#ASC14 Podcast – Sarah Lau – Presenter at the ASC National Conference

Sarah Lau is a graduate of the Science Communication course at UWA, and worked at the science museum in Perth called Scitech, and was primarily responsible for creating engaging science shows and experiences for visitors. In 2009 Sarah joined ChemCentre in Bently, where she is responsible for the public profile of the organisation – this covers everything from media duties through to marketing and all communication related activities in between. When not working as Communication Manager for ChemCentre in Western Australia, Sarah spends her time keeping things in order as the Secretary of the ASC.

Get your tickets for the ASC14 conference to learn more about her and many other great science communicators, at www.2014conf.asc.asn.au.

Member profile: Anne Chang

Thank you to Anne Chang for telling us about herself!

I wasn’t one of those people who knew what they wanted to be from a young age, unless you count being a princess (which I still wouldn’t mind being). Growing up I was exposed to science at a very early age; but I quickly realised I disliked inorganic chemistry, and I found biology boring (thinking it was predominantly about taxonomy). Yet, somehow, I found myself at the University of Oxford studying Biochemistry.

To me, Biochemistry presented the perfect mix: there was Chemistry, but it was all about how signalling pathways worked to produce phenotypical results; there was Maths, but that was mostly used for analysing scientific results (except for one brief traumatizing course on biophysics); and there was Biology, but in the sense of examining how metabolism and other biological systems worked, no taxonomy required. As my studies advanced I even threw in a little Engineering, but only in the context of tissue engineering – the creation of new organs using biochemical principles is, in the big picture, not as hypothesis-driven as pure biochemistry.

Best of all – Biochemistry at Oxford is a writing-based subject. We might have been studying chemicals, and molecules, and biological processes, but out of a total of 8 exams taken for the course, only one involved calculations. I was lucky enough to have attended a high school that taught students how to easily write large quantities of material, but my Biochemistry degree taught me how to write about science, after all, knowledge doesn’t count towards your degree if you can’t put it into words.

Following my undergraduate degree I embarked on a doctoral degree joint between the University of Oxford and the National Institutes of Health, in the US. This was a terrific program to be on, and it was a great learning experience, both in terms of scientific technique, but also into the minds of academics, researchers, and businessmen. This last category I met in the second year of my PhD, as I met them through my fiancé who was studying for his MBA at the Said Business School in Oxford – and it was an eye opening experience.

Science can be a bubble. Scientists (academic at least) live in a world in which they are surrounded by their experiments, absorbed in their experiments, performing experiments, analysing experiments, and planning  future experiments. In this world it is very easy to just put up the barriers and growl at unwelcome distractions such as paperwork, grant proposals, teaching, even writing up and publishing papers distracts from actually performing experiments.  For the first year of my PhD this was my existence, I lived in my scientific bubble, but then when I met all the students at the Business School that all changed. So far I’d only explained that science I was researching to other scientists, but now suddenly I had to explain what I did to people who might not have taken any science after high school!

The response I got blew me away. To be fair, Oxford students aren’t exactly the everyday person you meet on the street, but it wasn’t just that these people were capable of absorbing high level  science if explained in the right way, it was their enthusiasm for the science. As a researcher you tend to gravitate towards topics similar to yours, or approach other fields with a similar mindset to your own. But once my new friends were able to understand what it was I did, I started to ask questions no research had ever asked before about innovation, applicability and potential value. Their enthusiasm to learn more meant that my science was no longer living in a bubble.

My experiences with these business school students lit a fire in me to communicate science with non-scientists because I realised that if they understood science, they could genuinely get excited about it. A lot of fear about science these days is very much grounded in lack of understanding, because scientists do not know how to communicate what research has been accomplished and what they are trying to achieve.  The final year in my PhD, I started a blog, called makingbones, which discussed the methods behind thesis writing, methods used in tissue engineering (explaining them both to the average Joe as well as detailed procedures for other scientists), and news in science and tissue engineering. The response to this blog, which I discontinued upon finishing my PhD, has been tremendous and exceeded my expectations.

