ASC National Conference 2010: Call for papers


The ASC National Conference will enable science communication researchers and practitioners to share experiences and learn from each other. The research track provides opportunities to present work, identify areas that need enquiry, investigate how to improve practice, and strengthen practitioner-researcher collaborations.

To maximise the opportunity for interaction, standard presentations will be minimised and dialogue and networking fostered.

Whether you are academic, practitioner or student, if you are involved with any research or evaluation that has implications for science communication, we encourage you to put forward a paper.


7 December

Research communication and discussion will be formally facilitated at the conference in four ways.

1) Research papers  – parallel session presentations

Presentations on an aspect of science communication research or evaluation will be given 10 minutes talk-time and followed by panel sessions or roundtable discussions, depending on the number of people attending the session. It is not necessary to submit under a particular conference theme, but where relevant and possible, presentation sessions will be thematically grouped.


  • An overview of not more than 500 words to:

  • Submissions can be on any science communication research or evaluation

area, but must include:

  • Your name, title and contact information
  • A brief outline explaining why the paper constitutes “science communication” research and/or evaluation. (100 words)
  • An abstract outlining the context or event, research questions, methods, outcomes, etc.  (350 words)
  • One to three questions that the research or evaluation has inspired, or provokes, for discussion after the presentation.  (50 words per question)

2) Research contributions to plenaries, workshops or symposia

  • People submitting papers that are of particular relevance to specific

plenaries, workshops or symposia may be invited to contribute to these fora instead of a research-specific session. It will be up to the session/theme convener to invite and provide details to presenters directly.

  • You can choose to make submissions to contribute to

specific sessions, and they will be forwarded to that  forum’s convener.  Should you wish to submit directly to a specific session, please indicate the name of session to which you would like to contribute clearly at the beginning of  your 500-word overview

  • If your submission to a specific session cannot be included in that session,

it could be accepted for submission in a research track session.  The convener of the session will forward your submission to the research stream committee.

3) Research student sessions

The goal here is to bring together widely distributed research students in science communication and related fields.  Interaction with peers can be a confidence-building reality check and an invaluable avenue for finding ways to clear hurdles that your supervisors have not, or cannot, address.  These sessions will focus on discussion, sharing of experiences, and networking rather than formal presentations.  However, you are welcome to organise extended focus on one individual’s work in one of the conference’s ad hoc sessions (outlined below at 4)

For these sessions, please tell us what you would like to see in these sessions, and what you hope to get out of them. For example:

  • Preferred session format. For example; roundtables, panel-

discussions, problem-solving workshops or informal drinks

  • Preferences for session content. For example; current big issues in

science communication research or methodological matters.

4) Ad Hoc sessions

Flexible meeting spaces and facilitators will be on hand for ad hoc sessions in response to ideas and issues that have been nagging you or issues and questions that arise during the conference.

Some of these sessions may be ‘clinics’, where you bring a problem where you would like input.  For example, would you like an academic to assist in developing an evaluation tool for a community outreach program that you are running?  Or, are you a researcher who needs your theory ‘reality-checked’ by a practitioner?

NOTE – These sessions do not have to be about research

Details about how to take advantage of this opportunity will be provided at the conference.

Background to the National Science Communication Strategy

Towards a National Science Communication Strategy (NSCS)

Background Information for Participants


For a number of reasons, it is timely to examine the science communication landscape in Australia and to consider whether the status quo is a satisfactory situation. At the national level, there have been recent reviews of the National Innovation System, CSIRO Science Education Centres, and two areas within the Australian Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR) – the Science Connections Program (SCOPE) and Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre.  The ABC, Australia’s national broadcaster, is currently undergoing a major public review phase.  Furthermore a new national science curriculum is under development.

Australia is fortunate to have a range of quality organisations and individuals in the science communication ‘ecosystem’ and significant strengths to build upon. It is in Australia’s interest to work towards a more coherent approach to fully utilise all national assets.

Australia has significant strengths in science communication but the broad science communication effort is fragmented and uneven across the country.  This problem was identified in the 2003 Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC) study into Science Engagement and Education that recommended a ‘national framework-local action’ approach.

