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.

Opening doors

Thank you to Sean Perera for the Inspiring Australia update.

The Opening Doors project, as it name suggests, gives otherwise unengaged and marginalised communities access to science and technology (S&T) in Australia. In particular, Opening Doors promotes awareness about S&T studies and careers among young (15–25 yo) humanitarian immigrants currently resettled regionally in Australia.

Mainstream scientific engagement in Australia is a novelty for this audience. Many of them also hold misconceptions about entitlement, stemming from experiences in their countries of origin. These negative early experiences have been anecdotally found to influence their perceptions about life in Australia, leading to views that S&T are elite study and career pathways, to which they do not necessarily have access.

Armed with an Inspiring Australia Unlocking Australia’s Potential Grant in 2012, Opening Doors pioneered a series of science communication activities for humanitarian immigrant youths resettled in regional NSW. The participants visited S&T centres in and around Canberra, including Geoscience Australia, Mt. Stromlo Observatory, Questacon, and CSIRO. They were introduced to first-hand experiences by S&T professionals, many of whom had immigrated to Australia. A wide variety of information including careers expos, Shell-Questacon Science Circus workshops, talks at the National Museum of Australia and the Museum of Australian Democracy were offered to the participants to experience the diversity of S&T opportunities available to them in Australia.

An important achievement in the first year of Opening Doors was to enrol one young man in a university science course leading to a career in medicine. This required the young man to re-embrace his passion for university education, despite numerous bureaucratic and cultural setbacks he faced when he arrived in Australia. Other young people in his community took his lead, and nine others are presently reading for university qualifications in nursing, horticulture, and computer technology.

A recent Opening Doors participant survey found that as many as sixty percent of the young people, who originally participated in the Opening Doors project, had positive views about S&T opportunities in Australia. This is a significant outcome, given that a majority of them were ambivalent, uninterested and even fearful when asked two years ago about S&T careers and studies in Australia. Their changed outlook was celebrated earlier this year by embarking on a partnership with the Atlas of Living Australia, through the QuestaBird citizen science project – where they proudly identified themselves as active contributors to S&T information in Australia.

To learn more about Opening Doors visit the project website openingdoors.anu.edu.au

 

Inspiring Australia update: Travelling WA with Kerry Mazzotti

WA’s Inspiring Australia officer shares what inspires her, advice for science communicators and why she sent a scientist travelling the State in a white campervan with 18 replica skulls.

Kerry Mazzotti

Inspirer of Western Australians, Kerry Mazzotti

A love of meeting people from different backgrounds and a bug for travel are surely essential requirements for Kerry Mazzotti’s challenge of coordinating science engagement across the biggest state in Australia.

Kerry is one of eight state and territory Inspiring Australia Officers who support science communication and engagement projects, help them gain publicity and enable local collaboration.

What is your background?

I did my undergraduate degree in Environmental Science. I realised pretty quickly that I was more interested in talking about research than conducting it so went on to be a Science Circus Scholar in the Questacon Science Circus. After completing a Graduate Diploma in Science Communication as part of that course, I stayed on with the Questacon Outreach team for another couple of years presenting their careers program to high school students right across the country, from Nhulunbuy to Nannup and Rockhampton to Renmark.

With a full blown case of the travel bug, I set off for North America and landed a position in the Community Engagement team at Science World in Vancouver, once again travelling to regional areas across the province to enthuse people about science, this time with the Scientists in Schools program.

With a few detours and pit-stops along the way, I am now based at Scitech in Perth, still focussed on community science engagement including National Science Week and the Inspiring Australia Initiative.

What was your first job?

Check-out chick at Franklins.

What inspires you?

I am continually inspired by nature, and the scientists that study it. Nature was the reason I got into science in the first place, and I believe this is the gateway for many people. Science is about asking how the world works, and before you start asking the bigger questions, you start by asking questions inspired by nature like ‘Why does it smell nice after it rains?’ ‘Why are the sky and ocean blue?’ ‘Why do all of these animals only come out at night?’ And suddenly, before you know, you are a science enthusiast.

