Position vacant: Scope Editor

Have your finger on the pulse, gain new skills, make a difference to ASC

Location: anywhere in Australia with broadband internet access
Honorarium: $150 (+GST) per issue, with the expectation of 10 to 11 issues produced per year.

Scope is the monthly online newsletter of the Australian Science Communicators (ASC), a network of 450 + professional science and technology communicators across Australia and overseas.

The current Editor, Victoria Leitch, is resigning due to competing commitments, so ASC is looking for a new Editor (or two co-editors) effective from the August 2015 issue. Victoria will be available to handover to the new Editor to ensure a smooth transition into the role.

The role includes the following activities:

  • Sourcing content from ASC branches, members and web editors (usually in the first two weeks of the month)
  • Occasionally interviewing people (members and non-members) for profile pieces
  • Listing recent news items or summarising topical stories to keep members up to date on current science communication issues
  • Editing content for consistency of style and formatting including permalinks, extracts and tagging
  • Working with the executive officer to ensure the member distribution list and log-in activation codes are current
  • Formatting the month’s material into short ‘teaser’ formats with click-throughs
  • Managing images and checking we have rights to use images in newsletter
  • Circulating (via Mail Chimp) to the membership on the first Wednesday of the month
  • Responding to feedback from members, the National Executive
  • Attending the monthly ASC Communication team meeting and providing input (or driving) Scope planning
  • Liaising with a team of volunteer contributors to gather and create newsletter stories/content
  • Liaising with the webmaster, executive officer, web editors and the national president as needed.

The key selection criteria for this role are:

  • Established interest in science communication
  • Computer and internet literacy, in particular familiarity (or can quickly get familiarity) with WordPress, MailChimp, Dropbox, Word/Pages, PowerPoint
  • Excellent time management skills
  • Capacity to commit ~15 hours per month to ASC activities.

Applications are invited by email no later than 5 pm on Friday 28 August 2015 for the attention of Kali Madden (ASC Executive Officer) at: jobs@asc.asn.au

President’s Update

Thanks to Joan Leach for the President’s Update.

ASC sending members to the Freelance Focus Conference—follow them on twitter!

ASC members attended the Walkley Freelance Focus conference http://www.walkleys.com/freelance-focus/ on the 5th and 6th of August. The program was stellar. We asked Daniel Oldfield, Ian McDonald, and Tara Roberson to tweet from the event and write up their ‘top freelance tips’ from the conference — you can find them below in this issue of Scope. In the meantime, check out #FreelanceFocus and you may want to follow ASCers below to hear more:


We’re also keen to hear about other events nationally where we can send ASC members to build their skills and bring back tips for the rest of us. We were able to give tickets to ASCers in the ACT, in Melbourne, and in Brisbane for this Walkley conference. Let us know if there is something going on relevant to ASC in your part of the country!

Our colleagues at AMWA (Australasian Medical Writers Association) are busy getting ready for their 32nd annual conference in Brisbane—I note more than one ASC member on the program. Check it out here:  http://www.medicalwriters.org/2015-annual-conference/.

ASC responds to STEM discussion paper

At the end of June, the Commonwealth Government put out a consultation paper “Vision for a Science Nation” that responded to the Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb. ASC has welcomed these developments as the consultation paper goes some way to valuing the work that science communication and engagement does toward a “science nation.” Our response highlights the following issues:

  • ASC supports a national strategy that integrates science communication and engagement skills into STEM education
  • ASC is a willing future partner in Inspiring Australia for a national strategy of STEM engagement
  • ASC members are active contributors and potential partners in Australia’s cultural diplomacy efforts. Our view of science communication in Australia is a global view.
  • ASC promotes science communication as a bedrock skill for commercialisation

I’ll keep ASC up to date with this process as it unfolds.

On the cover of Facebook.

Thanks to Dustin Welbourne for the Facebook update!

The ASC Facebook group appears to be growing at a relatively steady rate with now > 1300 members. There is a core group of 20–50 people that regularly post material and engage in conversations. A special thank you needs to go out to James Hutson who did up an appropriate banner for the page.

The posts are a good mix of science communication related news, science or science communication science events, and job postings or opportunities for science communicators.