A DIISR Steering Committee comprising the Deputy Secretary, the Chief Scientist, the Chief Executive of CSIRO, the Director of Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre, and a representative of The ABC, together with supporting officers, has met to discuss the need for a national science communication strategy.

As part of the post-Budget re-structuring of the DIISR, the Questacon division of the Department has been asked to work towards the development of a national strategy which will encourage a more coordinated approach to science communication across Australia. Questacon now has responsibility for the SCOPE program, which includes a number of national initiatives such as National Science Week. Questacon has been asked to design a replacement program for this lapsing program, as part of a national science communication strategy.

The Goal

As previously articulated (PMSEIC 2003), Australia’s success as a 21st century knowledge society will depend on having an excellent education system, a technologically-skilled workforce, a science-literate community and well-informed decision makers.

Science communication activities supports

  • the development of an adequate supply of well-qualified scientists, mathematicians engineers and technologists;
  • the development of a society that is informed and excited about science, values its importance to the country’s economic and social well-being, feels confident in its use and supports a representative well-qualified scientific workforce; and
  • the provision of trusted quality information for opinion formers, policy developers and decision makers.

It will be important for a national science communication strategy to:

  • embrace a broad definition of science communication to encompass science, mathematics, engineering and technology, as well as to incorporate the perspectives of the humanities and social sciences;
  • draw from the experience and findings of similar initiatives, including overseas initiatives;
  • consider how current assets and capability (at national, state/territory and local levels) could better be aligned, connected, developed and delivered in order to achieve greater outcomes and impacts in these areas;
  • develop a “national framework – local action” model which takes into account relevant policy initiatives at federal/state/local levels, which optimises opportunities for existing and potential players and investors to contribute, and which builds cooperation through questions such as “What can I do? What can you do? What can we do together?”;
  • address issues of leadership, facilitation and coordination which will be key to the success of any forward strategy and implementation plan;
  • be practical, providing improved outcomes which can be achieved within the short term (next 12 months), within the medium term (next 5 years), and within existing and realistic resource and budget parameters.

The Process

The Steering Committee will propose a more coordinated approach for science communication to Senator the Hon. Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research at the end of September 2009.

In order to inform the development of a national policy framework, a forward strategy and implementation plan, a series of key stakeholder discussions are planned during July and August to obtain broad input from a range of organisations and individuals with an interest in science communication. These consultations will be led by Professor Graham Durant as a member of the Steering Committee, or senior secretariat officers.

The consultations will not involve all individuals and organisations with an interest in science communication. Rather, a sample of individuals and organisational representatives, who are associated with state/local science communication initiatives, are being invited to participate in a small group discussion to provide:

  1. insight into the state/local science communication scene
  2. suggestions on how state/local initiatives could benefit and develop through better coordination or through linking into a national framework
  3. practical ideas on actions which could be taken in the short term (during the next 12 months) and in the medium term (over the next five years)

In addition to stakeholder discussion sessions and interviews, the Steering Committee would welcome further input by way of a written submission. Written submissions must be received no later than 24 August 2009 via mail to:

The Secretariat
National Science Communication Strategy
Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre
Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research
PO Box 5322  Kingston ACT 2604

Alternatively, written submissions can be emailed no later than 24 August 2009 to sciencecommunications [at]

Towards a National Science Communication Strategy (NSCS)


  • Introduction
  • An opportunity to introduce ourselves and to clarify the process to develop a national science communication strategy
  • State Scenario
  • Outlining the state of play for science communication in your state
  • Who are the key players?
  • What are the major activities?
  • Who are collaborating (at local/state/national levels) to deliver science communication activity?
  • How well is this scenario working and what could be improved?
  • National Framework – Local Action
  • What mechanisms would support and sustain more effective and extensive cooperation, involvement and investment?
  • The Way Forward
  • What are some practical ideas that we can action in the next 12 months, in the next 5 years?
  • Summary of Discussions
  • Where to from here?

ASC submission on the National Science Communication Strategy

If you are interested in the development of the National Science Communication Strategy, here is an opportunity to get involved in shaping the Australian Science Communicators’ submission.

