Science communication: The ball is in our court
Australia has a rich history of science, technology and innovation with Wi-Fi, the bionic ear and the black box flight recorder being the mere tip of the iceberg. But what does the future of science look like in this country? What direction are we heading? Over 200 of Australia’s top early career scientists from across industry, research and development came together for Science meets Parliament 2014 to discuss this plus the bumps, potholes and road works that lie ahead for science.
There are issues that affect Australian science; lack of investment, funding and deprofessionaliation in our workplaces are current concerns for many. These issues are sizeable and have grown for a number of reasons but we are not powerless or faultless when it comes to their solution. We have many tools at our disposal to get our voices heard but we need to know how to do so and how to do it effectively.
We as scientists have contributed towards the current situation in this country by either being unable to effectively communicate what we do or by being unaware that we need to. We have become disconnected to the public that rely on our science but don’t understand its importance and also the politicians and policy makers that make decisions on the funding our science.
Day one of SmP 2014 was a smorgasbord from the world of science communication an area where many scientists have not ventured before. The day looked a bit like this: How to help journalists communicate your science, perfecting your science “elevator speech”, tweeting like a pro, raising the standard of scientific debate, understanding the policy factory and talking to policy makers.
These sessions were well received by the gathering (especially when made into a competition). Discussion about the state of science journalism in the country showed it was evident that the lack of specialist journalists affects our ability to communicate to the public. But this also shows the opportunities for us to broaden our communication skills by becoming the communicators that have the technical knowledge as well.
Day two was for the scientists to trial their new public policy and science communication skills during a private meeting with a Federal MP at Parliament House. With only a short window to speak it was important to have pin pointed your topic, made it relevant to the Minister you were speaking to and communicate effectively. The opportunity to speak with the various MPs at SmP2014 was greatly appreciated by both scientists and MPs.
The important message for all scientists after SmP2014; we are in this together. This next stage will be the hardest road for scientists dealing with the squabble for the meagre funding available, science policy that does not reflect the science and our fledgling science communication skills. Australia needs good science policy that funds and invests in our science, technology an innovation and to make that happen, we need to be the best science communicators we can be.
Kathleen Patrick, July 2014
Kathleen Patrick and Esdy Rozali were the winners of the Professionals Australia Science Meets Parliament essay competition for 2014. Kathleen (left) is pictured above with Professional Scientists Australia President Robyn Porter (middle) and Esdy Rozali (right).