About Susan Kirk

Susan Kirk is a freelance science journalist, with a degree in journalism and qualifications in horticulture. She has written for many different publications but lately writes extensively for Fairfax media. She wrote a number of the Taste booklets (Global Food and Wine) which showcased Australian produce and producers and even did a stint as a restaurant critique. She loves growing, cooking and consuming food so over the years the interest in ornamental plants turned into an interest in food plants, especially herbs. She is a member of the Media Alliance, and is a member of and the Queensland web editor for the Australian Science Communicators.

Journos get confident with data with new online training


Lyndal Byford Media Manager Australian Science Media Centre

Lyndal Byford Media Manager Australian Science Media Centre

Some of our nation’s top science journalists and communicators have produced a new online resource to support journalists reporting on complicated scientific issues.

The open-access website called SciJourno (www.scijourno.com.au) has been developed to help all journalists and journalism students with their day-to-day science news gathering. It is not just for those on the science round.

When science hits the headlines, whether it’s climate change, vaccination or coal seam gas, journalists increasingly have to get their heads around complicated scientific concepts with few resources and under stringent time pressures.

Liz Minchin, Queensland Editor of TheConversation.com and former environment reporter for The Age, said job cuts in the media mean fewer specialist reporters.

“General news reporters are increasingly asked to cover incredibly complex topics, on everything from what causes bushfires, to how the National Broadband Network works,” Ms Minchin said.

“Journalists need to know where to find good experts, what to ask, and how to best communicate what they find out, including through social media. And we also need scientists and technology experts to be able to explain their work and why it matters in clear, plain English.

“There’s a huge public appetite for science stories; the challenge for everyone is to tell those stories well.”

Funded by The Australian Government’s Inspiring Australia programme, it is hoped that SciJourno will be used by working journalists, needing to brush up on their science knowledge as well as post- and undergraduate journalism students and lecturers/teachers of journalism courses.

The topics covered range from what makes a reliable scientific source, through to working with big numbers and data, and what to do when science gets politicised. The six units include videos, practical exercises, tips/tools, links and resource lists.

Contributors to Scijourno include:

  • Paul Willis, Director of the Royal Institute of Australia (and previously a reporter with Catalyst on ABC)
  • Mark Suleau, recently retired from Channel 10 after more than 40 years as a journalist
  • Liz Minchin, currently Queensland editor of The Conversation
  • Graham Readfearn, independent journalist and blogger
  • Natalie Bochenski, a senior Brisbane journalist currently working with Queensland Times.

For media interviews or more information

Dr. Joan Leach, Senior Lecturer in Rhetoric and Science Communication
The University of Queensland, Brisbane
07 3365 3196

Jenni Metcalfe, Director
Econnect Communication, Brisbane
07 3846 7111, 0408 551 866

Lyndal Byford, Media Manager
Australian Science Media Centre, Adelaide
08 7120 8666

Scijourno was a collaborative project between The University of Queensland, AusSMC (Australian Science Media Centre), Econnect Communication, and with advice from the University of Western Australia

Space Dogs and Quantum Fields: Winners of AIP’s 2013 Science Communication Awards Announced

Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2013 — The American Institute of Physics (AIP) has named a journalist and a children’s book author as winners of the 2013 AIP Science Communications Awards for their works on the discovery of the Higgs boson and a dog’s imaginary trip to the Moon.

Tom Siegfried will receive the prize in the science writing category for his essay “Nature’s Secrets Foretold,” published in Science News magazine. Jeffrey Bennett will receive the award in the writing for children category for his book Max Goes to the Moon.

The selection committees praised Siegfried’s article for its skillful and engaging writing, which made a complex topic accessible to a general audience, and Bennett’s book for its delightful blend of fact and fiction.

“Bennett’s imaginative storytelling and Siegfried’s elegant descriptions of complex concepts make these two pieces as engaging as they are informative,” said Catherine O’Riordan, AIP vice president for Physics Resources. “Their efforts provide readers with context for important discoveries and fundamental scientific concepts, and AIP is pleased to recognize their work.”

