Member update: attending the 2023 PCST Venice Symposium

A/Prof Jen Martin, ASC national Vice President

At the end of September I had the great pleasure of attending the PCST Venice Symposium Science communication education and training: Challenges and strategies for research and academic institutions. Venice is a long way to go for a three-day symposium but having never come across an event before focused exactly on what my team does (teaching communication skills to scientists in an academic institution), my strong suspicion was that it would be worth making the effort to attend. And that definitely turned out to be the case. It was an absolute joy to spend three days with roughly 100 people from around the world who are deeply passionate about science communication education and training.

Many of the 100 symposium attendees in the beautiful courtyard at Venice International University on the island of San Servolo.

The symposium
took place at Venice International University which is located on San Servolo
island, about 10 minutes by boat (vaparetto) from Saint Mark’s Square in Venice.
The island is tiny and very beautiful and used to be an asylum. These days it
has a restaurant, café, lots of accommodation for students and other university
visitors and a variety of teaching and meeting spaces. It also has some
beautiful gardens and one of my favourite things was seeing people arrive each
morning on the early vaparetto to walk their dogs in the gardens – presumably
because there’s so little green space in Venice itself.

The first day of the symposium included a number of
keynote presentations and roundtables including discussions about what research
and academic institutions are doing to support researchers’ science
communication and how these institutions can integrate science communication
research and evaluation insights into practice and training. Day one finished
with a visit to the glorious San Zaccaria church in Venice and a fascinating
session on ‘The Art of Conversation and
Conversation in Art’.

On the next day we broke into
four working groups, each focused on a different aspect of the broader topic:

Supporting researchers’ public communication;

Recruiting science communication professionals and developing their

Evaluating and improving the quality of research communication;

Using science communication research results in institutional activities.

Each working group spent part of their time hearing presentations from members of the group and part of the time in discussion with the goal of coming up with key recommendations on their topic. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to share my story of founding the science communication teaching program at the University of Melbourne including what my team does and some of the things we’ve learned along the way about how to establish and grow such a program. We also heard from many other people involved with amazing training programs and it was interesting (and more than a little sad) to discover just how common and widespread an experience it is for science communication education, training and research to be undervalued and insufficiently supported in universities and research institutions around the world.

The Australian contingent at PCST Venice (L to R): Toss Gascoigne (ANU), Jen Martin (University of Melbourne), Tullio Rossi (Animate your Science) and Jenni Metcalfe (Econnect Communication).

On the last day each group presented their
recommendations, and we had a fantastic whole-group discussion about our
conclusions and what useful steps we could take to improve science
communication education and training. The result is a statement to leaders of
academic and research institutions worldwide which highlights the need for research and academic
institutions to consider the strategic value of the public communication of
science, and to mobilise support for these activities. The statement is going
to be useful for anyone seeking institutional or local support for science
communication and I’ll share with our ASC membership when it’s published.

Aside from the
stunning location, of course the best thing about any conference is the people
you meet and PCST Venice was no exception. In addition to catching up with some
other wonderful Australian scicomm people (Jenni, Toss and Tullio), I met so
many other scicomm educators, practitioners and researchers from around the
world, many of whom I’ll definitely stay in contact with. Science communication
education is a small field and I feel incredibly grateful to have had the
opportunity to connect with so many others who do work I think is exceptionally
important and valuable.

Improving communication with Improv

Whoosh….. Standing in a circle passing an imaginary ball of energy around between each other is not, perhaps, the type of activity you would expect at an ASC event. It was however, a warm up game for the recent Improve your communication with improv workshop held in Adelaide in June. Hosted by Jarrad and Dane from On The Fly Impro, the session aimed to give us a taster of some tips and tricks from improvisational theatre to help us all become better presenters. The group was mostly made of PhD students and researchers looking to improve their presenting skills.

Improv workshop in Adelaide, June 2017

Alan Alda has been championing the idea of improv training for scientists for years, with the focus not on being funny but on really paying attention to your audience, making contact and keeping it personal. The most memorable moment for me during the workshop was during a game where we were rhyming and matching words around the circle. Jarrad made the point that if you have to choose between being right or saying something…SAY SOMETHING. This probably goes against all the training that scientists have in placing value on making sure what is said is technically correct. Getting past the hesitation and self-censorship of your own head to just play the game and keep it moving was a huge challenge. But we have to be able to forgive ourselves mistakes when we’re speaking.
Some additional take-home tips included: • Using the first 30 seconds of any presentation to humanise yourself to the audience • Picking out people beforehand to make eye contact with during your presentation (and that realising that making eye contact can feel uncomfortable, but to do it anyway!) • Make things obvious, and keep it simple. If you can say it with fewer words, do. We could have kept going for hours, this really was just a taster, but if you’re interested in developing your skills and having a go at Improv there are groups all around that run classes so try out: On the Fly Impro (Adelaide) – Impro Melbourne – Impro ACT – Impro Australia (Sydney) – Impro Mafia (Brisbane) – Just Improvise (Perth) – This workshop was possible with support from an event grant from the National office.

Can We Teach Science with Fiction?

I’m a scientist. But over these past few years, I’ve discovered that I’m a writer, too. This side of myself surprised me, though it really shouldn’t have—if you’d asked me when I was 6 or 8 or 11 years old what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d have said “writer.” But then around Grade 8, I did a project on whale communication and somehow ended up becoming an ecologist studying birds, frogs and marsupials. That’s how it happens, I guess.

As an undergrad, I never realised how much of science is writing. I envisioned a career of exotic fieldwork and experimental design and gel-running, and although I do those things from time to time, I spend most of my working life (the part not feeding marsupials or cleaning their poo, anyway) reading and writing. Publishing papers, applying for grants, reporting to stakeholders—these are jobs that must be done and done well to succeed in science. In fact, there are countless metrics to calculate your scientific value based on how much you publish, where you publish and how many times your work has been cited by others in research papers, on Twitter, or in the media. So yes, I’m a writer.

But I have to admit, academic papers sucked the soul out of me and any desire to read and write I may have harboured. Between 2004–2007, I don’t think I read anything that wasn’t a journal article (except maybe the Harry Potters), and I’m pretty sure that every chapter in my PhD thesis started with the same sentence. This was not the creative, inspired writing that I’d dreamed of as a child. So when my daughter was born and I had a few years away from university life, I reacquainted myself with fiction. I read books for pleasure – stories that had nothing to do with the metabolic constraints of tadpoles or the jumping performance of metamorphic frogs. Stories that nonetheless affected me, made me see the world differently, gave me perspective. I also began writing my own stories and blogging regularly.

Now that was reading; that was writing.

I returned to academic life in 2013, but I’m not the same scientist that I was before. Now, I look for evocative, clever word usage in whatever I’m reading, and writing and editing has become one of my favourite parts of the job. But I’m not satisfied with just that. What I want to know is, can we use fiction to:

  1. improve science writing and
  2. teach science itself?

Most undergraduate and post-graduate science programs teach basic academic and essay writing, but reading and discussing fiction could show students what it is that makes great stories great – engaging and memorable. Writing fiction can give students the writing practice that’s critical for improvement and encourage them to approach ideas from different angles. I think we can teach important scientific concepts through stories, too; and no, not just science fiction stories. I’m interested in the idea that science might be integrated into stories just like spinach can be baked into chocolate brownies (yes, it’s possible!)—I love science, and I also love spinach, but I recognise that not everyone feels that way.

On a physical level, learning happens when information is gathered from the environment and placed into context, producing a lasting change in the brain. In other words – learning requires that we comprehend and that we remember. Like other art forms, fiction uses analogy and example to link information with emotion, encouraging viewers to see the same information in a different way and in the context of the human experience. Students learn better when they’re interested in the subject matter and when they see how it relates to them and their world (but particularly to them). In this regard, fiction is entertaining, and gives ideas and information a wider vantage that encourages emotional connection and big-thinking. As a supplement to traditional forms of science teaching, I think fiction could motivate, inspire and augment learning in young scientists.

