The ASC and Inspiring Australia: working with the national strategy for engagement with the sciences

The Australian Science Communicators continues to be an active partner in the Inspiring Australia strategy. We are a member of the Science Sector Group, which provides national leadership and coherent action among non-government science sector organisations. This group aims to enable collaboration, information sharing and, where appropriate, coordinated approaches to issues around science. An important objective is to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, quantity and quality of Australian public science engagement.

Australia aspires to be an inventive society with a technologically skilled workforce, a scientifically literate community and scientifically well informed decision makers. The Inspiring Australia strategy aims to build a strong, open relationship between science and society, underpinned by effective communication of science and its uses.

The ASC shares many of the underlying aims of Inspiring Australia. We view that our involvement in several of Inspiring Australia’s activities will add value to the efforts of both groups.

Inspiring Australia

A new climate in Canberra

Thanks to Brigid Mullane for this opinion piece for Scope.

Since Tony Abbott announced his new cabinet in September, much has been made of the absence of the word ‘science’ in any minister’s title.

Ian Macfarlane is now Minister for Industry, which includes responsibility for the CSIRO. In the previous government, Kim Carr was Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. So, could the change be mainly a expression of Tony Abbott’s stated preference for short titles, rather than a sidelining of science?

The government has disbanded the Climate Commission, seeing no need for a dedicated body to review local and worldwide climate research, and explain it to the government and the people of Australia. It must have great confidence in its Direct Action policies as a way to deal with climate change.

The new Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, expressed this confidence in an interview with the ABC, where he also affirmed his government’s acceptance of climate science and the existing (5% by 2020) emissions targets for Australia, and its in-principle support for ratifying the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol. He noted that research by the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO was available to the government, so he is not averse to climate research as such.

At the same time, the government is moving to shut down the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Climate Change Authority, as promised during its campaign. This will require legislation, which the government might find difficult to get through the Senate, whether the existing one, or the new one in July next year. The uncertainty is disruptive, particularly for the CEFC and its clients.

The Senate might also oppose the planned carbon-tax repeal bill, but this could present an opportunity for some negotiation. One part of the Direct Action plan is an Emissions Reduction Fund to buy emissions abatements. This has something in common with emissions trading schemes, in that it seeks to use market mechanisms to reduce lowest-cost emissions first.  Perhaps some compromise bill could be devised, that would be acceptable to the House and the Senate.

Apart from climate science, there was not much talk about science during the campaign. Science in education is the province of the new Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, who has not made any announcements about this. Meanwhile, the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority continues its work on a national curriculum.

And on the subject of education, some people seem to think that political conservatives are generally anti-science, a view expressed by a recent ABC website contributor. In a personal-attack-style piece on the new government he advised, “don’t be at all surprised to see a push for ‘intelligent design’ to be included in school curriculums”.  This kind of hyperbolic speculation might say more about the ABC’s editorial policy, than about government science policy.

A more rational assessment would suggest that there will be disruption, perhaps for months, to activities meant to deal with climate change, as the new government seeks to replace existing programs with its own. In other areas, there is no evidence so far that the role of science in informing government policy will change very much. Of course, there are many other Abbott policies that could mean big changes if enacted, but that topic is outside the scope of Scope.

Apply for new position: General Manager of the Australian Science Communicators


You are invited to express your interest in appointment to the newly-created part-time position of General Manager of the Australian Science Communicators (ASC).

Location: anywhere in Australia with broadband internet access. Committee meetings held via Skype.

The ASC is a professional body representing and supporting some 500 science communicators working in a wide range of roles. The ASC organises a variety of social and professional development events to allow its members to both mingle and learn, maintains a website, email lists for posting and a monthly electronic newsletter and stages National Conferences. The ASC enjoys a high profile in the science communication community and a strong relationship with relevant programs of the Commonwealth Government.

The General Manager will be responsible for the external relations of the ASC, including management of externally funded projects (such as those linked to the Inspiring Australia initiative), liaison with Government and with organisations that share its objectives, and delivery of National Conferences. The General Manager will report directly to the President of the ASC, and will work in parallel with the already-appointed Executive Officer who is responsible for internal administration and member value.

The appointment will be for six (6) months in the first instance but can be renewed subject to satisfactory performance. Remuneration will be calculated on the basis of one day’s work per week as a stipend but there will be opportunities for additional remuneration based on performance in certain areas.

Skills and Experience


·        Substantial experience in science communication, including awareness of the nature and activities of the Australian science communication community.

·        Verbal and written communication skills of a high order

·        Demonstrated success in the initiation, marketing and delivery of projects and collaborations

·        Strong administrative, relationship management and negotiation skills.


·        Experience in interaction with Government agencies.

·        Experience in the staging of conferences.


·        Manage a range of externally-directed projects intended to raise the profile and impact of the ASC in the science communication and wider communities.

·        Secure of additional revenue for the ASC through sponsorship or by the initiation of new externally-funded projects.

·        Build and sustain relationships with other relevant organisations, including Government.

