Updates from the ASC AGM 2013 – minutes and amendments to the Constitution

The draft minutes from the 2013 AGM can now be viewed via this link:

131129 ASC AGM 2013 Draft Minutes

The 2013 AGM voted in favour of the proposed amendment to the Constitution regarding two additions to address the Not-For-Profit status of the organisation. The updated Constitution showing all the changes since it was adopted in 2003 can be viewed via this link:

Constitution amended 2006, 07, 08, 10, 11, 12, 13 with wording as of 29 Nov 2013

Sarah Lau
National Secretary

From the President this month …

As 2013 starts to accelerate, I’m noticing that these are increasingly interesting times to be involved in the wide world of science communication. Doubly so if you’re a member of the ASC.

In 2012 the association was regularly invited to confer with other science and science communication related bodies, and if the first two months of 2013 are anything to go by, this is just going to continue. I take this as a sign of a growing ASC public profile, and also of an increasing awareness ‘out there’ of science communication more broadly. It also highlights to me that professionalising our organisation has never been more timely.

On that, we have confirmed and installed our two VPs now and have a clearer idea of their main portfolios (though the names of these may still need a tweak). Will Grant has agreed to take the lead on running the processes that will lead us down the professionalization road. I was tempted to call his portfolio VP (Black Ops), but something more like “Charter and membership” will probably better provide the necessary gravitas the process and position  warrants.

Claire Harris has confirmed she will take on the other VP position overseeing communication and marketing, a role for which she has a huge amount experience, drive and commitment. I’m delighted these two fine people agreed to step up: this will be great for us all!

Moving to my other ASC hobby-horse, one of my missions as president is to get the ASC more firmly entrenched in the public arena as an organisation. We have many high profile members, but the organisation itself is not yet the ‘go to’ place for sci comm related mattes that I suspect it could be.

To help realise this, I’d like to ask all of you to keep your eyes open for current or impending issues you think might be suitable grist for media releases and comment from the ASC. If you see anything, please send me a heads-up, a link, or a short polemic. Of course I can’t promise that the things people send through will automatically go out under the ASC moniker: some matters will be more suitable than others. But the more material and ideas you send, the more opportunities we will have to positively embed the ASC in minds of those beyond the science communication community.

Onward, upward and outward!




Dr Rod Lamberts

National President

Australian Science Communicators


Member Profile: Niall Byrne

Niall Byrne

Niall is a science writer and publicist based in Melbourne. The focus of his work is helping scientists bring their work into the public space through the media, events and festivals.

He also guides science organisations in the development of communication strategies to reach their stakeholders, customers and the public.

Some highlights of his work include:

  • a parliamentary forum on biosecurity (September 2008)
  • conference director, 5th World Conference of Science Journalists, Melbourne 2007
  • story-telling and publicity for the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes (2004 to 2008), for the Eureka Prizes (2003-2006) and the Clunies Ross Foundation (1998-2004);
  • science communication advice and media relations for the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation (2006-2007);
  • development and management of the Fresh Science program (1998-);
  • a series of supplements for Nature (2003 to 2006);
  • re-building the public profile of CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory (1988-1998);
  • CSIRO’s communication response to disease emergencies such as equine morbillivirus, bat lyssavirus and pilchard deaths;
  • CSIRO’s communication response to the escape of rabbit calicivirus from Wardang Island.

Brought up in Hadleigh, Suffolk in the UK, Niall completed a biology degree at Durham University before running away to the Antipodes.

Thanks Niall for providing this information


ASC branch events 2012

The ASC branches were again very active in 2012, holding 42 events across Australia. Members were able to attend all events for free or at substantial discounts.

The pdf (link below) has information about each of these events and provides a bank of ideas for those of you wanting to organise an event.

Jesse Shore

ASC branch events 2012, for posting

ASC constitution – includes amendments up to 27 November 2012

The 2012 AGM voted in favour of the proposed amendment to the Constitution regarding a detail of Corporate membership. The updated Constitution showing all the changes since it was adopted in 2003  can be viewed in this link.

Constitution amended 2006, 07, 08, 10, 11, 12, with wording as of 27 Nov 2012

Jesse Shore

Member profile – Rod Lamberts, incoming ASC National President

My Bio-festo (part bio, part manifesto)

By Rod Lamberts

The first time I heard the term ‘science communication’ was 16 years ago. I was reading an article about water quality in the Canberra Times and I remember thinking, I’m really not interested in water quality, but that was still a damn good read. The by-line said the author was a science communication grad student at some place called the Centre for Public Awareness of Science at the ANU. I thought I knew the ANU pretty well, but I’d never heard of this ‘CPAS’ place. It sounded interesting, so I decided to investigate.

A few phone calls, an interview, some meticulous bureaumancy, a PhD in science communication, 15 years making a nuisance of myself and boom, I’m deputy director of one of the oldest, largest and most diverse academic science communication centres in the world. I now get to teach, learn, research, offer advice, cast opinions, mingle with people I’d never dreamed I would meet, travel the world, and have some of the most inspiring (also sometimes confronting) conversations of my life. And I get to call it all ‘work’. I have to say, it’s not a bad gig.

