Now ex-Scope Editor!

It’s been two years and four months since I first took up the post as Editor of the ASC newsletter, Scope. A lot of things have happened in that time… Ebola outbreaks, Royal births, water on Mars and Australia on its fourth Prime Minister for the period. Closer to home, the previous 28 months have seen my world turn upside down too (or up the right way, depending on how you look at it)!

In June 2013 I was working as a Communications Officer for CRC CARE in Adelaide – a Cooperative Research Centre focusing on the measurement, prevention and remediation of environmental contamination. I had some spare time on my hands and had decided to get involved in some community activities, so when the chance to step in as Scope Editor came up I thought I would give it a go.

The Editor role is a great one. You get to work with ASC members all over the country (and occasionally the world). You also work with the ASC communications team which is a committed bunch of people – all very good at what they do. Of course, as with any role, there is some hard bits too! A lot of chasing for content and deadlines… but for the most part the job is certainly a good one.

But, as is often the case when things are tonking along nicely, I had a proverbial spanner thrown in the works. Although to call it a spanner is probably a little misleading… a spanner suggests it is something bad. This spanner certainly wasn’t bad, but it sure was disruptive!

My background is in medical research – I completed a PhD in Craniofacial Biology at the University of Adelaide in 2011. I have always loved bones and loved working with skulls in research. I honestly couldn’t tell you why I love bones so much, but I have blogged about my childhood favourite bones in my blog Craniophiles. (As a side note, my blog Craniophiles was started as a project for my Masters in Science Communication at ANU. The subject was Science Communication and the Web – which was advertised in the previous issue of Scope. I highly recommend it!)

My spanner came in the form of a job opportunity. It was the job of my dreams – I would be partly in the lab, working with bones, and partly working my scicomm skills talking about bones. The downside… it was on the other side of the world. Now this might not sound scary to some, but for me – a cheerleader for team Radelaide being the best place in the world to live, and a total mummy’s girl – it was pretty scary. But, with the job of my dreams on offer I decided it was time to throw off the security blanket that was little old Adelaide and move over the sea to live with the queen. Turns out you can’t just move in to Buckingham palace… but that is a story for another time.

In addition to not being able to move in with the Queen, you have to cook your two minute noodles for three minutes here!

In addition to not being able to move in with the Queen, you have to cook your two minute noodles for three minutes here!

 

And sometimes mysterious white powder falls from the sky

And sometimes mysterious white powder falls from the sky

My job over here is as wonderful as I had hoped it would be. In addition to getting back in to the lab, I have been responsible for creating a website and social media for the project. I had been involved in a few website redesign projects (with Puratap and CRC CARE) previously, but starting from scratch opened my eyes to a different set of challenges and has been a great learning experience. You can check out our website, facebook and twitter if you want to follow where we are up to!

Don't let the look on my face fool you, I do love it here!

Don’t let the look on my face fool you, I do love it here!

Even when things like this happen...

Even when things like this happen…

Because when I'm not destroying gloves I get to do cool things like this!

Because when I’m not destroying gloves I get to do cool things like this!

Sadly, working as the Scope Editor long distance has become a bit too challenging so I decided to hang up my hat. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as the Editor of the ASC’s Scope newsletter. Thank you to everyone who has been of assistance along the way and made contributions. I am confident that you are in great hands with the new co-editors Tara and Jessica and that the newsletter will continue to grow and improve from here.

If you want to keep in touch and follow what’s happening over here don’t forget to look up the Origins of Bone and Cartilage disease project website, twitter and facebook, and Craniophiles blog, facebook and twitter.

Careers and Networking Night – ACT Branch

If you are wanting to get into a science communication career then the
ACT branch Careers and Networking Night at ANU is for you.

And people in the field looking for fresh new talent can meet all the
up-and-comers.

When: Thursday April 23, 5:15 pm-6:30 pm
Where: Green Couch Room, Australian National Centre for the Public
Awareness of Science (CPAS), Physics Link building 38A, ANU
Cost: Free.

Register herehttps://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/asc-careers-and-networking-night-tickets-16479602936

The night will begin with a series of short talks highlighting different
pathways and careers in science communication. Hear about current and
exciting new undergraduate and postgraduate courses offered by CPAS which can kickstart your sci comm career.

