March bulletin: Good news, bad news

Bulletins, Science stakeholder bulletins

The good news is that it’s prize season with opportunities for early-career and more established scientists to win recognition, training, and cash – with several $50,000 prizes and the big one – the Prime Minister’s $300,000 prize.

Nominations for our own Fresh Science competition close next week. No cash, but great media experience for young researchers.

More on all of these below.

The bad news is the massive proposed cuts to medical research and to Primary Connections – the powerful Academy program that’s been creating (very) young scientists in primary schools nationwide. Links to both campaigns below. There are also rumours of cuts to the ARC.

Dates and links for some key science prizes:

Fresh Science 2011 nominations are now open and will close 5pm Wednesday 30 March 2011. We’re looking for the best under-publicised research produced in the past year or so by early-career scientists. The winners will also be invited to participate in Science Meets Parliament.

Tech on Tap: student researchers can win up to $5,000 at AMP’s Technology on Tap: two and a half minutes to tell your story to AMP’s Amplify Festival in Sydney using comedy, poetry or music. The nomination process is shared with Fresh Science.

L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowships 2011 nominations open 1 April and close 2 May.

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes close Friday 6 May 2011.

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science are open now and close 13 May.

I’ve also included information on

Science prizes

Fresh Science 2011: nominations now open

We’re looking for the best discoveries in the past year or so by early-career scientists.

This year Fresh Science will be held in Melbourne on 6-9 June 2011. The event serves as a communication boot camp for early-career researchers – getting their stories out to local, national and international media, and giving them essential communication skills.

This year we will be holding state finals from 18 April-6 May 2011, where finalists will participate in a full day media training workshop and an evening event. Then we’ll bring the best to Melbourne.

From these state finals, we will select up to 16 early-career researchers and, in June, bring them to Melbourne where they will receive further media training and then present their work to the media, schools and the public. The national winners will also be invited to participate in Science Meets Parliament.

Now in its 14th year, Fresh Science is supported by the Federal Government, New Scientist and Museum Victoria.

In essence we’re looking for:

  • early-career researchers (from honours students to no more than five years post-doc)
  • a peer-reviewed result which has had no media coverage
  • some ability to present ideas in plain English.

Nominations close 5pm Wednesday 30 March 2011. Read more and nominate online at

If you have any questions, give me or Sarah a call on (03) 9398 1416 or email

AMP’s Tech on Tap

Participants have two and a half minutes to use poetry, music or comedy to communicate their research in an entertaining and informative way as part of AMP’s Amplify Festival of Innovation and Thought Leadership.

Early-career scientists and researchers are given access to training with a performance coach and could win $5,000 on the night.

Nomination process is shared with Fresh Science and can be done online at

Nominations close 5pm, Wednesday 30 March 2011.

AMP’s Tech on Tap will be held Monday 6 June 2011 in Sydney.

More information about the Amplify festival or Tech on Tap: or contact Danielle Miller (02) 9257 7756,

L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowships

Applications for the 2011 L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowships will open on 1 April 2011 and close on 2 May 2011. L’Oréal Australia will offer three fellowships in 2011 valued at $20,000 each.

The Fellowships are very competitive – over 160 applications in 2010.

More information at

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes

The Eureka Prizes reward excellence in research & innovation, science leadership, school science and science journalism & communication. Most include a $10,000 cash prize.

Nominations close midnight Friday 6 May 2011.

For more information,

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science are open now and close 13 May.

Prizes are awarded in five categories:

  • Prime Minister’s Prize for Science ($300,000)
  • Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year ($50,000)
  • Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year ($50,000)
  • Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools ($50,000)
  • Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools ($50,000).

Nominations close 13 May 2011. To nominate or for further information, visit

Discoveries need dollars

It’s going to be a tough budget for science this year. It’s clear that the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is being targeted and may lose hundreds of millions from its budget.

Doug Hilton, the director of the Walter and Eliza Hall, has initiated a campaign to fight the cuts.

He says, “These cuts could risk: medical research jobs, access to future health benefits and future health spending; the ability to retaining Australia’s best scientists and the long-term investment previous governments have made in large research programs.”

To prevent this, the Discoveries Need Dollars campaign is encouraging a long-term view in research funding and calling on anyone interested in Australia’s health future to tell Australia’s politicians that you want them to protect medical research in the Federal Budget.

Find out more at Support the campaign on Linked In, Twitter and Facebook.

Science in school support axed

As you may know, the Australian Government has recently signalled its intention to cease funding the Australian Academy of Science’s Primary Connections: Linking Science with Literacy Project.

The Academy is confident, based on comprehensive independent assessments, that Primary Connections enables Australia’s primary school teachers to significantly improve the scientific literacy of their students. The Primary Connections team is currently working to complete a full suite of curriculum materials and provide professional learning that will support the effective implementation of the new Australian Curriculum: Science.