We are also using the Files function on the page to create content lists. These lists so far include Science Games, Podcasts, and Blogs and Vlogs.

There are some things we would like to see more of. Having members post photos and give a 200 word snippet of events would be great. Not all people that use social media use all platforms of social media. Thus, having these stories would raise awareness and interest in those events.


Sydney’s first citywide Science Festival

Thanks to Jackie Randles for the event overview.

Sydney’s science community is collaborating for National Science Week this year and for the first time, presenting a united front under the banner of the Sydney Science Festival. Coordinated by Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, the Festival’s official NSW National Science Week launch event last Thursday evening at the Powerhouse Museum attracted around 2000 people to MAASive Lates: Science. This free, over 18s science-themed party offered a cold fusion of performances, opportunities to speed meet a scientist and hands-on activities.

With a fantastic line up of around 80 events across 40 venues, the Festival program features some of the world’s leading names in science like astrophysics’ pop hero Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, space tweeting and singing astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield, and Stanford University’s own genetic guru Professor Kelly Ormond. Dozens of local experts are on the bill with a number of high profile partners joining the celebrations to cohost events including The Sydney Morning Herald, Intel and Google.

The NSW Executive Committee for Inspiring Australia and National Science Week has been working to encourage this level of collaboration for several years so it goes without saying that its members are thrilled with the initial results. It’s been a remarkable effort on both the part of the hard working Festival team at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences and all of the presenting partners to turn on this high quality program so quickly. Initial interest from audiences and media alike shows that our combined efforts are amplifying the community engagement results for National Science Week across Sydney, and I’ll be really interested to see how we track against last year’s results. Our hope is that in time, we can achieve the same level of recognition and participation for science as other prominent Festivals do for film, books and the arts – all popular, highly visible celebrations that add to Sydney’s appeal and cultural capital.

At the Festival’s conclusion there will be a high level meeting at which a wide group of senior leaders will be invited to share their views about the Festival’s future directions. At a time when outreach spending by universities typically has a strong connection to research funding and student recruitment, and when cultural institutions are increasingly dependent on strong revenue streams, negotiating outcomes that are beneficial to all is complex. But the benefits of collaborating as a group of science leaders far outweighs the costs and the time is ripe for us to work together to promote the importance of science investment for Australia’s economic and social wellbeing – not just now but into the future. Have a fantastic National Science Week everyone and I hope that you can get along to lots of events.

Follow Sydney Science Festival on:

Facebook:      www.facebook.com/sydneysciencefestival

Twitter:          @SydScienceFest



Event:             Sydney Science Festival

Dates:              13 – 23 August, 2015

Website:         www.sydneyscience.com.au




Event Review: inaugural Australian Citizen Science Conference

Thanks to Vicki Martin for the event review.


Review of the inaugural Australian Citizen Science Conference

Canberra, 23-25 July 2015


The chilly winter Canberra morning couldn’t slow down the enthusiasm of attendees at the inaugural Australian Citizen Science Conference on 23rd July this year. Seats were as rare as hens teeth at this over-subscribed event, with more than 200 attendees registered from all over Australia and far flung corners of the globe.

After a warm welcome to country from Aunty Agnes Shea, elder of the Ngunnawal people, welcoming remarks were made by Professor Suzanne Miller (Queensland Museum), and Simon France (Inspiring Australia). Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb opened up the conference with a rousing pep talk about the importance of engaging the public in citizen science. The event coincided with the release of an Occasional Paper, Building Australia through Citizen Science, by the Office of the Chief Scientist. The paper can be accessed through bit.ly/CitizenSciencePaper.

We were very fortunate to have two passionate speakers from Cornell University in the USA. Keynote speaker and singing ornithologist, Rick Bonney, shared his vast experience in the world of citizen science and public engagement in research. His singing was pretty good, too! (On the second day he sang us out to lunch – how many keynotes do that?)