Thank you to the ASC for awarding me a 2014 Professional Development grant, which supported my enrolment in an online fiction writing course through Stanford University. The 10-week course was exceptional. I learned the fundamentals of good writing (plot, character, point of view), but most importantly, I gained valuable feedback on my own short fiction. I hope to get some of my creative work published this year—and yes, it’s chock full of science.

Tend your backyard first

Thank you to Abbie Thomas for sharing her training experience.

I recently did a two-day course with the generous support of an ASC Professional Development Grant. The course on using Social Media was run by Tim Holt, a social media trainer from Melbourne whose runs the social media company Net101.

Over two days, Tim took us through the basics and the more advanced aspects of Social Media and how to use it for marketing and communications.

The students attending the course were a diverse bunch: a guy who owned an educational music business, the communications manager of a research centre for contaminated sites, the media manager of a medical research institute, while my neighbour was editor of a regional South Australian newspaper.

What this told me is that no matter what area of communication you work in, we all need to know about social media. How big a role it should play in our work, how much effort we should put in to it, and what rewards it can reap we hoped to find out.

Over two days, we were bombarded with a wealth of tips and tricks for improving our use of social media: how to write great tweets, how to discover which Facebook posts your fans have shared the most, where to find cheap cool graphics, and how to write website text that will get the Googlers landing on your site.

But among all the jargon flying around, Tim put it to us that, actually, social media isn’t the main game in town.

While it’s easy to get all excited and puffed up about how many people have Liked, Reposted, Retweeted or Shared your content, there’s a more important thing that is easily overlooked: your own website. Social media is all very well, says Tim, but it will always be ‘rented real estate’ – somewhere you occupy for only a short time and over which you have no control. By contrast, your website is all yours: no-one can change it, no one can take your content off it, and it will, if nurtured, grow into a valuable asset.

‘Websites are like a garden – if you don’t tend it, it will degrade,’ says Tim.

‘Treat your front page like the lobby of a successful business: it should always look sparkling, clean and fresh.

‘Allocate time every week to checking links, adding new content and keeping the site looking its best.’

For the total time you spend on social media and web management, Tim suggests allocating 80% to your website, and just 20% on your social media activity.

Because internet fashions in fonts, colours and design are constantly changing, a website can start looking out of date quite quickly. Tim’s rule of thumb is to refresh the look of your site at least every 2-3 years, otherwise it will start looking daggy and uncool.

I’m still not convinced social media can generate big profits, but Tim has convinced me that the cornerstone of any social media strategy must start, and finish, with a cool, up to date, well looked after website.


Tim Martin at NET:101 Social Media Courses has generously offered a 20% discount to any NET:101 course up until the end of 2015 for ASC members.

To redeem your discount use the promo code ‘science’ when registering.


Lessons from bootcamp: Best practice digital media for science communicators

bootcamp boemski

 Image thanks to Boemski on flickr

I came, I learned, I made a listicle

I’ve been to boot camps that hurt me. Yes, they hurt me a lot. Fortunately, my recent attendance at the Walkely Foundation Digital Media Bootcamp wasn’t in the same category. Rather than aching muscles, I came home with a renewed understanding of how digital media can be used for communicating science.

10 Digital Media Tricks and Tools for Science Communicators: in brief

  1. Get multimedia happening
  2. Make the story king
  3. Know how people read stuff
  4. Get social. Right now
  5. Flog that phone
  6. Search with intent
  7. Help people find you
  8. Don’t publish and walk away
  9. Develop your digital identity
  10. Keep an eye on trends

Shaping up with Bootcamp: a longer introduction

In 2014 I was fortunate and very grateful to be awarded the inaugural Peter Pockley Grant for Professional Development in Investigative Journalism through the Australian Science Communicators. I would like to thank the ASC for this award, as well as Jim Plouffe from The Lead South Australia (who provided input for my application).

