ASC ACT branch – National Youth Week event

Fenella Edwards, Vice-President, ACT branch, writes: To celebrate National Youth Week and the International Year of Chemistry, CSIRO Discovery hosted an evening for young people – of all ages!

The theme of chemistry was visible in an array of non-alcoholic cocktails, or ‘mocktails’ mixed up by the ACT Branch of Australian Science Communicators. These colourful concoctions, as well as admission to the Discovery exhibition with live creature shows, were included in the free admission event.

Local bands ‘Project B’ (Lyneham High School) and ‘Loud Mud’ (Gundaroo) entertained all with jazz and light rock before the poetry element of the evening sparked up some creative chemistry among the crowd.

Canberra poet extraordinaire Hal Judge guided us through a group performance of two of his poems, and invited the audience to submit creative answers to questions to win prizes. The audience were then dazzled (if not intimidated) by fabulous performances of local poets Omar Musa and Andrew Galan before the open-mic poetry competition got underway – with $500 in worth of prizes up for grabs for the best original poem/story/song having a chemistry theme.

The winning poem by Sarah Sherringham ‘The Tale of the Very Strange Step-mother’ was a modern day remake of the fairy tale Snow White, the following is an excerpt:

Some people said she married him just for the cash
And they were not entirely mistaken in that.
The sciences had taken such a beating and a shunning,
Rich husbands were the last source of research funding!

In the room she’d been given to dress for tea,
She’d set up some kind of weird laboratory
Where beakers bubbled and test tubes foamed;
She stayed in there all day and night, on her own.

Wrapped up her research (in time for tea
Published her treatise on Clean Energy;
Became the leading expert in her field of Chemistry;
And these days she’s a Professor at the University.”

Also during the evening, prizes were awarded to the winners of the National Youth Week science-art competition, ‘When Science Meets Art’. The winning entries were on display in the CSIRO Discovery gallery space throughout National Youth Week, see the prize winners at:


Editor, Australian Science Communicators

Editor, Australian Science Communicators
Location: anywhere in Australia with broadband internet access

Honorarium: $150 per issue, with the expectation of 10 to 11 issues produced per year.

SCOPE is the monthly online newsletter of the Australian Science Communicators (ASC), a network of 500 + professional science and technology communicators across Australia and overseas.

The current Editor, Laura Miles, is resigning due to competing board commitments, so ASC is looking for a new Editor effective from the August 2011 issue. Laura will be available to handover to the new Editor to ensure a smooth transition into the role.

The role includes the following activities:

  • Sourcing content from ASC branches, members and web editors in the first two weeks of the month;
  • Listing recent news items or summarising topical stories to keep members apprised of current science communication issues;
  • Editing content for consistency of style and formatting including permalinks, extracts and tagging;
  • Working with the membership officer to ensure the member distribution list and log-in activation codes are current;
  • Formatting up the month’s material into short ‘teaser’ formats with click-throughs and circulating to the membership on the third Thursday of the month;
  • Responding to feedback from members and non-members; and
  • Liaising with the webmaster, membership officer, web editors and the national president regarding web strategy and policy.

The key selection criteria for this role are:

  • Evidence of an established interest in science communication;
  • Computer and internet literacy, in particular WordPress and Gmail/Google Docs;
  • Excellent time management skills; and
  • Capacity to commit ~10 hours per month to ASC activities.


Applications are invited by e-mail no later than 5 pm on 21 July 2011 for the attention of Jesse Shore, ASC National President at: jesse [at]

Please include a brief CV (two pages maximum) and a statement addressing the selection criteria with contact details of two professional referees (one page maximum).  Applications must be submitted in PDF or Word 2003/2007 format (.doc or .docx). Candidates must be current financial members of ASC.

If you have any technical questions about the role, e-mail Laura at: editor [at ]

Two free tickets plus big student discounts up for grabs at Media140

We are pleased to announce yet another endeavour to support those who make science accessible.

ASC have partnered with Media140 to offer FREE tickets to two lucky ASC members at the frontiers event exploring the impact of social technologies on science communication being held in Brisbane next week.