The Academy is committed to the ongoing development of Primary Connections and is currently exploring all options to ensure its availability in the long term.

Your support in communicating your experience of the value of Primary Connections to persons of influence and/or decision makers could be helpful in this regard.

Science by Doing, the Academy’s newer secondary program is also under threat.

Every primary school teacher I’ve interviewed over the past seven years of working on the Prime Ministers Prizes for Science Teaching has commented on the importance of Primary Connections. This is a bad decision.

More information: or contact Mona Akbari:

(02) 6201 9452, 0447 679 612,

Australia/US collaboration

Last year I called for information on Australia/US collaboration. We used the information to create a series of factsheets for the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research highlighting how Australian science is changing America.

Stories included:

  • A factory in Boise, Idaho, is re-opening to make a new kind of solar cell invented at ANU.
  • In Pittsburgh, they’re already making an ‘ultra-battery’ for storage of renewable energy, developed at CSIRO. The technology will also be used in hybrid cars.
  • Texan cotton farmers are growing crops that use less water, less pesticide and produce better cotton, with the help of CSIRO-derived plant varieties.
  • In Nebraska, Cold War technology, adapted by BHP Billiton, is being used to find rare earth mineral deposits from the air.
  • Across America, deaf children are hearing for the first time thanks to a cochlear implant or bionic ear invented and manufactured in Australia.
  • Young women have access to vaccines that prevent cervical cancer.
  • And millions of people are connecting to the internet wirelessly, thanks to discoveries by CSIRO astronomer-engineers.

Thank you to everyone who helped us.

You can view the factsheets at

Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) Summit

More women are studying science at university than men. But they’re not staying in science. We’re losing them mid-career. And in the physical sciences and engineering we’re still further behind in achieving gender equity

The Australian National Commission for UNESCO, the Australian National Committee for UN Women and the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies are holding the Women in Science and Engineering Summit (WiSE) at Parliament House in Canberra on 11 April 2011 to encourage leaders to take practical steps.

The Summit is invitation only.  You can find out more at

Air, fire, earth and water – understanding our planet in all its moods

In 2011 Australia will hold one of the world’s largest meetings of earth scientists. They will explore all the physical aspects of our planet, from deep in the Earth’s core to our place in space.

Given recent natural disasters the Earth seems ever more restless and destructive, and the impact on human life and infrastructure is increasingly heavy.

So it is important to understand how the Earth works—which means the 25th General Assembly of the International Union of Geophysics and Geodesy in Melbourne from 28 June to 7 July 2011 will be a focus of attention, not only for the 3,000 delegates expected to attend, but for many others besides.

We want to extend the conversation from the conference, bringing earth science to the wider community. We’d welcome your thoughts and support to achieve this.

More information:

Media training courses for scientists

We run regular courses in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney for scientists and anyone who needs to communicate complex and technical ideas via the media. Three working journalists join us over the course of the day to talk about what they are looking for in a news story and to conduct practice interviews.

Our next courses are:

Melbourne: 3 May, 24 May

Sydney: 10 May

Canberra: 12 April, 14 June

More details at

The Conversation

Andrew Jaspan, former editor of the Age has launched The Conversation, a new website that will profile leading Australian scientists, their ideas and research.

He says, “Our authors will all be accredited academics and researchers largely drawn (initially) from the Group of Eight unis (ANU, Mbne, Monash, Sydney, NSW, Qld, UWA, and Adelaide) plus CSIRO.

We also have funding support from the Federal Dept of Education in Canberra and the Dept of Innovation and Business in Victoria.

The aim is to use academics to help us understand complex issues and contemporary affairs.  We have a team of 12 editors who will help ensure the academics publish in Plain English!

More at

Stories of Australian Science 2011

Meeting science journalists and television producers around the world, we’ve discovered that they have a healthy appetite for Australian science and Australian wine.

So, for the third time, we are putting together this online and print publication to give journalists and others with an interest in science a taste of what’s happening Down Under.

This magazine-style collection of short science stories will put your research and researchers in front of over 1,000 science journalists and television producers from the BBC, Discovery Channel, History Channel, National Geographic, the ABC, SBS and dozens of other television and production companies around the world.

It will also reach wider audiences through Australia’s embassies and consulates worldwide, as well as on the Stories of Australian Science at

We’ll open bookings next week. Email me for more information at

How do our cities stack up as science factories

Look at this clever set of interactive graphs to see how your city is performing in science.

You’ll see Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane as the top three publishers in Australia. But you’ll also see the dramatic increase in Beijing’s output, but not yet in their citation scores. I love the clever work that brings data to life like this: