ASC conference – Join us in Brisbane on March 11, 2016

A huge thank you to all those who took the time to respond to the conference planning email sent to members in August this year. Your views were very supportive of a March 2016 conference, along with a longer term view to planning joint conferences in future. Below is our first conference announcement since that email and we plan to follow up with many of you soon.

We are delighted to confirm that the very popular ASC national conference is being held in Brisbane to tie in with the World Science Festival, an annual week-long festival for all things science. The festival runs from March 9 to 13 and we have scheduled the main ASC conference on Friday, March 11 when the world festival has a day programmed primarily for schools (we hope this means less scheduling conflicts for members!)

We’ve arranged a later conference start (registration at 10:30 for an 11am start) so that delegates may choose to attend brekky with the Brians and our very own Robyn Williams (details below). Tickets are selling (very) fast. If you have even an inkling that you will be joining us for the conference then we’d recommend buying your brekky ticket right NOW! Contact us at for the member discount info.

Satellite and social events are highly likely so you may wish to plan to attend Brisbane for a few days to make the visit really worth your while at a time when luminaries in science and science communication will abound! View the festival program online here to help your planning.

VOLUNTEERS: Great opportunity to network and contribute to your national community event. As you may be aware, the national conference is made possible by a huge contingent of capable ASC member volunteers who help out with everything from website content & marketing, to mic running on the day. We are looking for our 2016 crew now so if you are interested please contact us at and let us know how you’d like to be involved.

Member offer – Breakfast with the Brians

Before the ASC Conference starts on March 11, ASC members can head to a breakfast event that promises to be as entertaining as it is thought provoking, Australia’s Nobel Prize winning astrophysicist (and successful winery owner), Brian Schmidt, meets internationally renowned string theorist and best-selling author, Brian Greene (think The Elegant Universe and  Big Bang Theory). You’ll recognise them both as favourites on the best talk shows – from Adam Hills to David Letterman – as they discuss ‘life, the universe and everything’ with ABC broadcaster, former ASC President and lifetime member, and national living treasure, Robyn Williams.

Ticket price ($50.00) includes light breakfast.  Breakfast is served in foyer from 8.15am.
Contact us at for the member discount info.

President’s Update

Thank you to Joan Leach for the President’s Update.

Save the date! 11 March 2016

I’m very pleased to announce that the next ASC conference will be in Brisbane in March 2016. We have tried to tie in our next meeting with the World Festival of Science so that our members who are involved can make their travel dollars go further. Also, we hope that as the WFS announces its program ASC members might satisfy their curiosity at the festival and enjoy networking time with ASC members as well. Our venue and program will be announced shortly. But, circle that date and plan to be in Brisbane. We’re going to organise the 2016 conference into one packed day for ASC and break out events during the World Festival of Science. More news coming…

Issues for AGM?

ASC is gearing up for its AGM and a SGM to consider the ASC constitution. If you have any queries you would like to put to me personally, please do so at I’m also very interested to hear about colleagues who would like to join the executive of ASC so please get in touch if you’d like to get more involved.

Event review: PCST conference—Brazil inspires science communicators

Thank you to Christine Ross for sharing her experience at the PCST conerefence.

The first PCST conference to be held in Latin America focused on science communication for social inclusion and political engagement. As the ancient capital of Brazil and a former slave trading port, host city Salvador was a living, breathing reminder of the country’s colonial past. The contrast of a sometimes brutal history with the beauty and spirit of the predominantly Afro-Brazilian population was a perfect backdrop to the conference proceedings.

In a programme with many highlights, the stand out moments for me were other people’s experiences of the universal communications challenge; how to reach our most ‘difficult’ audiences. Difficult, or hard to reach, being defined by your particular topic or social problem.

Maybe it’s trying to explain birth control to a community whose dialect has no words for reproductive anatomy. Or provide role models in science for girls who have never seen anybody like themselves in a professional career. As Dr Elizabeth Rasekoala says, not many chemical engineers look like her.

And language matters. It influences access, ownership and how you get through. In some cases, not only are we speaking the ‘wrong’ language, we are also failing to comprehend a different world view. When we look up at the sky, you see stars in the daytime and I worry about being blinded by the sun.