The first of a series of speed talks and workshop sessions followed Rick’s keynote address, led by his colleague, Jennifer Shirk. Jennifer is well known for her contributions to the theory of public participation in scientific research (PPSR). Throughout the two days, the speed talks opened our eyes to the incredible array and diversity of citizen science projects across the planet and in our own backyard. The conference organisers allowed plenty of time for poster and networking sessions, during which the Shine Dome buzzed with conversation and connections, information and good food. Day two saw more speed talks and a panel discussion on the many forms of citizen science. The full program and book of abstracts are available for download at bit.ly/ACSA2015.

An additional day was added to the conference for groups wanting to discuss specific issues in citizen science, including Bio Blitzes, the usability of technology, and citizen science and its influence on policy. These sessions were great for attendees to cement the lessons learned from practitioners in these areas, and allowed for more focussed discussion on these topics.

The feedback from people was overwhelmingly positive. Not only did attendees learn a lot, and have a lot of fun, it gave many a strong sense of community which will only help to strengthen the practice of citizen science in Australia. With the newly formed management committee, chaired by Philip Roetman, the potential for citizen science to build stronger partnerships between Australian scientists and the community looks very promising indeed. I’m looking forward to the next conference already.

Event Review: A quiet Wednesday dinner

Thank you to Amy Nisselle for her reflections on the dinner.

On Tuesday 22nd July I had the pleasure of attending a dinner hosted by ASC Vic Branch President George Aranda for visiting science communicator, Núria Elías at Artusi, Southbank. Núria was in Melbourne for the ASC’s Science Storytelling Workshop and we had a great time swapping stories about our areas of study, research and practice, plus the best places to spot Australian fauna (who knew there was a world-famous koala colony on the Great Ocean Road?!).

Núria told us about the NeuroEnhancement Responsible Research and Innovation (NERRI) program she coordinates for the Science, Communication and Society Studies Centre (SCS-UPF) at Universitate Pompeu Fabra (UPF), in her native Barcelona. I had no idea of the variety of neuroenhancements available, from pharmacological to physical to magnetic and electric, having relied solely on caffeine when writing my thesis. The NERRI program is asking Europeans their opinion about neuroenhancements – would they use them? If so, what type, under what circumstances? Our party was split. Some fervently said they’d never use anything, while others thought if they were going to use something then they’d trust magnetic stimulation in a medical setting over tablets, which is currently an unregulated industry.

Throughout the conversation we feasted on Artusi’s delicious fare, tasting each others risotto, pappardelle and tagliatelle and splitting decadent desserts. On a personal note, I was really excited to introduce my younger cousin to the ASC. Benny was in the first cohort of students at Melbourne’s John Monash Science School and is now studying Law/Commerce at uni. He said afterwards it was incredible to have dinner with such informed people and he was in awe most of the time. It was a nice reminder of something I take for granted these days – being surrounded by such learned, experienced and inspiring folks in the ASC.


Event Review: Science Storytelling Workshop

Thank you to George Aranda for the event review.

On the 16th of July ASC Victoria was delighted to host NZ Science Communicator – Elizabeth Connor, Captain of The KinShip (http://www.thekinship.co.nz), a science communication organisation that “connects science with the human side of the equation.”

Elizabeth ran a Science Storytelling Workshop with about 20 guests who included science PhDs, scientists, science communicators and educators. She took us through her story of science communication, including some great original drawings that made the story all the more enjoyable. After a break for dinner which was provided by the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, we broke into groups examining the ways that we could elicit stories from the scientists in the group. This included using metaphors to embody those things that help and hinder scientists as they do their work; ideas for questions; the different types of ‘why’ that one can ask; and creating a positive environment for interviews. She showed videos of presenters at the start of a series of workshops and their presenting afterwards, where they had found the story in the science and could more easily communicate to the public. Overall it was a great night with lots of learning opportunities.

Some feedback about what people enjoyed:
  • Really enjoyed the group answers to questions posed in the workshop. Hearing from a number of people made the various points easier to learn
  • The “why” session.
  • Great presenter! Very likeable, interesting presentation and great knowledge/experience
  • Fun, great drawings. Loo conveyed a lot of information through her own stories. Personality really came through

Event review: The science nation

Australia’s newest public events series, The Science Nation, kicked off in May by touring the event The Storytelling of Science, which was run as a one-off event at the 2014 ASC conference, through Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney. All three events were a big success with strong attendance, and much fun being had by both the audience and speakers.

