Author Archives: Chris

Grant round for 2018 now open

National Science Week grants now open

Applications are now open for grants of up to $20 000 to support events in National Science Week 2018.

Grants are available for individuals, community groups, universities, research institutions and other organisations to hold events for the public to participate in science across the country.

Science Week grants help to provide nationwide science engagement activities through:

  • providing funding to eligible and meritorious high profile projects across all states and territories;
  • supporting projects that stimulate and leverage further contributions by organisations across Australia;
  • supporting projects which target new and under-served audiences; and
  • engaging Indigenous Australians in National Science Week activities.

Applications close at 5.00 pm AEDT (Canberra time), Thursday 12 October 2017.

More information, grant guidelines and online applications via AusIndustry. Be sure to read our tips and hints about applying for a grant.

It’s a Wrap


Well, that’s it – another National Science Week done and what a huge festival it has been.

We’re still collecting the stats from the week, but with over 2100 events, competitions and online activities uploaded onto the event calendar, it has definitely been the busiest National Science Week to date.

Here in the national Inspiring Australia office, we’re definitely looking forward to a comfy sleep in tomorrow – but before that, we really want to acknowledge some important people and organisations without whom National Science Week would not be what it is.

First, acknowledgement is due for the National Science Week partners and sponsors:

  • The Australian Science Teachers Association, who have been instrumental in providing material and support to teachers across Australia to get their students and school communities involved in National Science Week;
  • The CSIRO, who not only ran a number of events and outreach programmes during August, but also have hosted our website this year;
  • Media sponsors Discovery Science, COSMOS, NewScientist, and Popular Science, whose support have been instrumental in spreading the word; and
  • the ABC, who not only ran this year’s citizen science project (Australia’s Biggest Smartphone Survey), but also ran an organisation wide focus on science for the month of August.

Secondly, a big thank you goes to each of the state and territory organising committees and Inspiring Australia state/territory-based managers. Each volunteer committee is responsible for compiling a successful state/territory wide festival, and it is no small effort. They do this through running local grant rounds, organising launch events and festivals, inviting interesting international speakers, and building the general excitement in local organisations, institutes and communities in the lead-up to August.

And finally, National Science Week has always represented a massive effort of thousands of volunteers getting involved and making an amazing national festival. The festival is a peak in STEM engagement activity across the year and would not be possible without this substantial grassroots dedication. Thank you.

Thank you all again for your support and tireless dedication to making 2017 the biggest National Science Week. Right – I’m off to bed.

STEM Superheroes

Last year, our Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkle, challenged Australians to name just five living Australian scientists using the twitter hashtag #5ScientistPledge. From this list, the #AusScienceHeroes were born.

Following on this year, a number of academic, research and other organisations have shared the profiles of some of their scientists on social media during National Science Week.

Below are a few of the organisations that got into the spirit of National Science Week and showed off some of their STEM talent.

Agriculture Victoria(@agriculturevictoria) have been posting a ‘Meet our science stars’ series over the week.
Science at ANU(@ScienceANU) ran a number of live video streams with scientists and science communicators, and even a post specifically celebrating their ‘heros of medicine’ – ANU medical school teachers who save lives between lectures.
Australian Academy of Science(@AustralianAcademyofScience) looked back on and recognised the work of six early female Fellows of the Academy.
CSIRO(@CSIROnews) promoted their Faces of CSIRO page that introduces their scientists and gives them a chance to explain why they are passionate about their work.
Australia’s Chief Scientist(@chiefscientist) highlighted their ongoing work to shine a light on the #AusScienceHeros.
Robinson Research Institute(@RobsInstitute) profiled a number of their early- and mid-career academic staff with videos and stories.
Telethon Kids Institute(@TelethonKids) profiled a number of their staff highlighting the work that happens outside of the lab.

This list is by no means complete – but a good way to get a sense for what it means to be a scientist in Australia.

Can you name five living Australian scientists?

Has your Science Week experience left you hungry for more?

Events have been held across the country in National Science Week 2017

Events have been held across the country in National Science Week 2017

Today is the last day of National Science Week for 2017. And what an amazing supersized week it has been. But what’s that? You still want more? Your appetite for science has only been amplified by the great things you have seen, heard, tasted, touched and experienced this week?

There are still diverse activities happening around the country today. And, lucky for you, the event listings on this website still presents opportunities to engage with science for the rest of August.