Members who think they would benefit from attending this event are invited to submit a submission to by 7 pm AEST this Sunday 24 April, describing in no more than 50 words what current role or project could use some social media enhancement. Please include a contact phone number and e-mail address so we can notify you if you win.

ASC President Jesse Shore will select two of the entries for free admission to this international and timely event. Winners will be required to write a short article for publication on the ASC web site no more than a month after the event briefly describing their current role or project, what it aims to accomplish, and how the frontiers event contributed to their social media skills, knowledge and/or intentions for future. Good luck!

To check how relevant the event will be for your own explorations and applications of social media to science communication, see the event program here:

In addition three full student scholarships were allocated to support the future of science communication in Australia.

The student scholarship recipients are enrolled in “Presenting Science” with lecturer Melanie McKenzie this semester in the Science Communication Program at the University of Queensland.

You can read more about tertiary science communication programs in Australia on our web site here:

Students still wishing to attend the event are eligible for a 40% discount, and ASC members are still eligible for 10%.

Interested? Register here:

Posted on behalf of Kali Madden, ASC Membership Officer
office [at]

Science communication and social media

DIISR has partnered with media140 for a unique international event at the Brisbane Powerhouse on the 27th April 2011.

The ASC is proud to offer members a special 10% discount off advertised registration rates.  All members will be sent an email with the discount code soon. Click here to join the ASC:

Jesse Shore, ASC National President said: “The Australian Science Communicators welcome Media140’s event which will appeal to science communicators interested in understanding social technologies and risk.”

The event will explore the impact of social technologies on effective science and risk communication, looking at the challenges of engaging the public on issues such as climate change, health, nanotechnology, cloning and other sensitive public interest themes. Through keynotes, workshops, round tables and one to one business sessions the event will provide practical guidance and strategic leadership from speakers and educators from US, Europe and Australia.

Confirmed speakers include:

¥ Dr Kristin Alford, Managing Director of Bridge8
¥ David Hood, Former Greenpeace Pacific Campaign Manager
¥ Dr. Will Grant, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science.
¥ Cobi Smith, Science communicator
¥ Kate Carruthers, Social technologist and educator
¥ Craig Thomler, Gov 2.0 advocate and communicator
¥ Dr Craig Cormick, Manager of the Public Awareness and Community Engagement program of the Innovation Department’s National Enabling Technologies Strategy.

More information and earlybird tickets can be found at:

Event to be held on 27th April 2010 at the Brisbane Powerhouse
Entry by ticket registration only.
Earlybird tickets until 8th April at $220, rising to $330

For more information see:

The new improved ASC SA branch

The SA branch of ASC reformed in 2010 after a lapse of several years. It has been a successful year, with strong membership and support of programs. Given that the branch lapsed because too much was being done by too few previously, the committee was structured this time to ensure that each person on it has only one job to do. This ensures that the various tasks are done well, but there is a finite limit to what is being asked of each busy person.

This worked very well in 2010 and we have extended it for 2011. It also means committee meetings are short and few, being held for about 30 minutes after some events. Effectively the “portfolio” system manages itself, thanks to the quality of those who have taken the portfolios on.

For those interested in experimenting with this, the various positions are President, VP, Secretary Treasurer, Program Coordinator, Event Manager, Membership Co-ordinator, Minutes Secretary, and three committee members, who take on some of the extra tasks and overflow (eg forming a program committee). Some are also representatives of other bodies (eg National Science Week [NSWk], RiAus) with whom we work closely.

The program in 2010 consisted of two kinds of activities, monthly events and additional workshops. Both are free for members while non-members pay, and this encourages some to join on the night to get free entrance to what is on offer. We also have a policy that members can bring a prospective member to one event free to see if they like us.

A special event in National Science Week is the ASCSA/NSWk awards of Unsung Hero of Science and of Science Communication (2 awards). We started this at the same time as the national award many years ago, and have run it ever since, the National Science Week Committee taking it on when ASCSA lapsed. it is now jointly run. We expanded the awards from just science to an additional science communication award for two reasons. (1) Many applicants for the unsung hero of science were actually in science communication, and (b) who will offer such an award if ASC doesn’t? These awards have good local recognition and press coverage, and we make them at the launch of National Science Week in front of a large and influential audience, the Minister handing out the awards while the Chief Scientist reads the citation.

