President’s update

ASC—its future

  • Conference! Brisbane, 11 March 2016
  • We are focused on serving members better
  • Fees to rise following epic audit

Executive Summary

Australian Science Communicators is the national forum for science communicators and science journalists. We are independent from government and run by members, for members.

Going forwards, our mission is to:

  • Better support our national network of science communicators and science journalists by providing professional development and networking opportunities;
  • Increase our direct support for branches and members located in both metropolitan and regional areas; and
  • Strengthen partnerships and relationships with our corporate members, partner organisations and key stakeholders.

In recent times, volunteer-driven associations like the ASC have come under pressure from growing operating costs and a greater need for regulatory compliance. Some have failed to overcome these challenges and have ceased to exist.

For this reason, throughout the past year we have invested a lot of time and effort into ensuring our finances and regulatory compliance are robust and up to date. Recently, this process came to an end and we have been given a clean bill of health after a professional audit and bookkeeping services.

Free of risk and uncertainty in these areas, the association has a strong platform on which to grow, but we do have some challenges to overcome.

This month the ASC executive, along with nominated representatives from state branches, met in Canberra for a special general meeting, a 2-day strategy meeting and our 2015 AGM. During these discussions we scrutinised the ASC’s operations, reworked the constitution and developed a strong plan for the future. I thank the branch and committee representatives for their time and energy in helping define the future of ASC.

  1. We now have a legal constitution – over the years and in response to all kinds of issues, the constitution had been ‘tinkered with’, with parts added and removed. Unfortunately, because of the shape it was in, our not-for-profit status was very much at risk. Thanks to Toss Gascoigne for his time in helping us craft a compliant constitution and lodging it.
  2. We have had a robust audit of the ASC finances (18 months in the doing). We’ve updated our processes and identified areas where we need to change or even eliminate suppliers and services. Importantly, we now know where we stand financially and at this month’s AGM were able to present the financials and show that the ASC cannot survive based on its current membership dues. Thank you to Pete Wheeler, our treasurer, and Kali Madden, our executive officer, for getting ASC in a much better place after a white-knuckle ride.
  3. The strategy meeting was incredibly useful for talking about what members want and how, as a volunteer organisation, we can deliver that. Here were the key discussions and outcomes:
    1. Networking. The ASC is a valuable network of communication professionals, academics, freelancers, students, and journalists.  We want to better support the network and bolster the channels through which we communicate as a network. ASC has one of the best mailing lists (as in listserve) in the science engagement world.  Through it our members announce events, job opportunities and occasionally have heated discussions. We also have a Facebook group, individual Facebook pages, and 2 LinkedIn groups (one public, one private). Then there’s the ASC website which supports members and we’re also currently hosting various other sites with premier content that our members want (sciencengage, no funny business etc.). These activities all have associated costs for which we now need to budget.
    2. Conference. We’ll be holding our next conference in 2016 on March 11 at QUT’s fabulous ROOM360 (for the views it has over Brisbane) during the World Festival of Science.  The conference is an extremely valuable networking and professional development activity, but it is volunteer driven and like any national conference has significant costs involved to make it happen.
    3. Professional Development. In the past year we have initiated a professional development grants program that has already generated benefits for members around the country. We want to expand this, and again it requires time, energy and some funding to make that possible.
    4. Webinars. ASC has the capacity to host web based events on topics of interest to our members. As part of our commitment to delivering benefits to members wherever they may be, we will be rolling out 6 of these across 2016.

However, our finances reveal that the ASC has been operating at a loss for some years, propped up by extraordinary and unsustainable volunteerism generating some profit from conferences.  We cannot continue to do this—it undervalues the ASC and the important work that our members do.  This means the cost of membership needs to increase for the ASC to be a viable association that can actually support branches and members.  We are still committed to our non-profit status, but it is illegal for non-profits to operate at a loss. We need to be sustainable and set the membership fee at a sustainable level.  So, as of 1 January 2016 the new membership fee will be $185.00 for members, $85.00 for students and associates.  We will honour current rates until then.

We appreciate that some members will be disappointed by an increase in their membership fees. But at this critical time for the ASC, we hope that the majority of members will choose to show their support by renewing their memberships and in so doing, help us to build a better, more sustainable and professional association that can deliver greater outcomes for professional science communicators and science journalists throughout the country. Of course, we would like to be thoughtful about our approach and we invite comment from members by emailing

Thanks to all for your ongoing support.

Professor Joan Leach

ASC President


President’s Update

Thank you to Joan Leach for the President’s Update.

