And that’s a wrap! Here’s a story from our day at the beach #scistoryASC

Thanks to Sarah Keenihan for this post

Science is renowned for being factual, emotionless and objective.

So how on earth can we convince non-scientists that it’s also beautiful, revealing and intimately connected with life?

By creating stories.

On Friday June 3, ASC South Australia was delighted to host the event Storytelling in Science Communication: a day at the beach.

With a full house in attendance, we explored the role of storytelling in science communication, and considered the importance of culture, character, structure, mood, narrative, emotion, vulnerability, voice, crisis and resolution in attracting and enthralling audiences as we write, draw, talk and perform science.

We also discussed how digital tools can be used to support storytelling in science communication, including the creation of well-structured written content, the use of bespoke and meaningful images, putting audience at the forefront of communication design and thinking, the importance of multi-faceted production (audio, visual and textual content) and using social media effectively to attract and sustain audience interest.

A number of links and tools were mentioned throughout the day: here is a reference list to remind attendees and share ideas with others who weren’t able to be there.

Other useful links:

A very big thanks to all our attendees for this event. It was great fun to put together and we hope you found it useful and inspiring!







Storytelling in science communication (#scistoryASC): June 3 2016 at Marine Discovery Centre, South Australia

Storytelling can transform dry, technical information into compelling and relatable content that everyone wants to read, watch, listen to and share.

So how can we harness storytelling techniques to improve science communication?

The SA Chapter of Australian Science Communicators is hosting a one-day mini-conference for those interested in learning more about storytelling.

Participants, we’d love you to capture and share the day though social media! Others across South Australia, Australia and the world will be interested to hear your reflections and experiences of this event. Using the hashtag #scistoryASC, you may choose to share via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, SnapChat or other media as a way to summarize, highlight, excerpt, review and critique the presented materials.

Of course normal good manners and conference etiquette apply: please ensure the author or speaker is referenced and cited appropriately, do not share material in full and please do not audio- or video-record presentations.


9.00am: Coffee/tea and mingling

9.30am: Welcome and introduction
Rona Sakko
President of ASC SA
Coordinator of Bright Sparks Science Club

Professor Chris Daniels
Award Winning Science Communicator
Biologist at UniSA
Marine Discovery Centre Patron  

9.40am: Opening address
Dr Kristin Alford @kristinalford
Director of UniSA’s Science, Creativity and Education Studio (SciCEd)
Futurist and Founding Director at Bridge8

10.15am: Where is the storytelling? Critical analysis of communication case studies
Chair: Sarah Keenihan (Freelance Science Writer) @sciencesarah
Panel members:
Katrina McLachlan, Director and Senior Journalist, Stories Well Told @storiesWT
Joost Den Hartog, Channel Manager, RiAus TV @RiAus 
Dr Tullio Rossi, Animator and Illustrator @Tullio_Rossi

11:15am: Morning tea

11.45am: Wonggayerlo – Footsteps in the Sand
Karl Telfer (Kaurna leader and cultural bearerMarine Discovery Centre Patron@winda8) and Michael Mills (Heaps Good Productions, @Heapsgood) present a story about ways of understanding our relationship to the natural world. A performance piece exploring where science meets culture.

12.30pm: Beach walk
Experience real-time science communication from different points of view amongst the sands.

1.15pm: Lunch 

2pm: What is a story?
David Chapple is Writing Development Manager at the SA Writers Centre (@sawriterscentre). In this workshop David will take you through a hands on exploration of how the narrative techniques of fiction can make non fiction writing sing. Participants will play with ideas of character, setting, story structure, metaphor and descriptive writing to tell the story of their practice in more engaging and dynamic ways. Workshop includes 2 hours of practical exercises and literary tricks. Bring your favoured writing device!

4pm: Drinks and networking

Book Review: Houston, We Have a Narrative by Randy Olson

Houston, we have a problem.” This line from Ron Howard’s fiction film about the Apollo 13 space accident needs no introduction. In reality, however, astronaut Jim Lovell made a slightly different report to NASA Mission Control on April 13, 1970: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

So did Hollywood get it wrong? The line in the film is not a verbatim copy of the historical record, but the film version is punchier and more immediate. It’s also the version everyone seems to remember. From the communication perspective, Hollywood got it very right.

Hollywood’s insight into science communication is the subject of Randy Olson’s latest book, Houston, We Have a Narrative: Why Science Needs Story. We’ve all been encouraged to tell better stories, but it can be hard to know where to start. Olson might just be the storytelling guide that you’ve been looking for.

Narrative structure is at the core of Olson’s approach to science communication. Many narratives conform to a structure where there is an initial state and things are proceeding as normal, but then there is a problem. Therefore, the protagonist must find a solution. In other words, Houston, only when you have a problem do you have a narrative.

Olson distils this familiar narrative structure into an indispensable three word template: And, But, and Therefore (ABT). The strategy of increasing narrativity by replacing “ands” with “buts” and “therefores” is not Olson’s invention—Olson traces the principle from South Park co-creator Trey Parker back to screenwriting instructor Frank Daniel—but Olson gives the idea new life by reformulating it as an elegant communication tool.

Houston is filled with examples of how the ABT structure and other forms of screenwriting wisdom can be used to enhance your science communication. What’s more, Olson isn’t just talking about communication with the public. Professional communication between scientists is the focus of this book. Not even journal abstracts escape the scrutiny of Olson’s storytelling microscope.

Houston re-treads much of the same territory as Olson’s previous books, Don’t be Such a Scientist and Connection. Indeed, many of the strengths and limitations of Olson’s previous work are also on display here. What distinguishes Houston from Olson’s earlier writing is its explicit focus on science communication. Olson takes care to anticipate and rebut the criticisms that some scientists raise about his approach. In case you’re wondering, using narrative structure doesn’t mean “dumbing down” or misrepresenting your science.

Olson has never been one to pull his punches. Consistent with his previous work, Olson writes in a conversational and irreverent style. The problem is that some of his remarks about academia are so scathing that Olson risks alienating a large part of his target audience.

Olson’s enthusiasm for narrative may also go too far for some readers. Despite stating that narrative is not a panacea, Olson argues that achieving an intuitive understanding of narrative is “the only long term hope for combatting the problems facing scientific research and science communication.” At times, Olson seems to conflate good communication and good narrative structure. Other aspects of communication, such as an awareness of audience, receive limited attention in this book.

Fortunately you don’t need to share Olson’s singular focus on narrative structure to enjoy Houston or benefit from Olson’s storytelling insights. Narrative might not be a panacea, but Olson’s storytelling templates deserve a place in every science communicator’s toolkit.