or hindered your work?

I joined ASC as a student when I was studying Science Communication at The University of Western Australia. I found it was very useful, as it gave me a chance to engage with established professionals and consider future career directions.

As an early career professional, being involved with ASC, and particularly volunteering at the branch level, meant that I had the chance to develop skills and build a network of contacts.

Now, my role with ASC has grown to allow me to support the evolution of ASC as we expand and move towards a professional association. As I’ve become more involved with ASC, one my favourite things has been the chance to connect with ASC members from across Australia and hear their experiences.

Why is science communication important?

I see science communication as ‘bridging the gap’ – bringing skills and expertise to connect the world of science and an intended audience. I’ve always considered that science communicators help make science accessible, relevant and engaging. Science communicators also bring perspective and expertise to scientists to help the scientific process in the modern world. The benefits to ensuring science is communicated are wide-ranging, including better informed decision making in the wider community, and increased uptake of science at the policy and governance level. I think the recognition of science communication as a specialisation is increasing, and along with it, an appreciation of the value of science communicators.

What ASC events are you looking forward to this year?

In WA, there is a fantastic local committee which has worked hard to create a diverse programs of events, including social, professional and networking events. We’ve had some great evaluation events and I’m looking forward to this program continuing this year. Fast forward to 2014 – I am excited about the ASC National Conference in Brisbane!

When you are not science communicating, what are your hobbies/interests?

Not much has changed since I was young, so books and television still feature prominently. I adore music and I’m easily distracted by music videos. I also love checking out the great cafes and bars now popping up all over Perth. And for the novelty category – I enjoy attempting geometric origami structures, which is an odd choice for someone with little artistic ability or patience!

From the president

Thank you to Claire Harris for preparing the update from the President.

If you haven’t seen the email from Rod Lamberts (9 July) you may have missed that Rod has decided to step down as President, due to health reasons.

This was not a decision I made lightly. I had some large and shiny plans for the ASC back in November last year and was enjoying the opening phases of enacting these with the ASC Executive and National Council. But having weighed up what’s possible for me, and what’s fair and practical for the ASC, the only reasonable path was for me to stand aside and let someone else take the lead.

This has been a reluctant decision, and speaking on behalf of the Executive members, and I’m sure the rest of the membership, we all feel for Rod in his situation.  We wish him the best and the Executive is glad to report that Rod will stay on the Executive and attend meetings when he can.

After discussions within the Executive and National Council (the representatives from our branch committees) I have agreed to take on the role of Acting President until the AGM. This will be a joint effort really, with Will Grant, Vice President and others in the Executive sharing the load.

As I said in my email to the list recently, this is an exciting time for the ASC. We are ramping up to the 2014 conference and will shortly be calling for expressions of interest to run sessions at the conference (keep an eye on the ASC website and Scope newsletter for updates). This event is a key pillar of the ASC associations objectives and will deliver a range of benefits, primarily to members, but also wider communities interested in science and the communication of its impacts on society.

We are also, with Will’s leadership, exploring what the future of ASC looks like with regards to professionalisation. So far, members have told us that becoming a professionalised association is something they would value. This is an important discussion and so we, on the Executive, invite your further thoughts.

I am also pleased to see that we have many enthusiastic writers working with our new Scope editor, Victoria Leitch, to bring new content to you all. This group effort has been specifically supported to encourage and harness the talent and passion of our members who want to contribute to ASC and help deliver as best we can as a volunteer association. This is a great opportunity for the writers – providing them with a tool to meet others, generate stories, build their profile and have their work delivered straight into the inbox of Scope subscribers. For all those who have been in touch to offer your time and enthusiasm, I thank you and look forward to enjoyable and rewarding projects ahead.

Another important recruitment is the general manager position – a vision shaped and implemented by the 2012 and 2013 Executives. We have received applications for this new role, which ultimately is aimed to deliver greater strategic partnerships, funding and the key projects.

I feel privileged to take on the role of president and look forward to meeting more of you over coming months. As always, your reflections on the ASC and how it is supporting or could better support its members are always welcome; either to me or your local branch reps.

The rise of the MOOC

Thanks to Brigid Mullane for her review of MOOCs.

MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses, are free courses from major universities around the world, available on the internet through platforms such as Coursera, Udacity and edX.

The first one I heard about was Coursera, and after reviewing its numerous offerings, I started in January this year with a course called Principles of Economics for Scientists from California Institute of Technology.  The title caught my attention because so many science issues have to be understood as economic issues as well, for example, climate change or the use of GMOs in crops.

I found that the course was not about the interaction of science and economics; the science tag related to the fact that students were expected to understand basic calculus to do the course, and many scientists would have this background.  The course dealt with economics using mathematical models, rather than in the descriptive way typical of many introductory economics courses.  Assignments were submitted weekly, and machine-marked.  The turnaround was immediate, with a grade, and an outline of how to solve each problem.  This was a great way to learn.