I finished my PhD and moved to Australia in August of this year. I jumped straight into science communications, with the birth of a new blog, Science Snapshot. This blog is my way of communicating the state of current science. The premise is simple, take a ‘random’ paper published on the day I write the blog post (ok, I confess, I try to pick the ones with the more interesting titles) and write a blog article about it so that anyone reading it will get the gist of what is going on in the field regardless of any prior knowledge or lack thereof. So far I’ve covered topics ranging from cancer research, to rabies vaccines for dogs in South Africa, to the best ways to freeze turkey meatballs, and practically everything in between.

I’ve also started two very different science communications positions within the greater Sydney Area. I’m a Clinical Research Associate as well as the Communications Director at the Sydney Orthopaedic Research Institute in Chatswood. This is rather fitting as my PhD was in tissue engineering of bones (i.e., Orthopaedics). I enjoy this role combination because not only do I generate communications material for the organisation, I also get to interact with the main target audience, the patients, to perform basic communications research. My other position is as a science writer at a prominent Sydney-based university. Here I’m stepping into a position within a marketing team and it’s been great to learn the communications strategies used for both external (we’re developing a new website) and internal initiatives. I’m very confident that my decision to leave research for a career in scientific communications was the right choice, and am excited about what I can achieve while in Australia!

Anne Chang has been a volunteer writer at Australian Science Communicators since August 2013.

Five winners of the 2013 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

In the Great Hall of Parliament House, Prime Minister Abbott presented his Prizes for Science to five remarkable Australians.

In an official release Prime Minister Abbott said, “Australia has a wealth of scientific talent. Our people are full of great ideas.

“The Federal Government will continue to provide the strong support our scientific community needs so it can get on with finding the next innovation or treatment for disease.”

The 2013 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science go to:

Terry Speed

Terry Speed


Terry Speed – Fighting cancer by the numbers
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne
$300,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science




Angela Moles (c) Peter Morris

Angela Moles (c) Peter Morris


Angela Moles – It’s not a jungle out there: rocking the ecological boat
University of New South Wales in Sydney
$50,000 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year




Andrea Morello

Andrea Morello (c) Peter Morris


Andrea Morello – Quantum computing becomes more than just spin
University of New South Wales in Sydney
$50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year




Sarah Chapman

Sarah Chapman


Sarah Chapman – Using a motor race to fuel interest in science
Townsville State High School
$50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools




Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson


Richard Johnson – A teacher’s laboratory becomes a primary source of inspiration
Rostrata Primary School in Perth
$50,000 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools





For their full citations and the Prime Minister’s official comments, go to: http://www.industry.gov.au/scienceprizes

For high res photos and videos go to: http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/prime-ministers-prize

ASC partner with BIG science communication summit

Thanks to Claire Harris for her run-down of the ASC/BIG science blogosphere team.

There is no doubt that the BIG Science Communication Summit provided a memorable experience for those that attended. And… for those who watched from afar via the EASELivestream and on social media (for example, using the hashtag #bigsci13 on Twitter).

ASC was proud to be a community partner with the Inspiring Australia, TechNyou and ScienceRewired teams and to be part of delivering the vision for the BIG Science Communication Summit. The event aimed to deliver an opportunity for science communicators to collaboratively discuss the challenges they face individually and collectively, and to develop solutions through engaging both before and during the event.

ScienceRewired provided an opportunity for six ASC members to have berths on the social media team – to drive discussion and debate – and to attend the event.

The ASC Live Bloggers were:

  • Amelia Swan (@SwanAmelia)
  • Victoria Leitch (@craniophiles)
  • Melissa Lyne (@malyne)
  • Kali Madden (@ASCkali)
  • Sarah Lau (@LaLaLausy)
  • Sam Askin (@samaskin). Sam actually contributed from his office in Townsville. Kali said: We were all amazed that he could be so ‘in the moment’ and we thought he must have been sitting in the gallery with the rest of the team!