2010 ended with the national AGM in Adelaide, followed by a fabulous evening with David Ellyard doing his quiz, and Zoz Brooks providing tremendous video interludes, showing extracts from his TV shows (mostly very high speed video of scientific phenomena slowed down).

Our program for 2011 is already mapped out, thanks to our terrific programs group, and I would be happy to share it. We would also love to see the programs of other branches, as there will certainly be good ideas there that we could also try.

Rob Morrison, ASCSA Pres/branch rep.

Workshops (eg media training, how to make a video segment etc) are typically $50 for non-members; partly to raise funds, butr also to show members that they get value for their membership (2 workshops and you are in credit).

Dr Rob Morrison
rob.morrison [at]

scicommunity: A Web-Based Platform for Community and Communication in Science

Who are the people in your community?
From my own childhood, and reinforced by more recent viewing with my own children, I recall a Sesame Street ditty showing the value of community:

‘Oh, who are the people in your neighbourhood,
In your neighbourhood, in your neighbourhood;
Say who are the people in your neighbourhood–
The people that you meet each day?’

The melodic answers included familiar faces such as the postman and the firemen; those you could count on to be around each day for a friendly conversation and to discuss issues that affect the community.

As science communicators it can sometimes be difficult to work out who your neighbours are, what your community is. Many of us work in relative isolation on small projects with limited budgets and under time constraints. Heads down and bottoms up, we find little time or opportunity to touch base with each other.

However the launch of the Inspiring Australia strategy in February 2010 provides plenty of incentive for us to forge community. Recommendations from the report refer to the need to conduct community-based activities, to generate collaborative projects, to share information, to raise awareness in youth and under-served groups of opportunities in science and research.

Recently we have been working on a new online resource, dubbed scicommunity, aimed at bringing together these recommendations for Australians conducting science communication and engagement activities.

Inspiring community in science communicators
The goal of scicommunity then is to provide a free online meeting place for Australian science communicators who create a log-in profile, through which a sense of community may be created.By providing a space for people to share their initiatives, scicommunity will open up new collaborations and identify opportunities for outreach and engagement. To this end, and with support from the Inspiring Australia initiative, we recently developed a test site for scicommunity and submitted it to a pilot run. Our current focus is to develop it further and optimise functionality to achieve the following outcomes:

  • easy login and intuitive navigation;
  • facilitate pathways for communication;
  • provide mechanisms to keep informed of community activities;
  • encourage the identification of opportunities for collaboration and mentorship; and
  • allow the identification of gaps in the material and audiences being targeted by science communication.

A role for social media in scicommunity
An additional feature of scicommunity which we are exploring is the use of social media as a community builder.

It’s hard to ignore the presence of social media tools such as Twitter. Whilst Twitter can be a forum for banal chit chat if you allow it to be so, it has emerged as a powerful communication tool for professionals in many fields. In the 2010 Andrew Olle lecture, Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger listed 15 characteristics of Twitter which make it an effective tool for communication and information sharing. Of interest to science communicators may be the following:

  • Twitter creates communities;
  • Twitter is a series of common conversations;
  • Twitter changes the tone of writing;
  • As a search engine, Twitter rivals Google;
  • Twitter is a formidable aggregation tool;
  • Twitter is a great reporting tool;
  • Twitter is a fantastic form of marketing; and
  • Twitter has different news values.

A more detailed discussion of these issues and other features of twitter can be found in this Guardian newspaper article: Why Twitter Matters for Media Organisations (Alan Rusbridger).

You might imagine then, that scicommunity users could create conversations and communities using Twitter as a platform. Capturing these conversations using a hashtag like #scicommunity and supplementing them by further information about our interests and initiatives through the scicommunity website will enable further relationships, collaborations and projects to occur.

Welcome to the community!
Over the Christmas break you’ll no doubt be spending time in your own personal communities and neighbourhoods just like the gang at Sesame Street.  As you start 2011, we invite ASC members to keep their eyes and ears open for the launch of scicommunity, and we hope that it provides you with new ways to connect with each other as a community of science communicators.

scicommunity ( is being developed by Kristin Alford, Sarah Keenihan and James Hutson at Bridge8 Pty Ltd,

Follow us on twitter: @kristinalford @sciencesarah @jameshutson @scicommunity

What has trust got to do with it?