The Science Nation series’ first event – The Storytelling of Science included the best in the nation telling their own story of science, and the stories behind the latest discoveries. From the origin of the universe to the exciting technologies that will change our future, the event was one story you definitely needed to hear.

The Science Nation is celebrating National Science Week by answering the question that has plagued mankind for centuries: which field of research is the weirdest of all? To find out coming along to The Science Nation’s second event, The Great Debate: My Research Rules, which sees eight researchers compete in a debate tournament each trying to convince the audience that they do the weirdest, wackiest, craziest research in the world. With additional rounds of improvised, audience-inspired, topics this Great Debate is 90 minutes of science & laughs that promises to be fun for people of all ages. The Great Debate: My Research Rules is being held during August in Brisbane (15th), Sydney (22nd) and Adelaide (26th).

These events grew out of a triple anniversary event held at ASC2014. The broadcast video of the event is available here.

First published Proceedings of an Australian Science Communicators Conference are now available online

Thank you to Nancy Longnecker for the update and for kindly editing the Proceedings!

Professor Nancy Longnecker – Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

The first published proceedings of an Australian Science Communicators conference are now available online: http://bit.ly/ASCpublications . The 200-page volume includes full papers and presentation abstracts as well as summaries of keynotes, plenaries, panel discussions, workshops, the Spectrum Science Art exhibition and other special events as a record of this noteworthy conference.

Many people played important roles in this undertaking. Authors submitted their work for review and waited patiently for the review process and publication to be completed. The Program Committee (Claire Harris, Kali Madden, Nancy Longnecker and Jesse Shore) went through each abstract and proposal submitted and allocated all those accepted to thematic strands to strengthen coherence of sessions at the conference.

Without reviewers, there is no peer review process and thanks for reviewing efforts go to Emma Bartle, Jenny Donovan, Jean Fletcher, Mzamose Gondwe, Will Grant, Nancy Longnecker, Jennifer Manyweather, Vicky Martin, Jenni Metcalfe, John O’Connor, Lindy Orthia, Will Rifkin and Miriam Sullivan.

Editing the ASC2014 Proceedings was my parting gift to ASC after almost two decades of membership. Editing any volume is a big but satisfying job. Incorporation of a research stream at the ASC conference and production of a peer-reviewed conference proceedings are ways to enhance the rigour of science communication for both practitioners and theorists. I am proud to have helped make this conference proceedings a reality and am happy to share what I learned with the next editors.

While many hands make lighter work, production of an edited volume is a substantial job and it was a relief when we finally published this. So why bother? For me personally, belonging to ASC shaped my career and this was a chance to give back to the ASC community. It has been extremely satisfying to be a member and to contribute to ASC in a variety of ways over the years. The small band of friends and colleagues who helped revive the WA branch in the mid-naughties and those on the Executive at that time taught me a great deal as have those who contributed to production of this volume.

Using a peer review process in publishing means that these papers are scholarly publications as  defined by the Australian Government’s audit standards. The full papers ‘count’ as a publication category E1 for those who record publications as a performance indicator. The research abstracts in this publication satisfy the requirements for publication category E2.

So what? As science communicators, we know that peer-reviewed articles are not the be-all and end-all of good communication. Yet for all its flaws, the peer-review system is still widely regarded as providing an important source of credible information.

Given there are so many alternative mechanisms to communicate, why do academics and other researchers remain so fixated on publishing peer-reviewed papers? It is important for our employers and in turn, they ensure it is important to us as individuals by rewarding publishing via the promotion process.

Most of us would agree that this is not a great mechanism. But the rules of the game we play in are that organisational publication tally is one thing that determines the size of slice of the university funding pie that individual universities get from government (at least in Australia and New Zealand). This funding is substantial at a research intensive university. While funding for one publication is small, it adds up. The financial reward for publications in a large research department can be enough to fund a full-time salary each year.

