The STA Leaders Dialogue

Tom Carruthers, Co-President

Yesterday afternoon, I had the pleasure of representing the ASC at the STA Leaders Dialogue held at the Google Offices in Darling Harbour, Sydney.

The event was a summary of STA’s activities and policy wins for the past 12 months. {I took some photos of the slides but missed their policy wins – I’ll update this soon with the detail}.

In preparation for this dialogue, the STA membership highlighted 10 priority areas to focus on in advocacy for 2023. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first three priorities are to do with investment in science and R&D, followed by a focus on re-industrialising Australia’s economy.

In the breakout session, I worked on this challenge with a small team and our discussion tried to articulate the sovereign risk posed to Australia should we not rapidly turnaround the decreased R&D funding trend. STA President, Prof. Mark Hutchinson raised his vision for Australia deliberately choosing to retire the idea of Australia being the lucky country, arguing that we should focus on becoming a hopeful one.

Priorities 5-7 relate to STEM education and supporting the STEM workforce. These are areas the ASC can strongly engage, and I will continue to find opportunities for our members to contribute their expertise and vision here. STEM education was a significant theme of the dialogue, with many STA organisational leaders highlighting the need for more STEM training and for specialist teachers. I am sure that we have members who can bolster this advocacy with case studies and impact evaluation to support the evidence base for this ask.

Priorities 8 through 10 focused on STA’s advocacy in championing diversity in STEM. This is where STA’s Superstars of STEM program, along with their support for initiatives such as Deadly Science feature.

I raised my concern that there wasn’t a specific aspiration to better address the key advocacy platform theme we’ve been sharing over the past 12 months – namely the underappreciation of science communication expertise, and the significant gap in capability in forming the evidence base for Australian communication and engagement programs. We will continue to engage STA over the coming months and years to attempt to better articulate these issues.

After the dialogue, there was a networking session. It was great to see past ASC President Wilson da Silva at the networking (who had some ideas about future awards), several Superstars of STEM, and colleagues from across the industry. We had some productive discussions, and I hope that it will translate into a couple of areas being better represented on our membership into the future.

The networking event was also a small chance to farewell Prof. Mark Hutchinson who’s three-year term is coming to an end in three weeks. We welcomed incoming President elect, Prof. Sharath Sriram, as he takes on the role. The ASC is glad to offer our engagement and support into the future.

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