Guest speakers include:

Lara Davis – How a chemistry graduate ends up a geoscience
communicator, via a Dip Ed.

Amanda Cox – Digital comms professional, science marketing at ANU, from a biochemistry background via the not-for profit and government worlds.

Phil Dooley – PhD in physics turns IT trainer, high school workshopper
then science writer at ANU.

Katie Howe – Comms professional, no science background, hey how did
she get in here?!

Anna-Lisa Hayes
– Environmental scientist turns science communicator
in the government sector.

Following the talks there will be an opportunity to network over FREE food
and drinks.

Please register here: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/asc-careers-and-networking-night-tickets-16479602936

When:
Thursday April 23, 5:15 pm-6:30 pm

Where: Green Couch Room, Australian National Centre for the Public
Awareness of Science (CPAS), Physics Link building 38A, ANU

Cost: Free.

Cheer squad, critic or crusader? Science and medical writers today

17 May 2013
6:00 pmto8:00 pm

Cheer squad or critic? Awareness raiser, crusader or watchdog? What is the role of science and medical writers today?

Join us for a discussion on this, and more, by a panel of expert science and medical writers in Sydney on 17 May. This is a joint event of the Australian Science Communicators and the Australasian Medical Writers’ Association.

Our speakers are:

  • Jane McCredie — executive director of the NSW Writers’ Centre
  • Mikey Slezak — Australasian correspondent for New Scientist
  • Bianca Nogrady — freelance journalist, author and broadcaster.

As well as the role of science and medical writers they’ll be covering:

  • employment options
  • audiences, styles and philosophies in science and medical writing
  • relationships with other fields.

This session is for anyone who cares about the public discussion of science and medicine.

Place: Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney (near Bathurst St) smsa.org.au

Drinks and nibbles start at 6 pm, discussion begins at 6:30 pm (for about an hour).

Seating is limited and bookings are essential:
http://scienceandmedicine.eventbrite.com.au/

Cost: Free for ASC and AMWA members; $10 for the general public

Enquiries: Helen Sim 0419 635 905 (voice or text)

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS

Jane McCredie is an author and journalist specialising in science and medicine. She is co-editor with Natasha Mitchell  of this year’s anthology of The Best Australian Science Writing and writes a weekly blog on medicine for the Medical Journal of Australia’s electronic sister publication, mjainsight.com.au. Her book on the science of sex and gender, Making Girls and Boys, was published in Australia in 2011 and in the US (under the title, Beyond X and Y) in 2012. The former popular science publisher at NewSouth Books, Jane is now executive director of the NSW Writers’ Centre.

Michael Slezak is New Scientist’s Australasian correspondent. Since starting there a year ago, he’s written about everything from dinosaur footprints to space mining, and covered every twist and turn in the Higgs boson story. Before that, he spent two years as a medical journalist at Reed Business Information and studied and taught philosophy of science at the University of Sydney.

Bianca Nogrady is a freelance science journalist, broadcaster and author, who is yet to meet a piece of research she doesn’t find fascinating. In nearly a decade of freelance reporting, she has written for publications including Scientific American, The Australian, Ecos magazine, Australian Doctor and the ABC’s health, science and environment websites. She is also author of The End: The Human Experience Of Death (in bookstores this month) and co-author of The Sixth Wave: How To Succeed In A Resource-Limited World (2010).

 

Call for Applications to Attend or Sponsor Attendees to Youth ANZAAS 2011

10 July 2011to15 July 2011

Anyone with links into high schools or direct to senior science students may be interested in promoting this, and if there are bodies out there keen to throw a small amount of dollars toward student scholarships or event funding please let us know.

Applications for Youth ANZAAS 2011: Brisbane are open to science students in grades 10-12 across Australia, and close very shortly (Fri 27rd May), although applications received after the closing date will be accepted until all places are filled. More information is available at www.anzaas.org.au/youth and full information/application packages are available upon request.

Youth ANZAAS is a week-long residential conference for approximately sixty science students in Years 10, 11 and 12 from Australia and New Zealand. The event is organised by the Australian & New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS), one of Australia’s oldest scientific associations. YA 2011 will be held in Brisbane from Sunday 10th July to Friday 15th July. The programme is based around advanced-level lectures and activities that will challenge attendees and expand their knowledge of the applications of science in the real world. Students will have the opportunity to visit world-class facilities where research is taking place and to engage with leading scientists, experiences which are usually unavailable to the general public. The conference also allows students to meet and create a network of like-minded peers who share their passion for science.

