From the President

Thank you to Claire Harris for preparing the President’s update.

It’s almost September. OK so not a huge newsflash, but how time flies! This year has been a busy one for many of you and there’s little chance of it slowing up right? Particularly with the ASC National conference coming up in Brisbane and of course in 2014 we will be celebrating ASC’s 20 year anniversary.

Every now and then we have cause to pause and reflect. With the sad passing of Peter Pockley recently, I know many members have thought about their interactions with Peter and contemplated what has changed in science and science journalism particularly. I want to share some of these reflections below. While the ‘science communicator’ job spec (in all its many forms) continues to change, it still owes a lot to past innovators like Peter and the networks and collaborations that he and others have inspired.

Peter was one of ASC’s Life Members and while I didn’t know Peter well, it is clear from the discussions I’ve had with people and posts to the ASC-list that he was an important figure and will be missed. Words used to describe Peter include: pioneer, mentor, courageous.

As Rob Morrison said on the ASC-list, “On a personal level I had much to thank him for, as he was a generous mentor, especially to one who was nervously moving from the area of academic science in a university into the realm of science journalism. I was not the only recipient of his encouragement and advice and, given his high standards, it was particularly valued.”

Peter was well known for tackling the ‘harder’ stuff of science including science policy and science communication ethics. Guy Nolch from Australasian Science said:

Peter may have made his name broadcasting the Apollo missions for the ABC, but it would be the cut and thrust of politics where Peter made his mark. He was tough, uncompromising, tenacious and thorough, and his relentless pursuit of the complete story led to some very late nights as he typically pushed each deadline beyond midnight.

None of this was sexy science, but someone had to sink their teeth into it and howl into the wind in the hope that the public would hear and demand action as science slipped from the political agenda and scientists were sidelined from public debate on issues such as climate change.

While Peter was always up for the good fight, it’s important to remember that he had the best interests of science at heart. And while he was prepared to roll up his sleeves and take on those in positions of power, he was equally happy to mentor the next generation of science writers and broadcasters, not only from his time at the ABC and other media outlets but also through appointments with UTS, CPAS and Questacon.

Guy has written an obituary and there will be a memoir in the upcoming October issue.

Leave a Reply