There are lots of talks, exhibitions and installations that will keep your science habit ticking over such as:

  • An Art-meets-Science Exhibition in the Ecosciences Precinct, Dutton Park, QLD
  • A presentation on Sustainable Housing in Cold and Temperate Climates at QVMAG in Launceston, Tasmania
  • An opportunity to visit the unique specialist labs at a Discovery Day @the National Measurement Institute in North Ryde, NSW
  • The Ballarat International Foto Biennale – A Field Guide to the Stars, a group exhibition that explores how space might be understood through photomedia.

Through the Inspiring Australia National Framework – Local Action approach, there is a person in each state and territory dedicated to encouraging communities to create, collaborate, curate and participate in public science engagement opportunities throughout the whole year. You can find contact details for the Inspiring Australia State and Territory Managers here.

Through this framework there are also Inspiring Australia regional science hubs dotted around the country that bring science engagement opportunities to their local community all year round, focussing on the fascinating science happening around the regions. (Again, contact the Inspiring Australia State and Territory Managers to find out more about what is happening in your region.) Some events coming up include:

  • Nature’s Smoking Gun, a STEM@Fleurieu Science in the Pub event on the beautiful Fleurieu Penninsula in SA, 29 August, and
  • The Wheatbelt Science Hub in WA is launching the Wheatbelt Science Trail on 30 & 31 August, a celebration of interesting and important sites across the Wheatbelt that are just waiting for you to explore.

Also hot off the presses for those parents, teachers or students who are looking for engaging STEM opportunities, this week the Office of the Chief Scientist of Australia launched the STARportal. The STARportal is a searchable national portal that makes the connections to STEM learning activities that inspire young people to explore, discover, and create.

And don’t forget the online projects and competitions you can participate in from the comfort of your own home, including:

  • Australia’s Biggest Smartphone Survey is open until 25 August
  • Tooth Fairy Project 2 NDK
  • CSI activities to do at home
  • Constable Kenny Koala STEM Colouring-In Competition
  • Australian Federal Police Forensic Science Challenge
  • The Pantry Blitz 2017

So as we reflect on a fantastic 2017 National Science Week – don’t be too sad it is almost over, there is still so much more to do!

SciScouts 2017: Environment – Trees, Bees & Seeds


It’s fantastic to see so many youth organisations and schools getting behind National Science Week, celebrating all things science, technology, engineering and maths with Australia’s next generation of researchers and innovators.

This weekend, over 1200 young people from the Canberra, Sydney, and NSW South Coast regions made the trek to Camp Cottermouth to participate in SciScouts 2017: Environment – Trees, Bees & Seeds – a mini-festival celebrating all things STEM with a specific focus on environmental sustainability.

The campground was buzzing with activity, with well-organised groups rotating through a well-managed programme of 20 hands-on activities, each for about half an hour. Participants enjoyed everything from looking at tiny waterbugs, learning about the history of the local Aboriginal tribes, making muddy seed bombs, and building wind turbines prototypes (a definite favourite).

After a successful chemistry-themed #NatSciWk event last year, participants requested an environmental sustainability activity in 2017 – coincidentally aligning with this year’s theme of Future Earth.

In response, SciScouts focused on the World Scout Environment Badge topics of clean water, natural habitats, minimising harmful substances, sustainability, and natural hazards.

Branch Activity Leader (Special Projects), Kate Lehane, said a significant focus of the SciScouts programme was handing over responsibility to the next generation, with many aspects of the event logistics being delegated to the senior youths. Even three of the activity stations were conceived and delivered by senior Venturers.

Ms Lehane, said that the SciScouts initiative was all about science engagement outside of typical school-based programmes, and that she has seen significant interest from Scouts groups interstate.

But is isn’t just other scouting groups that have shown interest with over 15 local activity partners getting involved this year. This included several research schools from the Australian National University, divisions of the ACT Government, fire and SES emergency services, and local environmental organisations such as the Murry Darling Basin Authority and Mulligan’s Flat Nature Reserve.

Fortunately, the science can continue beyond this weekend, with Scouts group leaders being provided with activity resources to use at future group meets.

SciScouts is a pilot programme of STEM engagement within Scouts Australia, and shares content openly with interested group leaders. Get in touch with the Scouts ACT Branch Activity Leader if you are interested in running science activities in your Scouts group.