Save the date! 11 March 2016

I’m very pleased to announce that the next ASC conference will be in Brisbane in March 2016. We have tried to tie in our next meeting with the World Festival of Science so that our members who are involved can make their travel dollars go further. Also, we hope that as the WFS announces its program ASC members might satisfy their curiosity at the festival and enjoy networking time with ASC members as well. Our venue and program will be announced shortly. But, circle that date and plan to be in Brisbane. We’re going to organise the 2016 conference into one packed day for ASC and break out events during the World Festival of Science. More news coming…

Issues for AGM?

ASC is gearing up for its AGM and a SGM to consider the ASC constitution. If you have any queries you would like to put to me personally, please do so at I’m also very interested to hear about colleagues who would like to join the executive of ASC so please get in touch if you’d like to get more involved.

President’s Update

Thank you to Joan Leach for the President’s Update.

Award Season

Award season is well and truly underway—I was very pleased to be invited to the Eureka awards this year.  Citizen science, quality long-form science journalism, and generally good science communication all got a shout out at the awards.  Next up, the Premier’s Prizes for Science.  While I’d like to see a named ‘science communication’ award in the mix, it is rewarding to hear quality science communication touted as a basic component to award-winning science.  And, yes, the Nobel prizes are also being revealed and with that perhaps there is an uptick in public recognition of science.  For an alternate take on how big prizes for science might backfire, I recommend this article  It re-ignites the age old argument that science progresses ‘on the shoulders of giants’ and, more than ever, is a collaborative enterprise.  Awards for a few, the author contends, are unjust given the hundreds of small discoveries that go into making a big one.

Strategic Planning and AGM

The ASC Executive and members of the National Council are going to huddle in Canberra in November to make sure the ASC constitution is compliant with the rules for organisations, check in on our finances, and set some goals for the next few years.  This will happen right before the AGM—we’ll be announcing that formally soon—but it looks like 18 and 19 November in Canberra. If you would like to put something on the agenda for the meeting, please let me know.

Event review: Pre National Science Week Mixer

Thanks to Bonnie Murphy for the event review!

“ASC Victoria kicked off the 2015 Pre National Science Week Mixer at Markov on August 13th, this time joined by international guest Yvette d’Entremont, aka SciBabe.

With over 50 attendees the mixer was a hit yet again. National Science Week event holders were given the opportunity to promote their events with a short and sweet 2 minute presentation, flyers and brochures as well as posting their shows on the timeline wall.

Representatives from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Mt. Stromlo Observatory, Laneway Learning, 3CR community radio and many more filled the room with conversations and enthusiasm for the upcoming science week.

While everyone munched on crispy wedges and sipped their drinks, ASC Vic president George Aranda started off the presentations with introductions. We were honoured to have in our presence Yvette d’Entremont (SciBabe) who joined science week taking arms against the likes of anti-vaxxers, homeopathic cures and food additive alarmist.

Raffle door prizes on the night included show tickets, books, NatSciWk coffee mugs and more. Thanks to several generous event holders and Science in Public, nearly everyone was lucky enough to walk out with goodies including tickets to events like New Scientist: Mysteries of Matter, Blinky Bill movie screenings and Dr Karl’s most recent books.

The event was of a success- a night of networking, entertainment, learning and fun. It was inspirational to see the members of ASC Vic community and event holders active and interactive! “

Happy punters enjoying the event - R to L George Aranda, Claire Farrugia, and SciBabe and friend.

Happy punters enjoying the event – R to L George Aranda, Claire Farrugia, and SciBabe and friend.


Position vacant: Scope Editor

Have your finger on the pulse, gain new skills, make a difference to ASC

Location: anywhere in Australia with broadband internet access
Honorarium: $150 (+GST) 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 450 + professional science and technology communicators across Australia and overseas.

The current Editor, Victoria Leitch, is resigning due to competing commitments, so ASC is looking for a new Editor (or two co-editors) effective from the August 2015 issue. Victoria 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 (usually in the first two weeks of the month)
  • Occasionally interviewing people (members and non-members) for profile pieces
  • Listing recent news items or summarising topical stories to keep members up to date on current science communication issues
  • Editing content for consistency of style and formatting including permalinks, extracts and tagging
  • Working with the executive officer to ensure the member distribution list and log-in activation codes are current
  • Formatting the month’s material into short ‘teaser’ formats with click-throughs
  • Managing images and checking we have rights to use images in newsletter
  • Circulating (via Mail Chimp) to the membership on the first Wednesday of the month
  • Responding to feedback from members, the National Executive
  • Attending the monthly ASC Communication team meeting and providing input (or driving) Scope planning
  • Liaising with a team of volunteer contributors to gather and create newsletter stories/content
  • Liaising with the webmaster, executive officer, web editors and the national president as needed.

