A scientifically engaged Australia

This speech was delivered by Prof. the Hon Kim Carr FAHA FTSE to the Australian Science Communicators at the 2023 national conference at the Shine Dome, Canberra, 16 February 2023

Late last year, the Bureau of Meteorology tried to rebrand itself.  They issued statements insisting that we should now refer to them as ‘The Bureau’, rather than the BOM.  This somewhat bizarre campaign took place in the middle of a flood crisis across eastern Australia.  This odd idea, combined with poor timing, highlighted a particularly stark example of poor communication.  

The BOM – and I shall stubbornly continue to use what remains a widely popular name – is one of the most recognised and valued public science agencies in Australia. This fact only added to the unpopularity of the name campaign. Such a misreading of the popular mood, and a failure to prioritise what really matters, is a prime example of poor communications which can reflect a deeper problem within our public services.  

As Minister Tanya Plibersek pointed out, “with the severe weather we’re experiencing right now, what matters is timely weather information for communities. Lives are at risk. My focus and the focus of the BOM should be on weather, not branding.” In other words, the reputation of the Bureau of Meteorology has everything to do with the quality and value of its service, not the affectionate nickname which Australians have given it with characteristic brevity and a bit of cheek.

Good science communicators should take note of this unfortunate example.  

Our challenge is not to promote fancy branding and sanitised names – our challenge is to build genuine respect, trust and confidence in science: expressed through our scientific institutions, agencies, research and practitioners.

Many of the pressing problems that confront us, as Australians and as global citizens, will require us to make choices about what to do, when and by whom. To do that well, we need information, and we need it presented to us in a clear, concise and meaningful way.

How can we make intelligent and informed decisions if the information, arguments and options are held tightly by a bunch of experts?  How can we understand the depth and breadth of the challenges we face, if scientists are more worried about what their peers will think of them than in providing fearless and courageous advice?

Science communication is about getting the messages out – early, frequently, and in a language an interested but non-expert can access. 

Science communication is not about dumbing things down; rather it is about taking the community along for the journey at a pace they can keep up with.

Over the last decade, we have seen the merchants of doubt cynically argue against expertise. 

We have seen disturbing trends in the public discourse – trends which should be of concern not just to the science community, but to policy makers, innovators and leaders across all sectors of society.  These trends include:

  • An undermining of public confidence in authority generally;
  • Hostility to science: for example in regards to vaccines and climate change science to mention only two,;
  • McCarthyist smears against some researchers and academics, particularly in regard to China; and
  • an undercurrent of resentment directed at universities and other institutions with specialist expertise.

We need to ask ourselves what role science communication can play in restoring trust not just in science and research, but in public institutions more generally.   

We have to consider how science communication can assist in equipping our community for dealing with rapid change.

In the face of acute and seemingly intractable problems, it is all too easy for some people to succumb to pessimism.  

Today I wish to concentrate on science communication as a means of lifting public engagement, of enlightenment and strengthening a sense of wonder about scientific discoveries and ways of looking at the world. 

My simple assumption remains – that good science and research can move people, can influence attitudes and change behaviour.  Back when I launched ‘Inspiring Australia’ at your conference on the 8th February in 2010, I argued that good science can build confidence in democracy.  I stand by that even today.

Reversing the decline in trust in public authorities, in government, in business and in civil society should be a matter of priority for our entire democratic system of government.  

The current government recognises that trust remains the great fault line in modern politics, and that it is why it is so determined to implement its election promises. Politicians know that the ‘trust crisis’ runs deeper than that, with few quick fixes available.

Those of us engaged in scientific pursuits cannot be complacent about how much the work is recognised or valued by the broader community.  Trust in expert knowledge is far less stable than it once was. 

While scientists, researchers and academics still have high levels of authority and credibility, the value of science is not uncontested in the public mind. Think about the ease with which politicians openly acknowledge that scientific advice is no longer the primary determinant of public health responses to ongoing levels of Covid 19 infections. 

In the US, survey results in 2022 by the Pew Research Centre suggested a ten per cent drop in the level of public trust in science and medical scientists from the beginning of the pandemic. In Australia, last year’s 3M survey highlighted a six percent rise in public scepticism about scientific advice.

However, despite this trend, there is still a relatively high level of public support for science. And that gives me confidence that scientists can play an important role in defining what sort of society we aspire to, what sort of society we could be, and in rebuilding economic prosperity and social justice. 

We know that scientists have earned this support through well- grounded research expertise, evidence-based advice and leadership. We know that scientists have a vital role to play in the formulation and implementation of public policy. 

Scientific communicators need a sharper set of tools than ever before. They need to speak and write clearly, so that people from all walks of life can hear and understand the messages, without being patronised or taken for granted. 

This is not just a responsibility to the scientists and institutions we represent, but a civic responsibility to a more democratic, more informed society.

Given the impact of fake news, and the power of social media, it is not surprising that the trust deficit has grown.  This is the evidence of overwhelming survey results both here and abroad.  We have so many examples in recent times of how the power of misinformation and right-wing conspiracies can have frightening and even tragic consequences.  We need look no further than the protests during the height of the pandemic against masks and vaccination, and even more recently, the shocking shootings of police in Wiembilla, Queensland.   

Science communication needs to highlight that science can:

  • provide real world solutions to problems that recognise real world effects and that can work for ordinary people, 
  • enhance society’s ability to build anew, and 
  • offer hope and confidence in the future

To be effective, science communicators need to have an understanding of how public opinion is formed.  And they need to be patient. 

Indeed, a former Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, once told me that he needed a three-word mantra to match the several of the then Prime Minister. He chose ‘passion, patience, persistence’ as a key to communication and to advice. 

Maybe it’s obvious but let me be clear: there is no point in doing it (or anything of substance) without 

  • passion; 
  • patience;
  • hard work – this is no place for anybody who craves instant gratification;
  • persistence – the work is NOT done by one good speech, press release, briefing or meeting with the Minister.  There is always a need for multiple follow-ups to keep the matter in front of busy people. 

Communicators need to understand the scientific method, to be agile, politically aware and credible.  

There needs to be a blending of scientific knowledge with a deep understanding that science works within the morés of the community:  the social licence to operate; and an acceptance that the social sciences and humanities have a role.  

These are not new problems. In 2010, the Labor Government was trying to address the very same problems when we announced the new national  science communications strategy, “Inspiring Australia”.  

Yes, the problems may now be more acute, but they are not new.  

It is the government’s role to create the climate in which science can prosper.

So, there is value in examining the original objectives of the Inspiring Australia program.  

It is important to note that in 2010 ‘Inspiring Australia’ was just one part of a much bigger science and research agenda for the 21st century, which we called ‘Powering Ahead, next steps for implementing a science and research vision for Australia’.

 The 2010 program was part of an integrated policy response.  It sought to address not just science communication, but research workforce development, research infrastructure, and international science and research collaborations.  

The position put within Government in 2010 was that 

  • Science and research investment paid economic, social and environmental dividends.  
  • attracting young people to science was critical
  • science helped improve productivity and helped new jobs and industries
  • science could help build public debate about intractable problems, and
  • science could aid constructive and mutually beneficial international engagement.

By supporting the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes, the longevity of the program was enhanced. Other elements of the program also assisted. Questacon gave Australia a national Science Communications Hub that helped extend the CSIRO, the ABC and the Chief Scientist’s scientific activities.  Commonwealth leadership assisted the states’ networks and assisted the communications in the humanities and the social sciences through CHASS and FAST.  This program helped lock in Science Week and Science Meets Parliament.  The program was strengthened with the Cabinet giving support to bringing on the SKA bid in the 2011 funding cycle.

Science is a long game. 

To have a Minister in the portfolio for a few months at a time is not conducive to the long game. 

Notwithstanding:  the changes since my day: Gillard, Rudd, Abbott, Turnbull, Morrison, Albanese and multiple Ministers. in 2023, I find the longevity of our program remarkable.  Not only has it survived the changes in political directions of subsequent Prime Ministers, but also the different interests of the various Science Ministers. 

In the forthcoming period of budgetary ‘fiscal consolidation’ , the science community will have to work hard to emphasise the value of maintaining the investment in this as an ongoing program. 

Furthermore, it will be of assistance in that quest if the original breadth of the agenda was reasserted. 

I will remind you that the 2010 Inspiring Australia program was preceded by a major report in 2009 by the steering committee on the National Science Strategy Review chaired by Patricia Kelly. 

This 2009 report was the product of significant research. broad consultation, and detailed involvement of the CSIRO, ABC, the Chief Scientist , Questacon and community organisations. 

The Kelly Report highlighted the need to replace existing programs which were largely uncoordinated and fragmented. It called for national leadership and coherent action by the Commonwealth in mobilising public engagement across the country. 

It is time for another such substantive review. The program in recent years has lost its core focus and has moved away from Questacon and back into the Department. 

Since 2015 the program has been amended with a series of  ad hoc,  miscellaneous initiatives seeking to address short term political objectives, such as digital literacy, women’s participation, school science competitions and entrepreneurship. 

 It might well be argued that we have seen a return to the uncoordinated and fragmented approach of the pre 2010 period.

Science communication is more than just appealing to policy makers.  Science communicators must reach out to the community at large.

I remain concerned that one great group of science communicators, namely our teachers, have been left out of the science communication equation.

School based science education remains under-funded and insufficiently supported.  It is timely to re-examine this program to ensure that it is fit for purpose. 

While teachers are widely considered crucial to advancing an interest in science, classroom science teaching gets little additional support .

Science week is not enough to help under the pump classroom teachers.

It is timely to genuinely refocus science communication’s ambitions on the national interest by emphasising science’s role in building economic prosperity, social justice and democratic values.  

In this ambition we can help create a scientifically engaged Australia.

Science communicators can seek to build a society that is inspired by and values scientific endeavour, that engages with key scientific issues and that encourages young people to pursue scientific studies and careers.

Prof the Hon. Kim Carr FAHA FTSE, February 2023

Diversity in STEM

Another public consultation opportunity has opened today, this a dialogue starter around diversity in STEM.

From the Department’s consultation website:

We want to hear your experiences with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Your stories and insights will help shape our vision to increase diversity, engagement and skills in STEM, and support pathways for diverse groups into STEM.

We welcome insights from all Australians. We especially welcome input from people in historically underrepresented groups in STEM.

We also welcome insights from organisations who support, employ, educate, learn from, represent or have policies and programs impacting people in STEM

Department of Industry, Science and Resources consultation hub

Go here for more information, and get in touch if you wish to contribute to the ASC’s response. We have until 11 April to provide our first submission.

Got an international project?

The ASC, as part of our international engagement, have a seat on the Preparatory Committee for the World Organisation of Science Literacy (WOSL).

Currently WOSL are seeking ideas for projects to select as the international collaborative project for 2023. Their request is below:

We would like to know if any of our member organizations could contribute related projects and resources for sharing in the future. This could include projects related to science education, public outreach, science journalism, or any other relevant fields. We are particularly interested in projects that aim to engage diverse audiences and promote scientific dialogue across cultures.

Proposals need to put forward an application, including key detail such as target audience, who would fund it, and how people can get involved.

If you’ve a potential project or idea, get in touch at office at asc.asn.au and we can chat. We would need to send these ideas through before 16 March so get thinking!

PCST 2027 – a bid for the region

The ASC is underway with a bid to host PCST2027 in Australia.