Before coming to sci-comm, I wandered through the academic worlds of psychology and medical anthropology. Both very interesting and fun, but neither fully worked for me. I also tolerated a suit job for an entire 7 months (meh…), and before that, spent a year and a half in the bush making corporate types talk-and-play-nice with each other.

I’ve been a bouncer, a psych research consultant, pumped petrol, sold army surplus and even used to be a pretty flash grill cook. But the most fun I’ve had, and the most consistently interested I’ve been, has been since I started playing in the science communication space.

But enough on my background, I’m keen to consider here what actually is in the science communication space.

We all know sci-comm is a complex and diverse animal. A science communicator might be a scientist, a journalist, a performer, a researcher, a film-maker, an evaluator, a trainer, a writer, a policy-player, an author, a commentator or a teacher. We might serve in the public, private, or non-government sectors. We could work in a one-person outfit or a large corporation. We are practitioners, theoreticians and everything in between. In short, we are a bloody diverse mob.

So if science communication is so broad, what then does it mean to be ‘a science communicator’? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. In fact, I’m not sure that trying to define it by what we do is the best way to go. In my 15 years of science communicatistry, the main thing I’ve seen uniting people in this broad church is a flock of attitudes rather than any single, or unique, practice.

We seem to have a positive – but still critical – view of science and its benefits. We have an abiding fascination with new knowledge, a passion to share what we know with others, and a desire to make a positive difference. We want our world to be driven by evidence-based ideas, evidence which includes social and cultural morés as well as facts gleaned in the lab.

In short, I think we are united more by ethos than activity.

What we also share is a professional or personal stake in a world where science communication – however defined or practiced – is a term now in common use. It is increasingly being seen as a fundamental part of human scientific endeavour.

This suggests to me that the time has never been more ripe for us to take stock of what the ASC and its members represent, and how we might evolve.

When I nominated for the presidency, I was especially driven to do so because I believe that it’s time to take the next step as an association: it’s time to professionalise.

A fitting first step for this will be to agree on a code of practice (and/or ethics) which reflects the ethos we share as members of the association. To do this, we will have to have some robust, inclusive discussion about who we are, what we are, and what we embody.

Once agreed, a code of practice plants our banner. It shows the outside world what the ASC and its members stand for, and acts as a yardstick against which we can critique our own actions. It’s going to take a while and is bound to be a little contentious at times, but I think it will be worth the growing pains.

More soon!


Anyone who has ideas, concerns or questions about professionalising the ASC, please do get in touch with me rod.lamberts@anu.edu.au


2012 AGM – summary of outcomes

Dear ASC members,

The 2012 AGM, held on 27 November, elected Dr Rod Lamberts, of CPAS at ANU, as the next President of the ASC. I congratulate Rod on taking over the reins of our Association and I thank Associate Professor Nancy Longnecker, of UWA, for also nominating for the position. The membership had two excellent experienced people to choose between and it was a tight election result.

The AGM passed the proposed amendment to the Constitution. From today, Corporate Members can nominate more than ten staff to their membership at a pro-rata rate. They still retain the option to take out multiple Corporate Memberships.

There was useful points raised about the Association’s finances, the running of the next conference, and the details of the General Manager’s position. Informed by these discussions, the meeting authorised the National Council to consider raising the annual membership fee (within a reasonable amount) to cover anticipated increases in running costs.

The meeting also directed the National Council to further develop the draft professional code of ethics, to have it mention global responsibilities, and for the final version to be voted on at a General Meeting during the year.

It was good to see a large numbers of members taking part in the AGM. We had more than 20 members attend the meeting and around 40 proxies.

A lot of discussion was packed into the 80 minutes of the meeting (including the video cross to Guy Nolch to get a word from our Unsung Hero winner). The official matters was followed by a science trivia contest, run by David Ellyard and ably assisted by Robbie Mitchell, the head of the SE-Qld branch. The only thing I’ll add about this fast paced, hotly competed event is that the team which included Rod, Sarah Lau (our National Secretary) and me did not win. So much for Executive clout.

The meeting marked several changes in the National Council and National Executive teams:
New President – Rod Lamberts
New immediate past-president – Jesse Shore
New Treasurer – Peter Wheeler

We thank Tim Thwaites, who now steps down as the past-president, David Ellyard, who retires after 11 years as Treasurer, and Rob Morrison, who has been a great contributor for years as Vice-President.

I thank Sarah Lau for her work as National Secretary and Claire Harris for her contribution to both national committees. Both Sarah and Claire may continue in their roles pending decisions by the new President and incoming National Council on various positions.

I also thank James Hutson, our webmaster for more than four years, who stepped down from his busy post in November. We are in the process of seeking a new webmaster.

Kali Madden and Sally Miles continue as Executive Officer and Editor of Scope respectively. We are fortunate to have such energetic, committed and effective people in these roles.