SciScouts is one of 39 projects that received National Science Week grant funding through the Inspiring Australia – Science Engagement Programme.

Citizen science really makes an impact

SmartPhone Survey_dates

ABC Science has produced an annual citizen science or national project for National Science Week for over 15 years.

We have enjoyed participating in a diverse range of projects exploring all sorts of aspects of science, and in the process providing much valuable data that is helping researchers to improve our understanding of our world.

Each project partners with research organisations so it can gather the right information that will really make a difference to our scientists’ studies.

Don’t forget this year’s project, Australia’s Biggest Smartphone Survey, is now open.

You can help researchers from Griffith University, Murdoch University and Western Sydney University to help us understand how smartphones are changing our lives — in both good and bad ways.

Make sure you get involved soon – it closes August 25.

Projects from previous years include:

  • Wildlife Spotter – 2016

Millions of photographs snapped by automatic cameras set up in all sorts of landscapes across the country need someone to look at them – to help scientists identify which species are roaming both in the wild and in urban areas.

6 different research groups contributed images and in the last 12 months there have been 49,618 citizen scientists participating, with 2,529,000 images processed and 3,151,000 animals identified! There are still more to do so please jump in and have a go.

  • Galaxy Explorer – 2015

This project aimed to help astronomers classify galaxies up to 3-4 billion light years away. And it sure did – so far there have been 21,162 galactic explorers and 214,600 galaxies completely classified.

These classifications are being used by researchers to build a more accurate picture of how galaxies have changed, what happens when they collide and to add to an atlas of the known universe. Researchers have estimated the contribution of this initiative to science is equivalent to about 40 Masters projects-worth of work!

  • Weather Detective – 2014

This citizen science project invited participants to explore historical weather observations made by ship captains in the 1890s and 1900s. These records add to the global database of weather over the centuries and help researchers, including the World Meteorological Society, to model our future weather.

It is a fascinating journey into historical meteorological and exploration accounts as demonstrated by participation so far – 545,035 observations have already been made by 11,171 citizen scientists!

  • Explore the Seafloor – 2013

This year we saw volunteer citizen scientists help map the location of kelp and sea urchin populations and track how these organisms are responding to changes in the oceans. It was a great success with 9400 people registering and processing more than 300,000 images for marine scientists.

  • Sound Check Australia – 2012

Researchers from the National Acoustic Laboratories have been utilising information from citizen scientists to have a better understanding of the risks our lifestyles are giving to our hearing. 8,000 people participated in Sound Check Australia – the equivalent of one person working 40 hour weeks for 2 years!

  • Are you a good multi-tasker? – 2011

This project explored what characteristics make you a successful multi-tasker – because we all know juggling tasks doesn’t always work so well. Scientists from the University of Queensland’s School of Psychology and Queensland Brain Institute gathered citizen science data to explore whether it might be related to characteristics like memory, ability to focus or age.

  • Big Sleep Survey – 2010

10 000 participants monitored their sleeping habits for one week for the Woolcock Institute and Sydney University. Research has since been published using the data that was collected.

One of the biggest surprise findings was that almost a quarter of survey respondents shared their bed with a pet, either every night or occasionally. These findings will have direct impacts on scientist’s work with people suffering from sleep apnoea.

So go on, get involved and contribute to our greater scientific understanding!

Voices of the South West

Promotional image for Sounds Like Science event

Over the next few weekends, voices of science will be heard across the South West of NSW with live events at local venues to celebrate National Science Week and mark the launch of Sounds Like Science, an ongoing series of vodcasts featuring dynamic young scientists working in the region.

The brainchild of ABC Open producer Luke Wong and Phoebe Cowdery of the Orange-Cowra-Cabonne Science Hub, the events will highlight the talent that thrives on science and reveal some of the diverse and rewarding careers on offer in the region.

The vodcasts are also being released online, each featuring young professionals with fascinating careers. First in the series are ecologist Jo Lenehan, who discusses environmental water management and pelican breeding at Lake Brewster, Pippa Childs, who takes us behind the scenes and below the streets as a civil engineer with Cowra Council, and wine maker Nadja Wallington, a vintner for the Philip Shaw Winery in Orange.