What Inspiring Australia initiatives are happening in your area?

In WA, Inspiring Australia supports Regional Community Science Engagement Groups in 6 regional hubs across the state, including Broome, Geraldton, Bunbury, Albany, Esperance and Kalgoorlie, with key individuals and organisations being supported in Karratha.

In this way, a year round calendar of science engagement events, relevant to local communities, is being developed. Examples include the Esperance Science Engagement Group recently running an event based on the science of brewing beer in a local cafe, and a presentation by an archaeologist at Karratha Public Library. These events are put on by the community and for the community, making them popular and relevant. For more examples of past events see www.snwa.net.au/-events.html.

Is there a success story or two that stand out?

Inspiring Australia in WA supported facial anthropologist Dr Susan Hayes to travel the state and share her passion for forensics and anthropology.

Dr Hayes loaded up 18 replica skulls into her white campervan and headed north. While on the road she gave free public talks in libraries, community centres, schools and caravan parks, based on both the forensic and anthropological sides of her work.

She also ran drawing and clay modelling workshops inviting participants into the world of facial approximation.

As well as encouraging our regional science engagement groups to run their own events on the ground, it’s great to be able to link them up with travelling experts such as Dr Susan Hayes. It provides the groups with an extra resource, and also provides the expert with networks in the regional centres. We have also done a similar thing with innovation guru, Dr Ed Sobey, and Whale Shark conservation and education group ECOCEAN.

This one really stands out because Dr Hayes is an inspirational scientist and researcher but also passionate about sharing her science with others. Luckily for us, she is also a keen traveller!

What are the science strengths of your state or territory?

WA is strong across many fields. One example includes astronomy, with our involvement in the Square Kilometre Array, a mega science project aiming to build the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope.

Tell us about your favourite science-related TV show or movie

Does Breaking Bad count?

What are you currently reading?

I just finished a novel called Feed, by M.T. Anderson describing a future where we all have implants to connect us to a Facebook like program that connects us, through status updates and advertising, to the world around us. I love science fiction when it looks at the social implications of advances in technology.

What is the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is getting to interact with people from a broad cross section of the community with one thing in common, an interest in science. Whether it be a keen librarian interested in astronomy, an enthusiastic school teacher fascinated by physics or an eager community volunteer who is a budding botanist, my favourite thing is to help them share their passion with others. Curiosity is contagious!

If you could give science communicators one piece of advice, what would it be?

Talk to the people around you. While science communication is a relatively new field, there are still so many resources and so much experience out there for you to tap into. That way you can expend your energy on new and creative ways to engage people in science, rather than re-inventing the wheel.

Read more Questions and Answers with Kerry at the Inspiring Australia website.

Inspiring Australia

#ASC14 Podcasts – Claire Harris At The ASC National Conference

Claire Harris is the conference convenor for the Australian Science Communicators National conference for 2014.
Claire is a science communicator specialising in agriculture, environment and natural resource management science and technology. She’s worked as a scientist, project manager and communication specialist with government and research agencies in Australia and the United Kingdom.
After joining the Australian Science Communicators in 2005, Claire has been active in local branches and National Executive, and was National President for part of 2013.Claire joined CSIRO in 2009 to work in science communication for climate adaptation, environment and agriculture and was seconded to the Australian Government Department of Agriculture to assist with carbon farming communication in 2012. She’s just one of the many great people you can meet at the Australian Science Communicators conference in Brisbane, for 2014.

#ASC14 Past (current) presidents – Joan Leach

Thank you to Simon Chester for providing us with this president’s article.

With 2014 marking the 20th anniversary of the Australian Science Communicators (ASC), it’s a worthwhile time to talk to some of its past presidents, and find out some of their fondest memories, what drew them to science communication, what the big issues where back when they were steering the ship, and what issues remain now and into the future.

joan leach

Joan Leach is the current President of ASC, and Convenes the Science Communication Program at the University of Queensland. She is also Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Deputy Head of the School of English, Media Studies, and Art History at UQ.

