Chief Scientist’s speech to ASC conference – the transcript of Ian Chubb’s presentation

Professor Ian Chubb, Australia’s Chief Scientist, was a worthy voice to present the Robyn William’s address, to open the ASC conference. Ian’s presentation started minds thinking and the points he raised kept delegates challenged throughout the 3 days of the event.

Kali Madden is continuing the spade work needed to post podcasts of various plenary sessions on the ASC website. Look for them to start rolling out in another month or two. In the meantime I’m posting the pdf of the transcript of Ian Chubb’s speech.

Jesse Shore
National President

Ian Chubb’s ASC2012 speech, 27 February 2012



Atmospheric Sciences on the Rise

Thanks to Craig Macaulay, CSIRO for contributing this article:

Once a year Australian atmospheric scientists gather for a research review centred on a real singing ‘canary’ – the Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Monitoring Station.  The Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station was established in 1976 to monitor and study global atmospheric composition; the Bureau manages the station and its research is jointly managed by the Bureau and CSIRO. This year’s annual Cape Grim science meeting at the Bureau of Meteorology from November 15-17 was combined with the 5th Annual Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research Workshop with a focus on the science of atmospheric composition.

The timing could not have been more appropriate coinciding with a series of releases on carbon and greenhouse gas emission figures from the International Energy Agency ( and the World Meteorological Organisation (

Both activities brought together more than 90 researchers from New Zealand and Australian research agencies and universities. The Workshop also included the Annual Priestley lecture, which was given this year by Dr Stephen E. Schwartz (Brookhaven National Laboratory).

This meeting provided a much needed forum for atmospheric composition researchers from different disciplines (in-situ observations, remote sensing observations, modelling) to share ideas, enhance collaboration and develop a coordinated regional approach to characterising atmospheric processes in Australasia.  A major outcome of this meeting is the decision to continue this forum into the future and to investigate during 2012 the establishment of a co-ordinated atmospheric composition research group.

Melita said there is energy to bring researchers more closely together through collaboration to benefit from the expanding  and emerging infrastructure and tools  that are providing  increasing opportunities observations, modelling and assessments. These include the Australian Community Climate Earth System Simulator, new observation sites such as the Tropical Atmosphere Research Station at Gunn Point and Australia’s new research vessel, the RV Investigator that will be commissioned in June 2013.

Timing is everything

From Craig Macaulay, CSIRO:

Depending on where you source your news, the November 18 release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on weather extremes ( attracted a mixed response in Australia.

This can be partly attributed to the leaking of a draft report earlier in the week, a pre-empting of the report outcomes based on documents held by the BBC but more particularly the timing of the release by the IPCC’s Chris Field at 1.30 pm in Kampala, Uganda – 9.30 pm on Friday evening AEST, a time convenient for US and European media but when most Australian newspapers had been put to bed.

Contributing through the CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship, Kathy McInnes was the only Special Report co-author on the ground in Australia and accessible. The other Australian co-authors, Neville Nicholls from Monash and John Handmer from RMIT, Melbourne, had been in Uganda and were en route back to Australia.

The full report can be found at – – and a separate assessment of the treatment can be found in The Conversation by former CMAR scientist Roger Jones –

 Extremes report key findings

For Australia, it is very likely that there has been an overall decrease in the number of cold days and nights and an overall increase in the number of warm days and nights,

There is low confidence that any observed long-term (i.e., 40 years or more) increases in tropical cyclone activity are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities.

It is likely that there has been an increase in extreme coastal high water related to trends in mean sea level in the late 20th century.

It is likely that anthropogenic influences have led to warming of extreme daily minimum and maximum temperatures on the global scale. There is medium confidence that anthropogenic influences have contributed to intensification of extreme precipitation on the global scale. It is likely that there has been an anthropogenic influence on increasing extreme sea levels via mean sea level contributions. There is low confidence in attribution of changes in tropical cyclone activity to anthropogenic influences.

It is virtually certain that increases in the frequency and magnitude of warm daily temperature extremes and decreases in cold extremes will occur through the 21st century and it is very likely that the length, frequency and/or intensity of warm spells, including heat waves, will continue to increase over most land areas.

IPCC terms | Virtually certain:  99-100% probability | Very likely:  90-100% probability | likely:  66-100% probability | About as likely as not:  33 to 66% probability | Unlikely:  0-33% probability | Very unlikely:  0-10% probability | Exceptionally unlikely:  0-1% probability


Personalising science for scientists?