The current conference committee consists of the following ASC members:

  • David Barbalet National Alliances Manager, Questacon – Department of Industry, Science & Resources
  • Dr Heather Bray UWA
  • Jirana Boontanjai Co-President, ASC
  • Niall Byrne Creative Director at Science in Public Pty Ltd
  • Dr Tom Carruthers Co-President, ASC; Client Partner, Ogilvy PR
  • Melina Gillespie CSIRO; President of South East Queensland Branch, ASC
  • Abigail Goff Victorian branch, ASC
  • A/Prof Will Grant Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, ANU 
  • Abigail Hils Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, ANU
  • Alison Kershaw Program Manager, Inspiring South Australia
  • Prof Joan Leach Director, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, ANU
  • Clare Mullen Bureau of Meteorology
  • Prof Sujatha Raman UNESCO Chair in Science Communication for the Public Good, CPAS, ANU
  • Dr Michelle Riedlinger Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Science Communication (JCOM); Senior Lecturer, QUT
  • Ruby Stoios Co-Secretary, ASC

The committee is also forming a set of supporting subcommittees to provide advice and support.

The bid is underway, and we will share more on this as we proceed through the process.

Please get in touch if you are keen to be involved.

Hindsight, insight, foresight in Science Communication – a reflection

by Abigail Goff, on behalf of the ASC2023 organising committee

With the ASC2023 national conference wrapped, it is time to reflect on the thoughts, themes, and topics discussed in the hindsight, insight, foresight -themed week.


Keynotes from the Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley, Prof. the Hon. Kim Carr, and Prof. Tom Calma addressed issues from Australia’s science communication climate, to the role of initiatives such as Inspiring Australia, and the role of science communication in Indigenous communities. These talks were thought provoking and led to deep discussions in following talks and panel sessions.

There were several keynote talks by speakers such as Jullian Cribb, the founding president of the ASC, speaking on the role of science communication in saving the planet from “man-made mega threats”; Dr John Cook, founder of Eureka prize-winning website Skeptical Science, spoke on the use of machine learning in understanding misinformation; and finally, cultural sensitivities in communication were also addressed by Prof. Chennupati Jagadish, president of the Australian Academy of Science in discussion with Dr Tom Carruthers, co-president of the ASC.

Panels allowed for open discussion and communication across a range of topics and fields of thought. ChatGPT unsurprisingly made an appearance in discussions, as did the communication of COVID-19 research, and Inspiring Australia. 

Dr Simon Torok of Scientell opened with a call for topics in the panel session on “science communication; what are we talking about?”, allowing for discussion into relevant and timely topics such as tech and AI-assisted science communication, participation science, power and equality, and hope, optimism, and storytelling in science communication.

Dr Phil Dooley hosted a panel on “business, brilliance, and battle scars with entrepreneurs Zoe Piper, Tina Chawner, and Claire Harris, providing insight into freelancing, starting small businesses, communication within business, and “small boats making big waves” as described by Tina Chawner.

Niall Byrne’s panel following Prof. Carr’s keynote address what inspired Inspiring Australia, was a passionate discussion on the work achieved by the Inspiring Australia initiative, including programs such as National Science Week, and the improvement of public science literacy. This was further expanded upon in Kylie Waker’s panel on “a future vision for science and sci comm” with panellist Dr Chris Hatherly (CEO Academy of Social Sciences in Australia) stating that “we want scientists to understand the value of the science communicator” – if we can collaborate effectively with scientists, we can further improve the translation of science to the general public. This is, of course, a difficult task which has definitely been felt and understood during the COVID-19 pandemic, as was discussed in depth during Natalia Bateman’s panel on “Communicating science during the COVID-19 pandemic”.

The final panel examined the various research infrastructure centres (Australian research data commons, Phenomics Australia, Australian BioCommons, Australian Plant Phenomics Facility, and the Australian Earth System Simulator), and how researchers, centres, and universities can be made aware of the resources available to them through various communication channels.

Balancing up the program were several concurrent sessions on topics such as COVID communication, business communications, creative communication and technology, media communication and how science communicators can be treated within the media landscape, to name a few.

A series of concurrent workshops then allowed for the professional development of attendees in a range of areas (including video-based storytelling, career development, gender equity, and more), and appeared to have been appreciated across the board. Another day long intensive workshop, hosted as a satellite event on Saturday 18th, was the EMCR communication training day, where early and mid-career research scientists (who might not identify as science communicators) could take advantage of visiting science communicators in intensive training sessions on communicating and collaborating with science communicators and the public – it was a smash hit. 