A registration fee (recently reduced to $400 with the aid of some sponsorship) covers all expenses through the week including travel to Brisbane from students’ local capital city. It is understood the cost may inhibit some students’ decision to apply, however some sponsorship of places may be available upon application and funding is also still being sought to further reduce the cost or provide sponsorship for individual places. Special consideration (students from regional and remote areas and with indigenous or ethnic backgrounds are encouraged to apply) is available for candidates upon request.

If there are people or groups interested in offering sponsorship to students please feel free to contact us with your offer.

Cheers,
Felicity

If you have any queries about the program, the application process or anything else regarding Youth ANZAAS 2011 please contact us via anzaas.qld@gmail.com or 0408 797 837. Further information may be available at www.anzaas.org.au/youth.

Mentoring programs – new ideas from WA worth talking about

A frequent request over the years from a number of student and early career members of ASC is for a mentoring program. Mentoring can be very effective in developing skills but it requires a lot of people’s time and organisational resources to sustain a properly managed program. At my recent dinner with WA members, Emma Donnelly, chair of the WA ASC branch, and some WA members came up with two ideas for mentoring which I think are worth sharing with the entire membership. Both ideas are for activities can be run at the branch level and offer abbreviated time and resource effective versions of the usual prolonged mentoring relationships.

Idea 1: Science communication speed dating event‘

‘Science speed dating’ events usually match up scientists with the public. These are fun activities which give a lay audience, or even science students, a chance to talk for five minutes at a time with a variety of science practitioners. The mentoring twist to this event is to match up novice science communicators with a range of long practicing science communicators.

Each branch invites around ten science communicators (the featured talent) from their local area who are well established in their careers. You’ll need to have people who communicate science in diverse ways and media such as a science centre presenter or interactive developer; a science curator; science presenter or producer of radio, television or blog; newspaper science journalist; free-lance writer or consultant, science organisation (government and industry) communications officer; science graphic designer; science lobbyist; science advisor to local politician; science policy developer for a government department; science teacher; science curriculum developer; university dean of science; and so on. The wider the variety of ways of communicating science and the wider the range of sciences being communicated the better. Involve government, academia and industry. This mix should be easy to achieve within each metropolitan area.

The next step is to contact a wide range of the student and early career science communicators in the area. Promote the event to the local university science communication programs as well as to all the university and TAFE science departments and science teacher training programs. Basically invite anyone you can think of who might benefit from finding out the range of science communication careers which might be available to them. Contact local branches of other professional associations who share an interest in communicating science, such as the Australian Association of Environmental Education, Australasia-Pacific Extension Network, Interpretation Australia as well as ask the ‘talent’ to encourage any novice communicators they know to attend.

Promote the event as career development, mentoring on skates (‘mentoring on speed’ may give the wrong impression), kick-start science communication, whatever. If you have members in your area who want to get a sense of what sci-com careers are like this is the event for them. Make the event free for ASC members and charge a small but meaningful amount for others.

If your event is successful in attracting more apprentices than you have masters then two or more novices can chat with each experienced person during the five minute sessions.


Idea 2: Science communication shadows

This is easier to do if organised in concert with the Science communication speed dating event. Arrange for a student of novice science communicator to ‘shadow’ an established sci-com person for a day at their workplace. The novice will observe what’s involved in a typical working day for a particular type of science communicator and should provoke useful Q&A during the day.

Some types of science communication work will be more interesting to observe (shadow) than others. But even some desk based jobs have days when there is more action than just sitting using a quill or computer.

As opposed to ‘mentoring on skates’  this is a day-long mentoring experience. The point is that it is only a one day commitment for both parties with a once off evaluation page to submit to the branch or national body for reporting and bragging rights. This activity will need a page of guidelines each for novice and mentor but is a lot simpler than a longer term mentoring project.

Both ideas, especially the ‘shadow’, can do with further development. I welcome your thoughts on the value and workability of either mentoring idea. If you like them suggest how to make them better and if you see problems let me know. Hopefully we can find a way to provide members with meaningful and cost-effective mentoring activities.