Each winner will receive a $3,000 check, an inscribed Windsor chair, and a certificate of recognition from AIP. The awards will be presented at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) 2014 winter meeting in National Harbor, Md.

Celebrating Math’s Power to Predict

For decades, physicists thought they knew why nature’s basic particles possess mass. There had to be a field — permeating all of space — that impeded changes in a particle’s motion, creating inertia, the hallmark of mass. Such a field, properly energized, would reveal itself by the appearance of a particle called the Higgs boson. Its discovery at the Large Hadron Collider was a landmark in physics history, but the implications went far beyond explaining the origin of mass.

In his essay “Nature’s Secrets Foretold,” published in Science News magazine, Siegfried seeks to provide a broader perspective for this recent discovery: first, that the Higgs field, by conferring mass on particles, made all the complexities of nature possible, from atoms and molecules to people and planets; and second, that the Higgs discovery was a validation of the idea that humans can use mathematical ingenuity to discern nature’s deepest secrets. Formulations developed by Peter Higgs and other scientists foresaw the existence of something that, in order to be proven, required the construction of a multibillion-dollar machine.

Tom SiegfriedTom Siegfried is a freelance writer and editor who currently writes the Context blog at www.sciencenews.org. From 2007 to 2012 he was the editor in chief of Science News, and previously he was the science editor of The Dallas Morning News. In addition to Science News, his work has appeared in Science, Nature, Astronomy, New Scientist, and Smithsonian.He is the author of three books: The Bit and the Pendulum, (Wiley, 2000);Strange Matters (National Academy of Sciences’ Joseph Henry Press, 2002); and A Beautiful Math (2006, Joseph Henry Press).

Tom was born in Lakewood, Ohio, and grew up in nearby Avon. He earned an undergraduate degree from Texas Christian University with majors in journalism, chemistry and history, and has an MA with a major in journalism and a minor in physics from the University of Texas at Austin.

His awards include the American Geophysical Union’s Robert C. Cowen Award for Sustained Achievement in Science Journalism, the Science in Society Award from the National Association of Science Writers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science-Westinghouse Award, and the American Chemical Society’s James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public. He is currently on the board of directors and serves as treasurer for the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW).

Moon’s Best Friend

cover art for Max Goes to the MoonMax Goes to the Moon tells the story of a dog (Max) and a young girl who join in the first human trip to the Moon since the Apollo era. Like all of his books, said author Jeffrey Bennett, it is designed to provide education, through scientifically accurate content; perspective, by helping readers learn to see themselves and our planet in a new light; and inspiration, by encouraging children to dream of how they can help make the world a better place — and perhaps travel to space themselves someday.

Max Goes to the Moon was read from orbit by astronaut Alvin Drew during the final mission of the Space Shuttle Discovery. It is now set for launch to the International Space Station, where it and Bennett’s four other children’s books (Max Goes to Mars, Max Goes to Jupiter, Max Goes to the Space Station, and The Wizard Who Saved the World) will be the first five books read in the new “Story Time From Space” program. Max Goes to the Moon is available in both English and Spanish (Max viaja a la luna).

The book, which the National Science Teachers Association has recommended for grades K-8, has been turned into a planetarium show for small- and mid-size planetariums. The show is available for the cost of duplication from Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado (fiske@colorado.edu). More information and a trailer can be found at: http://www.bigkidscience.com/planetariumshow.html

Jeffrey BennettJeffrey Bennett holds a BA in biophysics from the University of California, San Diego, and an MS and PhD in astrophysics from the University of Colorado, Boulder. His extensive experience in research and education includes teaching at every level from preschool through graduate school, proposing and helping to develop the Voyage Scale Model Solar System on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and serving two years as a visiting senior scientist at NASA Headquarters. He is the lead author of best-selling college textbooks in astronomy, astrobiology, mathematics, and statistics, and of several books for the general public including Math for Life (Big Kid Science, 2014), and the forthcoming What is Relativity? (Columbia University Press, 2014). His personal web site is www.jeffreybennett.com.