Joan believes that there are 2 sets of issues for Science Communication as a field of research and professional practice.

“First, there are the communication issues that arise because of the directions that science is taking. So, climate adaptation research, neuroscience, particle physics, and the wide diversity of research challenges science communicators to come up with strategies for dissemination, for engagement.

“But also, there are a range of issues that emerge about science communication itself. Should it be a field of advocacy or/and criticism about the role of science? When is communication most effective? How do we evaluate our effectiveness? To be a successful science communicator, you need to engage both these issues and that’s a big ask—basically, you need to be a reflexive practitioner.

Likewise, the issues facing science communication in the future will also fall into the two camps of research and communication.

“On the issues that research brings to the table, climate adaptation and our post- or trans-human future that I think are the biggies. And, they are related issues. With climate change a reality, alongside the real changes technology can bring to our brains and the rest of our bodies, there are some serious questions about what the future of humanity looks like. This also covers questions of our relation to each other and the planet. Framing these questions is a huge task.  And these ‘big’ questions relate to how we see smaller research results and communicate those. And, if we want to upstream some of these questions and engage larger audiences before crises loom even larger, we have a huge task in front of us.

“On the communication front, I think questions of interdisciplinarity are increasingly important. By that, I mean synthesising insights from across the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. A lot of lipservice is given to interdisciplinarity, but to really achieve it is a huge challenge that includes synthesis, but also knowing when approaches from one discipline are compatible (or not) with those from another.”

Joan is optimistic about her time ahead as ASC president.

“I’d love to look back at this time and see the growth of the ASC and an increase in the organisations relevance to the big questions of science in Australia and the region.”

Science communication has always been an interest of Joan’s, and her broad training complements it well.

“I’ve always been drawn to science communication because of the mix of intellectual and practical challenge directed at things that matter. Also, this field means that I don’t have to ‘turn off’ bits of my brain; science communication is creative, critical, analytic, and practically challenging. In my education, I’ve formally studied biology, biophysics, philosophy, rhetoric, classics, and history and philosophy of science. And they all matter to science communication (if you buy me a drink, I can tell you how!).

#ASC14 Past presidents – Jesse Shore

Thank you to Simon Chester for providing us with this president’s article.

With 2014 marking the 20th anniversary of the Australian Science Communicators (ASC), it’s a worthwhile time to talk to some of its past presidents, and find out some of their fondest memories, what drew them to science communication, what the big issues where back when they were steering the ship, and what issues remain now and into the future.

Jesse shore

Dr Jesse Shore is the Principal of Prismatic Sciences, and was ASC president from December 2009 to November 2012. He noted that science was becoming increasingly politicised during his tenure.

“In 2010 the ASC welcomed the increased emphasis by the federal government to engage all Australians with science. In stating their intentions they recognised that effective science communication would play a central role to achieve their goals.

“Science and technology became increasingly politicised as diverse commentators and various experts took opposing sides on issues such as climate change, stem cell research, nanotechnology, medical practices and other usual suspects. Many science communicators found that their usual approach often couldn’t compete with the emotional rhetoric of high profile, but misinformed, voices.

“Other influences during 2010-2012 were the rapidly evolving forms of data visualisation, apps and games and their increasing use as a tool to communicate science. Social media continued to grow in importance, and the NBN offered future hope – but not short term use.

“I’m pleased that [during my time as president] the ASC developed increasingly closer working ties with the Inspiring Australia Strategy of the federal government. The ASC partnered with various groups to carry out projects funded by Inspiring Australia.”

Dr Shore believes that technology will shape science communication in the future.

“Science communication will have to adopt and adapt to new technology such as 3D printing and people’s increasing interconnectedness though mobile media. We’ll need ways to reach audiences who are becoming increasing fragmented into smaller and more diverse niches (many of which overlap in some way).”

