Lisa Bailey: President’s Update May

HOLD THE DATE!  September 15-17 for ASC Online 2021.  While the impacts on travel and budgets mean that for many ASC members an in-person conference is not practical this year, we know that the opportunity to network, learn and share ideas with each other is one of the most valued parts of ASC.  So we’re looking to move online this year which will open up possibilities for participation for more people than ever.

So hold those dates (don’t worry, it won’t be 8-hour zoom calls each day!)  and watch for more information on how to participate, program details and more.

Lisa Bailey: President’s Update April

Late in 2020, I zoomed in to the World Congress on Science Literacy on behalf of ASC, where I was among dozens of international guests invited to share a 2-minute flash update on the theme of the Interaction of science communication and social governance in light of the pandemic year.  It was a fascinating insight into how SciComm and public health had done in light of this huge challenge.  My short contribution reflected on the SciComm lessons learned and re-inforced during 2020:

  • Ensuring your message is reaching the full diverse audience in all the languages needed – very important in a multicultural society like Australia.
  • The messenger is as important as the message – who is doing communication, are the best people being given the platform to share their expertise?
  • The value of trusted media sources, such as the ABC in Australia who performed an extraordinary job to share up to date factual information across many platforms.
  • Repetition repetition repetition – one message will always miss someone, and so you need to repeat it again and again.
  • Transparency of data, and how that data is being used to inform decision making.
  • The value of leadership.
  • And that it’s very important to communicate the uncertainties and limits of our knowledge, especially where the science is constantly evolving as we learned more about the virus over the year.

 

There are also some key things that we’ve learned from this crisis that can be applied to other crises we face like dealing with climate change.  We’ve learned that:

  • Delay is costly.  Time is the one resource that you never get back.
  • Whatever policies we put in place need to take human behaviour and our inherent biases into account.
  • The problems of inequality are magnified without timely effective action.
  • Global problems require global solutions and international cooperation across many levels.

More recently I sat on another zoom ca for the committee for the World Organisation for Science Literacy – a project championed by the Chinese Association for Science and Technology to foster international co-operation and knowledge sharing around science communication.  This group will be focussing on a number of activities in 2021 including:

  • Science Literacy Research Group
  • Resource Sharing
  • Activity and training (particularly for young people)

I will continue to sit on this committee on behalf of ASC, with a particular interest in the Science Literacy Research area, but if you are interested to know more about this, please get in touch with me at president@asc.asn.au

ASC Scope Interview: Dr Tullio Rossi, Director of Animate Your Science

Why did you choose to study science?

When I was 15, I learned how to scuba dive and I had a transformative experience during my first ever night dive. After descending into the spooky black waters, the guide gave me a signal to turn off my flashlight and wave my hands. So I did, and magic happened. The water started to glow. It was like floating in the middle of the Milky Way, but with the ability to play with the stars that surrounded me. The best part: it wasn’t magic! Rather, a well-known biological phenomenon called bioluminescence. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever witnessed in my life, and I was hooked. I was set to become a marine biologist.

 

Looking back now, what has been the best part of your career in SciComm?

During my PhD, I discovered how climate change affects fish and I wanted to make the public aware of my important findings. It was a matter of food security, after all. But how do you reach the public in this info-glutted world? Certainly not with peer-reviewed papers. That’s what pushed me to skill up in SciComm and produce my first ever animation. The success of this blew me away. All of a sudden, thousands of people from all around the world were learning about my research! I also racked up 3 awards in science communication along the way, but the best part was receiving messages from strangers saying “thank you for doing what you are doing”. Until that moment nobody had ever thanked me for my hard work… it felt amazing and this feedback accelerated my motivation. I realised that the world is not made exclusively of climate change deniers: there are nice people out there who value science and appreciate seeing researchers put in the effort to explain their work in an accessible way.  I treasure this experience because of how rewarding it was, and because it laid the foundations for my career in SciComm.

 

Where has your career led you?