This is an invitation to join an electronic forum/discussion where you can put forward your views. The URL is

Time lines are short. The submission has to be emailed to the steering committee by Monday 24 August. I propose to begin drafting something on Friday 14 August. During the week commencing Monday 17 August, I will be in Brisbane at the Intecol conference and the ASC Hot Air symposium  (Wednesday 19 August) where I will be meeting with Jenni Metcalfe, Joan Leach and Will Rifkin among others, to refine the draft submission. Hopefully, I will be able to complete it when I get home in time for lodging on Monday 24 August.

During this process, I should be able to lodge draft versions in this forum for comment.

What I want from you is input on the following:

  1. What should be the goal of a National Science Communication Strategy? What should science communication achieve?
  2. How do you evaluate effective science communication? Examples?
  3. Practical examples of successful science communication.
  4. Practical ideas for action in the next 12 months and the next five years?
  5. What should be the Commonwealth responsibility in this area and what should be left to the States?
  6. Mechanisms that could support and sustain more effective science communication—particularly those which would simulate cooperation between groups and future investment in science communication.

You can lodge your ideas on these and other topics on the Ning set up for the purpose.

Freelancing tips

Having freelanced on and off for more than 30 years—full time for more than a decade—here’s a few thoughts. Please comment on or add to this so we can build a useful resource:

In the world of freelancing, it’s not what you know, but what you can do—and who you know. In other words a CV listing a plethora of training courses will not cut much ice against a portfolio of what you have published.

You can present all the qualifications you like to a prospective employer, but what s/he really wants to know is that you can provide him/her with something that is readable and suits the purpose—so a folio and a whisper in the ear from someone s/he trusts is likely to be much more persuasive.

Experience is all. You need to get it anyway you can, for two reasons—to get your name known and build your contacts, and to gain the confidence that you can perform under any circumstances.

Taking that as a starting point, here’s what I would consider if I wanted to launch myself as a freelancer:

  1. Use any means possible to get yourself into print, preferably in an edited publication—and that often means writing for free just for the experience of being edited for publication and the reward of your name on an article;
  2. Put together a portfolio of the best of what you have written for publication, as well as contact details of who you wrote it for. These days that probably means an electronically accessible cache on the web;
  3. Learn whatever new techniques you can—editing, sub-editing, broadcasting at the local community radio station, writing a blog etc. Be prepared to do something for experience sake, or just to introduce yourself. The wider the range of skills you have at your disposal, the more useful you are—and the broader the range of work you can take on;
  4. Meet deadlines and write clean copy. Check on who you are writing for and their house style. Make sure you proofread carefully. Once you get a reputation for clean copy, and for being easy to work with, deadlines will relax, and people will give you more work;
  5. Check everything you write factually, again and again. Don’t get things wrong, and don’t be frightened to check back with people if you are unsure about something.  Science writing is an area where you can easily destroy yourself if you don’t get things right—credibility is your currency;
  6. Interview people face to face when you can. You learn so much more about people, and make it easier for them to provide useful supplementary material;
  7. Find some work which is steady/ongoing, has a regular deadline which can give you income on which you can rely. It may be teaching or researching material for someone else. You’d be surprised how many other jobs can arise out of it;
  8. Keep good financial records and be aware of your finances. Recognise that money comes in lumps—so learn to use a credit card without bankrupting yourself.
  9. Recognise that freelancers rarely make a lot of money. If you can make a living, you are doing much better than most. The value of freelancing is not monetary, but control over your life in terms of when and where you work, and on what.
  10. Budget for and take holidays. A major drawback of freelancing is that everyone assumes you are available 24/7. It’s easy to burn out.

For Comment: Draft Charter for Science Communication in Australia



  1. Scientific knowledge is the common heritage of all people.
  2. The sharing, or communication, of scientific knowledge is as important as its discovery.
  3. The future of Australia depends on the equitable sharing and rapid adoption of sound scientific knowledge.
  4. Scientific knowledge should be communicated as truthfully, ethically, fairly and widely as practical for the benefit of Australia.
  5. The future of Australian science depends on its ability to shape itself to the needs, values and standards of Australians.
  6. The interests of the Australian people are higher than those of any individual, scientific institution, funding agency, commercial entity or government body.

Code of practice

Science communicators hold the future in our hands. We help to move the new knowledge generated by scientists to the people who need and will use it.  We spread awareness of new insights into Australia, humanity and the world we live in. We educate, inform, stimulate, challenge, inspire and warn. We are agents of change, transmitters of new technologies, heralds of ideas for a sustainable and prosperous society. We also help scientists to understand the needs and wishes of our society, so their science may serve it better.