Jesse’s interest in Science communication grew out of a practical need early in his life as a scientist.

“I wanted to be a scientist ever since I was 12 years old and I succeeded, becoming a geologist. As a post-grad in California, I enjoyed my research but found that talking about its arcane details caused instant ennui in the listener.

“So, I gradually learned that whenever a pretty gal at a party asked me if I studied earthquakes I would lie and answer ‘yes,’ which would generally develop into an enthusiastic conversation. After many dates I am still improving how to lie about what I do.”

Jesse will be speaking at the BrisScience Storytelling of science event on Sunday 2 February. http://2014conf.asc.asn.au/the-storytelling-of-science/

“I’ll talk about my circuitous path to becoming a science communicator (theatre was involved), my approach to creating a story, and go through one or two science stories from my museum exhibition work. I think a tennis racquet may be involved.”

#ASC14 Past presidents – Alison Leigh

Thank you to Simon Chester for providing us with this president’s article.

With 2014 marking the 20th anniversary of the Australian Science Communicators (ASC), it’s a worthwhile time to talk to some of its past presidents, and find out some of their fondest memories, what drew them to science communication, what the big issues where back when they were steering the ship, and what issues remain now and into the future.

Leigh Alison

Alison Leigh, now Editorial Director at the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers, was the third president of ASC. Back during her presidency, the issues plaguing science communication were quite similar as those seen today.

“We worried that science and science journalism were not taken seriously by politicians or by news editors – plus ça change!

“A main focus of our organisation was to encourage high journalistic standards throughout the science communication profession. Scientists were reluctant communicators. We felt our mission was to encourage them to understand the importance of communicating their work, to talk in language that the lay person can understand, and to understand the pressures that journalists are under to meet their deadlines (and this was long before 24/7 news!).

“Science was not “sexy” – the ‘two cultures’ were alive and well. We used to discuss how we might try to deal with the stereotype images of science and scientists.”

Alison believes that many of the issues faced during her presidency will remain over the coming decade, too.

“Climate science is the most obvious example… but it’s not just that science and science journalists (not many left!) are not taken seriously: they are up against dark forces. It does not suit governments of the day – and their corporate supporters who also have controlling shares in what gets printed in the media – to take action on human induced climate change, so they prefer to deliberately obscure or challenge the message. Opinion and commentary passing as journalism also adds to the problem of misinformation.

However, there has been one positive change over the last TIME:

“GEEK IS CHIC! Here at least there is hope – nerdy science has become mainstream in popular culture. Physics professor Brian Cox is a super star in the UK. ‘Science’ finds its way into life style TV shows about the science of the food we eat (Jimmys Food Factory, Food Unwrapped), and the internet is full of all sorts of creative, and often very funny, podcasts about the kind of hard science that mainstream TV shies away from .”

Alison was a successful reporter for the BBC before migrating to Australia and – almost serendipitously – ending up in science communication.

“I emigrated to Sydney from the UK in 1988 – bicentennial year – fully expecting my on-screen career as a BBC TV and radio reporter /presenter to continue to flourish here. Wrong. I was ‘too old’ and ‘too English.’ Yikes! What to do? Try my hand at producing? My current affairs credentials landed me the job of Producer, Media Watch, with the task of getting series one to air.

“Next thing I know, after that baptism of fire, I’m being courted by the Executive Producer of Quantum – to be the Series Producer – i.e. day to day manager of that show. Saying yes to that job changed my life – and my focus.”

At the ASC conference, Alison will be presenting a selection of clips that represent some of the major trends internationally in science programming taken from mainstream, and internet, TV. Plus a look at the new on-line science game from ABC with Bernie Hobbs.

#ASC14 Past presidents – Toss Gasciogne

Thank you to Simon Chester for providing us with this president’s article.

With 2014 marking the 20th anniversary of the Australian Science Communicators (ASC), it’s a worthwhile time to talk to some of its past presidents, and find out some of their fondest memories, what drew them to science communication, what the big issues where back when they were steering the ship, and what issues remain now and into the future.