Jesse Shore
National President

Position vacant: SMART science communicator, NSW

Posted on behalf of Terry Burns (terry.burns [at] newcastle.edu.au)
The SMART program at the University as grown to the point where we are looking to employ a full-time science communicator from 7 February 2011. The position is funded initially for 10 months but we aim to make it ongoing.
SMART is based in Newcastle NSW but there is the opportunity to travel quite a bit.  The person we are after would need a solid grounding in contemporary science show presenting and be a capable leader. The appointment would be at the Team Leader, HEW 5 or 6 level (depending on experience).
General information about SMART is available from www.newcastle.edu.au/smart/

How I became a science communicator

The other week I was asked by some scicomm students in Perth, what was my main bit of advice was to them? I replied ‘to take every opportunity to try many different things and gain many experiences’! I guess this reflects how my career has panned out and the fact that I’ve been lucky enough to remain flexible so that I can take opportunities when they arise.

Having studied biology and environmental sciences originally, and completing a fantastic Honours project with BP Refinery (in oily sludge bioremediation!), my first job working in a lab in Canberra with petri dishes and test tubes did not enthrall me at all. I thought ‘oh no, I’ve studied four years, and this is it?’ I think my main issue was the isolation in the lab, so I decided to undertake further environmental management studies after which I worked as an environmental consultant for a while and as a tour guide at the Australian Dinosaur Museum on the side.

While in Canberra I remember meeting someone who was in the Questacon Science Circus. It sounded really cool, and while I did apply with an audition tape (and got to be a runner up), I ended up enrolling in the science communication Masters course at CPAS the next year. At the same time, I secured a contract job through a temporary secretarial (!) agency working for the Australian Science Festival to coordinate the Solar and Advanced Technology Boat Race. These two things combined, cemented my enthusiasm for science communication. Over the next few years, I went on to work at Geoscience Australia as a promotions officer and then at the Australian National University as the science reporter for the ANU Reporter newspaper.

Itchy feet led me to take off an a year’s leave without pay to Switzerland, where I ended up staying for three years, working in a corporate communication role at a surveying and engineering company. Here I was editor for the company magazine and looked after the content of their website. I moved on to their UK office and then gained some exposure of marketing and technical communication of surveying instruments.

It was in fact on the CPAS eScinapse list that I saw the advert for my next big break. I took the job with a new European-funded project that aimed to encourage collaboration of scientists throughout Europe working on infectious disease and food safety. I set up and ran the ‘Med-Vet-Net’ communications unit for five years, a role where I was responsible for the website, publications, media liaison, event management and communication training. It was here that I developed the Med-Vet-Net internship, that consisted of four 2-week modules aimed at developing scientists’ skills in communication, presenting, working with different audiences, understanding stakeholders and embracing the web and new media. During my time at Med-Vet-Net, I formed my own company ‘Science Communications Ltd’ that has gone on to undertake science communication writing, public relations, website design, event management and communication training throughout Europe.

‘Home sweet home’ eventually called, and I’ve recently returned to my hometown of Perth after 17 years of being away. I’m still running my business and I’ve been lucky enough to win an 8-month part-time contract with the WA Museum to coordinate the International Year of Biodiversity, a position shared with Val Gregory at the Australian Museum.  This role sees us working with scientific and research organisations to promote biodiversity events that are being held throughout the year as well as encourage them, community groups and the public to upload stories, images and videos to our ‘biodiversity hub’ website www.biodiversity2010.org.au.

I’m also about to start a short-term contact with Curtin University undertaking PR and event coordination for the science and engineering areas while they recruit someone permanently into the position. And, I’ve grand plans to roll out some of my science communication courses that I’ve been running in Europe, having just completed a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment so that I can become an accredited trainer in Australia.

So, my motto is ‘variety is the spice of life’. I’ve had the good fortune to work with many brilliant individuals so far over my varied career and have gained valuable mentors and some very good friends along the way. Take opportunities as they come along, but most importantly, love what you do!

Teresa Belcher
teresa [at] sciencecommunications.co.uk

teresa.belcher [at] museum.wa.gov.au
www.sciencecommuniations.eu

@SciCommTweet

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.