A feature of the course was an online trading game to help students understand the process of supply and demand in a market.  Unfortunately the system crashed on the first attempt, and so the game had to be abandoned as a component of the course assessment.  However, later in the course, after some repairs, the game was run again as an optional exercise.  This worked mechanically, but the market collapsed because some virtual banksters were going into virtual overdraft, and paying crazy prices for tokens.

Next, having seen how easily markets can be destroyed, I started to think about food security, and signed up in July for the course Sustainability of Food Systems, from the University of Minnesota.  It covers topics of interest to me such as food choices, industrial food production and the effects of national agricultural policies.  The assignments include open-book quizzes on reading assignments, so it would be difficult not to get full marks.  The other assignments involve various projects which are to be reported as forum posts, and we are also asked to comment on, or uptick the contributions of our fellow students.

Comparing the two courses, I’d rate the economics course higher.  Despite that trading game problem, and a few other bugs, it was a great opportunity to brush up on economics, confirm that I could still do some calculus, and hear from students around the world on the course forum.  The food course seems to be pitched more at high-school than university level.  This might have something to do with the need for assignments to be machine-marked for a massive student body, which precludes giving students the more demanding assignments that might be part of a regular course.

Students do not receive credit from the teaching institutions, but for most courses a Statement of Accomplishment is awarded to those who complete the requirements.  For a better class of certificate, Coursera students can join a program called Signature Track.  For this the students are asked to create profiles by recording their typing patterns and taking webcam photos of themselves and their ID documents.  Then they have to use a webcam while submitting assignments so that the system can confirm their identity, as well as their typing patterns.

This all seems very cumbersome and Big-Brotherish, and does not give university credit, but it does allow you to refer people to a website to confirm your course results.  The cost of this varies by course, and was USD29 to USD49 on a few I checked.  I noticed that a couple of these were discounted from a previous higher cost, so perhaps this is not a popular program.

On the question of actual course credit, a survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education in February 2013, found that 72% of professors teaching online courses did not believe that students should get formal credit from their institutions.

So, it will take a while for universities to work out how MOOCs might be integrated into higher education.  Meanwhile, why not sign up for a free course and learn something new?

How to tell a journo from a spin doctor: an ASC list discussion

Thank you to Jarrod Green for preparing this summary of the ASC list discussion. 

It is one of the most enduring debates in the field of communication: where do the boundaries lie between journalism, PR and other communication roles? The ASC is the latest to tackle this thorny demarcation problem through a discussion on the ASC email list and calls for further debate at the next ASC conference in February.

The recent ASC list discussion shows how differentiating between communication professions can become deeply entangled with questions of independence, ethics and bias.

Best practice journalism was distinguished early in the discussion by its critical and independent stance. Summarising a SciLogs post by Matt Shipman, ASC member Arwen Cross pointed out that sharing news from a single source is not journalism. Good journalists draw on multiple sources and independent experts.  This distinction was supported in the ASC discussion, though members also observed that mainstream journalism often fails to cover science with a critical voice, illustrating that independence doesn’t guarantee investigative reporting.

Pointing to articles by David Carr and Jack Shafer respectively, ASC members Bianca Nogrady and Sarah Keenihan highlighted the tension that can exist between journalism and activism, bringing into question the feasibility (or even the desirability) of totally impartial journalism. Nogrady argued that a pro-science outlook does not diminish the effectiveness of a journalist or their capacity to ask the hard questions.

However, the (im)partiality of journalists was only a minor theme in the ASC discussion compared to the question of bias in other communication professions. One of the most debated topics was whether institutional affiliation necessitates bias. Some ASC members argued that bias (especially spin) is the hallmark of PR and should never be a feature of good journalism or communication. ASC member Jo Finlay argued that science should always be reported honestly and accurately, irrespective of your employer.

Other members highlighted what they saw as the inevitability of bias, emphasising instead the importance of transparency and consistency with audience expectations.  ASC member Adam Barclay wondered whether “communicator” may just be a term used by PR practitioners to “spin” their own job description. Members like Barclay were not troubled by the possibility of biased elements in their work so long as the bias was consistent with their values and ethics. They would sooner leave a job than push a message that they don’t support.

However, for ASC member Niall Byrne, communication professions are distinguished in the first instance by the source of their paycheck and only secondarily by judgments of ethics or bias.

“[If] you’re funded by the subject of your writing (in the broadest sense) it’s not journalism,” he said.

So far discussion has been framed largely in terms of writing for the media, though as ASC Acting President Claire Harris illustrated in her post, science communication covers a broad range of engagement and knowledge brokering activities that include but are not limited to writing for the media. Beyond the question of demarcating journalism from communication and PR, Harris also asks what the word “science” really means at the head of each of these professions.