Toss gascoigne

Toss Gascoigne, now a consultant in science communication, has been involved with ASC since its formation.

“I was involved in ASC from the beginning, helping convene the initial planning meeting at the National Press Club in Canberra, and working on the Executive for the first 10 years.

“When ASC started, it unleashed this huge wave of support, because so many people worked in professional isolation, and they wanted colleagues to talk to and share experiences. 375 people signed up as Founder Members, as a sign of support for ASC – and that was even before we wrote the constitution and had the first meeting!

“ASC started just before the first courses in science communication began at Australian universities, so … people came in from backgrounds in journalism or teaching, or science, or editing and writing or PR.

Toss began his science communication journey as a teacher.

“I was a high school teacher in Tasmania, in English and social sciences. Teaching was great (and so is Tasmania) but one can have too much. So I moved back to Canberra and took up an editing position (succeeding Will Stefan) with CSIRO’s Centre for Environmental Mechanics on Black Mountain.

“What I found was I loved working with scientists – their work is so interesting, their logic so compelling, and the problems they approach so relevant.

“I’m interested in how science communication has emerged in Australia (and other countries over the world) over the last 35 years, and what were the steps and what preceded it. So, when were the first university courses in science communication? When did research in these areas start? What is our history of writing papers and organising conferences? What organisations have we formed, and how does Australian experience with the rest of the world.”

Toss will be talking about the history of science communication in Australia and New Zealand at the SCANZ breakfast event (http://2014conf.asc.asn.au/schedule/special-events/scanz-asc-breakfast-event/), and during a panel (http://2014conf.asc.asn.au/schedule/the-emergence-of-modern-science-communication-in-australia-and-new-zealand-toss-gascoigne/) as part of the ASC conference.

#ASC14 Podcasts – Jesse Shore, Jenni Metcalfe And Joan Leach At The ASC National Conference

Dr Joan Leach convenes the Science Communication Program at the University of Queensland and is the Associate Professor of rhetoric and Deputy Head of School in the School of English, Media Studies and Art History. Joan is also the President of the Australian Science Communicators.
Her research centers on public engagement with science, medicine and technology and she has been active in the Australian government’s recent initiatives toward “Inspiring Australia”. She is currently researching the role of popular science in the globalisation of science since the 1960s, a project funded by the Australian Research Council. 


Jenni Metcalfe is the Director of Econnect Communication. She also lectures in science journalism at the University of Queensland. She has been a science communicator for more than 24 years, working as a journalist, practitioner and researcher in this area. She was President of the Australian Science Communicators (ASC) from 2005 to 2007. During that time, ASC hosted the World Conference of Science Journalists.


Dr Jesse Shore, of Prismatic Sciences, is passionate about engaging the community with science and in looking for ways to weave together the arts and sciences. He has been developing science based exhibitions and events since 1984, and was President of the Australian Science Communicators from 2010-2012. His business, Prismatic Sciences, produced five travelling exhibitions for the Royal Australian Chemical Institute for the 2011 International Year of Chemistry and he manages the ongoing national tour.

Jesse previously worked at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney as an exhibition project leader and Senior Curator of sciences. While at the museum he was one of the founders of the Ultimo Science Festival, a major National Science Week activity. He is currently collaborating with an artist to create artworks which have a science slant.

#ASC14 Podcast – Dr Rod Lamberts – Presenter at the ASC National Conference

Dr Rod Lamberts is the Deputy Director of the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) at the Australian National University, a founding partner of the Éngstrom Group, and in 2012 was elected National President of the Australian Science Communicators (retired injured, 2013).

He has more than 18 years experience as a professional facilitator and researcher, and is considered an expert of international standing in the field of science communication. More recently he has teamed up with another avid science communicator, Dr Will Grant – and together they produce SCOM BOMB, which will be appearing at the Australian Science Communicators conference in Brisbane.