·        Lead the staging of National Conferences.

·        Report regularly or as required to the President and the National Executive on progress and initiatives.

·        Attend meetings of the National Council and National Executive.

·        Work cooperatively with the Executive Officer.


Over the six month contract the remuneration will be $300 per week.

This is equivalent to:

Gross annual base salary:


Superannuation (9.25%):





Applications for appointment to this position, addressing all criteria and accompanied by a CV and references, must be received by the Executive Officer, Kali Madden,, by 28 June 2013. The employment contract which contains the complete list of duties, details of remuneration and performance bonus is available on request from Kali. It is anticipated that the appointment will commence in late July 2013.

Enquiries contact

Will Grant, ASC Vice President,, may be contacted to discuss the position. Email enquiries are preferred for an initial enquiry.

From the President this month …

As 2013 starts to accelerate, I’m noticing that these are increasingly interesting times to be involved in the wide world of science communication. Doubly so if you’re a member of the ASC.

In 2012 the association was regularly invited to confer with other science and science communication related bodies, and if the first two months of 2013 are anything to go by, this is just going to continue. I take this as a sign of a growing ASC public profile, and also of an increasing awareness ‘out there’ of science communication more broadly. It also highlights to me that professionalising our organisation has never been more timely.

On that, we have confirmed and installed our two VPs now and have a clearer idea of their main portfolios (though the names of these may still need a tweak). Will Grant has agreed to take the lead on running the processes that will lead us down the professionalization road. I was tempted to call his portfolio VP (Black Ops), but something more like “Charter and membership” will probably better provide the necessary gravitas the process and position  warrants.

Claire Harris has confirmed she will take on the other VP position overseeing communication and marketing, a role for which she has a huge amount experience, drive and commitment. I’m delighted these two fine people agreed to step up: this will be great for us all!

Moving to my other ASC hobby-horse, one of my missions as president is to get the ASC more firmly entrenched in the public arena as an organisation. We have many high profile members, but the organisation itself is not yet the ‘go to’ place for sci comm related mattes that I suspect it could be.

To help realise this, I’d like to ask all of you to keep your eyes open for current or impending issues you think might be suitable grist for media releases and comment from the ASC. If you see anything, please send me a heads-up, a link, or a short polemic. Of course I can’t promise that the things people send through will automatically go out under the ASC moniker: some matters will be more suitable than others. But the more material and ideas you send, the more opportunities we will have to positively embed the ASC in minds of those beyond the science communication community.

Onward, upward and outward!




Dr Rod Lamberts

National President

Australian Science Communicators

Inspiring Australia update: Science communication summit, 6-7 June 2013 at UNSW

Want to add your two cents to science communication? Inspiring Australia has announced a two day meeting where everyone’s contributions can add up to a big deposit for Australia’s science communication future.

The BIG science communication summit – pathways to inspiring Australia

Inspiring Australia, TechNyou and ScienceRewired are excited to announce a 2-day hands-on summit to map out the next challenges for science communications in Australia and to collaboratively address best-practice solutions.

Bringing the country’s leading science communicators, innovators, science journalists, decision makers and educators together, the summit is an opportunity for participants to individually and collectively compare, shape and influence their science communications directions and activities.

Register your interest to attend


6th & 7th June
University of New South Wales
Scientia Conference and Events Centre

Produced in partnership with

Update from the National President

From Rod Lamberts, ASC National President …

The commencement of 2013 has been filled with a flurry of activity for me, most of which involves getting my head around the nuances of the presidential seat.

The start of the year has also marked the start of some exciting initiatives for the Australian Science Communicators, some of which I can reveal here.

First, we are working away in the background to prepare our advertising campaign for the General Manager Position. Of course, once this is ready, information will flow through the ASC list, website and all our other communication channels.

Second, both thanks to and in concert with Jesse, I have been injected into the Inspiring Australia conversations on behalf of the ASC. There are many wonderful opportunities in this partnership and I look forward to exploring them more.

I am also hoping to announce two Vice Presidents soon. Of course, I need to make sure the people I’ve spoken with are still keen before naming names and labels!

And finally, I’m in the midst of planning a way to progress the development of the the ASC code of conduct.

Many exciting initiatives are slowly taking shape as I dust out the cobwebs of 2012 and begin to lurch properly into 2013.

I appreciate any feedback, thoughts or comments on any of these initiatives.



Rod Lamberts
National President


Inspiring Australia update: Poo Power! is ready to light the world

The range of projects funded by Inspiring Australia’s Unlocking Australia’s Potential program is breathtaking, with a spread across animal, vegetable and mineral topics. Here’s news about one project that combines at least two of the three.





While cleaning up after your dog, have you ever thought, ‘What a waste of perfectly good dog waste!’? Probably not, but Duncan Chew has.

Self-described ‘dog poo entrepreneur’ Duncan Chew was among the recipients of an Inspiring Australia grant in 2012. His project, Poo Power!, uses science to address the issues of how can our cities and communities live more sustainably, and further what do we do with the 1,350 tonnes of dog waste produced in Australia annually?