About the AIP Science Communication Awards

The AIP Science Communication Awards aim to promote effective science communication in print and new media in order to improve the general public’s appreciation of physics, astronomy, and allied science fields. The awards are presented at venues that best highlight the science covered in the publications.

For more information, contact Jason Socrates Bardi (jbardi@aip.org) or visit the AIP website (http://www.aip.org/aip/writing/).


Five winners of the 2013 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

In the Great Hall of Parliament House, Prime Minister Abbott presented his Prizes for Science to five remarkable Australians.

In an official release Prime Minister Abbott said, “Australia has a wealth of scientific talent. Our people are full of great ideas.

“The Federal Government will continue to provide the strong support our scientific community needs so it can get on with finding the next innovation or treatment for disease.”

The 2013 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science go to:

Terry Speed

Terry Speed


Terry Speed – Fighting cancer by the numbers
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne
$300,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science




Angela Moles (c) Peter Morris

Angela Moles (c) Peter Morris


Angela Moles – It’s not a jungle out there: rocking the ecological boat
University of New South Wales in Sydney
$50,000 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year




Andrea Morello

Andrea Morello (c) Peter Morris


Andrea Morello – Quantum computing becomes more than just spin
University of New South Wales in Sydney
$50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year




Sarah Chapman

Sarah Chapman


Sarah Chapman – Using a motor race to fuel interest in science
Townsville State High School
$50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools




Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson


Richard Johnson – A teacher’s laboratory becomes a primary source of inspiration
Rostrata Primary School in Perth
$50,000 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools





For their full citations and the Prime Minister’s official comments, go to: http://www.industry.gov.au/scienceprizes

For high res photos and videos go to: http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/prime-ministers-prize

Bragg UNSW press prize for science writing 2013

The winner of The Bragg UNSW Press Prize for Science Writing 2013 was announced by the Governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir at a ceremony last night at Government House in Sydney.

Professor Fred Watson won the $7000 winner’s prize for his piece ‘Here come the ubernerds: Planets, Pluto and Prague’, from his book ‘Star-Craving Mad: Tales from a Travelling Astronomer’.

Runners-up prizes were awarded to UNSW’s Professor Chris Turney for ‘Martyrs to Gondwanaland: The cost of scientific exploration’ and Gina Perry for ‘Beyond the shock machine’.

In 2012, UNSW Press launched a new annual prize for the best short non-fiction piece on science written for a general audience. The Bragg UNSW Press Prize is named in honour of Australia’s first Nobel Laureates, William Henry Bragg and his son William Lawrence Bragg. The Braggs won the 1915 Nobel Prize for physics. The Bragg UNSW Press Prize is supported by the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.

The winning entries are included in The Best Australian Science Writing 2013, published by NewSouth at UNSW.

For further information contact:

Matt Howard publicist

t 02 8936 0026 m 0400 221 815 e matt.howard@newsouthbooks.com.au w www.newsouthbooks.com.au

The problem with science reporting

Susannah Elliott CEO of the Australia Science Media Centre talks to Radio National – Media Report about the lack of science journalists.

Australian journalism isn’t covering science based stories very well.  And these include disease, obesity, climate change, natural disasters and the Murray-Darling. But increasingly science is being ghettoised into the sensational or the quirky, as fewer genuine specialists remain in journalism and understaffed newsrooms struggle to keep up.



2012 Prime Minister’s Science prizes

The stars are out and shining tonight

Professor and Astronomer Ken Freeman will be dusting off the old suit for a meeting with Government officials, including the PM, in the Great Hall of Parliament House tonight when he receives a token appreciation for his work in the field of planets and stars and the discovery of dark matter.

Ken Freeman Professor and Astronomer

Professor Freeman is one of the winners of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Science prizes being announced at an award ceremony in Canberra tonight.

