About Achim Eberhart

Achim Eberhart holds a degree in Biology from the University of Tübingen, Germany and a PhD in Zoology from The University of Melbourne. He has always been enthusiastic about communicating science to a general audience and currently works as a freelance science writer.

Café Scientifique launches with “The Science of Cocktails”

18 August 2012
7:00 pmto9:00 pm

A networking evening for scientists, science communicators and science enthusiasts.

Join Dr Geoff Garret,Queensland’s Chief Scientist and Dr Ian Galloway, CEO of Queensland Museum for an evening of cocktails and canapés, discussions and networking, live music and photography.

WHAT: The closing ceremony of National Science Week coincides with the launch ofQueensland’s first Café Scientifique, a space for scientists and science enthusiasts to meet and share ideas

WHERE: Collectors Café, Queensland Museum, South Bank

WHEN: Saturday 18th August 7 – 9pm

Scientist, mixologist and bartender Andrew Cameron will talk about the science of smell and taste, demonstrate how scientific methods and liquid nitrogen can improve some of the all-time classic Martinis and provide samples of his work as tasters.

The Martinis are translated into edible cocktail-canapés while live music and an award-winning science photography exhibition will set the scene for this event.

Tickets $35 adults, $25 students (use promo code ‘student’)
Includes three sampler cocktails and canapés

For information and booking head to cafescientifiqueaustralia.eventbrite.com.au

This is an 18+ event

Research at ASC2012

27 February 2012to29 February 2012

Science communication is an active field of research and some of the latest results will be presented at ASC2012.

Among many others there will be a paper discussing strategies to close the gap between target audience and actual audience, while another one explores the way Twitter can be used to gauge people’s interest in science.

With the rise of social media and blogs as communication tools, science communication has become more interactive than ever. Often blog posts spark heated discussions, held through comments to the original post – content, which the author of the blog has no control over. How these comments can impact the message of blog posts is the topic of yet another research project presented at ASC2012.

Have you ever though of postage stamps as a means to communicate science? Well, millions of these small but obvious ‘message boards’ are distributed across the world every day. It will be interesting to learn how this form of media is used to represent science in countries differing in their political, historical and cultural background.

Being the intermediate between scientists, the general public and policy makers, science communicators bear the burden of responsibility to provide accurate and reliable information. In cases of controversial topics this can be quite difficult but delegates can learn from a highly successful campaign, informing about synthetic cannabinoids.

Finally, who doesn’t love a real hero? It is for this reason that ‘science heroes’ inspire the masses and play an important role in raising the public acceptance of science. What we can learn from these heroes and if their inspiration can be copied by others are among the questions explored in a paper presented on the final day of the conference.

In five sessions a total of nearly 30 papers will be presented across all three days of the conference. Refer to the program pages to find out about the session contents.

Getting science where it’s needed

Sydney Masonic Centre
27 to 29 February

Concurrent Session 1B: Research and Papers
Concurrent Session 3B: Research and Papers
Concurrent Session 4B: Research and Papers
Concurrent Session 5B: Research and Papers
Concurrent Session 6B: Research and Papers

Science as Art – Art as Science

27 February 2012to29 February 2012

Science and art are not as far apart as you may think. A long history of visualising science entwines the two disciplines. At ASC2012 delegates will be able to learn how to make use of science art and visualisation when communicating scientific concepts and explore the transition between pure science and pure art.

Illustrations and graphics have been critical to the advancement of science ever since the times of Leonardo DaVinci and Albrecht Dürer, who very efficiently used the universal language of images to document details of the natural world. “Medical illustration allows the artist to edit the scene. You can even show what can’t be seen,” highlights Bang Wong, creative director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Data journalist David McCandless explains that in our modern society, “suffering from information overload or data glut”, graphics can help to “visualise information so we can see the patterns and connections that matter and allow us to focus only on the information that’s important”.

It is from these illustrations of scientific information that science art was born. Visual communication of science can be regarded as a continuum ranging from purely informative illustrations of scientific detail to artistic creations for entertainment purposes. “To create effective visual communication is trying to hit the right spot in that continuum that matches the purpose of the communication and also the audience that you’re targeting,” elaborates Wong. However, the location of a visual on this continuum also depends on who watches it. “People see in it what they see in it. They may or may not notice [certain details],” he explains and McCandless remarks that “failing [its informative purpose], visualised information can just look really cool.”

Besides inspiration, modern science provides artists with novel techniques and materials to experiment with. The result is a fascinating array of projects ranging from weird to wonderful. The question, however, is, which role can and do these art projects play in the communication of science.

A highly interactive session at ASC2012 will explore this question and discuss ways to increase the communicative aspect of science art. An exhibition of science art throughout the three days of the conference will showcase the work of scientists and science artists and illustrate the ‘continuum of science visualisation’. Creators of science visuals are encouraged to <a title="Kate Patterson" href="mailto:Kate Patterson “>contact the organiser to have their work included in the exhibition.

Getting science where it’s needed
Sydney Masonic Centre
27 to 29 February

Concurrent Session 7B – Science Art: A dialogue about the value of art in communicating science

Science-As-Art Exhibition

Science vs. the Media

27 February 2012to29 February 2012

The relationship between scientists and the media can be difficult at best – and the disagreement over who is to blame for any difficulties seems endless. How fortunate for people on all sides that the ASC 2012 Conference offers so many opportunities to work through the differences and learn from each other!