The answer is to light the world (or at least urban parks of Melbourne) with Poo Power! The project will see a series of biogas generators turn dog waste into energy for lighting up Melbourne parks, at the same time as engaging audiences on the issue of ‘what is waste?’, and the potential opportunities posed by reassessing waste management practices.

So, as part of the Sustainable Living Festival, Duncan Chew and Melbourne filmmaker James Boldiston will be presenting on the project and its various arms at noon on Saturday 16 February 2013 in ‘The Big Tent’ at Federation Square.

And as part of the wider State of Sustainability program, a second Poo Power! event will be held at Village Rivoli Cinemas on Thursday 21 February 2013 at 6:30pm, where James Boldiston’s humorous documentary, Dog Poo: The Truth at Last, will receive its Melbourne premiere.

Full event details and ticketing are available at . For more information about Poo Power! or for media requests, contact the team at .

This Inspiring Australia initiative is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education in partnership with the Yarra Energy Foundation.

Inspiring Australia update: Nominations Open for 2013 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

The 2012 awards event for the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science was outstanding. A number of ASC members are involved with the Prizes and it would be good to hear their views on what the program means to them. Here’s the first announcement from Inspiring Australia about the 2013 prizes.

Inspiring Australia is pleased to announce that first-stage nominations for the 2013 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science are now open.

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science is a core component of the Inspiring Australia program designed to inspire a sense of national pride by promoting activities that recognise and reward the achievements and successes of Australians in the science and science teaching.

The five prizes are:

  • The Prime Minister’s Prize for Science (A$300,000);
  • The Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year (A$50,000);
  • The Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year (A$50,000);
  • The Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools; (A$50,000); and
  • The Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools (A$50,000).

In addition to the prize monies, each recipient will also receive an award certificate and a medallion with lapel pin, presented at a black-tie dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament House.

Updates to Selection and Nomination Guidelines

For 2013, a number of updates of the selection and nomination guidelines have taken effect, to the effect that:

  • Past recipients of the Malcolm McIntosh and Science Minister’s Prizes are eligible to be nominated and considered for Prime Minister’s Prize for Science award, subject to eligibility criteria being met.
  • For the Malcolm McIntosh and Science Minister’s Prizes, nominees must have achieved outstanding research results within a full-time equivalent research career of ten years, including research conducted as part of studies for a Master’s degree or PhD.
  • In recognition for the schools associated with the winning science teachers, the A$50,000 cash component of the Science Teaching Prizes will be share equally between the prize recipient and the school in which the prize recipient was teaching at the time of nomination.  The school’s share of the monies must be used to finance a project or projects that will improve the school’s capacity to teach science.
  • Nominations for all five Prizes will be conducted in two stages, a first stage simplified submission with those shortlisted nominees then invited to submit a detailed nomination as part of the second stage.

Nominations for the 2013 Prizes close 14 March. See or email for further details.


Inspiring Australia update: stirring up interest in engineering

Australia needs engineers but where will they come from? Inspiring Australia is looking for answers by funding programs which aim to attract the interest of Australian students. Here is an update about two of these programs.



It is well-known that Australia is experiencing a skill shortage in relation to engineers, and that Australian industry, and the economy as a whole, are and will continue to be affected by this shortage unless the trend is reversed. Establishing pathways to tertiary careers in engineering is fundamental in addressing the skills shortage.

Inspiring Australia, the national strategy for science engagement, is playing a part in addressing this issue through awarding $710 000 through its Unlocking Australia’s Potential grants for projects working to promote engineering as a career path. With partnering organisations contributing a similar amount, the projects are providing over $1.4 million dollars towards encouraging engagement with engineering science.

Two examples of the Inspiring Australia-funded engineering projects include Science Rocks on the Road and Robogals:

  • Science Rocks on the Road is an outreach project which provides hands-on demonstrations and activities to improve awareness, understanding and interest in mining-related science. The project has been developed, with assistance from educators and input from volunteers across all science disciplines, and conducted workshops and events focusing on engaging school students in science.
  • Robogals conducts robotics workshops in high schools with the aim of promoting engineering careers, particularly to female students. The activities engage students in a range of engineering topics in a fun and creative way. Additionally the workshops include a brief introduction to the different types of engineering, and how engineers impact our daily lives.

Through these and other projects, Inspiring Australia is working towards not only to address one of the key issues of the Australian economy, but at the same time is ensuring that even those who choose not to pursue a career in engineering have a level of appreciation and understanding of the contribution science makes to the Australian economy and to everyday life.

This update from Inspiring Australia is initiative is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education in partnership with the Australian Science Communicators.


ASC branch events 2012

The ASC branches were again very active in 2012, holding 42 events across Australia. Members were able to attend all events for free or at substantial discounts.

The pdf (link below) has information about each of these events and provides a bank of ideas for those of you wanting to organise an event.

Jesse Shore

ASC branch events 2012, for posting