Networking opportunities were also enjoyed throughout the conference, leading to new connections, networks, and potential future collaborations.

A welcome reception and demo night was hosted by the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS). Hands-on demonstrations included bubble blowing with DVDs, potentially destroying the biography of John Lennon for the sake of physics, group static electric shocks (a great way to get to know someone), and many more. The evening wrapped energetically with the official “soft launch” of the conference where “hindsight, the monkey” was launched, via canon, across the campus.

A valuable networking icebreaker session was hosted by Dr Phil Dooley, allowing for the formation of new connections. The Gala Dinner was an excellent opportunity for communication and possible collaboration between similar minds. The night was also a highlight as Lyndal Byford was awarded the Unsung Hero award of 2022. Lyndal has been at the forefront of facilitating communication between the scientific community and news media for over 15 years (you can read more about the award here). 

Social events were also a hit, with networking at Cahoots Bar, hosted by Dr Phil Dooley, wrap up drinks at The Jetty, hosted by the ASC Canberra branch, and finally a public facing science communication night at Badger and Co., as part of the EMCR satellite workshop, where members of the public could “get to know [their] local scientist” and workshop participants practised the skills they had learnt earlier that day.


A recurring theme noted across the various keynotes, panels, and talks, was the need for a careful reframing of our communication. As Dr Heather Bray aptly points out, “We need to stop trying to sell the problem, [and instead] we need to sell the solution.” In the opening Keynote discussion by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley and Joan Leach, Cathy discussed this reframing with examples such as changing the story surrounding getting women into STEM roles, from an equity issue to an economic one, and delivering on climate change from a prosperity perspective – “we had to change the story from a moral issue to an economics issue”. These thoughts were echoed in the keynote by Prof. the Hon. Kim Carr where it was stated that “It is timely to genuinely refocus science communication’s ambitions on the national interest by emphasising science’s role in building economic prosperity, social justice and democratic values”. Reframing was also explored during the third keynote presented by Tom Calma, regarding smoking within indigenous communities, where he stated that, tackling smoking looks at the issue “…from [not just] a health perspective, which is a big motivator, but also the economic perspective…” and that by “looking at the benefits [gained] from not smoking, rather than the detriments”, people can focus on positives such as spending more time with family. 

Previous attempts by the scientific community to impress the importance of certain topics upon the public and the policy makers have seemingly made little change, and during the “Science communication; what are we talking about?” panel, hosted by Simon Torok, reasons for this were elaborated upon by panellists. We need to “move from blame to solution based narratives … using fear and blame to create action actually leads to a block”, says Sonia Bluhm. Many times when people hear bad news, they will just hide their heads in the sand avoiding these seemingly hopeless situations. We do, of course, need to be careful to avoid creating false hope or glossing over issues such as climate change, extinction, and pandemics, as these “man-made mega-threats” must be addressed quickly before it is too late. There is a need to make clear the severity of these situations, however, there does need to be a level of empathy within our science communication to our fellow humans – humans who are complex, emotional, rational yet simultaneously irrational beings.

Empathy is important for being able to give realistic hope, and without this we cannot get those heads out of the sand.


The ASC2023 conference was an ideal meeting place for the discussion of future ASC ventures including a bid for the 2027 PCST conference, the next ASC conference, upcoming science communication roles, and finally a discussion on the roadmap for the society as a whole.

While COVID-19 was a period in time we would all like to forget, it has allowed us to approach the future with a reset mindset. We now have access to a multitude of new technologies allowing for better accessibility, and communication across the country, and the world. We need to keep up the momentum from these technological advancements and from the efforts everyone has put in towards the ASC2023 conference and look toward the future of the ASC.