In a recent blog post for The Guardian, Ananyo Bhattacharya, online editor of Nature, said that scientists simply don’t understand the principles of (good) journalism.

Different standards of caution and scepticism are one reason for this, suggest Stephan Lewandowsky and Steve Sherwood, both scientists themselves (find their article here). While science is “built on weeding out bad ideas”, they argue, “the media thrive on conflict” – leading journalists to over-zealously represent opposing views in their coverage of science.

And this, it appears, is a main point of criticism by many researchers.

A large number of responses to Bhattacharya’s post complain that the “habit of injecting ‘balance’ into everything” puts solid scientific results on an equal footing with the opinions of a “handful of crackpots”. Without clear statements of the cited people’s expertise on the topic, readers find it difficult to distinguish between the experts and the crackpots.

The debates about global warming or the anti-vaccination campaigns are mentioned frequently as examples of this problem.

There is also frustration among scientists due to the lack of specialist knowledge among those reporting their discoveries. This often results in misunderstanding and misrepresentation and is one major reason why many scientists are so reluctant to engage with the media in the first place (as discussed at the Science Online 2012 conference in Raleigh, USA).

But what can be done about this? Rather than just complaining about each other, scientists and journalists could get together and discuss their issues with each other. How convenient that an excellent opportunity for just that is no more than three weeks away: ASC2012, the national conference of the Australian Science Communicators in Sydney, February 27 – 29.

Members of all factions will be there, learning and discussing the latest trends in science communication. A multitude of professional development sessions will help scientists and journalists alike when communicating scientific results.

Getting science where it’s needed
Sydney Masonic Centre
27 to 29 February

ASC2012 – you *know* you want to go. Here’s why!

27 February 2012to29 February 2012

On the web, your colleague in the office down the hall is as close as the one from the other end of the continent – but wouldn’t it be nice to catch up with all of them in more than 140 characters? In person and in one place? To chat about what they’ve been up to and even get to know all those colleagues you didn’t even know you had? ASC2012 is the place to do exactly that. From February 27 to 29 science (and) communication professionals from all over Australia come together at Sydney’s Masonic Centre to discuss old and new media, past and future campaigns, established and beginning careers…

All chief scientists, including the big cheese of Australian science himself, Ian Chubb, will offer their account of the current state of science and policy in Australia – followed by generously timed Q & A sessions. Of course, among all these celebrities, the communicators’ own perspective on science, politics and lobbyism will not be neglected either!

A wide variety of professional development sessions, many of them in interactive workshop format, will provide new tools for even the most seasoned science communicators. Sci Comm newbies, on the other hand, will find inspiration from other young professionals and tips from veterans during a speed mentoring event.

Among many others we’ll find sessions on the development of professional communication plans, how to spot and fix common problems with science writing and how to communicate clearly and concisely (in three minutes, to be precise…). Yet another session instructs scientists how to manage their relationship with the media – and ensure their work is represented the way they want it to be.

As a matter of fact ASC2012 won’t stop short of new or less common media. We’ll learn about the value of computer games and there will also be a serious look at social media in science communication. The program even boasts a science-art exhibition.

Finally, having all these communication tools is very useful, but how can we know that our strategies are effective and the message reaches the target audience? ASC2012 has a solution for that, too. Several presentations and workshops deal with the evaluation of science communication. Yes, even ASC2012 itself will be evaluated – live on stage!

Getting science where it’s needed
Sydney Masonic Centre
27 to 29 February

View the detailed conference program here.


Are computer games and apps the new frontiers for communicating science?

27 February 2012to29 February 2012

Computer games can be a powerful form of media, not only in school teaching, but also to engage the general public in science. In a session at the Australian Science Communicators’ National Conference, ASC2012, a panel of experienced game designers and educators will explore and explain how this is done. Among the speakers at this session will be Cathy Howe, project leader for MacICT’s Game Design Team and Sam Doust, who developed the ‘participatory drama’ Bluebird AR for ABC online.

The success story of computer games closely tracks that of the technology on which we play them: personal computers, gaming consoles and lately mobile phones. As these devices have spread and developed into sophisticated multi-media communication tools, computer games themselves have become intricate ‘worlds’ within which gamers – often together with other players – solve complex challenges. What started off as a means of passing time and escaping reality is increasingly being recognised as valuable training to wrestle with real-world problems. Military forces across the globe have long been using game-like simulations to train soldiers. Educational institutions are now following suit.

Playing computer games children acquire skills through applying them to challenges. This problem-based learning, argues Prof James Paul Gee of Arizona State University, the author of several books on the educational value of video games, is far more effective than the classic teaching approach, which is “focused on relating facts and how well students retain this info”. A purely mathematical activity can become much more engaging when, with the help of video games, students can be involved in developing the entire exercise. Alice Leung, head science teacher at Merrylands High School in Sydney and a speaker at the GAME ON! video gaming festival last October experienced this, when she started using a Formula 1 racing game to teach Newton’s laws of motion. An additional advantage of game-based learning is that students are happy to play more often and longer than the time they would devote to conventional study. The immediate feedback and constant rewards for every individual point scored or level completed in a computer game leads to the release of the pleasure hormone dopamine in the brain and keeps gamers happy and playing.

Getting science where it’s needed
Sydney Masonic Centre
27 to 29 February 2012

Concurrent Session 4D