When presenting my animation and other outreach work at a scientific conference, I noticed a lot of interest. Various researchers said things like: “I really like what you did”, “I wished I could do the same… I just don’t know how to do it”, “I don’t have the time”. This made me realise that I could help these researchers and maybe, just maybe, even make a business out of it. So after handing in my PhD thesis I decided to give up on the academic career and get an ABN instead. What followed were some of the hardest but also most rewarding years of my life: an insane roller coaster of hard work, extreme highs and lows and a lot of rejections. But I pushed through and now I am proud to say that my baby Animate Your Science is thriving and has clients on 5 continents, including Antarctica! Yes, we are lucky to work with the coolest client of all — The Australian Antarctic Division (pun intended)!

 

What excites you most about your work?

At Animate Your Science we help some of the most brilliant researchers on the planet have an impact: this is what’s most exciting and inspiring. In doing so, we learn about the latest research in all sorts of disciplines, which keeps our work fresh and always interesting. One day we work on explaining new cancer treatments and the next we work on the hunting behaviour of electric eels. The work is delightfully diverse, yet always meaningful.

 

What advice do you have for anyone considering a career in SciComm?

When I look back, I can boil down my career in SciComm to the moment when I told myself “sit down and make this first video. Just do it”. If I didn’t make that decision and acted on it, I would not be where I am today. So my advice for anyone considering a career in SciComm is to find your creative tools, make something and put it out there. Depending on your skills and interests it could be a blog, illustrations, animations, web design, graphic recording, whatever. Just do it. The important thing is that you create something and share it with the world. This will be unique to you and set you apart from other job seekers, who don’t have anything to show other than their degree.

 

What are some of the greatest challenges that you’ve overcome in your SciComm career?  

The greatest challenge of all was getting traction in the first year in business and convincing myself that I wasn’t delusional. Starting a business is a battle with the market as much as it is an internal battle with your self-doubt. So many times I questioned my choices and just wished I had a “normal” job and a steady income. Luckily, I believed in my mission, vision and values and through perseverance, dedication and hard work, Animate Your Science eventually gained momentum and things got rolling. The ultimate validation came when I received an award at the Springer Nature Launchpad Meetup in Berlin. Seeing that this top scholarly publisher understood and valued my idea finally erased my self-doubt for good. The morning after the event, when I processed the magnitude of what just happened, I cried with joy.

 

Contacts

Dr Tullio Rossi

contact@tulliorossi.com

Personal website

Twitter: @Tullio_Rossi

 

Animate Your Science

contact@animateyour.science

Twitter: @Animate_Science

 

ASC Scope Interview: Wesley Ward, Founder of The Comms Doctor

Why did you choose to study science?

All my life I have been a science ‘nerd’ wandering in the bush. As a child and a teenager, I was especially interested in life sciences and applied biology and chemistry – I just didn’t know what those words meant. For me, agriculture was a natural extension of these sciences, especially as I also liked to be ‘outside’ and to use my hands. And because I had no assets to fall back onto, getting a teacher’s scholarship to do agricultural teaching was the best way for me to get into agriculture and a career in science.

Looking back now, what has been the best part of your career in #SciComm?

Definitely meeting new people and getting fresh ideas, in science and communication. Learning about email, the Internet and Content Management Systems were (at the time) great fun and very stimulating, especially when you floated challenging ideas and suggestions with managers and directors. That was when I learned most about how to manage people!

Where has your career led you?

From high school I started my first university degree in agriculture teaching at UNE at Armidale, and finished it in 1980. I was lucky enough to land a teaching job in Western Australia in what is arguably the best agricultural education system for senior high school students in Australia. It was a blast living all over southern WA in the 1980s – it was a growing place!

I was first exposed to #scicomms soon after starting teaching – let’s face it, you need to communicate to teach. I was working with media from the early stages of my teaching career, especially as I started to climb the Education Department ‘pecking order’. One of my early challenges was to teach ‘computers in ag’ in the early years of Commodores and Apples. I had to build the course from scratch (it was 1983), and learn how to run them at the same time! I have been looking at screens ever since while adding ‘IT repairs and maintenance’ to my skillset.

Then seven years living in the Pacific Islands widened my experience in communicating across cultures, languages and economic boundaries. In this time, I had two regional jobs: firstly in agricultural extension, then environmental communication. Here I developed a keen sense for networking and talking in various face-to-face and online forums, as this is the way you do business in the Pacific. During this time, I came across satellite radio, ‘electronic mail’ and this mystical ‘Internet’ thing (it was the early 90s).

On returning to Australia, I settled with my growing family into a (sort of) sedentary life in the media team of a local university in regional Australia. This posed a number of communication challenges as I worked in a dispersed team for the next 30 years: the closest my boss ever got to me was 150km, and we met in person once a year at the most! I wrote and promoted hundreds of research stories, particularly around science and education, with the help of this ‘Internet’ thingyme. I built and maintained the university’s first news website, and I finished a Masters and a PhD part-time.

What excites you most about your work?

The stimulation and search for new ideas are still there, and this is no better time. In the past 18 months, I have thoroughly enjoyed my change in work direction, establishing my home-based business as The Comms Doctor. I now pick the #scicomms jobs I want to do, usually based on the ‘fun factor’, and I also do some social research on collaborating in teams, which also is high in ‘fun’.

The pandemic has just focussed me a little more on what I can do online from home. My big challenge last year was to teach how to do social research online, including class exercises using Zoom and agriculture students doing interviews with each other from the middle of rural Australia at harvest time.

What advice do you have for anyone considering a career in #SciComm?

Be prepared to change and learn – constantly. Don’t get set in your ways, and be open to challenges and fresh ideas. One of the best conversations in my professional life was winding my way up the Mekong River to the Angkor Wat in Cambodia – I chatted for 4 hours with a wise 74-year-old man on the roof of an ancient Rhine tourist ferry about life working overseas and across cultures. He was an incredible, enthusiastic, inquisitive, worldly person who gave me some incredible insights into and stories about communication – and he was someone I just met on the boat …

What are some of the greatest challenges that you’ve overcome in your #SciComms career? 

I think maintaining relations with team colleagues over 1000s of kilometres is an incredible challenge, particularly if your organisation believes you can do everything ‘online’, and so you don’t need to meet face-to-face. You need to build trust and relationships to have good communication, and I believe you can’t do that – especially when you need to work as a close work team – until you meet face-to-face.

Now that is a challenge during a pandemic, but I believe a little creative thinking, flexibility, patience and ability to see and take opportunities can overcome these challenges.

 

Wes Ward

The Comms Doctor® and

Adjunct research fellow with CSU’s Institute for Land, Water and Society

 

 

Lisa Bailey: President’s Update March

I have a group chat with a group of friends from high school that’s not always super active, but this week was a flurry of excitement as a couple of my mates got their first COVID vaccinations.  Even when you’re a health professional, you can still feel nervous if you’re one of the first people in Australia to get it.

Aussies generally have high trust in vaccines, although there is some hesitancy around the COVID vaccines.

Mistrust of vaccines, no matter how unfounded, causes an increased perceived risk of vaccination.   Recovery of public confidence in vaccines takes time.  And the speed of the rollout is what we’re aiming for – the Australian government has stated their ambitious but achievable goal of delivering 45 million vaccine doses by the end of October this year.

 

So how much information does the public need in order to trust the system that provides vaccines?   And how much is too much?

These are the exact research questions that our next guest in our webinar series, Dr Kate Attwell, will be answering.

 

A political scientist, Dr Attwell is interested in the intersection of policy, identity, attitudes and behaviour as they pertain to health consumers, healthcare providers and governments. She leads the large interdisciplinary research project “Coronavax: Preparing Community and Government” with colleagues from UWA and Telethon Kids Institute.

Join us online on Wednesday 17 March at 7.30pm AEDST and register via this link

Request to participate in Australian National University social research project

Hi there!

My name is Nic Badullovich and I’m a PhD student at the Australian National University in Canberra.

I am completing my PhD at the Crawford School of Public Policy and am conducting research on the communication of climate change in Australia. I am hoping to speak with Australian-based climate change communicators as part of one of my PhD studies.

I am hoping to speak with communicators in Government, non-profit organisations, universities, and other relevant areas. If communicating climate change makes up a core part of your job, then it would be great to talk with you and learn from you. While communicating climate change can happen in many forms and at many levels, this study is seeking people that do this as a primary function of their current job. The discussion would be recorded so that I do not forgot what we discuss, and any personal information you provide will be made anonymous, meaning that no one else will know that you participated in the project. That means this will be a strictly confidential discussion. I’ll share the insight from our discussion as part of my PhD, but I will not say who was involved – this project has also been approved by the ANU Human Ethics board.

I hope the discussion would be enjoyable, and the intention would be able to help me answer a few questions that I have guiding my research, as well as capture the experience of real communicators. I will ask questions like “what are your experiences in communicating climate change” and “is communicating climate change different to others?”.

An information sheet can also be sent to you which provides more detailed information on the project. If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with me at (nicholas.badullovich@anu.edu.au).

Finally, if you know of someone who might be interested, please feel free to forward this information onto them if you feel comfortable to do so.

Thank you for your consideration and I hope to meet you in the future!

 

Nic Badullovich

PhD candidate

Resources, Environment & Development (RE&D) Group

Crawford School of Public Policy

The Australian National University

Nicholas.badullovich@anu.edu.au

Lisa Bailey: President’s Update February

Hello everyone, I hope that your 2021 has gotten off to a good start.  There’s a lot to look forward to, and it isn’t just that 2020 is behind us…

In terms of science communication, things to look forward to – there will be new organisations entering the public engagement space with the likes of the Australian Space Agency launching the new Space Discovery Centre in Adelaide, there will be the enormous challenge of clear and convincing communication to ensure a safe and speedy COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, and there will be some way that we will bring the ASC community together online this year in the absence of a physical conference.  If you’re keen to come on board to shape and guide an online symposium, please reach out at president@asc.asn.au

Thank you.

ASC Scope Interview: Julian Cribb, Science Communicator, Journalist, Author and Strong Advocate for Earth’s Future

-The Earth has a future whether humans want it or not. The question I am focussed on is: do we? (Julian Cribb).

Brief background:

Julian Cribb is an Australian science writer, the author of nine books and over 9000 media articles. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering,  the Australian National University Emeritus Faculty and the British Royal Society for the Arts (FRSA).

 

Why did you choose to study science?

A: My degree is in Homeric Greek, so I didn’t study science – but having a bit of Greek and Latin is a big help in translating scientific words, and the philosophy of science owes its origins to the Greeks. However, I was always fascinated by science and, in my first career as an agricultural journalist, I found myself reporting a lot of science – animal science, soil science, ecology, agronomy, weather, climate etc. I wrote my first climate change story back in 1976! In the 1990s The Australian asked me to come and work for them (again, I had worked there before) and asked me what I wanted to report on. I said science, because the opportunities for a news journalist in science are limitless (as distinct from politics, economics etc which repeat themselves constantly). I was their science editor for 5 years and thoroughly enjoyed it. While on the Oz, I was the first western journalist into Chernobyl after the disaster – but that is a story in itself. I’m glad I don’t work there today, as the Oz has abandoned any attempt to report science objectively and often seeks to distort it nowadays. But in my days the editors were better and the political agenda was less stark.

 

Looking back now, what has been the best part of your career in SciComm?

A: Interacting and learning from a couple of thousand of Australia’s most brilliant and gifted researchers was a joy and a true privilege. In my journalistic career, I have published over 9000 media articles on science and, as a communicator issued more than 3000 science media releases. I hope that that has helped inform many people about the scientific knowledge they need for a better life.

I was the first president of ASC when we founded it in 1994 – and I’m grateful to my colleagues who shared the vision that science communication embraces a wide range of professions – journalism, teaching, research, marketing, social media and so on. It is the craft of transmitting our most precious commodity, human knowledge, safely, truthfully and widely.

I thoroughly enjoyed heading CSIRO’s National Awareness unit, 1996-2002. We doubled the agency’s media coverage and changed the ethos. However before I took that job I demanded an assurance from the Chairman and CEO that I could report the science – not promote the organisation. Too many science organisations fall into the ugly trap of self-promotion, and forget that what really builds their reputation is the quality and relevance of their science. I had a great team of communicators at CSIRO who shared my view we should be getting the science out there, to the people who could use and benefit from it, not doing PR for the institution.

Having said that, the best time was the 15 years I spent running my own science communication business. I worked for over 100 different organisations including most of the CRCs, quite a few CoEs and universities, the Commonwealth and several State governments, several foreign governments, the UN and big international corporations like Rolex and Rio Tinto. It took me around the world, as a communicator and a speaker, and was a real buzz. The true pleasure lay in the diversity and range of the science I was handling on a daily basis, as well as the thrill of learning new discoveries at first hand.

 

Where has your career led you?

A: To my final career in trying to save humanity from the consequences of its own catastrophic mistakes.

Having spoken to thousands of scientists and technologists over more than 4 decades, I have garnered an immense amount of interesting and valuable evidence-based information. I realised after a time that I held more pieces of the puzzle in my hands than most scientists – because they are generally focussed on their own particular disciplines and areas of expertise. But they have given me the big picture. As a science writer, I knew much less than they did about the detail – but I had a larger overview. And I knew where to go to find out the detail. I am sure that people like Robyn Williams and Karl Kruszelnicki would agree that being a science communicator is a very special privilege and a pleasure because you can scan the whole of tested human knowledge and share it with others.

About ten years ago I began meeting a lot of scientists who were very dispirited about the future and the prospects for humanity. Ecologists and climatologists especially. Every day they had to deal with data that told them the world was going to hell in a handcart, and it depressed them. Furthermore, if they spoke out, they got belted over the head by the government or business, who didn’t like hearing ‘bad news’. Science was being forced into a dark corner and gagged by vested interest in politics and commerce. So I decided to do what a science communicator does best – pull together most trusted science I could find and interpret it for the ordinary citizen so they could (a) understand the problem and see how large it was and (b) try and do something to overcome it.

The result is a series of science books, four published and another due out on April 21, describing aspects of the existential emergency that faces humankind – and what we can do about it. This is an emergency that will almost certainly destroy civilization within the lifetimes of young people today, and under certain conditions may even obliterate our species. All the books are based on the best science and the most trustworthy scientists and institutions I can find, but written in plain language that anyone can follow. Importantly, they also explain the solutions to these catastrophic risks – what we must do both as a species and as individuals to avoid disaster and build a better, cleaner, safer and more wholesome world.

If you ask me: am I optimistic? my reply is, no. How could any rational person be optimistic in the face of such overwhelming evidence? But there is room for hope, if we act now, and we act together. The longer we delay, or allow others to mislead us about the scientific facts, the worse the ultimate collapse will be. However, early prompt action can save billions of lives. Not millions, billions. And that is what keeps me going.

I’m a grandad, and I am fighting for my grandchildren’s future on this Planet. As they say, beware of an old man in a hurry…

 

What excites you most about your work?

A: The fact that I shall probably fail. It makes me try harder.

In recognition of this, together with John Hewson, Bob Douglas and Paul Barrett we have formed the Council for the Human Future, https://humanfuture.org/ a not-for-profit alliance of scientists and concerned citizens whose aim is to awaken the world to the existential crisis it is facing, and work together to devise solutions and a road forward. You could say our job is science communication – getting the science to the world, and helping people think their way to the answers. One thing that is absolutely vital is to realise that there are not one or two big threats, like climate or nuclear war, but TEN, which collectively constitute the existential emergency. They are all coming together at the same time and cannot be solved one by one. They must all be solved together, and in ways that make none of them worse. There is no point in fixing the climate if we let the other nine risks destroy us. And it is no good fixing the food crisis if it destroys the climate or global ecology. So the solutions have to be crosscutting.

As science communicators most of you will be familiar with the concept of complex systems science. That describes the mess that humans have landed themselves in. It’s a system, and needs to be addressed systemically. And, if you think about it, it nearly all stems from our use, misuse and overuse of various sciences and technologies. So science got us in this mess in the first place, by triggering human overpopulation and overexploitation of the Earth’s resources. So, I believe, science owes it to humanity to help get us out of the hole it has helped create.

And whose job is that, you may ask? Well, I may be biased, but I think it’s a science communicator’s job. It’s about sharing tested knowledge that will overcome our crises and engender a more sustainable and resilient world on which to live in future.

 

What advice do you have for anyone considering a career in SciComm?

A: In my time I have mentored and taught many science communicators, scientists and young journalists. Looking back over my own career – almost 50 years now, my advice to others is that you should always choose the job that makes you happiest and most fulfilled. One that is a natural fit for your skills and which engages your enthusiasm. Working for a paypacket alone is a miserable existence. If you find yourself doing it, it’s time to look elsewhere. Also, if you can, work for yourself rather than for others, because bosses are a very variable commodity: some are good, but most are bad in one way or another. As a self-employed newspaperman (I launched several papers and two news services) and science communicator, nothing beats following your own dreams. It makes you get up that much earlier, work harder and enjoy it more and, if you employ others, a kinder boss.