We can try to change the rules, but the maxim to publish or perish is likely to be with us for at least the remainder of my career. Publication of the ASC2014 proceedings has enabled some early career science communication researchers to add to their CVs. In addition to the value to authors on their CVs, readers will find value in papers and abstracts in the proceedings.

The papers in this volume touch on current critical issues such as risk communication, science and art collaboration and use of social media to support the community of science communication. Research students invest months of dedicated work into writing research proposals and literature reviews. Half of the full, peer-reviewed papers in this volume fall into this category. It can be difficult to find an appropriate place to publish these types of reviews since they usually do not contain ‘new’ results. Yet, literature reviews and synopses often synthesise a great deal of current work and can contain insights that are useful to other science communicators. Happy reading!

The citation for this resource is:

Longnecker, C. Harris & K. Madden. (Eds.). 2015. Proceedings of the Australian Science Communicators National Conference. 2–5 Feb, 2014, Brisbane.  www.asc.asn.au/publications/


Neural knitworks: craft a healthy brain

Thank you to Jackie Randles for the update.

Neural Knitworks, the collaborative project about mind and brain health, was first on show last August at the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery during National Science Week. A giant, walk in brain sculpture made from more than 1600 knitted, crocheted and woven brain cells donated from all over Australia was created by textile artists Pat Pillai and Rita Pearce.

Many other neuron-inspired artworks from delicate crotched neurons to jewellery and sculpture accompanied the impressive brain installation that was the centerpiece of this exhibition seem by thousands of visitors over a three-week period.

So far Neural Knitworks has seen dozens of knit-ins held across the country at which people of all ages and abilities get together to create textile neurons and find out about neuroscience at the same time from guest presenters. The project’s aim is to encourage community members to learn about neuroscience as they have some fun with yarn craft and reap the benefits that it can bring – in particular mindfulness, creativity, learning something new and being with others. Take up of this grass roots initiative has been sensational, with more than 12000 people visiting the Neural Knitworks webpage in the project’s first 6 months.

In 2015 Neural Knitworks continues and all are encouraged to get involved!

This year we’re encouraging people everywhere to create a brain installation in their own community. We need as much help as we can get to spread the word and inspire people to have a go. Scientifically informed patterns and installation ideas are available on the National Science Week website so that everyone can enjoy the experience of yarn craft in a group.

It’s a great way for people of all ages to learn about the billions of neurons in our bodies that save memories, send electrical signals to every muscle and receive signals from every sense. The best thing about this community art/science project is that everyone can get hands on with knitting neurons no matter their age or level of competence.

Rita and Pat have enjoyed running yarn craft sessions with Dementia sufferers and we’ve had wonderful neurons donated from knit ins held at kindergardens, age care facilities, universities and schools. No knit patterns are especially popular with those of us who cannot yet knit or crotchet and participants have ways to make other brain cell like astrocytes. A group has even begun making footy neurons to raise awareness of brain injury in sport.

Not surprisingly, the project has been popular with neuroscientists, attracting support from luminaries like Professor Ian Hickie, Director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute and brain surgeon Dr Charlie Teo, who each led knit ins that were covered by the media last year. Pat and Rita have been invited to present at international brain imaging conferences and will be heading to Brisbane later this year to lead a knit in at QUT with Queensland based neuroscientists.

We anticipate that many more brain experts will again join knit ins this year and to promote important brain health messages in the community. There are many angles that can be explored, from adolescent brains and ageing through to addiction, dementia, brain injury, depression and more. Why not get a group together and invite a brain expert to join you at a knit in? We need your help to keep this national neural network thriving and look forward to seeing your creations on Facebook where you can join us here. https://www.facebook.com/groups/648068261927343/

Congratulations to artists Pat Pillai and Rita Pearce who have been so successful in bringing community members together with leading neuroscientists and brain health experts. What a fantastic and inspiring science communication success story!

Jackie Randles is Manager, Inspiring Australia (NSW). Neural Knitworks is supported by the Brain and Mind Research Institute, Alzheimer’s Australia, ANSTO, Inspiring Australia (NSW), National Science Week, the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre, Gymea Tradies, Your Brain Health and Carringbah Lions Club. Find out more on the National Science Week website at www.scienceweek.net.au/neuralknitworks