Understanding the science beat: Australian Science Communicators conference and membership

Bulletins, Science Communicators

In Brisbane next month the Australian Science Communicators is holding its biennial conference – and journalists and science reporters are very welcome.

The ASC welcomes anyone with an interest in science reporting. It’s the peak body for all science story-tellers, and counts Robyn Williams, Leigh Dayton, and Wilson da Silva among its foundation members.

I think the ASC and the conference are a good resource for anyone whose round includes health, environment, science, agriculture or technology.

Why join the Australian Science Communicators?

Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen a huge rise in the number of people working in science communication and outreach and a worrying decline in the number of journalists who specialise in, and are passionate about, science.

It’s often pitched as an ‘us vs them’ battle, but it doesn’t need to be that way.

The Australian Science Communicators has always been a broad church: in our huge country with our tiny population, there are too few science journalists or science writers or science broadcasters or science illustrators or science educators.

We don’t have the numbers to set up our own separate organisations, as they have in the UK with the Association of British Science Writers, or in the US with the National Association of Science Writers.

But at its core, the ASC is about science story-telling – and that very much includes the work of journalists, authors and doco producers.

The ABC’s Robyn Williams and former science writer for The Australian Leigh Dayton were founding members. The inaugural president was  the late Ian Anderson, then Australasian editor of New Scientist.

In 2007, you may remember we hosted the World Conference of Science Journalists in Melbourne, and in 2009, the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers.

I’m keen to bring these conferences back to Australia. In the meanwhile, I think it’s important that those of us who care about science, who are passionate about the role of science in society, stick together.

If you agree then consider joining the ASC. And come to our conference. See the full conference program at: http://2014conf.asc.asn.au/

Some useful sessions for journos include:

The Storytelling of Science: a triple anniversary celebration

A public event to celebrate Australian science and science storytelling, featuring:

  • Prof Tim Flannery, Chair of the Climate Council
  • Prof Jenny Graves, Australian Academy of Science Secretary for Education and Public Awareness
  • Lynne Malcolm, ABC Science. 

Susannah Eliott: Science and the information big bang 

We live in the midst of remarkable times. After years of build-up, the Australian media industry finally hit its tipping point in 2012, resulting in the loss of an estimated 1,500 journalists from outlets around the country and massive changes in the way news is reported. And the haemorrhaging hasn’t stopped.

There are clearly amazing opportunities for science and science communication in this big bang of information. But there are also challenges. The sheer size of the information stream bombarding us each day means filtering is a necessity and depth can be one of the victims.

Science as News: The changing face of science reporting.

A panel of journalists covering the science round discuss their approach to reporting science in the news and explore how social media is changing their work.

Rather than focusing on career science specialists this session will feature general reporters who are currently in the science round on their way up the journalistic totem pole.

Climate change “experts” on the internet soapbox: democratising science and the media through blogs

The rise of the blogosphere in the last decade has led to a proliferation of digital voices on politicised scientific issues such as climate change. However, this does not mean that the ‘ordinary’ person, as compared to mainstream media representatives or scientific experts, has more engagement or influence in such issues than before the emergence of Web 2.0 technologies. The followers of issues-based and increasingly politicised blogs have tended to follow the elites – educated, mostly male bloggers with a background in journalism or writing.

Drew Berry on ‘seeing is believing’: Why showing the nitty-gritty details is key to public engagement and excitement

Biology reveals the complex choreography of cells and molecules, but much of this science is too small to be directly observed or takes place at dynamic rates beyond our normal perception of time.

Animation and 3D visualisation of cells and molecules has become an important tool to communicate biological mechanisms, and beyond the bench, are being used in classrooms and in the mass media to educate and entertain.

What do the Australian public really, really think about science and technology?

We know some people really, really like science and technology, and we know that some people really, really don’t. But we do know enough about why? CSIRO reports on its recent study into public attitudes towards science and technology.

Understanding community concerns about hydraulic fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing has been the focal point of widespread and global public debate. The rapid growth in the coal seam gas industry coupled with the concerns around the use of hydraulic fracturing has lowered community trust in the industry and government. What are the main psychological drivers behind these concerns?