 

What are some of the greatest challenges that you’ve overcome in your SciComm career?  

A: too many to enumerate. As a journalist you sometimes have to face death and other threats, you make politicians and other self-important people angry (if you’re doing your job) and media owners are a mixed bag. As a science communicator, the greatest frustration is dealing with idiots who want to promote themselves or their institution and use you as a PR flack instead of a skilled expert who understands how best to share that most precious commodity, human knowledge.

 

 

Lisa Bailey: President’s Update December

President’s Update

This Thursday is the ASC AGM, which will be held on zoom and where we’ll be joined for an introductory Q&A with Deadly Science founder, Indigenous mentor and STEM champion Corey Tutt, who has not let 2020 slow him down! So if you have not already, please RSVP for that here.

As 2020 comes to a close, I’m sure most of us are happy to see it go.  2021 will bring a new set of issues, but also more interesting science communication challenges, particularly as COVID vaccines are rolled out around the globe and climate action becomes more urgent.

I hope that you all are able to take some time over the coming weeks to have a break, rest and recharge to be ready for 2021.

ASC Scope Interview: Dr Sam Illingworth, Senior Lecturer in Science Communication, School of Biological Sciences, UWA

 

Why did you choose to study science?

Following my compulsory science education in school, I chose to study science at A-level (exams that are studied and taken by 16-18-year-olds in the UK prior to University) because I loved trying to understand the world and the way in which we live. I pursued a combined undergraduate and master’s degree in Physics with Space Science and Technology at the University of Leicester because I had brilliant A-level physics teachers who instilled a love of the discipline into me. During my time at Leicester I fell in love with satellites and was lucky enough to do a PhD there as well, in which I used satellites to make measurements of greenhouse gases at the Earth’s surface. I then made the completely logical step of taking up a scholarship with the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation to study the relationship between science and theatre in Tokyo for a couple of years, which is where I first began to suspect that there might be more to the positivist mindset into which I had become indoctrinated…

Looking back now, what has been the best part of your career in SciComm?

Having the opportunity to combine poetry and science and to be in a position where I get to read, write, and perform poetry as part of my job. When I set up my blog The Poetry of Science a few years ago, it was on a bit of a whim. But as a result of that blog (which is still going strong), I have been able to build an entire community of practice, developing a research paradigm that combines poetic inquiry with science communication research and practice. As well as further outreach opportunities, such as the accompanying podcast, I have been fortunate enough to write a book, conduct a variety of research studies, and give keynote speeches all over the world. I can honestly say that I love my job, and I feel incredibly privileged to be able to continue this work in my current role as Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at The University of Western Australia.

Where has your career led you?

Literally right around the world. From the North of England to the West Coast of Australia, via Japan, China, and America. I have been lucky enough to study, teach, and research science communication all over the globe, and doing so has really helped me to better understand the need to diversify science, and to use my voice and privilege to create platforms for others to share their knowledge and expertise.

What excites you most about your work?

The opportunity to work with others and to learn from different publics about their expertise. I love collaborating and working with people who have different opinions on what science is and what it can be. If anyone reading this is interesting in connecting with me and potentially developing a collaboration then my Twitter feed is always open!

What advice do you have for anyone considering a career in SciComm?

Think about what area of SciComm you want to get into. Do you want to be a SciComm practitioner? Do you want to be a SciComm researcher? Do you want to be a scientist who has a side hustle in SciComm? Science communication is a varied field and there are many routes into it (and out of it!); thinking about which particular niche you want to occupy will help you to frame your work and where you sit within the wider SciComm environment.

What are some of the greatest challenges that you’ve overcome in your SciComm career?  

I’m not sure I’ve overcome them yet to be honest. The two biggest battles I face are trying to convince people that my work is about more than teaching people how to give good presentations, and that using poetry and games is a serious way in which to engender dialogue and participation in science. Helping to set up Consilience, the world’s first peer-reviewed poetry journal has gone some way to convince others of my intent, but there is still a way to go!