There is an interesting blog entry in titled “Should scientific papers be written in a first-person narrative?” by James Dacey, It’s really a teaser for people to cast their vote on physicsworld’s Facebook page but it raises an interesting aspect of science communication.

Sci-commers have regularly posed the value of having a more narrative tone for papers only to be told that the science journals won’t accept papers written in that style.

Is there a need for journals to change their editorial formats? If there is change I imagine it would be at a glacially slow rate unless there is some worldwide paradigm shift in science report writing.

The question is also related to the communication skills of scientists. Some are superb communicators but many lack the skills to weave a compelling story which supports their thesis. Many ASC members make their livelihoods partly because of the preponderance of the latter. We also recognise that scientists need time to do science, and crafting a cracking communiqué is usually time-consuming.

Yet I wonder whether more readable papers would become more popular among scientists and get increasingly cited? That may not make for better science but could lead to academic promotion.

What are the reasons for scientific journals to welcome relevant narrative in papers?

How many science communicators does it take to change a scientist’s narrative light bulb?

Can you suggest other interesting opinions about personalising scientific papers?

Is this worthy of a session at the national conference?

Jesse Shore
National president

Unsung Hero of Science Communication Award

For a number of years the ASC presented an award called the ‘Unsung Hero of Science’ to worthy recipients. This award acknowledged a scientist for their body of work that we felt wasn’t given the spotlight the work and the person deserved.

We last presented this award in 2007. As we prepared the background information to ask for nominations, we reconsidered the nature of the award in light of e-list discussions during the year.

We feel that the ‘unsung hero’ concept is valid but that we should be acknowledging excellence in science communication rather than science. We are now preparing the criteria for the realigned award and will be issuing a call for nominations soon.

On a related and sad note, I am sorry to report the passing of our 2004 Unsung Hero of Science. Associate Professor Alan Norman Wilton from the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at The University of New South Wales passed away on 14 October 2011 after a 20-month battle with cancer. He was 56.

Jesse Shore
National President

South Australian Science Excellence Awards

Thanks to Lisa Bailey, RiAus for providing this information:

Calling members of the South Australian science and research community …

Do you know a recent PhD graduate with outstanding early-career achievement or a researcher with no more than five years workforce experience?  Or maybe a school or tertiary teacher who is making an outstanding contribution to student education and inspiring students to study further in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)?

In 2011, the South Australian Science Excellence Awards will be recognising outstanding achievement in the following categories:

  • South Australian Scientist of the Year
  • PhD Research Excellence

–          Health and Medical Sciences

–          Life or Environmental Sciences

–          Physical Sciences/Mathematics/Engineering

  • Early Career STEM Professional

–          Natural and Physical Sciences/Engineering/Mathematics

–          Health and Life Sciences

  • Early Career STEM Educator of the Year

–          School Teaching

–          Tertiary Teaching


The SA Scientist of the Year Award receives prize money of $20,000 with the remaining awards each receiving $5,000.

For further information, please visit

100,000 students engaged in NSW science and engineering challenge

The University of Newcastle celebrated a milestone in science and engineering engagement recently with the 100,000th student participating in the Science and Engineering Challenge.

The Challenge changes students’ perceptions about what a career in science or engineering entails as they compete in a variety of activities including building bridges, making catapults, navigating virtual mazes and decrypting codes.  The principle message they take from the competition is that a career in science or engineering involves creativity, innovation, problem solving and team work.

Developed by the University’s Faculty of Science and Information Technology and Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, the innovative program has been successful at convincing students to continue with maths and science in senior secondary school to keep their options open for careers in science and engineering.

The Challenge is a partnership with Rotary, Engineers Australia and universities across Australia, and is sponsored nationally by the Australian Constructors Association.  The Challenge has previously won the Engineers Australia National Engineering Excellence Award for the best engineering project in Australia.

Professor John O’Connor, Head of the University’s School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, said the Challenge was established in 2000 as a way of boosting enrolment in secondary high school science and mathematics.

The Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research has provided one million dollars over two years to support both the Challenge and the University’s SMART program, which delivers interactive science shows to primary school students, said Professor O’Connor.

Since its inception, the Challenge has grown from a local event to one involving more than 20,000 students per year from high schools across Australia each year. The participation of 100,000 students in the program demonstrates the wonderful success the Challenge has achieved throughout its 10 year history.

One of its great strengths is the principle of “local ownership”. In every location, a local organising committee coordinates activities in their region.

Professor O’Connor welcomes interest from ASC members wishing to assist with future Challenge activities. Find out more here: or contact: Professor John O’Connor – ASC NSW Branch / Hunter Chapter, john.oconnor [at]