Australian Science Communicators
Annual General Meeting 13 December 2010
The profile of science communication was raised in 2010 with the launch of the Inspiring Australia report. This is the first major federal government document to address the role of science communication in engaging Australian society with science. The report is timely as we are faced with an increasingly urgent need for effective communication of science and a greater integration of science with society.
The ASC is an active voice in this landscape but we acknowledge there is only so much that we can do as a volunteer run organisation. We are turning to the membership for skilled and energetic people to contribute time to various programs and initiatives. It takes time to seek willing hands and then to brief and coordinate them so sometimes we seem back at square one in trying to find time to make things happen. The same goes for seeking like-minded organisations to partner us in some of our projects.
Because time and resources are in short supply we need to be sure that our longer term programs are sustainable and work smoothly from the beginning. Sometimes this means that projects move along very slowly such as setting up an accreditation program for short courses.
The national and branch levels of the ASC tell similar stories. Branch committees work hard to run events and attract audiences in an ever increasingly competitive environment. The branches are always in need of people who not only have good ideas but will make them realities.
But I am happy to report we are making progress on various fronts including our financial position. I don’t expect to us to be able to support a full time secretariat in the near future but this must be one of our strategic aims.
Now to some of the many highlights of this year:
1. ASC conference:
1.1 The conference in February was a great success with 3 days of stimulating, relevant and varied sessions attended by over 275 people.
1.2 My thanks go to Immediate past-president Tim Thwaites and Membership officer Kali Madden who did wonderfully well in the huge job of organising the conference.
1.3 The conference raised the profile of the ASC and the role of science communication and was financially successful.
2. Inspiring Australia Report launch at the ASC conference:
2.1 It was a coup for the ASC to have Minister for Science Kim Carr launch the Inspiring Australia Report as well as open the conference.
2.2 While initial concerns were raised that the ASC was barely mentioned in the report it was to set the scene for much subsequent action involving the ASC.
3. ASC response to the Inspiring Australia report:
3.1 It was clear that the ASC had much to gain by aligning its focus with Inspiring Australia.
3.2 Our members’ comments combined with Rob Morrison’s analysis of the report helped the National Council and Executive to set priorities for the year.
3.3 I had preliminary meetings with the people in charge of carrying out the report’s recommendations. They acknowledged our interest and support with our official representation and participation of several of our members on steering committees.
3.4 I have met several of the state representatives responsible for implementing aspects of the report in their state and have corresponded with a few newly appointed state coordinators.
3.5 We have continued to seek information from our members regarding various aspects of the report. This helps to raise our profile, demonstrates our effectiveness and prepares us for further report related activity.
3.6 Our response to the report was specifically mentioned in the recent Inspiring Australia newsletter.
3.7 Members have responded to our proposed strategic actions regarding each recommendation of the report.
4. ASC branches:
4.1 The rejuvenated SA branch had its first meeting in February and has been busy with running activities throughout the year with several hosted at RiAus.
4.2 The WA branch co-ran a well attended training workshop in evaluation and has also been consistently active.
4.3 VIC ran a very successful networking event.
4.4 ACT put on numerous events, notably an enjoyable and innovative Pies @ the pub for Pi Day
4.5 SE QLD had a popular visit to the XXXX Brewery
4.6 NSW ran an insightful ‘Freelancing for science communicators’ event among a busy program.
4.7 All branches ran a total of at least 37 events and activities.
5. Hot Air Tips and Highlights report:
5.1 Past ASC national president Jenni Metcalfe, of the Queensland branch, compiled the report of tips and highlights from three Hot Air symposia and posted it on the ASC website. Jenni organised the symposia to explore how to communicate the science of climate change.
5.2 The symposia were an ASC initiative with support from NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water and Econnect communication.
6.1 I met with WA, SA and NSW branch committees
6.2 Met with the coordinators of the VIC and ACT branches
6.3 Participated in one ACT event
6.4 Inspiring Australia meetings – met twice with the Inspiring Australia team at Questacon (ACT); participated in the Science and Community Evaluation Tools meeting (VIC) and the Steering Committee for Developing an Evidence Base (ACT); presented to the COAG Inspiring Australia officers meeting in Melbourne.
7.1 I collaborated with the Sydney Environmental Educators Network (SEEN) and International Association for Public Participation Australasia (IAPP) to run 3 workshops at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney on communicating aspects of climate change.
7.2 Worked with Australian Environmental Educators (AAEE) to develop outline of professional development workshops. This project may need additional partners to be realised.
7.3 Met the International Year of Biodiversity coordinators in WA and NSW.
7.4 Worked with training provider to develop training program in improvisational theatre skills for early career scientists to improve communication skills. Sought input from the director of the Tall Poppy Campaign and science communication course providers.
7.5 Liaised with various environmental organisations regarding training in science communication.
7.6 Liaised with Skeptics Society and other groups about effectively communicating what is and isn’t science.
8. Web site:
8.1 Continues to be developed and improved by James Hutson of the Victorian branch
8.2 Expect new look early in 2011
8.3 Laura Miles and Kali Madden continue to support James’ work.
9. Automation of membership:
9.1 All members now on automated database (thanks to Kali Madden for her efforts).
9.2 This enables Kali to quickly tabulate and report on vital member information.
To finish I would like thank the membership for their constructive responses to my various requests for information and advice. I have special thanks for the many people who contribute to ASC at a national level — and some of you are in this room:
1. All those on the National Council
2. Kali Madden, from her role as Membership Officer to her new enhanced position as Executive Officer, for all her hard work in managing the membership.
3. Laura Miles and James Hutson for their contribution to ensuring the ASC has an active voice to our members and the world via newsletters and the website.
4. Also thanks to Rob Morrison, Lisa Bailey and the rest of the ASC SA team who organised this AGM.
5. Finally to the members of the national executive, who all put in many hours on ASC-related business—David Ellyard, Tim Thwaites, Rob Morrison, Sarah Lau and Phil Dooley.
13 December 2010