“Well deserved,” says Kate Brooks, President, Astronomical Society of Australia.

“……Head and shoulders above others in his discipline.”  says Professor Warwick Couch, Distinguished Professor and Centre Director, Centre for Astrophysics and Computing, Swinburne University.

“He deserved to win because [he’s built upon]…..a series of ground-breaking scientific achievements and discoveries made over the last 40 years.”

Dr Marc Duldig, President, Australian Institute of Physics commented about Eric May from the University of Western Australia who will receive the $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year.

Eric May

“Australia’s minerals and energy sectors are transforming our economy. We often forget that they don’t just ‘dig it up’ and ship it”, says Dr Duldig.

“….I’m delighted to hear that a physicist has received one of the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science for his work in improving the efficiency and sustainability of liquid natural gas.”

Mark Shackleton from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre will receive the $50,000 Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year. Mark’s work on breast cancer and melanoma is transforming our understanding of how cancers grow and resist treatment.

Prof Doug Hilton, Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research has known Mark Shackleton for about 10 years.

Mark Shackleton

“He is a stunningly creative guy. He is that wonderful mix of a trained clinician—an oncologist—who has an absolute verve for research.

“He made some stellar discoveries on breast cancer at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute as a PhD student, and then again with melanomas as a post-doc in the US and in his current position at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

“These are two of the most significant cancers for Australians. I couldn’t think of a better recipient.”

Michael van der Ploeg, assistant principal and specialist science teacher at Table Cape Primary School in Wynyard has opened the world of science to students on Tasmania’s northwest coast.

He will receive the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools.

Anita Trenwith, science teacher at Salisbury High School, north of Adelaide, will receive the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools. She has created a unique program that makes science accessible to special‐education students.

Well done all.

Contact Niall Byrne on 0417 131 977, or 0432 974 400 for more information about the PM’s Science Prizes. 

Bryson explains why he wrote A Short History of Nearly Everything – video

What possessed self-confessed “terrible science student” Bill Bryson to write a book about the science of everything?

All writing is “an instinct to share amazing information” he explains in this short film from the Wellcome Trust and “science is fundamentally amazing.”


Download the free ‘Ultimate Science Guide’

It’s here! The eagerly awaited 2012 edition of the Ultimate Science Guide, an undergraduate guide, is now available for download, to help navigate options for careers and courses in science, IT and engineering.

Find out what’s hot in science and how to nab the best salaries and get the most out of a course. Or discover what science personality you are by taking the COSMOS science personality quiz.

Get all this and more in the 2012 ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE.

Science [Rewired]

Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education partners with media140 Australia, to launch a new Digital Science event exploring the impact of social and digital technologies on science communication.

ʻscience [rewired]ʼ on the 30th May at Luna Park, Sydney explores the impact of social media, crowdsourcing and digital technologies on science communication and citizen science in developing international collaboration on major social and scientific issues of our time.

Focusing on a key theme of “Connect, Collaborate and Communicate for Change” the event will bring together science communicators, academics, media professionals and digital visionaries for one day conference of debate, insight and education.

The event is designed for science communicators at a variety of levels including: science practitioners of all specialities from environmental conservation to nanotechnology; science journalists; science educators from primary school to University level; digital innovators; public relations professionals; not-for-profit campaigners; and community groups.

ʻscience [rewired]ʼ is an inclusive forum for anyone wanting to find out how science and digital technology can be used to create positive change in the world.

science [rewired] is a media140 philanthropic initiative.

media140 Australia Ltd. Registered Office: 48 South Street, Alderley Edge, Cheshire SK9 7ES ABN 91 929 200 347. Registered in Australia.media140 Australia – press release

Event themes

Communicating science across borders

• Master class on online science communications (from beginner to intermediate) • Conservation science communications for practitioners • Dialling down the jargon – how to talk science to non-scientists • What is the relationship between science and online journalism?