With this reset mindset, there are several areas for improvement within the ASC as a whole: fostering high standards of communication, promoting national awareness and understanding of science and technology, encouraging discussion and debate (of ethical, policy, economic and social issues relating to science and technology), and to provide opportunities for meetings between science and technology communication professionals. Co-president Tom Carruthers outlined the forward looking strategy for the society and the above plan during the second day of ASC2023. It was found that many of these key areas are not currently optimised and subsequently needs work as it is “essential that we re-engage with what the intent of this organisation” is meant to be. We also need to ensure that the organisation provides the membership value for members.

There is also opportunity for the wider Australian scicomm community to make resources more accessible. During the “Inspiring Australia, Reflections and Dreams” panel, Alison Kershaw stated she was “Trying to make Inspiring SA a hub – a place you go to find STEM related activities”, and believes that there is room to expand this nationally. “There could be a repository” of resources that the Australian public can use to easily access these activities, as  “taxpayer money is being spent on research and science communication and it’s really difficult to find. It is also “really difficult for [these audiences] to find [events and resources] because if you are not an engagement specialist or you don’t already have a mailing list… how do [audiences] find them?”. We, the ASC, should also be aiming to raise public awareness of science, and with the technological improvements driven by the worldwide pandemic, we may be able to achieve this. We can also be an accessible network for scientists wishing to communicate their science better, providing them with associate memberships, contacts, and professional development, as was done during the pilot EMCR satellite workshop.


The Australian Science Communicators national conference, ASC2023, was an opportunity to reconnect with old contacts and form new relationships within the field. It was an opportunity to hear from a range of experts in the field, in-person, and take time to discuss, question, and debate. Workshops presented allowed for the sharing of knowledge, and the networking events were a much needed opportunity to remind ourselves why we attend conferences – to share in the joy of science, science communication, and science communication research. The global pause to in-person meetings that was COVID-19, while disruptive, had some small silver linings, such as gaining time to reimagine what the ASC could be. Looking forward to the future of science communication, and taking on board that which we have learnt, the role of science communicators in Australia going forward should be one of understanding: Understanding the public’s needs, the scientists’ needs, and the needs of our fellow communicators. We must examine how we frame our communication, addressing the community’s desire for prosperity and economic growth, the aversion to fear and blame-based education and communication, and the need for education by stealth and improved public science literacy.

During the panel, “A future vision for science and scicomm”, Kylie Waker asked if there should be a “greater role for professional science communicators in times of crisis”, and the following statement by panellist Dr Sarah Tynan summarises this well:

“I think in a time of crisis, what we need is clear-cut, concise, clean information, that’s not weighed down by confusing detail.” As science communicators we need to “cut through those really technical messages and give [really distinct pieces of information] that people can trust”.

We want your thoughts

UPDATED to include Diversity in STEM consultation

The ASC is calling for members to contribute to two public consultation rounds. Please get in touch with us if you are able to contribute to an ASC statement on the below.

The Science priorities and statement

A refresh of Australia’s national science priorities launched on Thursday, with the Albanese government seeking wide input on the first change to the set of key research areas since 2015. Climate change, First Nations science and emerging technologies have been flagged by the government as potential new priorities.

A new science statement is also being developed and will outline the government’s vision for Australian science. It will reflect the updated priorities and consider how to address areas such as:

  • enhancing both local and international partnerships in pursuit of shared goals – delivering national and international collaborations that reflect commonly held priorities
  • the role of open access and data sharing – reducing barriers to collaboration and making Australian science more influential, visible and accessible to all
  • a national science engagement strategy – connecting the public, research organisations and industry to:
    • enable and grow a STEM-skilled workforce
    • increase the science and technology sector’s responsiveness to the needs of industry, society and the economy
  • the importance of scientific advice to inform decision making–ensuring appropriate mechanisms for providing government with independent, expert scientific advice.

There are clear areas of interest for the ASC membership. We are calling for anyone interested to get in touch rapidly so that we may put together a response as soon as possible.

Find more information about the terms of reference and the consultation round here. Get in touch at office at asc.asn.au

Our submission will be due 31 March.

ABS review of occupations

The ABS is undertaking a comprehensive review of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) to reflect the contemporary labour market and better meet stakeholders’ needs. 

