President’s Update

Thanks to Joan Leach for the President’s Update.

ASC sending members to the Freelance Focus Conference—follow them on twitter!

ASC members attended the Walkley Freelance Focus conference on the 5th and 6th of August. The program was stellar. We asked Daniel Oldfield, Ian McDonald, and Tara Roberson to tweet from the event and write up their ‘top freelance tips’ from the conference — you can find them below in this issue of Scope. In the meantime, check out #FreelanceFocus and you may want to follow ASCers below to hear more:


We’re also keen to hear about other events nationally where we can send ASC members to build their skills and bring back tips for the rest of us. We were able to give tickets to ASCers in the ACT, in Melbourne, and in Brisbane for this Walkley conference. Let us know if there is something going on relevant to ASC in your part of the country!

Our colleagues at AMWA (Australasian Medical Writers Association) are busy getting ready for their 32nd annual conference in Brisbane—I note more than one ASC member on the program. Check it out here:

ASC responds to STEM discussion paper

At the end of June, the Commonwealth Government put out a consultation paper “Vision for a Science Nation” that responded to the Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb. ASC has welcomed these developments as the consultation paper goes some way to valuing the work that science communication and engagement does toward a “science nation.” Our response highlights the following issues:

  • ASC supports a national strategy that integrates science communication and engagement skills into STEM education
  • ASC is a willing future partner in Inspiring Australia for a national strategy of STEM engagement
  • ASC members are active contributors and potential partners in Australia’s cultural diplomacy efforts. Our view of science communication in Australia is a global view.
  • ASC promotes science communication as a bedrock skill for commercialisation

I’ll keep ASC up to date with this process as it unfolds.

President’s update

Thank you to Joan Leach for the update!

Not enough happening?

At our last National Council meeting, the representatives from our branches gave a bit of an overview of the activities that have been going on around Australia. There are science and film nights, cafe scientifiques, professional development meetings, networking and speed networking events, and even awards nights (check out our Unsung Heroes!) as we recognise each other’s strengths. It is pretty amazing the volume and quality of activities that are designed to support and develop us as science communicators. To add to that, I was just in Sydney for the Inspiring Australia Engagement Summit. There, I heard about what IA officers are doing to interact with ASC professionals and encourage keen volunteers in their local communities to give science communication ‘a go’. It’s impressive. Very occasionally, someone grumbles to me that ‘there is not enough happening’ in science communication. I’ve always given such grumbles short shrift but I think what is really being said is that ‘there is so much happening, it’s hard to characterise’. And, that’s different. I’ve also been inspired by the ways in which ASC members have characterised it themselves—for example, AUSSCM just launched SciMEX to be a hub for experts to tell their stories about Australian science (and review others!), the RiAus has launched their own digital channel, and the Australian Academy of Science has re-launched NOVA (a website with a wealth of digital content). And, I’ve sat at a table with ASC members from each of these organisations who clearly characterised what makes these different, but very complementary efforts to improve the availability and quality of digital science content. Not enough happening? No way. And, ASC members are also good at characterising the wealth of what they produce.

Soft power of science communication

One of the most stimulating discussions at the Sydney IA summit was had with colleagues from DFAT (I don’t usually get to write such things) about science diplomacy. Usually this refers to scientists in one country working with scientists from another to achieve a larger goal (the SKA or other big international science project). But, then, what is scienceinpublic doing when it puts out “Stories of Australian Science 2015”? Isn’t this a kind of science communication diplomacy, with science communicators making conversations among industry and governments in different countries possible? I’d say it is. So, it was so rewarding to find that colleagues at DFAT immediately saw a value in science communication in the cultural diplomacy area. Another thing that science communicators do—they are cultural ambassadors. I’m actually very keen on collecting examples of this from around Australia. So, if you think your organisation is doing this, please give me a shout by email.

Soft launch of STEM consultation

You may have missed it; I nearly did!  However, as you see in this month’s SCOPE, there is an open consultation on “Vision for a Science Nation”. ASC needs to make a contribution here—there is a lot in this paper about science engagement and that is great.  I think we need to underscore our value,  remind government about our continuing professional contributions to ’the science nation’, and even talk about how we’ve used the national strategy, Inspiring Australia, for good. I’m also keen to represent members views.  I’ll put a note on LinkedIn where you can comment or just email me on But don’t wait, consultation is over at the end of July so I’d like to get your views by the 20th.

President’s update

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

Season’s Greetings

It’s that time of year when every organisation needs to get in its AGM, settle its accounts, and clear its books! While this is not the most festive of activities, it does signal the end of the year and time for a bit of reckoning. I’m very pleased to say that the ASC is going very well indeed. We held the AGM at ANU CPAS (Centre for Public Awareness of Science) in the famed green couch room on the 5th of December. Some highlights from the AGM:
  • On behalf of the membership, I thanked our voluntary executive for 2014—Pete Wheeler (Treasurer), Sarah Lau (Secretary), Claire Harris (VP and Communications team), Ian McDonald (Grants program), Will Grant (VP), and our amazing executive officer, Kali Madden.
  • We learned that we are solvent and our treasurer and executive officer (with help from our bookkeeper/auditor) are looking at the details of our tax situation and our status as a not-for-profit. We hope to finalise our books by the end of the year.
  • Ian McDonald announced the winners of our inaugural grant round (see more on this in this issue of SCOPE)
  • We discussed upcoming conference opportunities and an ASC strategy to give our members more chances to interact
  • We learned about some of the stellar events our branches have put on this year—this gave us a lot to think about as the most successful branches are hitting the sweet spot of offering members a few signature events each year, not overloading the calendar, but putting their best into some quality networking events.
  • I was delighted to accept the Presidential nomination and will serve as ASC president for 2015.
The year has ended on a very high note for me, though continued reports of cutting in the area of communications from many organisations is gloomy. I’ll address the ‘highs’ here and ASC will continue to try to tackle the lows by advocating for science communication at every opportunity. My ‘end of the year event’ was a science policy workshop run at the Academy of Science on the 5th of December.  You can check it out here. It was a rather incredible day where scholars, communicators, and policy-makers discussed some of the key features of using humanities and social research to effect policy and communicate effectively (spoiler: go to Cameron Muir’s talk about narrative; powerful stuff!). At the event, I was struck at the  number of science communicators in the audience and very pleased to hear sci comm concerns getting equal billing on the day. That day underscored for me the need for science communicators and this was clearly endorsed by the policy makers in the room.

I hope that everyone takes a bit of time out at the end of the year to recharge and connect with friends and family.  I look forward to starting afresh in the New Year.