You can check out the Sounds Like Science videos online at, and come along to meet the production team and hear from some more of the region’s great science talent, at the following live events:

  • Friday 18 August: 6-8pm at Finn’s Store, Canowindra
  • Monday 21 August: 6-8pm at The Oxley, 24 Kendal St, Cowra (Note: Under 18’s must be accompanied by an adult)
  • Saturday 2 September: 6-8pm at Orange Regional Museum, 151 Byng St, Orange

Big weekend of science to end National Science Week!


The last weekend of National Science Week 2017 has lots still in store for you to explore. Here is just a teaser of the variety of experiences you could squeeze into your weekend. Check these out, and then head to the events calendar to find more events near you!


Community Opening of Canberra’s Recycling Facility – Hume

Everyone is invited to attend the official opening of the upgraded Materials Recovery Facility in Hume. This is a great opportunity to find out about the new technology that processes your recycling. You can learn about product life-cycles and check out the whole site from a bird’s eye (drone’s) view! 1 – 3pm Saturday

Strictly Science – Belconnen

The last Saturday of National Science Week is a great time to kick up your heels with an explosion of science and art led by some of Canberra’s most fabulous performers and renowned scientists. 7.30 – 10.30pm Saturday

Geoscience Australia Open Day – Symonston

Sunday sees a big day of hand’s on activities, displays and talks focussing on the diverse work carried out by our national geoscience agency, from smart phones and satellites to earthquakes and water resources. 9am – 2pm Sunday


Gondwana Garden – Mount Tomah

Come face to face with some dinosaurs – both digital through our Augmented Reality app, and amazing puppetry from Erth Dinosaurs – and take a trip back in time while enjoying a variety of exciting shows and hands-on activities. 11am – 3pm Saturday

Bots and Beers ‘Space Bar’ Event – Morpeth

Hear from a local Maitland company who have designed the CubeSat satellite systems that have enabled students to run science experiments on the International Space Station. Get a chance to get hands-on with devices. 4 – 6pm Saturday

Indigenous Science Experience – Family Fun Day – Redfern

A family fun day that has become an annual highlight of Science Week in Sydney. It features all sorts of interactive activities that celebrate Indigenous and Western science. Meet with Indigenous scientists, Elders and youth alongside community groups and academics. 10am – 3pm Sunday

The Innovation Games – Sydney Olympic Park

Another outing for the whole family, the Innovation Games will get you moving and challenge you with all sorts of science themed activities. Do drop by especially if you are coming out to the precinct for the usual sporting events, to add some science to your day! 11am – 3.30pm Sunday

Dream Machines: Art Fest Day – Gymea

A celebration of artists who are modern day Da Vinci’s, exploring science and art in the Dream Machines exhibition, with activities and talks. 10am – 4pm Sunday


Create a useless thing: Family Challenge – Coconut Grove

A family challenge event to use everyday items in a new way to build a creative machine – under the guidance of Taj Pabari, Australia’s Young Inventor of the Year (2014). 5 – 7pm Saturday

Sea Sick – Darwin

In partnership with the Darwin Festival, listen to award-winning Canadian journalist and author Alanna Mitchell as she brings her book about the state of the global ocean to the stage for one powerful and deeply unsettling event. 6.30 – 8pm Saturday

Wildlife Workshops with Bush Tales – The Gardens, Nightcliff and Yarrawonga

Enjoy some incredible Top End wildlife experiences as workshops engage children with the fascinating science behind our native wildlife and natural habitats.

10 – 11.30am Saturday, Nightcliff

2 – 3.30pm Saturday, Yarrawonga

10 – 11.30am Sunday, George Brown Botanic Gardens

2 – 3.30pm Sunday Yarrawonga


Fiftysix Science Workshop – Brisbane

An opportunity for students to create and innovate using new technologies through a workshop facilitated by 2017 Queensland Young Australian of the Year & Fiftysix Founder, Taj Pabari. 10am – 12pm Saturday

Queensland Museum: Behind the Scenes Tour – South Brisbane

Get a special look behind the scenes at the Museum, exploring the collection stores and hearing insights from the staff about the diverse science involved such as conservation, biodiversity and biology all in the context of cultural and social history. 10.30 – 11.30am Saturday

Gold Coast Schools Pop-Up Science Centre – Coomera

Come along to share in hands-on activities, demonstrations, science shows and plenty of interactions with exciting special guests. Science fun for the whole family. 10am – 2pm Sunday