With the topic now flagged as a potential topic at the ASC 2014 conference, there will surely be some interesting discussion ahead.

Further links

ASC members highlighted various links in the course of discussion, including Kaz Janowski’s editorial at SciDev.Net, which was the impetus for the ASC list discussion (via ASC member Lynne Griffiths). Sarah Kennihan’s open letter to the ASC was a further catalyst for discussion (see also Keenihan’s profiles of journalists and communicators, her comparison of the two, her thoughts on the “death” of journalism, and Jacqui Hayes’ reflections on switching from journalism to PR). For summaries of a related discussion at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Helsinki this year, see these posts by Anne Sasso and Kai Kupferschmidt.

 

ASC partner with BIG science communication summit

Thanks to Claire Harris for her run-down of the ASC/BIG science blogosphere team.

There is no doubt that the BIG Science Communication Summit provided a memorable experience for those that attended. And… for those who watched from afar via the EASELivestream and on social media (for example, using the hashtag #bigsci13 on Twitter).

ASC was proud to be a community partner with the Inspiring Australia, TechNyou and ScienceRewired teams and to be part of delivering the vision for the BIG Science Communication Summit. The event aimed to deliver an opportunity for science communicators to collaboratively discuss the challenges they face individually and collectively, and to develop solutions through engaging both before and during the event.

ScienceRewired provided an opportunity for six ASC members to have berths on the social media team – to drive discussion and debate – and to attend the event.

The ASC Live Bloggers were:

  • Amelia Swan (@SwanAmelia)
  • Victoria Leitch (@craniophiles)
  • Melissa Lyne (@malyne)
  • Kali Madden (@ASCkali)
  • Sarah Lau (@LaLaLausy)
  • Sam Askin (@samaskin). Sam actually contributed from his office in Townsville. Kali said: We were all amazed that he could be so ‘in the moment’ and we thought he must have been sitting in the gallery with the rest of the team!

The super team of live bloggers (ok, yes I was one of them but hell, I’m going with super!) were encouraged to explore topics of interest and contribute Tweets, blogs, photo galleries. The ASC live bloggers also played an important part in reporting the happenings at the event, particularly the workshops, as they weren’t being live-streamed.

Kylie Sturgess, the Social Media Coordinator for ScienceRewired led us through the, at times for me slightly confusing, social media playground set up for the event. (I for one had some experience in Twitter, Facebook and blogs but Storify, live streaming… not so much.)

Kylie Sturgess actively podcasted, networked and blogged/Tweeted/photographed the event along with the team. She gathered some great stories on Storify.

I think I can speak on behalf of the team to say that Kylie was a bundle of fun and a font of knowledge on social media.

Apparently #bigsci13 trended on Twitter on both days for Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney and we got feedback from attendees present and online saying they appreciated the contributions from the team.

Bloggers’ selfie: Claire Harris (left), Vanessa Hill (middle), Victoria Leitch (top), Kylie Sturgess (bottom)

Some Tweets:

@sciencerewired: Missed a session from yesterday? Didn’t see it livestreamed? Thanks to our Social Media Team, catch up at: http://sciencerewired.org/summit/category/blog/ … #BigSci13 This Tweet was Retweeted 14 times.

@DoUBelieveInDog: @sciencerewired Can confirm you are coming through loud and clear and amazeballs on the live stream #bigsci13  :) (Just need more #dogs!)

@nessyhill: Mwahhahaha RT @chachiconnell: So there’s bloggers hidden in the gallery #bigsci13 I’m getting flashbacks of the #redwedding #GoT

See some of the live bloggers’ contributions on one of the Storifys.

Check out some of the blog posts written by the team:

Thanks for a great experience and all your hard work ASC crew, Kylie and indeed all involved in the event.

Bloggers’ selfie: Will Grant (left), Sarah Lau (middle), Amelia Swan (left)


Event review: BIG science communication summit

Thanks to Victoria Leitch, for writing this event review.

The BIG science communication summit promised to be a BIG event… and it was.

We fell in love with the critically endangered Baw Baw frog, went wild with some (suitable for work) selfies, visualised rips with purple dye at Bondi and saw Derek Muller (creator of Veritasium) berate himself on film for his own alleged pretentious douchebag-ness. We were disappointed that Craig Reucassel didn’t chair his session in Nicole Kidman-esque shorts, but you can’t win them all.

Along with the fun, however, there was a serious side to the BIG science communication summit. While our speakers used some incredible case studies to show us that we are having some real successes with science communication in Australia, our group discussions and workshops told us that we are not quite there – yet.

The collaborative format of the workshop sessions gave everyone the opportunity to raise their concerns and voice their ideas on where we should be heading in the future. Although the delegates were separated into 5 streams of discussion, the results showed that on many of the issues relating to the impediments to science communication in Australia, we are thinking the same thing. Just a few of the recurring impediments that were highlighted by the workshops were:

  • A need for defined leadership, aims and goals in science communication
  • A lack of ways to evaluate and measure projects
  • A fear or mistrust of communication, communicators and the technology involved

Like any good workshop session we raised a lot of questions, but taking it one step further than many workshops – we came up with answers. Ideas to combat the impediments above and others can be seen at the solutions page of the summit.

After two full days of science communication brainstorming, the summit culminated in a promise. A promise to do more, and in a group therapy style moment, we all made a commitment to doing our part in improving the engagement of science in Australia.

If you did miss the summit, I recommend you look at the blogs which were lovingly prepared by the amazing team of bloggers.

Thank you to the BIG science communication summit team, looking forward to the next one!

Sally hands over the reins of the ASC SCOPE newsletter

Article prepared by Claire Harris on behalf of the ASC National Executive

In the last two years as our Scope editor, Sally Miles has played a very important role for ASC and its members. She has, as Jesse says below, transformed this communication channel through writing engaging articles, working with members to tell their stories, interviewing sci comm leaders and ferreting out interesting tidbits of news for us all. She has also recently upgraded the newsletter with slicker design and a move into MailChimp.

I spent a few moments with Past-President Jesse Shore and Executive Officer Kali Madden to hear their thoughts.

“As editor of Scope, Sally Miles has transformed the ASC newsletter and made it a more valued membership benefit,” said Jesse.

“The smart new look she recently created for Scope complements and emphasises her focus on featuring current content. Sally has expanded the range of topics in the newsletter and increased the number of people contributing to the various editions,” he said.

Kali agreed, highlighting Sally’s enthusiasm, care and attention to detail.

“Sally brought so much to the table in her role, which was very much appreciated and made her a valued member of the ASC Communication Team,” said Kali.

“Our thanks go to Sally for keeping Scope fresh and very readable and for laying the groundwork for others to build on her achievements,” said Jesse.

The National Executive would like to take this opportunity to thank Sally for her efforts.

With Sally stepping down, we are pleased to announce Victoria Leitch as our new Scope editor. Victoria’s background includes a PhD in craniofacial biology and work as a science communicator at Puratap and CRC CARE (CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment). Victoria is excited to take on the position and build upon the the solid foundation left behind by Sally and her hard work and enthusiasm.

Have you loved Sally’s work or want to say hello to Victoria or send some feedback on Scope? Please feel free to email editor@asc.asn.au

Event review: Science Engagement in Tasmania event in Hobart

Thanks to Sarah Bayne, Inspiring Australia Project Officer Tasmania for writing this event review. Apologies from Ed. it didn’t make the May Scope issue. 

On April 17 and 18 the University of Tasmania hosted the Science Engagement in Tasmania event in Hobart. This event attracted more than 50 people to the seminar session on the first day and more than 30 participants to each of two skills development workshops on the second day.

Inspiring Australia Program manager, Simon France, started off the session with an overview of activity going on at the national level, highlighting the leadership role that Inspiring Australia are playing by promoting a unified science engagement strategy. Local Inspiring Australia Officer, Sarah Bayne, followed with a presentation outlining how the Inspiring Australia initiative is being rolled out on the ground in Tasmania.

The audience also heard from Dr Diana Nahodil from the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and the Arts who spoke about the state government’s Science Engagement Program, from Jeannie Marie Le Roi, Tasmania’s  National Science Week Coordinating Committee Chair for the previous ten years, who spoke of the past successes and future opportunities that National Science Week affords science communicators, and from UWA’s Associate Professor Nancy Longnecker, who commented on both the potential for a local ASC branch as well as Inspiring Australia’s  National Evaluation project.

As well as providing a fantastic opportunity for sharing information amongst Tasmania’s considerable network of science communicators, the seminar gave participants a rare opportunity to network and exchange ideas. Every major research organisation in Tasmania was represented at this event along with many others working in smaller organisations, in industry and in education, so this was a unique opportunity for making contacts and sharing experiences.

On the second day Associate Professor Nancy Longnecker held two workshop sessions where participants were able to gain from her valuable experience and knowledge. The first session, “Effective Science Communication: how do you know if you’ve had any impact?” explored how science communicators can effectively set objectives and develop strategies for evaluating impact. The second session explored techniques for making media-friendly stories. Participants worked in groups on their current communication efforts to achieve practical outcomes from the session, so hopefully we’ll be seeing some extra great science stories hitting the local media soon!

As a result of the networking that happened at the Science Engagement in Tasmania event, we  now have our very own Facebook group called ‘Tasmanian Science Communicators’ to help the community stay in touch and there is talk of setting up a much needed  local branch of ASC- so watch this space……