I used the grant monies to attend the Walkley Foundation Digital Media Boot Camp held in Melbourne over November 22 and 23 2014.

Rather than give you a blow-by-blow description of each session, I created a list post – also known as a ‘listicle’ – of useful tips and tricks I picked up. For the record, listicles are one of the most highly clicked on and shared styles of copy (see this post from Copyblogger for more) – something I learned at the course. And they’re easy to read and digest.

The list post appears in brief at the top of this article; see below for more detail on each item. Whether scientist, journalist, blogger, communicator, producer, manager, business leader or student, I hope you find some or all of these points useful.

At the bottom of this article I’ve also provided a snapshot of the program from the Digital Media Bootcamp, and some background information on Peter Pockley.

10 Digital Media Tricks and Tools for Science Communicators: the details


Incredible multimedia stories are now published online. The potent mix of words, fixed images, sound and moving footage that made up Guardian’s story Firestorm resulted in a Walkey Award. With interviews, maps, and mountain fly-overs, The New York Times story Snowfall launched a new digital direction for that newspaper, which now has invested heavily in its audiovisual production team.

These two stories required months of work from multiple staff members with diverse skills, and are clearly way beyond the means of most publishing houses (let alone freelance operators like me). But that doesn’t mean you can’t do your own version of multimedia. Small commercial digital story producers, science writers and bloggers can feature layered content to add interest and depth.

Writing a story about a new museum exhibition? Use a stand-alone camera or your phone to take well-lit images – people are great, but unusual objects are also worth grabbing – and use them to break up your text. If you can’t take good photos, go online to find relevant creative commons images on sites like flickr (but do make sure you attribute the photographer somewhere in your article).

 “Be sparing with images. The impact is greater if they’re well chosen, relevant and enhance rather than distract from the story.”

Madhvi Pankhania, Producer at The Guardian

What about some sound? Use your phone to grab an audio file that conjures up visions of noisy kids filing in and out of the museum, and immerse it in your article using a program like soundcloud. Audiovisual content is also doable – borrow a friend (or even use the ‘selfie’ approach) to capture footage of yourself walking around the exhibit, or do a vox pop with another person visiting the venue. Perhaps use an App like Vine to make short, snappy, looping clips to add colour and movement to your blog post. (See Item 5 below for how to get best use from your phone for capturing photos and moving footage.)

Online publishing platforms like WordPress and particularly Medium allow writers to easily insert many types of content to support their written material.

 “Try to get the pacing right. Ask yourself, ‘do the pictures fit, do they sit alongside the right block of text?’”

Madhvi Pankhania, Producer at The Guardian

Sound, audiovisual and photographic elements can also be added to any social media you create related to the article, and mean that readers are more likely to: (1) visit your article, (2) read your article, (3) share your article and (4) hang around longer on your page (all of which impact on your Google ranking).


As discussed in Item 1, the Internet is replete with audio-visual magic. Images, moving pictures, interactive graphs, surveys and sound overlays make digital content snazzy, catchy and eye grabbing. That’s all fine. But it’s close to useless unless underneath it sits a good story. No matter how many additional features you can squeeze onto your web page, the story is still key.

 “Multimedia journalism is still journalism – the choice of the story is critical.”

Madhvi Pankhania, Producer at The Guardian

Isabelle Oderberg is Social Media Lead at Australian Red Cross. With extensive journalism and social media experience, she believes the following elements are critical for a good story:

  • Make people feel something
  • Speak in the right voice
  • Have a sense of humour when appropriate
  • Know context
  • Feed into existing trends.

 “Stories that have longevity are worth doing, so pick your topic well.”

Madhvi Pankhania, Producer at The Guardian

It’s also worth remembering that stories posted online attract two types of interest (i.e. clicks) – an initial peak, followed by a longer tail that stretches into the future. Your content does not necessarily have to have an immediate news story-like impact to be worth doing – if you write a quality article that has longevity, it will be found and shared.


We all complain that we don’t even have time to read our emails, let alone delve into cool-looking articles we find online. You must assume your readers also have this problem.