I’ll still be involved on the National Committees, have some projects to wrap up, and will make the odd squeak via cyberspace, but otherwise Rod now shoulders the brunt of communicating with the ‘tribe’.

It’s been an interesting three years.

All the best,
Jesse Shore


ASC President – roles and duties under new arrangement

The ASC is in a period of healthy change. An important new step is the previously announced intention that we will seek to have a part-time General Manager to look after a range of externally-directed activities.

The National Executive has been considering how the new appointment will affect the roles and duties of key positions in the Association.

The final contracts for the General manager and Executive Officer will define their positions so that all main players will know their boundaries within our evolving Association.

Just in time for the AGM, the National Executive has written a short duty statement to guide the activities of the new President. The wording of the following brief list of roles and duties is consistent with the Constitution, which only loosely defines the President’s role.


  1. To provide leadership to the ASC, particularly in the framing of policy by the National Council and National Executive.
  2. To chair meetings of the National Council and National Executive and all general meetings of the ASC, wherever possible.
  3. To work with the General Manager, the Executive Officer, the Secretary and other office holders in the framing of agendas for all meetings.
  4. To supervise the work of the General Manager and the Executive Officer, and support them in the performance of their duties.
  5. To act as spokesperson for the ASC as required.
  6. To sign all agreements and contracts on behalf of the ASC

Jesse Shore
National President

ASC Member Profile: Dr Mona Akbari

Dr Mona Akbari
Communications and Media Officer, Australian Academy of Science

I wanted to do scientific research since I was twelve years old! I marvelled at the process of discovery and spent hours looking at the stars, studying ants and tracing the patterns of leaves and generally poring over my older brothers’ science books. Every time I read in a science textbook that ‘we don’t know the reason this happens’ or ‘science has not yet resolved this question’, I would get excited about discovering the answer. This launched me into over twenty years of focused work and study leading me into an Honours degree in biochemistry and a Doctorate in molecular genetics.

It was towards the end of my PhD that I got the first inkling that perhaps I didn’t fancy a lifetime of working on a narrow area of science. I certainly did not look forward to the prospect of constantly juggling grant applications with the ‘publish or perish’ drive. But I didn’t give up! I was determined to finish my doctorate and ‘have a go’ at research in the real world. After all, if there was one thing I had learnt from watching other students was that no-one really wants to write-up their thesis and pretty much looks for every excuse to procrastinate.

It was while I was doing my post-doctoral research in Canberra that I heard about the courses offered at Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at the ANU. I decided to investigate and had an epiphany! I realised that while I enjoyed doing the actual science experiments, I equally enjoyed explaining its intricacies to others and sharing the big picture of its potential impact on society.

I enrolled for a course in science communication at the ANU, edging into greater communication roles while also taking time off to have two children. I wrote articles for newsletters and magazines explaining scientific research findings, I designed websites and wrote content to appeal to wider audiences, I designed and wrote promotional material and I prepared talks and speeches, while still keeping one hand in research.  Eventually, I decided it was time to take the plunge into science communication and took on my current role at the Australian Academy of Science.

The Academy brings together Australia’s leading scientists to recognise research excellence, advise government, foster international scientific relations, promote science education and public awareness of science. The Academy was founded by Royal Charter in 1954 by Australian Fellows of the Royal Society of London and currently has over 450 elected Fellows.

My role is to promote public awareness of the scientific research carried out by our Fellows, publicise the Academy’s activities and events, and attract media and community attention to our policy submissions to Government, our scientific conferences, and our science education programs. No two days are the same, being interspersed with writing media releases, media liaison, writing articles for newsletters, updating the website news, organising and ensuring maximum attendance at our public lecture series on topical scientific issues, writing speeches, taking and sourcing photographs, recording of interviews of our scientific heroes for posterity and most recently engaging with younger audiences through social media.

I really enjoy the diversity of this ever changing role and how it’s evolved from more traditional communication tools to the more creative social media avenues. It really is the best of both worlds for me in that I get to read and talk about science discoveries every day and also contribute to how this science shapes our society.

Thanks Mona for taking the time to write this for ASC members. 

Time to hand over the ASC Presidential reins

I am coming to the end of my third one-year term as President. It has been a busy three years and I feel the time is right for someone else to take on the leadership position of the ASC.

The ASC is now busier than ever and the commitments on the President’s time have grown apace as tasks have become more varied and complex. The Executive has recognised this and is seeking to appoint a part-time General Manager to take on many time consuming aspects of the association. This will enable the President to focus on developing policy and to maintain an overview of operations.

I will be stepping into Tim Thwaites shoes as I take over the Past-president’s role. This position was created a few years ago to ensure the continuity of corporate knowledge in the national committees. In this role Tim has contributed, like Jenni Metcalfe before him, to strategic decision making and to helping guide the development of our national conference.

It has been my privilege to serve the ASC for three years as President. I look forward to continued involvement with the ASC in my new role and to helping the new President settle into his/her busy position.

Jesse Shore
ASC President