Science communicators strive to make science understandable, if not engaging.  Yet, our impact depends on far more than clarity.  When discussing the dangers of climate change or the benefits of a water conservation strategy, we need to have people listening to us, believing us, and heeding what we are saying when they make decisions.  In other words, we need people to trust us.

Trust, according to research in marketing, reflects our perceptions of someone’s competence and their benevolence.  We ask ourselves, does this person know what they are talking about, and are they inclined to be helpful to me?

It is often hard for members of our audience to tell if we are truly competent because we often know more about the topic than they do.  There is rarely a test that they can run beyond checking our track record or relying on our reputation.  Similarly, how can they assess if we will be helpful to their cause or aligned with their values?  Yet, people decide whom to trust every day.  Theorists suggest that these assessments of trust occur through a series of cycles propelled by inferences.

Renowned organizational behaviour theorist, Prof Chris Argyris of Harvard Business School, proposed a ‘ladder of inference’ model to describe the steps that we take to make decisions.  His ladder includes: (1) selective attention; (2) recall of seemingly relevant experiences; (3) making assumptions; (4) inferring outcomes based on the observations and assumptions; and, finally, (5) acting on our conclusions.

A similar process in the course of ‘experiential learning’ was identified by well-known educational theorist, Prof David Kolb.  Kolb noted that we go through learning cycles that involve a concrete experience, observation and reflection on what happened, efforts to generalise from these events, and development of experiments to undertake – employing new strategies that might gain the outcomes that we want.

The study of rhetoric adds consideration of logic, emotion, and character to the mix.  Discourse analysis and linguistics bring in assessment of person, information, and the nature of the interaction, including its ritual elements.   In other words, actor, text, and context.

These theories suggest that a decision on whether to trust someone results from multi-step, cyclic processes involving selective attention, judgments about whom and what are relevant – where emotions can play a role — and inferred conclusions.  That makes the job of a science communicator a lot more than just being ‘clear’.  Trust me …

Want to know more?  The ASC NSW chapter has asked me to host a roundtable discussion early in 2011 with ‘experts’ on trust from a range of fields, far beyond ‘the usual suspects’.  Trust is an area that is ripe for discussion and research.  Stay tuned for details.|

Will Rifkin, PhD
Director, Science Communication Program
willrifkin [at]

Inspiring Australia and science prizes

I’m seeking information and comments about science award programs in Australia which recognise science communication in selecting the award winners. I’ll provide some context before I fully phrase my request.

The ASC executive is pleased to note that several of our members have participated in initial actions to implement aspects of the Inspiring Australia report. Two expert working groups have convened, one on Science and the Media and the other for Developing an Evidence Base for Science Engagement in Australia. The latter will soon release its recommendations which I’ll post in a separate article.

This work has commenced over the past few months despite the absence of specific federal funding. As money was promised during the election campaign for some recommendations of Inspiring Australia the pace of activity will gradually ramp up. I expect there soon will be a group to review the science prizes funded by the government (related to recommendation 5 of Inspiring Australia).

An email from Questacon (acting for DIISR) says that, “…Questacon will be identifying how award programs can be further enhanced to engage the wider community in science and to profile Australia’s capability overseas.” Questacon welcomes comments on this.

Here’s my request: to prepare for Questacon’s invitation for comments, and the possible expert panel, I ask that you email me information and comments about science award programs at federal, state and local levels that recognise science communication or use it as a criterion in selecting the award winner.

And further context:

Toss Gascoigne reported to the e-list in August that “The Government has now provided $21 million to implement some recommendations from the report, in an election policy announced on 10 September.

Among other things, it will fund:

* the PM’s Prize for Science

* the Eureka Prizes

* National Science Week

* Science events and activities around Australia

* Promotion of science through the media

The three-page policy is at:—policies/science-for-australia-s-future/. The money is coming from cuts to other activities, such as the CRC program. There is no new money.”

It is good to see continued federal funding for a selection of the Eureka Prizes, especially as two prizes, the Eureka Prize for Science Journalism and the Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science, are strongly related to science communication.