As a science writer and publisher you must make your content not only relevant, but also easy to find, read and manage. You can do this by:

In essence, writers must help their readers stay in control when confronted with long or complicated articles. This has particular relevance for science, when the content can be inherently complex.

 “Subheadings and tags allow people to scan the article quickly and go to the section that they want, and book-mark so they can return later.”

Madhvi Pankhania, Producer at The Guardian

Writers must assume that readers will open articles and perform an initial scroll up and down – usually on a smartphone – before they begin to read. Unless an article is well laid out into sections with subheadings, images and other points of interest, you may lose the reader immediately (see articles like this and this for more on this topic).

 “People immediately scroll down to see what the article looks like, to see how it’s formatted, to see if there are comments at the end.”

Front-end Web Developer James Coleman


There’s no way around it: social media is here to stay and it’s shaping the way content is created, read and shared (see this recent article: How Facebook Is Changing the Way Its Users Consume Journalism). In Australia, the most commonly-used social media platform is Facebook, with twitter in 4th place and Tumblr in 8th position.

what we use copy

Figure captured from 2014 Yellow Social Media Report

Social media is important not just because it allows you to send out your own material and to converse with people who read it, but because it allows others to share your stuff. And there are ways you can maximize the chances of this happening. Surange Priyashantha (SEO strategist and social media manager at Fairfax Media) relates the following information relating to sharing:

What type of content is most frequently shared via social media?

  • Long form content
  • Content with images and infographics
  • List posts, or listicles (especially with 10, 23, 16 or 24 items)
  • Question format, as it drives better engagement: how to? why? what?
  • Articles with a byline, because it makes the content more believable
  • Content that is chosen to match days and times
    (eg video/image posts on weekends, and written posts on weekdays)

Radio National’s Tim Ritchie recommends that short and snappy clips from audio files like podcasts and interviews should be created to use in conjunction with media connected to the long-form content.

“Find the ‘social duration’ – it’s short!”

Tim Ritche, Radio National

As examples, the ‘social duration’ for a 10-minute audiovisual story might be a 3 minute YouTube teaser, or you might chose to extract 30-90 second grabs from a 50-minute audio documentary. These short clips can then be attached to Facebook posts and tweets to maximize rates of click-through and sharing.

Isabelle Oderberg from Australian Red Cross recommends writers using social media need to think about when people are using their devices to access written content. Articles we read whilst commuting (when we have a large block of time available) are likely to be different from those read during work (when we snatch a couple of minutes here and there). You should think hard about when and how you send your content out.

social media when copy

Figure captured from 2014 Yellow Social Media Report

The only way to know social media is to do social media. Go now. Get started — watch and follow others, think it through carefully, spend time and do it properly. And analyse how each experiment works out – we’re scientists, after all. Look at and apply the data.

Twitter tips from Flip Prior (Twitter Australia’s Partnerships Manager)

  • You can now upload up to 4 photos per tweet using the twitter App – simply upload your first image, then click on the small landscape icon again to add further images
  • Apply to have the Twitter Verification ‘blue tick’ placed alongside your twitter handle to indicate the authenticity of your identity or brand
  • Use Twitter analytics to see organic impressions, view charts of performance, access detailed engagement metrics and export files for reports
  • Try not to rely on scheduled tweets. Analysis shows that engagement increases when real people construct and send out tweets in real time.


So we know we can jazz up our written material with photos and audiovisual elements (see Item 1). But where can we get such content? Actually, from ourselves. Most of us are carrying around a $1000-$2000 high quality camera in our pockets, and yet we don’t use it to its full potential.

 “Why is your phone so useful? It’s always with you, and it’s a good camera.”

Tom McKendrick, Senior Producer Fairfax Media

Tom McKendrick (Senior Producer at Fairfax Media) is full of fantastic tips on how to use your phone as a journalistic tool. Here is a just a portion of what he advised, written in the format of Q&A.

When should I shoot?