Illustrating this point, Professor Yurij  Castelfranchi discussed his work with indigenous communities more attuned to the environment than those of us whose senses have been numbed by ‘modern’ life may believe possible. Professor Castelfranchi notes that having data and theory does not mean that we can control the world around us or foresee events.  In my personal opinion, the compelling question for science communication is how do we reach those who by birth or culture or choice exist in an atmosphere outside of our own?  Of course, there is no generic answer.

Dr Suzette Searle focused on measurement, the eternal quest for practitioners and researchers alike. Presenting results from a recent survey of public engagement with science in Australia, Dr Searle revealed some intriguing findings, including just over half of survey respondents being unable to report a recent Australian scientific development.  Through the looking glass from New Zealand, Australia’s investment in research of this sort highlights the value placed on science in society at a National level. We are also watching for the outcomes of the Inspiring Australia project with interest.


Christine Ross, Dr Suzette Searle and colleague


The conference organisers are to be congratulated on a substantial, stimulating and enjoyable programme, examining the theme from many different angles. As always, this event provided a forum to reflect and debate the issues of the day. Many will be looking forward to PCST 2016 in Istanbul.

Event review: CRCA conference—Innovative with Asia

Thank you to Adam Barclay for sharing his CRCA conference experiences with us!

The 2014 CRC* Association Conference was always going to be interesting, coming off the back of a federal budget that announced $80 million in cuts and the cancellation of the 17th selection round. A back-of-the-envelope estimate for the cost of bidding for a CRC is between $0.5 million and $1 million dollars in cash and in-kind (predominantly staff time). With the original round-17 deadline barely a few weeks after the announcement, several bid consortia were feeling understandably grumpy. Fortunately, existing CRCs were not affected.

Sure enough, the budget cuts dominated conversation despite – or perhaps especially because of – the presence of The Hon Bob Baldwin MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, who attended the conference dinner and presented the government’s STAR Award, which recognises CRCs for engagement with small and medium enterprises to drive innovation. (Congratulations to the CRC for Sheep Industry Innovation, which won the STAR Award for work that is helping farmers improve flock management.)

Nevertheless, the budget talk failed to drown out some excellent presentations on the conference theme of Innovating with Asia. Highlights included Dr Thomas Barlow, author of Between the Eagle and the Dragon, who spoke on ‘Global Trends in Innovation – The Shift to the Pacific’, and Peggy Lui, Chairperson of the Joint US–China Collaboration on Clean Energy (JUCCCE), who presented ‘A path forward in the battle for a liveable China’.

CRC CARE Managing Director and CEO, Prof Ravi Naidu, with The Hon Bob Hawke AC

CRC CARE Managing Director and CEO, Prof Ravi Naidu, with The Hon Bob Hawke AC

Another obvious highlight was the Ralph Slatyer Address on Science and Society – named after the late former chief scientist who was the chief architect of the CRC Program in the early 1990s. The 2014 speaker was none other than The Hon Bob Hawke AC, former Prime Minister and school friend of Mr Hawke at Perth Modern School. Indeed, it was under Mr Hawke’s leadership that the CRC Program was established.

As well as reflecting on the history and impact of CRCs, Mr Hawke used the address to put forward his controversial assertion that increased uptake of nuclear energy is essential in the face of climate change as a result of greenhouse gas emissions, and the proposal that Australia is the best option for solving the major challenge of a successful nuclear program – the safe storage of spent fuel. Mr Hawke’s full address is available via

Also of note, was the respect afforded to Mr Hawke from former political allies, particularly the Hon Tony Staley AO, CRC Association Chairman and former Fraser government minister. Introducing Mr Hawke, Mr Staley reflected that the Liberal Party was thwarted at several elections because the former PM was “too bloody popular”, and that regardless of one’s political stripes, Mr Hawke should be remembered as one of the country’s greatest leaders. In an era of at-all-costs political rancour it was a refreshing reminder that our elected leaders are more human than they sometimes appear.