The super team of live bloggers (ok, yes I was one of them but hell, I’m going with super!) were encouraged to explore topics of interest and contribute Tweets, blogs, photo galleries. The ASC live bloggers also played an important part in reporting the happenings at the event, particularly the workshops, as they weren’t being live-streamed.

Kylie Sturgess, the Social Media Coordinator for ScienceRewired led us through the, at times for me slightly confusing, social media playground set up for the event. (I for one had some experience in Twitter, Facebook and blogs but Storify, live streaming… not so much.)

Kylie Sturgess actively podcasted, networked and blogged/Tweeted/photographed the event along with the team. She gathered some great stories on Storify.

I think I can speak on behalf of the team to say that Kylie was a bundle of fun and a font of knowledge on social media.

Apparently #bigsci13 trended on Twitter on both days for Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney and we got feedback from attendees present and online saying they appreciated the contributions from the team.

Bloggers’ selfie: Claire Harris (left), Vanessa Hill (middle), Victoria Leitch (top), Kylie Sturgess (bottom)

Some Tweets:

@sciencerewired: Missed a session from yesterday? Didn’t see it livestreamed? Thanks to our Social Media Team, catch up at: http://sciencerewired.org/summit/category/blog/ … #BigSci13 This Tweet was Retweeted 14 times.

@DoUBelieveInDog: @sciencerewired Can confirm you are coming through loud and clear and amazeballs on the live stream #bigsci13  🙂 (Just need more #dogs!)

@nessyhill: Mwahhahaha RT @chachiconnell: So there’s bloggers hidden in the gallery #bigsci13 I’m getting flashbacks of the #redwedding #GoT

See some of the live bloggers’ contributions on one of the Storifys.

Check out some of the blog posts written by the team:

Thanks for a great experience and all your hard work ASC crew, Kylie and indeed all involved in the event.

Bloggers’ selfie: Will Grant (left), Sarah Lau (middle), Amelia Swan (left)

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


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


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

President’s busperson’s holiday in London, Oxford and Paris

During a holiday to the UK and Paris, I couldn’t resist including some science communication experiences among the many leisure activities.

I visited Phil Dooley, former president of the ASC NSW branch and Executive member at his workplace near Oxford. Phil is the News and Education Officer at JET (Joint European Torus), which is the shared fusion experiment run by the European Fusion Development Agreement. Phil is part of the team which communicates to various audiences the research involved in creating fusion events in a plasma.

Among his many duties Phil selects the picture and story of the week for the EFDA website. Phil showed me through the facility and we were able to walk around the world’s largest tokamak as it was shut down for maintenance. My accompanying photo shows Phil dwarfed by the power array which heats the plasma. I contributed to the day by giving a talk to staff about two exhibitions I developed about nuclear science. This provoked a discussion about how to communicate this complex subject to a general public and the relative value of interactive displays.
In London I talked with the Roland Jackson, CEO of the British Science Association, about the science communication initiatives of the BSA. We spent much of our time talking about Sciencewise, the UK’s national centre for public dialogue in policy making involving science and technology issues.

I also had a general chat with Karen Bultitude, an Australian who is lecturer in Science Communication and Director of Research in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at the University College London. Karen is a mine of information about the active UK science communication area.

A couple of museum visits were noteworthy. The Wellcome Collection in Euston Road, London, stages artful and intriguing displays and is well worth a visit. Across the Channel in Paris, the Musee des Arts et Metiers features a great collection but displayed with a lack of context and engagement. The main exception is the automatons’ theatre. The charm of these venerable mechanised robotic objects transcends the simplicity of the interpretation. I didn’t stay for the demonstration but I’d expect it would be worth watching even though it’s only in French.

Jesse Shore
ASC President