  • At press conferences
  • For pieces to camera
  • If you come across crime sciences
  • If you witness incidents such as fires, explosions or fights
  • To capture vox pops and witness reactions
  • When you’re travelling.

How can I best prepare my phone to capture stuff?

  • Turn on flight mode to eliminate audio interference
  • Always, always, always turn the phone horizontal (‘landscape’)
  • Don’t hit record until the view has settled into ‘landscape’
  • Plug in a microphone if you can (this might just be a headset microphone, which you can loop over the shirt buttons on your interviewee to get good sound capture from the mouth and chest).

How can I get shots and footage that is well composed and nicely framed?

  • Practice what looks ‘right’
  • Get to know the rule of thirds
  • Let movement happen within your shot, not by moving the camera
  • If shooting a person up close, get their eyes in line with the camera, ask them to look into the frame (not out of the shot) and capture their head and shoulders (not whole body).

How do I get the focus and the light right?

  • Outside is best for vision; iPhones love sunlight
  • A bright overcast day is optimal
  • Make sure there is no backlight (i.e. a light source behind the subject)
  • Look for lights/lamps/reflection in front of the subject to throw light on them
  • When setting up, use finger pressure on your screen to tell the camera where you want the primary focus to be (see this post from Mia Cobb, who has already explained this process very well).

My sound quality is always bad! How can I improve this?

  • Get as close as possible to your subject
  • Do everything possible to reduce background noise, especially wind – if you can’t get away completely, turn your back to it or put your body in between the noise and the microphone
  • Remember that some subtle background noise can add interest (eg traffic, roadworks or wildlife)
  • Use a plug-in microphone for best quality. As an alternative, ask the interviewee to hold the phone, or you can use the phone headset as a microphone.

How can I fake it as professional audiovisual camera operator?

  • Rule of three: get 3 different angles from the same location: one wide, one mid and one close
  • Keep it steady: use 2 hands if needs be, pin your elbows to your hips
  • Keep it straight: look at the horizon, and make sure shot is level
  • Try not to pan! Compose a nice shot and let the movement happen within it
  • If you do need to move, keep it in one plane, keep it slow and know what your start and end frames will be.

Most of all, practice! And invest in editing software if you’re really serious.


Most websites have a search function; that’s fine for basic stuff, and if you kinda already know what you’re looking for. But for detailed research-grade searching, you should be working within Google (or another search engine of your preference).

Did you know you can tell Google to search within a specific url, and to look for particular terms at that site? For example: if you type ‘ intitle:Peter Pockley’ you’ll pull up articles on the ASC website with the name Peter Pockley in the title. More information on how to conduct advanced Google searches is available at Google help. A more general summary of advanced Boolean searching is available here.

 “Don’t think that just ‘cause you’re on the internet, searching is necessarily going to be quick. Good research takes time.”

Isabelle Oderberg, Social Media Lead at Australian Red Cross.

You can also ask Google to help you find content published on social media ( and to verify images (

Isabelle Oderberg (Social Media Lead at Australian Red Cross) recommends the following online tools to find what people are talking about in real time:

If you can tap into trending topics, you’ll more than likely attract readers. Sometimes this might mean re-editing or re-framing existing content as new moods and trends arise.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that differences exist within individual languages across the globe. In English, key words in Australia might be different from those in the USA (e.g. ‘bin’ versus ‘trash-can’ or ‘footpath’ versus ‘pavement’).


On the flip side of searching is being found. You can do many things to make sure that Google (and therefore readers) have the best chance of landing on your content. Your basic goal here is to make sure that your urls are amongst the top answers that pop up when people search for the kind of science that you write.

Surange Priyashantha (SEO strategist and social media manager at Fairfax Media) advises the following:

How can I make sure I’m found on the internet?