*The CRC program is an Australian Government initiative that “supports industry-led research partnerships between publicly funded researchers, business and the community to address major long term challenges.” For more info, see

Stories from the Interview Booth—A disease of poverty

Stories from the Interview Booth showcases some of the most interesting tales presented at the #ASC14 Conference Interview Booth. Thank you to Michelle Wheeler for sharing these stories!

Since being diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease at the age of seven, Carlisa Willika has had four major heart operations.

The 13-year-old has a mechanical heart valve, takes daily blood-thinning medication, requires penicillin injections every 28 days and can’t play contact sport.

Sadly, rheumatic heart disease is preventable.

“It’s a disease of poverty so in most developed countries it doesn’t exist any more,” RHD Australia communications officer Emmanuelle Clarke said.

“In Australia rheumatic heart disease is most common among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and unfortunately most of the cases occur in children between five and 14 years old.”


Pic credit: An RHD Australia doctor supporting rheumatic heart disease control programs – Emmanuelle Clarke.

Ms Clarke faces a tough job communicating information about a disease that affects almost no one in big cities and developed areas.

Doctors and nurses coming from urban areas can misdiagnose rheumatic heart disease and the fact that most sufferers live in remote communities presents a unique set of challenges.

Acute rheumatic fever is caused by the streptococcus bacteria and enters the body through skin sores or the throat.

Ms Clarke said people usually suffer from aches and swollen joints and the disease causes permanent damage to the valves of the heart.

“Once someone has had an episode of acute rheumatic fever, they usually get it again and again unless they receive penicillin injections every 28 days,” she said.

“With each episode it causes more damage to the valves of the heart, which ends up being rheumatic heart disease.”

Ms Clarke said the condition is linked to poor hygiene and overcrowding in houses.

She said rheumatic heart disease can halve a person’s life expectancy and those dying were often young people in their most productive years.

“I’ve heard a story of a young man playing football in a remote community and dying in the middle of the football game due to a heart attack as a result of rheumatic heart disease,” Ms Clarke said.

According to an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, 98 per cent of cases of acute rheumatic fever in the Northern Territory are in people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent and 58 per cent occur in children between five and 14 years old.


Navigating the Animation Process (Part 1 of 5 – Initial Briefing)

Navigating Animation 1

From concept to screen, getting the best results.

by Adrian King (Animation/visual–fx producer, designer & artist)

I presented this material at a workshop at the ASC Conference 2014 in Brisbane. Some positive feedback has prompted me to write a condensed summary for ASC members who couldn’t attend. I hope you find it useful.

Creative processes can be described as the series of decisions required to turn something imagined into something tangible. This might sound like magic, and to some it is, but how do we learn to get the best results from the process? Every decision starts with a question, so the best way to get the best results from any process is to have a firm grasp of the language of the process. Fortunately we can break the process down into a bite size chunks that de-mystify or decode it. This is what we need, and exactly what I‘ll be doing with this series of articles on Navigating the Animation Process.

I like to break down the entire process into 5 stages, each of which has a number of key processes and assets. In this first article we’ll take a quick overview and then look closely at stage 1. Stay tuned for stages 2–5 in subsequent articles.

The Stages

  1. Initial Briefing
  2. Concept & Script Development
  3. Design
  4. Production
  5. Delivery

Stages 1–3 are your planning stages. Stage 4 is where most of the costs are incurred. It’s essential to get stages 1–3 right in order to avoid hidden costs or wasted time and energy down the track. Just like building a house.


  • Make the primary goal of the first 3 stages to ensure that only minor creative decisions remain to be made during stage 4.
  • The more major creative decisions remain once you enter stage 4, the higher the risk of disappointment!

Let’s have a deeper look at each of the 5 stages…

1. Initial Briefing

It all starts with an idea, a little spark of imagination, some neural activity forging new pathways in the brain. But how do we get this out of our heads and onto the screen? First step – put it on paper. You need to go on a quest! Ask yourself questions (the challenges) and speak, write, draw, or act out the answers. Go on – have fun with it!

The first thing I ask when someone enquires about producing some animation is how well defined is the brief? Most producers, including myself, will spend some time facilitating an enquiry process with a client to define these (free of charge) until we get to a point where we can provide an estimation or quotation of costs of the next three stages. We need the brief to be well defined in order to provide accurate costs. We love clients who come armed with well defined briefs!

