Looking back at 2013, science meets art and youth in NSW, and Inspiring Australia’s summer programming

Inspiring Australia

From Poo Power in Melbourne to the desertSMART EcoFair in Alice Springs, from Björk’s DNA-inspired film clip to ScienceAlert on Facebook: it’s been a big year for Inspiring Australia.

In 2013, Inspiring Australia projects have reached two million Australians, not to mention the many more who’ve seen and heard about your work in the media.

Looking to 2014, planning for National Science Week events is well underway – don’t forget to register your events at scienceweek.net.au.

Over the summer, catch up on some of the best IA-funded projects and big science stories from the year with our summer podcast series, produced by journalism students at RMIT University.

From the Inspiring Australia team in Canberra:

We’d like to thank all those who have worked with us throughout 2013 towards some great achievements.

Together over the last twelve months, we have seen the launch of the Science Sector Group, hosted the BIG Science Communication Summit in Sydney, and continued to support science engagement activities across the country through the Unlocking Australia’s Potential and National Science Week grants. More recently, we also saw the awarding of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science to Professor Terry Speed.

Congratulations to all involved we wish you and your families a safe and happy holiday.

Best wishes for the summer break – we can’t wait to see what’s in store for Australian science in 2014.


Chris Lassig
Administrator, InspiringAustralia.net.au

In this bulletin:

Country kids communicating with art and sciencedlab

Community participation through storytelling technology

Creative photography at the Wings Drop-in Centre in Wilcannia

Young people are telling stories about themselves and their environment at science and art workshops in the New South Wales towns of Wilcannia and Wagga Wagga.

They’re part of the dLab National Program, started by dLux Media Arts as a way to help regional youth contribute to their communities and shape their own future.

Using everything from digital photography to solar prints of leaves and other found objects, Wilcannia students captured elements of their hometown, learning along the way about local botany but also the chemistry of photography and the physics of light.

“We had a real ‘wow’ moment when we turned the whole room into a camera obscura and projected what we could see outside onto the walls and roof inside the room,” said workshop facilitator Yenny Huber.

Students’ stories and photographs went into a mobile app, an interactive map of Wilcannia with tours of places of personal importance to them.

In Wagga Wagga, the students’ work was projected onto the walls of the Civic Centre, alongside local music and interviews in an exhibition at the Ashmont Artspace.

“As much as the students enjoy learning about the science, the real power in this program is how they use technology to express themselves by creating art and audio-visual content,” Yenny said.

The dLab National Program will continue in 2014, with a special guest appearance by Indonesian artist Andreas Siagian, who will run workshops on computer technology and electronics and will teach people how to make a DIY digital microscope from a webcam.

Find out more at www.dlux.org.au/cms/dLab-National-Program/dlab.html

Future journalists learning to get science rightjournalists

Is science fiction bending your view of reality?

What makes someone volunteer for a one-way ticket to the Red Planet?

Could your morning coffee be quietly killing you?

Introducing our summer series of science podcasts, produced by journalism students from RMIT University.

Science is awesome. How do we know? Because the internet tells us so

We kick off today with Nat Tencic’s piece: ‘a different kind of viral’ asks whether big scientific ideas and the short social media attention span are really compatible.

Nat, who’s just graduated from RMIT’s journalism program, gets a few tips on how to package science in bite-size chunks from the team at ScienceAlert, the IA-supported Facebook page which last week reached 5 million fans.

“ScienceAlert is a really interesting idea – science is so big on the internet, but has always been a geeky, nerdy interest,” Nat said.

“But I pick up the odd science podcast, and if something cool gets shared, I’ll click on it. So that got me thinking: how is science becoming really ‘click-baity’, and is that a problem?”

You can listen to Nat’s story at inspiringaustralia.net.au/a-different-kind-of-viral

This student science journalism project was the brainchild of Alex Wake, who teaches radio journalism at RMIT University. She wanted her young journalists to learn how to report science accurately and to explore the role of science in society.