ANZSCO describes all occupations in the Australian and New Zealand labour markets and is used to inform and shape educational pathways, skilled migration programs and workforce strategies that equip Australians with skills to get jobs and stay employed.

Public consultation rounds will be held across 2023 and 2024 with each round targeting selected occupations grouped by focus area. The ABS will be inviting submissions on these focus areas through the ABS Consultation Hub. The consultation schedule provides information on how to participate.

Find out more here, and get in touch if you’d like to contribute to an ASC submission.

This round closes 28 April.

Diversity in STEM

Another public consultation opportunity has opened; a dialogue starter around diversity in STEM.

From the Department’s consultation website:

We want to hear your experiences with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Your stories and insights will help shape our vision to increase diversity, engagement and skills in STEM, and support pathways for diverse groups into STEM.

We welcome insights from all Australians. We especially welcome input from people in historically underrepresented groups in STEM.

We also welcome insights from organisations who support, employ, educate, learn from, represent or have policies and programs impacting people in STEM


Go here for more information, and get in touch if you wish to contribute to the ASC’s response. We have until 11 April to provide our first submission.

Bridging research and practice

The Journal of Science Communication is calling for abstracts as part of a special issue connecting science communication research and practice: challenges and ways forward.

This special issue of JCOM will be devoted to research articles, practical insights and essays focusing on the potential for effective and sustainable collaborations between science communication researchers and practitioners.

Find out more on the JCOM webpage.

With this issue, JCOM hopes to advance science communication as a whole and to enable researchers and practitioners to benefit from each other’s experience and expertise.

We encourage ASC members to contribute to this issue.

Unsung Hero of Australian Science Communication

The Australian Science Communicators (ASC) has just awarded its prestigious Unsung Hero of Australian Science Communication prize to Lyndal Byford of the Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC).

The award recognises individuals who have made a significant impact in the communication of science but have not yet been acknowledged adequately for their contributions.

Ms Byford has been instrumental in the accurate reporting of COVID-19 science during the pandemic, facilitating expert comment in over 80,000 news stories in Australia and overseas. Through her tireless efforts, she has helped the public access the most up-to-date and accurate information about the virus.

If you’ve read a quote from a scientific expert in a news story, there’s a very good chance it has come via Ms Byford’s desk. Her work has been critical in helping to combat misinformation and to promote public health and safety.

Jirana Boontanjai and Dr Tom Carruthers, the current co-presidents of the ASC, praised Lyndal’s work and expressed their gratitude for her dedication to science communication. 

“Lyndal’s contribution to the field is immense,” they said. “Her work over the past 15 years, and especially during the pandemic, has been nothing short of heroic, and she truly deserves recognition for her efforts.”

Ms Byford was nominated by Dr Susannah Eliott, Chief Executive Officer at the AusSMC.

“Lyndal has worked extensively and tirelessly at the coalface between the scientific community and the news media for more than 15 years,” said Dr Eliott. “She has helped scientists to work effectively with the media and helped journalists to cover some of the biggest science stories of the last decade.”

Ms Byford says she is honoured by the award, and is grateful for the support of her network. 

“I have always felt so lucky to be working in a field I love. I have an amazing job – I get to work with exciting new science stories every day.

“I want to thank my amazing team at the AusSMC who work tirelessly making a difference to the way science is talked about every day.”

The award was presented this evening at the gala dinner hosted at the National Gallery of Australia as part of the ASC’s 12th national conference. The conference, titled Hindsight, Insight, Foresight, has been discussing the impact of science communication in Australia, and taking lessons from the past to plan how science communication can better serve the community.

The 2023 program is (almost) finalised

We have closed submissions for talks, and have an almost final program published on the website now.

We expect some minor changes as we receive last minute requests from speakers or find out about issues with availability, so please do check back often for updates.

See you all there soon!

Nominate an Unsung Hero for 2022

The Unsung Hero of Australian Science Communication is an initiative of the Australian Science Communicators. The award recognises our heroes in science communication who have not yet had the recognition they deserve.

