Member update: attending the 2023 PCST Venice Symposium

A/Prof Jen Martin, ASC national Vice President

At the end of September I had the great pleasure of attending the PCST Venice Symposium Science communication education and training: Challenges and strategies for research and academic institutions. Venice is a long way to go for a three-day symposium but having never come across an event before focused exactly on what my team does (teaching communication skills to scientists in an academic institution), my strong suspicion was that it would be worth making the effort to attend. And that definitely turned out to be the case. It was an absolute joy to spend three days with roughly 100 people from around the world who are deeply passionate about science communication education and training.

Many of the 100 symposium attendees in the beautiful courtyard at Venice International University on the island of San Servolo.

The symposium
took place at Venice International University which is located on San Servolo
island, about 10 minutes by boat (vaparetto) from Saint Mark’s Square in Venice.
The island is tiny and very beautiful and used to be an asylum. These days it
has a restaurant, café, lots of accommodation for students and other university
visitors and a variety of teaching and meeting spaces. It also has some
beautiful gardens and one of my favourite things was seeing people arrive each
morning on the early vaparetto to walk their dogs in the gardens – presumably
because there’s so little green space in Venice itself.

The first day of the symposium included a number of
keynote presentations and roundtables including discussions about what research
and academic institutions are doing to support researchers’ science
communication and how these institutions can integrate science communication
research and evaluation insights into practice and training. Day one finished
with a visit to the glorious San Zaccaria church in Venice and a fascinating
session on ‘The Art of Conversation and
Conversation in Art’.

On the next day we broke into
four working groups, each focused on a different aspect of the broader topic:

Supporting researchers’ public communication;

Recruiting science communication professionals and developing their

Evaluating and improving the quality of research communication;

Using science communication research results in institutional activities.

Each working group spent part of their time hearing presentations from members of the group and part of the time in discussion with the goal of coming up with key recommendations on their topic. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to share my story of founding the science communication teaching program at the University of Melbourne including what my team does and some of the things we’ve learned along the way about how to establish and grow such a program. We also heard from many other people involved with amazing training programs and it was interesting (and more than a little sad) to discover just how common and widespread an experience it is for science communication education, training and research to be undervalued and insufficiently supported in universities and research institutions around the world.

The Australian contingent at PCST Venice (L to R): Toss Gascoigne (ANU), Jen Martin (University of Melbourne), Tullio Rossi (Animate your Science) and Jenni Metcalfe (Econnect Communication).

On the last day each group presented their
recommendations, and we had a fantastic whole-group discussion about our
conclusions and what useful steps we could take to improve science
communication education and training. The result is a statement to leaders of
academic and research institutions worldwide which highlights the need for research and academic
institutions to consider the strategic value of the public communication of
science, and to mobilise support for these activities. The statement is going
to be useful for anyone seeking institutional or local support for science
communication and I’ll share with our ASC membership when it’s published.

Aside from the
stunning location, of course the best thing about any conference is the people
you meet and PCST Venice was no exception. In addition to catching up with some
other wonderful Australian scicomm people (Jenni, Toss and Tullio), I met so
many other scicomm educators, practitioners and researchers from around the
world, many of whom I’ll definitely stay in contact with. Science communication
education is a small field and I feel incredibly grateful to have had the
opportunity to connect with so many others who do work I think is exceptionally
important and valuable.

Keen to study SciComm at uni?

Thank you to Claire Harris for the update. Have you been wondering where you could study science communication at university? Maybe some soon-to-be school leavers are interested in exploring the mix of science and people that sci comm offers? A number of universities in Australia offer subjects and qualifications focused on science communication. These universities include:
  • Australian National University
  • University of New South Wales
  • The University of Queensland
  • University of Western Australia
  • University of Adelaide.
Interestingly, the Centre for Public Awareness of Science is the longest running science communication academic centre in Australia, offering its first graduate diploma in 1986. Do you know of any others that we’ve missed? Have you found any Massive Open Online Courses in sci comm that you’d care to recommend? Comment below. (See an earlier article in Scope about MOOCs.) Members may also be interested in checking out the discussion on the public LinkedIn site following a question from an undergraduate science student about what qualifications are needed to be considered a science communicator.

SCREN: Science Communication Research and Education Network

Special thanks to Sean Perera from ANU for this contribution.

SCREN is a network of science communication researchers and educators in Australia, and aims to enable members to take part in collaborative science communication research and share best practices in science communication training at tertiary institutions.

Inaugurated in June 2007 under the auspices of the Director of the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at The Australian National University in Canberra, SCREN’s current membership includes academics from thirteen Australian universities. The Network has been successful in attracting participation from The University of Auckland and the University of Otago in New Zealand.

In April 2011, a collective body of members met over two days at the SCREN Symposium in Canberra to deliberate future directions for science communication research and tertiary training, further to outcomes of the Inspiring Australia Conference (more about that later).

If you would like participate in SCREN or have any question please e-mail here.

Dr Sean Perera

Associate Researcher
Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science
The Australian National University

ASCSA event: Flinders Centre for Science Education 18/10

18 October 2010
6:31 pmto8:31 pm

Australian Science Communicators SA (ASCSA) Event

The Flinders Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century

Speakers: Bob Buxton and Mark Ward MC- Richard Musgrove

Date: Monday October 18th, 2010 Time: 6:30pm – 8:30pm Venue: RiAus, Science Exchange, Exchange Place, Adelaide

Cost: ASCSA members: free* (see why & how to join below) Non-members: $10 Non-member students: $5 Bookings:

Event Summary “The Flinders Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century (Science 21) works to support decision-making in science education by policy makers, educational leaders, industry and others. Together with professional educators the Centre also draws on research evidence to help generate new ideas and turn these into real innovation through proof-of-concept pilot programs. The vision that runs through all of this work is the improvement of young people’s ability to make the most of the economic educational and social and cultural opportunities that are likely to be available in the future. It is all about creating capacity in a changing world.” Sci 21 Centre 2010 Tonight we will hear from Sci 21’s Mark Ward and Bob Buxton who will cover the Centre’s background, current work and challenges. Mark and Bob will also fill us in on their respective roles, and I’m sure much discussion will follow.