Another interesting award program is the Young Tall Poppy Science Awards. To be considered for these prizes early career research scientist applicants need to have been very active in communicating their scientific research to lay audiences. This awards program operates in several states and territories and is seeking to expand nationally.

Rob Morrison has previously posted an article on the ASC website about how to assign value to an academic’s or research scientist’s science communication activities. The link to his paper is

It would be good for ASC members to contribute to Rob’s thoughts and in turn to the anticipated expert panel. I look forward to hearing from you via jesse [at] or add your comment below this article.

Jesse Shore
National President

“What services do science institutions really need from a science communication company?”

In collating the replies I’ve allowed some duplication to provide different ways of expressing an idea. I leave one brief yet relevant and guiding reply as the last word.

Some services are specific to science communication companies while others could be provided by general communication and marketing companies. Expect some overlap.

A science communication company can help science institutions to:

  • identify their various audiences and the needs of each audience
  • prepare a communications strategy that involves feedback from their audience (e.g. regular phone surveys; product review, other evaluation methods)
  • provide creative, well-informed help with ways to explain difficult science and science-related concepts to particular audiences (e.g. risk, climate change, uncertainty)
  • develop and deliver the messages and media suited for each audience (e.g. design and content of media releases, websites, social media, exhibitions, all print material, multimedia, public and educational programs, radio, etc)
  • help train scientists to communicate their work, empowering them with the skills and tools needed to engage audiences and key stakeholders
  • edit (e.g. putting together the Strategic Plan and proofing)
  • prepare a communications plan and collateral for a specific event (e.g. science conferences, workshops)

Thanks to Sarah Lau (ASC National Secretary and Media and Communications Coordinator, ChemCentre), Clare Mullen (Industry Liaison and Communication Manager, Climate and Water Division, Bureau of Meteorology) and Carrie Bengston (Communication Manager, Mathematics, Informatics and Statistics, CSIRO for contributing to the above.

Thanks also to Jenni Metcalfe (Director, Econnect Communication) for pointing me to for her list of science communication services. Here is my summary of Econnect’s services:

Engaging the community – designing, implementing, analysing and evaluating community and specialised engagement programs

Research – into target audiences trends, issues and recent relevant research

Planning your communication – review, determine and test communication strategies

Building collaborative teams and networks

Training in communication skills – dealing with media, giving presentations or speeches, skills in engaging communities

Writing and publishing – writing stories that reflect the interests and information needs of your audience for various media

Writing for the web – is different to writing for print. Sci-comm staff can join research or field expeditions to write feature articles.

Editing – substantive edit (content, coherence, flow, structure, and suitability of language) or copy edit (correcting errors)

Interpreting science, and natural and cultural attractions – developing exhibitions and interactive displays, visitor centres, walking trails and signage

Managing the media – conference media management, organise and/or promote events, develop and implement media strategies

The last word goes to Julian Cribb (Principal of Julian Cribb & Associates):

“You might add “not waste the public’s money” (by producing science which nobody wants to adopt)”. In reply to my follow-up question, “Do you think many scientific organisations would appreciate and adopt such advice?”, Julian answered, “The ones that care about getting re-funded do!”

Jesse Shore
National President

Liquid Learning’s National Science Communication Officers’ Forum – ASC free pass

I’m pleased to announce that the ASC member selected for the free pass to attend the Science Communication Officers’ Forum is Anneliese Gillard of Victoria. It is never easy to choose between worthy candidates and I thank the other applicants for their interest.

I phoned Anneliese to get more information about her than the 25 words of the application for the pass. She joined the ASC this July and is taking advantage of networking opportunities by attending ASC events in Melbourne. She works as a Project Manager at a small Biotech company.

Anneliese is also keen to get involved with the ASC generally, and to provide assistance to the ASC Exec or to the Victorian branch committee with forthcoming events. She says it’s a great opportunity to meet and get to know the amazing set of people who seem to make up this organisation, as well as for her to get active in science communication, albeit from a slightly different angle.

She is looking forward to the two full days of professional development sessions of the forum. I’ll ask her to write an article for the membership about her experience. It would also be good to hear from other members who attend the forum.

Jesse Shore
National President