• Communicating science to communities in developing countries – Climate Witnesses

The democratisation of science

• Strategies to facilitate better collaboration between science and the public • Data visualisation • To share or not to share – strategies and policy


• How to create your own ʻgame for changeʼ • Interactive: Online gaming room session involving people across the globe • The theory of gaming and application in a science context

Best Practice in online science communications

• Using online tools for enhancing global civil society movements e.g. Earth Hour • Workshop: How to use YouTube to further scientific aims • Interactive: Podcasting for the People • Blogging for science, using video and audio effectively

Citizen Science

• Citizen Science projects changing the world • Using Crowd sourcing techniques, strategies and tools • Maintaining communities and growing them • How to make online science entertaining • Online science as an education tool

Future science

• What is next for online science communications?

media140 Australia Ltd. Registered Office: 48 South Street, Alderley Edge, Cheshire SK9 7ES ABN 91 929 200 347. Registered in Australia.

media140 Australia – press release

Event details

For more information and to pre-register for event updates visit


Event to be held at The Crystal Palace, Luna Park, Sydney on the 30th May


Tickets available from the 12th March 2012 priced at $295 or $195 earlybird special if purchased before 30th April 2012.

To join the event as a speaker, sponsor or media partner please contact Andrew Gregson at ande@media140.com

A million fans for Australian science

Australian science has just gained its millionth fan on worldwide internet phenomenon Facebook, the Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb announced at the Australian Science Communicators National Conference in Sydney today.

“The milestone makes Australian website ScienceAlert.com.au the world’s #1 provider of science news on Facebook,” managing director Chris Cassella said.

“We’re also now the world’s 9th largest general media news outlet on Facebook, with more followers than The Economist, the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, the Guardian, and all the Australian news media outlets combined,” he added.

“We understand that we are competing for peoples’ attention on the internet, so while science topics can be complex, we have adapted and are now delivering science where people want it, when and how they want it — on the Internet, and in Facebook.”

ScienceAlert founder Julian Cribb adds, “We founded ScienceAlert to share great Australian scientific achievements with a local and global audience at a time when the news was absolutely dominated by US and European science.

“We had no inkling there would be such international interest in Australian science or that it could grow so quickly.”

The ScienceAlert website attracts 100,000+ visitors a month, but more than a million people now keep in touch with science daily via its Facebook site and through their friends. Between them, ScienceAlert’s million Facebook fans have around 130,000,000 personal contacts, with whom they share their interests and activities.

This audience, currently growing by a third of a million a day, and is now within reach of Australian science.

“For the sake of the Australian scientists in our universities, CSIRO, CRCs and scientific centres we are delighted their work is now achieving a much larger global audience,” Mr Cribb said.

“Let’s hope it brings further global recognition of its quality, as well as attracting the brightest researchers and students to Australia.”

Mr Casella said that Facebook users were predominantly aged under 30, and were the fastest growing segment on the internet today, both in Australia and worldwide.

“Since the advent of smart phones many young people go on Facebook before they even get out of bed in the morning,” he says.

“Our followers are young, they are keen on science – and they are engaged, as you can see from their comments, likes and sharing activity.

“We are inspiring science enthusiasts worldwide by making Australian science as fun to follow as a friend.

We think this could be the beginning of a new era in science’s engagement with society.”

ScienceAlert achieved half a million Facebook fans in September 2011, and has since doubled its global outreach in barely 5 months, expanding its news and feature content with images and video from across science.

http://www.famecount.com/node/247314 It is ranked 16th among Australian sites on Facebook, ahead of the tennis, cricket, rugby league and soccer and has more followers than other Australian media or popular TV shows.

“We are currently exploring ways to further grow our audience reach in other languages such as Chinese, Spanish and French.

This will give Australian science unprecedented global exposure – and we hope will lead to more people coming from overseas to study and work in research in Australian universities and companies.

“Above all, we’d like to thank all our fans in Australia and worldwide for making this happen – and express our particular thanks to those Australian universities, science agencies and technology companies who had the entrepreneurial vision to support this venture,” Mr Cassella said.