“The most important stories of this century are about science and I don’t think there’s enough understanding of science among journalists,” Alex said.

“This project was about giving smart young people an opportunity to find the science behind everything, and there are some really fabulous examples of things I’d never have thought they’d cover.”

We’ll post a couple of stories on the IA website each week, and you can follow @inspiringaus on Twitter or find us on Facebook.

Or, if you feel like a science listening binge while you sleep off your Christmas pudding, head to Soundcloud for the whole series.

Five million science fans can’t be wrongsciencealert

Australian science news is a hit online

It started in 2005 as a humble website, but the Canberra-based ScienceAlert is now a social media superstar, having reached the milestone of 5 million fans on Facebook.

Every day, ScienceAlert posts news stories, feature articles, videos, images and comment to spread the work of Australian universities and research agencies. Its fans then share the stories further, increasing the reach to 10-15 million people worldwide.

“We also have 250,000 Australian fans and they in turn are helping us to reach 1-2 million Australians,” said ScienceAlert managing director Chris Casella. “This is great news for Australian science – at a time when reportage of science in the traditional media is flagging.”

More recently, ScienceAlert has been partnering with YouTube science celebrities to branch out into the real world, with shows like IFLS Live! in Sydney. This is all part of its mission to not only promote Australian science, but to give people the knowledge needed to tackle global issues.

“But science alone is not enough,” said ScienceAlert founder Julian Cribb. “The knowledge it generates needs to be shared at lightspeed among seven billion human beings, so they can make use of it. That is what motivates us.”

This knowledge can be found at www.facebook.com/ScienceAlert

Dropping SCOM BOMBs live online

Will Grand and Rod Lamberts are up to No Funny Business

SCOMB BOMBers, Will Grant and Rod Lamberts

Australia’s science communicators are a passionate and knowledgeable bunch, fit to burst with gravitas and intellectual commitment.

Yet lacking in this landscape is different voice: a voice for the downtrodden, a voice for the juvenile, a voice for the irreverent. A science communication voice happy to not only call a spade a spade but to also call it a dickhead if it has been a dickhead.

Well this voice is lacking no more. SCOM BOMB, a weekly Google Hangout presented by the good Doctors Rod Lamberts and Will Grant, drops bombs on the communication of science and the science of communication.

The pair strongly urge everyone interested in the communication of science to, “watch SCOM BOMB or risk living out your days in cowering ignorance, forever denied the sweet light of reason.”

Trying to be more serious, Will added: “we’re trying to launch a less serious – but still insightful – discussion about science communication.”

“Even if you’re curing cancer, you can spend a few minutes with us.”

You can join them live at 3pm AEDT every Thursday (Christmas holidays and a lazy January not withstanding), or watch later on YouTube. The best place to find them is at the No Funny Business website, nofunnybusiness.net

Stay tuned for special daily episodes of SCOM BOMB in February during the Australian Science Communicators National Conference (details in events below).

Selling science in our smallest state
Meet Tasmania’s Inspiring Australia officer, Sarah Bayne

There’s a lot of science in Tasmania, and Sarah Bayne tries to cover it all

People come to science engagement with a range of backgrounds, but there can’t be many who’ve worked cleaning convict bricks like Sarah Bayne has. But there’s far more to Tasmania than convict clichés, and Sarah now communicates all the many science and science-related activities going on in the island state.

Sarah is one of eight state and territory Inspiring Australia Officers who support science communication and engagement projects, help them gain publicity and enable local collaboration.

What was your first job?

Cleaning convict bricks for 2 cents a brick. I found out years later that my older sister had negotiated 5 cents a brick! But I still made an absolute fortune of about $50 one summer.

What inspires you?

At work I really get inspired by people – the passion and dedication I see in the scientists and science communicators I work with and also the ‘light bulb’ moments and fascination I see when a child (or even an adult) fully engages with something new. Out of work I mostly get inspired by nature and the environment, and also my friends. Oh, and good food. And my dog.

What Inspiring Australia initiatives are happening in your area?