The key selection criteria for this role are:

  • Established interest in science communication
  • Computer and internet literacy, in particular familiarity (or can quickly get familiarity) with WordPress, MailChimp, Dropbox, Word/Pages, PowerPoint
  • Excellent time management skills
  • Capacity to commit ~15 hours per month to ASC activities.

Applications are invited by email no later than 5 pm on Friday 28 August 2015 for the attention of Kali Madden (ASC Executive Officer) at:

President’s Update

Thanks to Joan Leach for the President’s Update.

ASC sending members to the Freelance Focus Conference—follow them on twitter!

ASC members attended the Walkley Freelance Focus conference on the 5th and 6th of August. The program was stellar. We asked Daniel Oldfield, Ian McDonald, and Tara Roberson to tweet from the event and write up their ‘top freelance tips’ from the conference — you can find them below in this issue of Scope. In the meantime, check out #FreelanceFocus and you may want to follow ASCers below to hear more:


We’re also keen to hear about other events nationally where we can send ASC members to build their skills and bring back tips for the rest of us. We were able to give tickets to ASCers in the ACT, in Melbourne, and in Brisbane for this Walkley conference. Let us know if there is something going on relevant to ASC in your part of the country!

Our colleagues at AMWA (Australasian Medical Writers Association) are busy getting ready for their 32nd annual conference in Brisbane—I note more than one ASC member on the program. Check it out here:

ASC responds to STEM discussion paper

At the end of June, the Commonwealth Government put out a consultation paper “Vision for a Science Nation” that responded to the Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb. ASC has welcomed these developments as the consultation paper goes some way to valuing the work that science communication and engagement does toward a “science nation.” Our response highlights the following issues:

  • ASC supports a national strategy that integrates science communication and engagement skills into STEM education
  • ASC is a willing future partner in Inspiring Australia for a national strategy of STEM engagement
  • ASC members are active contributors and potential partners in Australia’s cultural diplomacy efforts. Our view of science communication in Australia is a global view.
  • ASC promotes science communication as a bedrock skill for commercialisation

I’ll keep ASC up to date with this process as it unfolds.

On the cover of Facebook.

Thanks to Dustin Welbourne for the Facebook update!

The ASC Facebook group appears to be growing at a relatively steady rate with now > 1300 members. There is a core group of 20–50 people that regularly post material and engage in conversations. A special thank you needs to go out to James Hutson who did up an appropriate banner for the page.

The posts are a good mix of science communication related news, science or science communication science events, and job postings or opportunities for science communicators.

We are also using the Files function on the page to create content lists. These lists so far include Science Games, Podcasts, and Blogs and Vlogs.

There are some things we would like to see more of. Having members post photos and give a 200 word snippet of events would be great. Not all people that use social media use all platforms of social media. Thus, having these stories would raise awareness and interest in those events.


Sydney’s first citywide Science Festival

Thanks to Jackie Randles for the event overview.

Sydney’s science community is collaborating for National Science Week this year and for the first time, presenting a united front under the banner of the Sydney Science Festival. Coordinated by Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, the Festival’s official NSW National Science Week launch event last Thursday evening at the Powerhouse Museum attracted around 2000 people to MAASive Lates: Science. This free, over 18s science-themed party offered a cold fusion of performances, opportunities to speed meet a scientist and hands-on activities.

With a fantastic line up of around 80 events across 40 venues, the Festival program features some of the world’s leading names in science like astrophysics’ pop hero Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, space tweeting and singing astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield, and Stanford University’s own genetic guru Professor Kelly Ormond. Dozens of local experts are on the bill with a number of high profile partners joining the celebrations to cohost events including The Sydney Morning Herald, Intel and Google.

The NSW Executive Committee for Inspiring Australia and National Science Week has been working to encourage this level of collaboration for several years so it goes without saying that its members are thrilled with the initial results. It’s been a remarkable effort on both the part of the hard working Festival team at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences and all of the presenting partners to turn on this high quality program so quickly. Initial interest from audiences and media alike shows that our combined efforts are amplifying the community engagement results for National Science Week across Sydney, and I’ll be really interested to see how we track against last year’s results. Our hope is that in time, we can achieve the same level of recognition and participation for science as other prominent Festivals do for film, books and the arts – all popular, highly visible celebrations that add to Sydney’s appeal and cultural capital.

At the Festival’s conclusion there will be a high level meeting at which a wide group of senior leaders will be invited to share their views about the Festival’s future directions. At a time when outreach spending by universities typically has a strong connection to research funding and student recruitment, and when cultural institutions are increasingly dependent on strong revenue streams, negotiating outcomes that are beneficial to all is complex. But the benefits of collaborating as a group of science leaders far outweighs the costs and the time is ripe for us to work together to promote the importance of science investment for Australia’s economic and social wellbeing – not just now but into the future. Have a fantastic National Science Week everyone and I hope that you can get along to lots of events.

Follow Sydney Science Festival on:


Twitter:          @SydScienceFest



Event:             Sydney Science Festival

Dates:              13 – 23 August, 2015





The lab rat amongst the journalists

A month ago, I suddenly realised that I did not have an online presence as a scientist! Shortly after this revelation hit me, the microscopist was born on a variety of social platforms. Through social media I hoped to create a visual online portfolio, which not only showcased my abilities as a microscopist but also provided a medium for other scientists to share their work with the public.

To my delight, shortly after beginning my adventure online I was selected to attend the Walkley Freelance Focus Conference 2015. Personally, I felt that the sessions entitled ‘twitter for journalists’ and ‘your brand online’ held the most promise for providing guidance to my latest adventure. However, it was three points raised by the key note speaker Noah Rosenberg (founder/editor/CEO of Narratively) which resonated the strongest with me.

Noah takes a holistic approach to writing an article. It may seem obvious, but he strongly encourages you to start with a plan before scripting your next article. First you must consider your intent. Ask yourself, who is your audience? How will they access your material? Will it be via computer, tablet or phone? Furthermore, how will your audience experience your content? Will your article be accompanied by visual or audio aids? Finally and perhaps the most important question, how will your content reach your audience? The web is big! On the web it is far easier to produce content than to circulate it.

Where traditionally a journalist may have been able to rest easy after the publication of their work in printed media, Noah stated that in the online world this is not true. Narratively is active in promoting content published on their site; however it is also part of the company’s ethos to encourage authors to promote their own content. In a very frank manner, Noah expressed that as journalists publishing content online we should not feel ashamed to share our content with our friends and to enlist them to share with their friends.

Noah is serious about data and he thinks you should be too! Narratively monitors the flow of traffic on their website in order to understand from where and how readers are being directed to their website. Statistical analysis of this information provides insights into which promotional strategies are working and how the organisation could become more efficient.

Through following Noah’s advice, I have been able to grow my Facebook audience whilst writing this article. This morning only 117 people had liked my page. I am pleased to report that after a little self-promotion I have been able to gain an additional 75 likes, which equates to an ~64% increase in my audience.

Event Review: inaugural Australian Citizen Science Conference

Thanks to Vicki Martin for the event review.


Review of the inaugural Australian Citizen Science Conference

Canberra, 23-25 July 2015

The chilly winter Canberra morning couldn’t slow down the enthusiasm of attendees at the inaugural Australian Citizen Science Conference on 23rd July this year. Seats were as rare as hens teeth at this over-subscribed event, with more than 200 attendees registered from all over Australia and far flung corners of the globe.

After a warm welcome to country from Aunty Agnes Shea, elder of the Ngunnawal people, welcoming remarks were made by Professor Suzanne Miller (Queensland Museum), and Simon France (Inspiring Australia). Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb opened up the conference with a rousing pep talk about the importance of engaging the public in citizen science. The event coincided with the release of an Occasional Paper, Building Australia through Citizen Science, by the Office of the Chief Scientist. The paper can be accessed through

We were very fortunate to have two passionate speakers from Cornell University in the USA. Keynote speaker and singing ornithologist, Rick Bonney, shared his vast experience in the world of citizen science and public engagement in research. His singing was pretty good, too! (On the second day he sang us out to lunch – how many keynotes do that?)

The first of a series of speed talks and workshop sessions followed Rick’s keynote address, led by his colleague, Jennifer Shirk. Jennifer is well known for her contributions to the theory of public participation in scientific research (PPSR). Throughout the two days, the speed talks opened our eyes to the incredible array and diversity of citizen science projects across the planet and in our own backyard. The conference organisers allowed plenty of time for poster and networking sessions, during which the Shine Dome buzzed with conversation and connections, information and good food. Day two saw more speed talks and a panel discussion on the many forms of citizen science. The full program and book of abstracts are available for download at

An additional day was added to the conference for groups wanting to discuss specific issues in citizen science, including Bio Blitzes, the usability of technology, and citizen science and its influence on policy. These sessions were great for attendees to cement the lessons learned from practitioners in these areas, and allowed for more focussed discussion on these topics.

The feedback from people was overwhelmingly positive. Not only did attendees learn a lot, and have a lot of fun, it gave many a strong sense of community which will only help to strengthen the practice of citizen science in Australia. With the newly formed management committee, chaired by Philip Roetman, the potential for citizen science to build stronger partnerships between Australian scientists and the community looks very promising indeed. I’m looking forward to the next conference already.