Nominations are now open for the 2022 Unsung Hero Award of Australian Science Communication.

Nominate a peer via this form.

UPDATE: Nominations close at 9 AM AEDT on Monday 06 February 2023.

The award will be announced at the ASC Conference in Canberra, 16 February 2023.

Previous recipients have been Jen Martin (2019), Kylie Andrews (2017), Geoff Crane (2016), Kylie Walker (2015), Frankie Lee (2014) and Craig Cormick (2013).

The award was relaunched by the 2011 National Executive, realigned from the previous ‘Unsung Hero of Science’ award (read some background here).


The criteria for nomination for the Unsung Hero Australian Science Communication are:

  1. Nominees (an individual or group) must be currently residing in Australia and actively engaged in the Australian science communication sector, interpreted broadly to include, but not limited to, pursuits such as:
    • teaching or outreach (in science or science communication),
    • broadcasting or reporting on science,
    • script and book writing on science or science communication,
    • science promotion,
    • policy advice or program development in the sciences,
    • health or climate communication,
    • research into science communication, and
    • interpretation of science within cultural institutions.
  2. The work the nominee must have been carried out and had an impact in Australia. Impact can be relevant to a range of areas, including but not limited to:
    • contributing to the public or decision-makers’ understanding of science, 
    • increasing the science sector’s value or quality of science communication,
    • improving the practice of science communication,
    • improving policy within the science or science communication sector via advocacy or advice, or
    • increasing the appreciation decision makers have for science communication expertise.
  3. Nominees should have not yet received significant recognition for their contribution to science or science communication. 
    • Minor awards or scholarships are not considered significant recognition, but recognition such as the Eurekas awards, OAMs, honorary doctorates, fellowships, being published in collections such as the ‘Best Australian Science Writing’, or having a large national public profile for their specialist topic would be considered exclusionary.
    • This will intentionally rule out many popular science communicators or journalists. 
    • This will also mean the nominee may be largely unknown within the Australian Science Communicators membership. 
  4. The nominee’s contribution has been so significant over a period of time (at least several years) that they should by now have been recognised

The award may be made to a nominee whose work is across many fields, but the science communication component of their work must be highly significant.

Nominators should give careful consideration to what counts as impact in science communication and demonstrate that in their nomination. For example:

  • A science communication professional working for a Government or Government-funded entity may score better if it is demonstrated that their strategic leadership led to positive change for the sector (e.g. changes in public or decision-maker attitudes or behaviours).
  • A prolific communication researcher may score better if it were demonstrated that they conducted outreach within the sector to facilitate the translation of their work into practice.
  • A scientist who communicates may score better if it were demonstrated that their contribution to science communication as a practice was significant and unrecognised.

Benefits of the award

Ideally, the award will assist the recipient in their work by publicising their unseen efforts in the field and leading to broader awareness within the Australian Science Communicators and the public. The award may also focus attention on the importance of their endeavour, give them greater credibility or help them overcome barriers. The award may also assist career progression or facilitate further recognition via other awards, fellowships, etc.

Recipients will have their citation presented at the Gala Dinner, receive a certificate, and be recorded on the Australian Science Communicators website. Past recipients have also received press coverage of their award.

Selection Process

Selection is based primarily on the written information provided on the nomination form by the nominator. The committee may access the public record to verify whether a nominee is eligible (e.g. have they already been recognised by another award), but will not consider projects or impacts not included in the nomination form.

A selection committee of representatives convened by the Executive Committee from the Australian Science Communicators will assess all nominations and determine the award recipient. In rare instances, the selection committee may request further information from nominators before making their final decision.

The Australian Science Communicators reserves the right to make no awards should the judges consider that the quality of candidates does not warrant awards, or should the nominated candidate(s) not satisfy the selection criteria.

Requirements for Award Nomination

The nominator must be a financial member of the Australian Science Communicators, but the nominee need not be a member. While not essential, the nominator should first consult with the nominee and any referees prior to the application.

Each nomination must comprise a fully completed award nomination form.