We are professional communicators, journalists, writers and authors, teachers, lecturers, scientists and technologists, engineers, social scientists . We value scientific knowledge for itself and for the benefits it can bring society, and we recognise the potential harm it can cause if misapplied.

[J1] As science communicators we commit ourselves to:

  1. Communicate science truthfully, factually and professionally in the interests of all Australians
  2. Communicate science as widely as possible, in order to promote the useful, safe and rapid adoption of new knowledge and technologies for the benefit of Australia.
  3. Recognise that the Australian public through their taxes pay for most science and that their lives may be affected by it.  They are therefore owed a factual report or explanation.
  4. Encourage and assist scientists and scientific organisations to share the new knowledge they have gained through research with Australian governments, industry and the community as widely as possible.
  5. Encourage and assist scientists and other researchers to communicate their work to the public and other audiences in a skilful, informative and respectful fashion.
  6. Encourage scientific institutions to listen closely to community and national opinion about science in order to respond to the needs, wishes and concerns of Australia and promote the useful, rapid and safe adoption of new knowledge
  7. Observe and uphold high professional standards of honesty, integrity and fairness in the communication of science.
  8. Acknowledge that almost all technologies have potential downsides or capacity for misapplication, and communicate these accurately and in a balanced fashion, as well as the potential benefits.
  9. Not permit personal interest, belief, payment, suasion or coercion to undermine our commitment to truthfulness, fairness, balance or professional integrity in communicating science.
  10. Not allow commercial, bureaucratic or other organisational considerations to undermine the principle of providing a fair, truthful and balanced report to the Australian people.

Julian Cribb FTSE
January 30, 2008

[J1]This is a purely optional section, I was just trying to define who a science communicator is.

Come on in and start communicating

Welcome to a brand new phase of Australian Science Communicators, a website which makes use of interactive technology to give every member access to heaps of ASC-related material and the ability to post your own material, and to add to and comment on anything posted by others.

It brings with it, the capacity to establish sections for any special interests among the membership. Already we have sections to do with regional branches, people, a calendar of events, research and education etc. And all can be monitored with an RSS feed, so you will know whenever anything new is posted.

New postings will appear on the Home Page as three-line intro with a two-deck head. If you are interested, just click on the head and it will take you to the rest of the post. And they can contain all sorts of material, such as supplementary files, links, pictures, audio and video files, whatever you like. At the bottom of each post will be a place to add your own comments.

To find out the basics of how the site works, click on to Using This Site, in the top right hand corner. You will get a rundown of what’s available and how to use it.

Until we get set up in a more sophisticated manner (with editors for sections), please send anything you wish to post to the scope editor, Laura Miles at

In a country like Australia, where we are all spread very thinly, and can only get together face-to-face intermittently, this new website hopefully will develop into the glue that binds.

It has been the dream and brainchild of, and realised by James Hutson and Laura Miles in Melbourne, and Kali Madden in Sydney. Please use it to bits—comment on it, criticise it, and help us develop it into a bubbling hub of discussion of communicating science.

ASC National Conference 2009

22 November 2009to25 November 2009

Dear ASCers,

Want to come to grips with social networking  technology and learn how it will change your working life as a communicator?

Then come to the ASC National Conference to be held in Canberra from Sunday evening, 22 November till Wednesday 25 November 2009 where social networking will be a major overall theme. And you will be encouraged to jump in and get involved right at the start. As part of your registration, you will gain access to an on-line forum, to begin a discussion of the issues before the conference—and keep the ball rolling long after the conference is over.

But that’s not the only attraction. The conference will also include a one-day symposium entitled Hot Air: Communicating the science of climate change with the general public, as well as papers on the latest research in the field of science communication, plus material on the place of the arts in communicating science.

Of course, the main attraction will be meeting and talking with other communicators, and there will be plenty of opportunity to do so during the conference proper and at the associated social events.

Put the dates in your diary, and we’ll provide details of costs (less than $500 for ASC members), and a more detailed program soon.

Keep checking the ASC website  and the mailing lists for the latest information.


Tim Thwaites
National President