There are a whole range of IA initiatives happening in Tasmania including the WhySci.org.au website, a local grants scheme, newsletters and social media, all types of events, scholarships and lots of brainstorming about how else we can engage the public in science.

Is there a success story or two that stand out?

The Redmap project is definitely a stand out example of the power of Inspiring Australia. Redmap was developed here in Tasmania and has recently expanded nationally with the assistance of an IA Unlocking Grant. It is an online citizen science project that allows the public to contribute data to help researchers assess changing species distribution due to rising ocean temperatures.

What are the science strengths of your state or territory?

Aaghh there are too many! But particularly marine and Antarctic science, agricultural science, separation science, mining/geology…. The list goes on!

Tell us about your favourite science-related TV show or movie

I’m more into podcasts, You Tube and social media. I really like Talking Science, Veritasium

and I F*ing Love Science, but I do appreciate a bit of Wonders of the Universe and The Big Bang Theory too I suppose!

What is the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is the people I get to work with, all the cool things I get to do and learn about when I’m organising events and generally operating in such a positive space with really valuable outcomes if we keep succeeding.

If you could give science communicators one piece of advice, what would it be?

Talk to your local IA Officer – they can probably help you in some way!

Read more Questions and Answers with Sarah at the Inspiring Australia website.

Best of the Bytes

Research Ryan Gosling

In our last couple of newsletters we covered the scientific side of the dominators of internet memes, the LOLcats. But if there’s anything that can even come close, it’s Mr Hey Girl himself, Ryan Gosling.

After a brief absence, Biostatics Ryan Gosling is back online at biostatisticsryangoslingreturns.tumblr.com.

But if you’re on Twitter, you can also follow the wisdom of Research Ryan, @ResearchGosling. “Equality for all, no stigma.”

#scibook – RiAus book club goes online

Inspired by online chats like #onsci (which we covered in our last newsletter), the RiAus is taking their book club to Twitter in 2014. They’ll be helped out by George Aranda from Deakin University, who runs the blog Science Book a Day.

Discussions will take place at 8.30 pm AEDT on the first Monday of each month. To join in, simply follow @SciBookChat and tweet using the hashtag #scibook.

The first online #scibook club will discuss Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on happiness, on Monday 6 January 2014.

Major science events

2-5 February [QLD] – Australian Science Communicators National Conference

Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

This year’s themes are:

  • Insight – how can we get better insight into audiences, stakeholders and wider contexts?
  • Impact – how do we know we are making a difference?
  • Innovation – how do we do things differently?

Registrations are open until 24 January 2014.

NEW: Attend the conference online!

For the first time ever this premier biennial event for all those who make science accessible is available remotely via livestream and podcasts. Be a part of the dialogue and help shape the future of science and the communication of science by engaging in live discussions online every day of the conference, and before and after too. Reserve your online ticket now.

More information at 2014conf.asc.asn.au.

Awards & prizes

20 January [National] – Fresh Science: Nominations open

Fresh Science is a national competition that helps early-career researchers share their stories of discovery with the media and the public.

More information at freshscience.org.au

29 January [National] – Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science: Nominations open

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science are the nation’s finest awards for excellence in science and science teaching. As well as the main prize, there are additional awards for life science, physical science, primary school teaching and secondary school teaching.

More information at www.industry.gov.au/pmsp

7 February [National] – Australian Museum Eureka Prizes: Nominations open

Presented annually by the Australian Museum, the Eureka Prizes reward excellence in the fields of research & innovation, leadership & commercialisation, school science and science journalism & communication.

More information at australianmuseum.net.au/eureka

10 February [National] – Australian Academy of Science Nancy Millis Medal for Women in Science: Nominations close

This inaugural award for early- to mid-career female researchers in any branch of the natural sciences was established to honour the contributions made to science by the late microbiologist Professor Nancy Millis AC MBE FAA FTSE and recognise her importance as a role model for women aspiring to be research leaders.

More information at www.science.org.au/awards/awards/millis.html