The goal of this phase is to turn those sparks of imagination into a well-defined written brief consisting of as much of the following essential and preferred information as possible. A good animation producer will be able to help you achieve this if you don’t have it already.


  • Title (or working title)
  • 1 sentence description
  • 1 paragraph summary
  • 1 page synopsis
  • Audience/demographics
  • Purpose/intention
  • Date required by
  • Duration
  • Media platform(s) where it will be shown

Preferred (and sometimes essential)

  • List of core messages
  • A list of all stakeholders/agencies involved, and their interest in the outcome
  • Sequence/timing requirements (if available)
  • List of characters (if required)
  • Voice over and dialogue requirements (if required)
  • Related or associated campaigns
  • Any creative material (sketches, designs or writing) already developed for work (if available)

In most cases, armed with a well-defined written brief, we can then provide an accurate cost for the entire project (Stages 2, 3 & 4). However sometimes we need to complete stages 2 or 3 in order to provide an accurate quote for the stage 4 (Production). In that case we would provide an accurate quotation for stages 2 & 3 (Concept/script development & Design) and a close estimation for stage 4. After stage 2–3 that estimation can then be firmed up to provide an accurate quotation.

If the client provides a budget constraint, the results of stages 2 & 3 can be tailored to ensure the production costs match the budget, which can help speed up the process.


  • Write down all the essential information for the initial brief.
  • Include as much as possible of the preferred information.
  • Expect a good animation producer to help you during this stage by asking questions that will help you define the brief.


  • The written brief (aka the scope of work)

Next month we’ll continue the journey with stage 2 (Concept/Script Development).

Till then…

Adrian King (Animation/visual–fx producer, designer & artist)

(PS: You can send any questions you’d like answered about the animation process by logging in and leaving a comment below, or contact me directly at

Stories from the Interview Booth at #ASC14—They had to run, run, run…

Stories from the Interview Booth showcases some of the most interesting tales presented at the #ASC14 Conference Interview Booth. Thank you to Michelle Wheeler for sharing these stories!

If you were at the ASC14 conference dinner, you’ll know Scottish palaeontologist Professor Flint as a man of brilliant lyrics and tunes you can’t get out of your head.

You’ll know he’s a little eccentric, passionate about the Australian story and has the kind of energy that gets hundreds of science communicators on their feet doing dinosaur actions.

But you might not realise Professor Flint’s creator Michael Mills has been on real fossil digs, spent time hanging out with one of the inspirations for Jurassic Park’s Alan Grant character and calls some of Australia’s leading palaeontologists friends.

Oh, and he’s not actually Scottish.

Mills, who is the creative director of Heaps Good Productions, said the character of Professor Flint came about after he read Tim Flannery’s book The Future Eaters.

He was Australian right up until the final dress rehearsal when Mills walked past a puppet wearing a Tam o’ Shanter and realised that if Professor Flint was Scottish the song “rocks and bones” became “rrrocks ‘n’ boones”.

“All of sudden it became funnier,” Mills said.

“It also allowed Flint to be an outsider saying how cool this stuff is because at times in Australia we’ve got this cultural cringe where we’re a bit shy about raving about some of our stuff.”

If making Professor Flint Scottish was genius, what happened next was just brilliant good luck.

The SA Museum decided to host a palaeontology week, bringing Australia’s best palaeontologists to Mills’ home town of Adelaide just as he had created the character.

Professor Flint became an important part of the event and Mills got to hang out with some of the leading palaeontologists from Australia and around the world.

“For me, part of the buzz was the privilege that you have of sitting in a room at dinner at night with guys like (Jurassic Park inspiration) Phil Currie, (Flinders University Professor) Rod Wells and (Queensland Museum curator) Scott Hocknull and all of the Australian palaeos that have discovered all the stuff because in the end it’s their stories that I’m telling,” he said.

“And they impressed upon me the importance of getting the content right.”

Mills has since gone on fossil digs at Emu Bay, been shown museum collections closed to the public and sends his lyrics to palaeontologists to check he has them scientifically correct.

In the process he has amassed a depth of knowledge that leads many to mistake his alter ego for a real person.

“We constantly have people seeing Flint as real and that’s because I’ve learnt enough about the palaeo to be able to talk the stuff,” Mills said.

They had to run, run, run, they had to hit top speed,

They had to run, run, there was a dinosaur stampede.








Rules of order and the art of chairing

…with some words from recent ASC2014 conference session chairs…


(Modifed and re-used under Creative Commons License)

In the recent national conference for all those who make science accessible our session chairs had a lot on their plate.

As well as ensuring that more than five hundred delegates could move between over seventy individual sessions in a somewhat orderly fashion without stealing time from other sessions or from networking, they were also responsible for conducting each session in a way that delivered the greatest value to the gathered audience interested in the topic being discussed.

The role of a Chairperson can be traced back to the early development of procedure in parliament.

According to Robert’s Rules of Order,

“The distinguishing feature of the early parliaments was the fact that the barons of the Council were invited not only to express their opinions individually on matters laid before them by the king, but to discuss, with each other, the overall “state of the realm” —the business of “king and kingdom” rather than only “the king’s business”.
(see Introduction, xxxii)

The latter part of the sixteenth century through the seventeenth century “was a period of prolonged internal conflict over the Prerogatives of parliament—as opposed to those of the king—which stimulated an increased interest in procedure…” (see Introduction, xxxiii)

These early efforts to learn to rule democratically led to the development of a number of rules of order still in use by chairs today.

Points of order such as: ‘one subject at a time’, ‘alternation between opposite points of view’ and ‘refinement of the debate to the merits of the pending question’, help us to explore the “state of the realm” collectively with a view to discovering or creating new knowledge for the benefit of all.

Although our national conference is not exactly parliament, session chairs have a similar set of challenges.

We thought we’d ask three session chairs highly commended in recent conference feedback for a few pointers on how they do such a good job.

Will Grant:

“The only two things I’d say is

  • be religious on time (stop on time is *the* most important thing, start on time if at all possible. Reward those who came on time not those who turned up late), and
  • be human.”

Leonie Rennie:

“I think Will put his finger on the key issue: Timing. You need to agree with presenters before the session how long each will speak, in what order, when there will be questions and who will field them. Give signals (eg five fingers for five minutes left) to warn speakers when to stop.

Start on time, otherwise speakers are disenfranchised, and those who arrived on time are forced to wait.

Being human is a good idea, although it isn’t something I consciously think about. I will try harder.”

Sarah Lau:

“I would say one of my main things is to prioritise content. I know I will always have a few things more than I can get through so I like to know in advance what I can chop when I start to run short on time.

I agree with Leonie’s strategy and if I can, discuss time limitations and signals with speakers beforehand.

Will’s recommendation is also important – stopping on time, although I find the ‘organic’ conversations may carry on. I normally try to signal the end of proceedings, formally wrap up and then let people continue to chat if they so desire.”


A big THANK YOU to all our ASC2014 Conference Chairs and Facilitators for volunteering their time and expertise to facilitate the growth of new knowledge fairly and collectively.

See: Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, 11th edition (By Henry M. III Robert, Daniel H. Honemann, Thomas J. Balch).

President’s update

Thank you to our President A/Prof. Joan Leach for the March/April update.
Not that there was any doubt, but the variety of evaluations coming in on ASC14 shows that the conference was definitely seen as a success by our members. Interestingly, 61% of colleagues we met in Brisbane were at their first ASC conference. The top three words used to describe the conference were “interesting,”  “fun,” and “engaging.” Finally, the nominations for ‘most useful session’ went on for 3 pages and name-checked just about everyone! Of course, we’ve learned some things, too. Our members want more professional development sessions, more time for networking (we are communicators, after all), are predictably savvy receivers of communication advice and don’t like to be told how to do it without evidence for why it works, and need fruit and not just cupcakes to function at conferences. So, the conference team and Executive are working through this data to help plan future conferences and events…and professional development sessions.
This month, I’m trying to get across the range of activities that are going on nationally and work with our volunteers to find ways we can support more of the activities our members want. I do want to send out a general ‘save the date’ invitation for 2 October for an “International Roundtable on Science Communication” to be held at Customs House in Brisbane in conjunction with the International Communication Association. I’ll send more about this out via SCOPE in due course, but this event is an attempt to highlight science communication activity in the Asia-Pacific region and Australia’s leading place in it.
Finally, I’ve had more than a few conversations in the last several weeks to bring me down from the conference (sugar) high. As the next Federal budget approaches some science communicators find themselves and their work not only under scrutiny but under pressure and threat. I’ve heard a range of interpretations of ‘what might happen’ (and what has happened) but I’m keen that, as a community, ASC supports our members and affirms the value of what we do. As ever, I’m keen to hear from members about how ASC might respond to our changing context and clearly assert our value.

#ASC14 wrap up

Thank you to Claire Harris for preparing the ASC2014 wrap up.

Well it was an amazing, full on four days for the Australian Science Communicators National Conference held in Brisbane at the beginning of February.

The Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre welcomed 372 delegates through the doors.

The Sunday Storytelling of Science event — featuring Prof Peter Adams, Prof Tim Flannery, Prof Jenny Graves, Lynne Malcolm, Dr Jesse Shore and hosted by Dr Andrew Stephenson — attracted 266 people in the audience.

The conference featured more than 65 sessions from plenary talks in the auditorium to workshops in the smaller concurrent rooms, speed networking and an Australian and New Zealand breakfast.

We had many lovely volunteers who helped the event run smoothly and this included four reporters/bloggers and people helping to livestream the event to 13 subscribers from around Australia and one in New York.

Some key links to re-live or explore what happened:

Media and other stories:


Post-conference surveys are always interesting and we know from past surveys and feedback, gathered over the years, that we can expect a range of opinions. This is understandable when you consider the diversity in job roles, experience, needs and interests. So far, we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback, with people telling us the conference was extremely valuable to them. A couple of people told us that it was their best conference experience ever (and they’ve been to more than a dozen in their careers). Wow.

The survey recently closed and so we will be busily combing through all the feedback and passing it on to those who will benefit in coming weeks, once all the data is in. However, we thought it might be timely to share just a few of the comments with you below.

If you feel that you could have offered a better session than what you saw, or an important aspect of the science communication landscape was missed, then the ASC would love to hear from you.

ASC2014 Program Committee

Any comments about the professional development sessions?

We encouraged a range of PD sessions with a whole stream devoted to them. Some hit the mark and some didn’t. The ASC would be very interested to learn more about what PD and training needs you feel you need to support you in your work, so please get in touch.

  • “The editing sessions were excellent – I really enjoyed the little games and exercises and the presenter was very knowledgeable.”
  • “Mind-blowing”
  • “Hands-on, interactive, information-rich sessions were valuable and I got a lot out of them. It is easy to tell the well-prepared sessions from the ones with no content at all to those that were mere presentations. More activities that really make you think and learn are most effective for these PD sessions.”

What were the best aspects of the conference for you?

Networking of course came through as the best aspect of the conference. Some of the comments:

  • “Feeling and being part of the Australian Science Communicator’s community – the opportunity to meet friends and acquaintances and make new ones, and to find out about science communication activities and research around Australia.”
  • “Sense of community spirit. Presence of younger, less jaded folks.”
  • “Networking and the opportunity to exchange ideas with peers.”
  • “Learning about all aspects of science communication from all over the country. Networking opportunities.”
  • “The Plenary sessions with Drew Berry and Lloyd were fantastic and inspiring.”
  • “Hearing creative ideas put into practise and seeing the evaluations of how these have worked.”
  • “Thanks again for one of, if not the, best and inspiring professional conferences I have attended.”


Some speakers rocked attendees socks off and some need to develop further (including improving their presentation skills). Some people said that the sessions were great, but they did want (or were expecting) something more or different. All feedback is valuable so thanks again. Some comments:

  • “Ian Lowe was fantastic!”
  • “I will never look at WWE wrestling the same way again!”
  • “The vast majority of the sessions I attended (if not all) had really good speakers and were really engaging and informative sessions.”