  • Use key words that match your content; find these with &
  • Make sure your headlines and titles are carefully crafted
  • Insert relevant and useful links in your copy (links build your authority)
  • If you’re referring to celebrities/famous people, use their full names
  • Embed content like tweets into your article
  • Increase the amount of time people spend on your pages by making your content attractive (images and graphics) and engaging (put in a poll or a quiz)
  • Encourage readers to post comments
  • Maximise opportunities for sharing of your content through social media

Imagine a robotic human that is trained to find good stories, and that has a reasonably good capacity to mimic human reading and comprehension patterns: in essence, this is Google. Recent updates to Google mean that it now incorporates semantics. Now searches occur with consideration given to the context of a term within the copy, and whether related terms appear in the same article (see here for more on this).

“Don’t put layers between you and your readers.”

Isabelle Oderberg, Social Media Lead at Australian Red Cross.

The bottom line is this: if you’re creating well-developed written material which uses key words but also more subtle indicators of your expertise, AND you include links to well-known articles and names in your field, then Google will find you.


You spend days crafting an article or blog post, hours finding the right images and blood, sweat and tears getting the edit just right. Finally, you hit ‘publish’. Done, right?

Nope, not done. So not done. Your content is likely to get lost if you simply leave it to sit on your website at this point. Isabelle Oderberg (Social Media Lead at Australian Red Cross) recommends there are simple ways to ensure your content is found and is interesting over a long period of time (whether over the course of a day, a week, a month or a year):

How can I prolong the life of my stories?

  • Choose the topic and related key-words wisely
  • Remember there may be a peak and then a longer tail of interest
  • ‘Refresh’ the story over the course of the day by adding extra details, embedded tweets relating to the topic (perhaps from celebrities), links to other related content, new images
  • Send it out via social media many times: do it manually and with personality, and tweak your language and your hashtags each time
  • Find the ‘social flow’ by using social media usage data to work out the best days and times to post material (see Yellow Social Media Report).


Whether you work in a research institution, for the government or are crammed into a tiny home office as a freelancer, you must develop your own digital identity. Nobody else will do this for you. Your reputation, your visibility and your own personal brand are in your control, and you can easily apply tools that help you to maximise this.

In the book-publishing world, developing your own brand and online identity is often referred to as your ‘author platform’. There are many online articles that address the pros and cons of taking this approach: check out this one from Allison Tait, and another from Brooke Warner.


Because we work in the science world, it’s tempting to just focus on the hypothesis, research and data side of things. But as communicators we must also stay in touch with cutting edge media trends. I believe science writers need to be able to ‘match it’ with other content generators in order to remain relevant and to maximise the chances that our online content is found and shared.

Isabelle Oderberg (Social Media Lead at Australian Red Cross) mentions two main current trends that journalists must be aware of:

  • Multi-screening – the idea that people are usually using more than one screen at a time. For example, TV watchers are often concurrently using their social media platforms to share and discuss content (think ABC’s TV Q&A and associated twitter hashtag #qanda)
  • That soon most — if not all — online content will be viewed via phone screens. For example, of those Australians that access social media, 71% currently do so using their mobile devices.

how we access copy

Figure captured from 2014 Yellow Social Media Report

Many other commenters agree with Isabelle. Double screening appears as one of six emerging trends in media and communications in an Australian Communications and Media Authority article published online by Australia Policy Online recently. The move to mobile is not just restricted to social media, but for all content (see this recent piece All Journalism Will Soon be Mobile for more).

Another important trend is data journalism, or the use of numerical data to create content.

Want to tackle a little data journalism? Try the following free tools:
(thanks to Jack Fisher, UTS Journalism)

Program from the Walkley Foundation Digital Media Boot Camp held in Melbourne over November 22 and 23 2014.

 Day 1: Multimedia Production and Online Publishing

Multimedia Storytelling for the Web, Madhvi Pankhania, producer, The Guardian

Data Visualisation, Jack Fisher, UTS Journalism

Podcasting and Audio Downloads: The Whys and Hows of Time-Shifted Content, Tim Ritchie, Editor, Music & Presentation, ABC Radio National and ABC Jazz

Mobile Journalism: On the Road with your Smart Phone, Tom McKendrick, Senior Producer, Fairfax Media

Day 2: Social Media for Getting Stories and Engaging and Measuring Your Audience

Social Media for News Gathering, Developing a Community, and Promoting Your Site and Stories, Isabelle Oderberg, Social Media Lead, Australian Red Cross

SEO Strategies for Content/News Publishers, Suranga Priyashantha, SEO and Social Media Manager, Fairfax Media

Why Journalists Should Learn to Code, and How to Get Started, James Coleman, General

Twitter Best Practice, Flip Prior, Twitter Australia’s Partnerships Manager – News & Government

Who is Peter Pockley? (taken from the ASC website).

Dr Peter Pockley, a life member of the Australian Science Communicators, passed away in August of 2013. He is widely acknowledged as making an incredible contribution to the field of science communication and scientific journalism.

In 1964 Dr Pockley was the first scientist to work full-time as a science reporter and producer in the Australian media, and became founding Head of Science Programs at the ABC. He established the Science Unit for TV and Radio.

After leaving the ABC, Dr Pockley was appointed Head of the Public Affairs Unit at the University of New South Wales from 1973 until 1989. He then joined the Sun-Herald as a Science and Education Columnist.

As a freelance journalist Dr Pockley wrote for most of Australia’s major newspapers and many overseas, including Nature as Australia’s correspondent.

Dr Pockley established the Centre for Science Communication at the University of Technology, Sydney and was a Visiting Fellow at the National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science in the Australian National University from 1996-2006.

In 2010 Dr Pockley was awarded the Australian Academy of Science Medal; only the seventh winner in its 20 year history and the only journalist to ever receive the award.

Read more about Dr Peter Pockley at ‘Vale Peter Pockley’ in Australasian Science.


ASC members can access a discount for this training by joining the Copyright Agency, which is the major sponsor for the training program. Membership is free and CA members get 25% off our courses and some of our conferences and other events too. See



ASC 2014 workshops and activities

The ASC2014 Program Committee is excited to announce that there are new optional workshops and activities available for conference delegates. Spaces are limited:

  • Sunday 2nd February: Community Storytelling Series, Part 1

Telling stories with images using smart phones and tablets. A free 3 hour afternoon workshop for delegates only [times to be confirmed] Facilitated by Susan Rooney-Harding and hosted by The Edge [limited to the first 40 RSVPs]

Everyone has a story to tell, and a community to whom that story is relevant. Our Community Storytelling Series is designed to give you the confidence and know-how to tell your stories using the tools you already have at hand your iPad, iPhone and other smart phones and tablets. Join Susan Rooney-Harding in the first of this three part series to hone your story capturing and story sharing skills. Keep an eye out for the remaining two workshops in the series being released soon:

  • Wednesday 5th February: Community Storytelling Series, Part 2

The art and practice of story capturing. A free 3 hour workshop for delegates during the conference.

  • Thursday 6th February: Community Storytelling Series, Part 3

iPad/iPhone movie making using your iPads and iPhones. A one day post-conference workshop [times to be confirmed] Facilitated by Susan Rooney-Harding and hosted by The Edge [limited to the first 20 RSVPs]

Susan Rooney-Harding, Creative Director/Producer of Inspireevery1 Production Susan Rooney-Harding is the Creative Director and Multimedia Producer of Inspireevery1 Production. She has vast experience in community storytelling and has equipped multiple communities and individuals with the skills to create digital content for multiplatform use. Prior to this role she was the ABC Open Producer for the Riverland in South Australia. Content that she created with her community has been seen on News 24, Landline, ABC Online, ABC Open and ABC Rural. Susan is an active board member and the Multimedia Director for Women in Technology and Innovation and is this years TEDx Adelaide Women licensee.

  • Monday 3rd February: Speed networking session brought to you by ASC’s SEQ branch and the University of Queensland, on the ABC Balcony from 8pm. Free for delegates only.
[limited to the first 80 RSVPs]

To RSVP for these events you simply need to log into the delegate portal using your access key. Click the Edit button next to Other Activities to view and select available optional activities at this time.

If you need any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact the Conference Office by email  General event information and access can be found at