SCINEMA @ SLSA – Adelaide

The State Library of South Australia is hosting fascinating stories of science told through film as a venue for Scinema. Drop in to catch some as part of a continual loop throughout the weekend. 12 – 4pm Friday through to Sunday

South Australian Museum: Science Centre Open Day – Adelaide

Come behind the scenes at the South Australian Museum. Meet the scientists, explore the Science Centre and get a rare look at the collections. 11am – 4pm Saturday

Public Outreach Astronomy – Port Augusta

Come and experience the Southern Cross Outreach Observatory Project, a mobile astronomical observatory that was designed to travel far and wide to promote astronomy among communities in Australia. 1.30 – 9.30pm Saturday

Explorer in Residence – Adelaide

Join the State Library of South Australia’s Explorer in Residence to discover the stories of innovation and research captured in the collections of the library. Sunday’s sessions will include map making activities for families. 12 – 4pm Sunday


Open Day at the Telescope – Cambridge

Come and experience the Mt Pleasant UTas Radio Telescope with hands-on activities, viewings of the control room and guided tours. You can even make your own rocket! 10am – 3pm Saturday

Emerging Entomologists – Ridgeway

A workshop for children 7 – 12 years to explore the world of entomology, with hands-on activities and outdoor investigations. 10am – 12.30pm Sunday


Are your genes your destiny? Genomics and the science of Gattaca – Melbourne

The State Library of Victoria is screening the science fiction film Gattaca, followed by an expert panel discussion about the worlds of ethics, science and the creative arts and where we are heading. 6 – 9pm Friday

PowerWorks Energy Education Centre – Morwell

Visit Powerworks to explore the science and technology that has helped maintain Victoria’s electricity supply. Guided tours and interactive museum displays will provide an insight into the past and future of energy technologies. 10am – 3pm Saturday and Sunday

Global Gamble – A Climate Change Comedy! – Spotswood

An educational theatre performance for students that explores the theme Future Earth through sketch comedy and improvisation. 10.30am – 12.30pm Saturday

Sublime Science Cabaret – Melbourne

Experience cabaret with a twist as science is celebrated through music, video projection, poetry and stand-up comedy performances, exploring the wonders of the universe and planet Earth. 5.30 – 8.30pm Sunday


Gingin Science Festival – Yeal

Experience some real research at the operational research centre The Australian International Gravitational Observatory (AIGO) and explore some hands-on activities at the the Gravity Discovery Centre and Observatory. 10am – 4pm Saturday and Sunday

ChemCentre Open Day 2017 – Bentley

Visit the open day and ‘make science your mission’ through shows, tours, activities and the Clean Lab Experience. 10am – 4pm Saturday

Explore Karlkula 2017 – Hannans

Come and learn about the botany and traditional use of the native plants in Karlkula Bushland Park on a tour guided by students and botanists and sample some bush tucker. 10am to 2pm Sunday

Scienceability – participants turned presenters


When you think of science, do you think of a person with funny hair, wearing a lab coat and pouring chemicals?

Well, Scienceability is here to challenge that idea.

Sian Keys came up with the idea for Scienceability when her younger brother, who has Down Syndrome, wanted to do science like she did. Although there were lots of great arts and sports programs for people with disabilities, she couldn’t find any programs where he could do science. So, she decided that she should turn it into a reality.

For six weeks, Scienceability has been running hands-on science workshops for young adults with intellectual disabilities. The workshops have ranged from the science of colour to flight and engineering. Each workshop has been filled to the brim with exciting experiments, where participants have had the opportunity to try out science and see how it is relevant to them.

But this all turns on its head during National Science Week, when Scienceability will run a free community workshop for the Canberra community, hosted by these young adults with intellectual disabilities – and they will be the ones doing all the science.

So how can you be involved? Come along to Scienceability’s Community Workshop, run by our wonderful participants turned presenters. You might learn some new science activities… and have some of your ideas about science changed in the meantime.

Scienceability Community Workshop, Canberra, 19 August

Scienceability is one of 39 projects that received National Science Week grant funding through the Inspiring Australia – Science Engagement Programme.

This guest post was written by Siân Keys, from Scienceability – science for everyone. Would you like to write a guest post for National Science Week? Please contact us at

Science in the Pub


Science in the pub events are a definite favourite during National Science Week, with many venues getting involved by hosting trivia nights, science talks, and science-of-insert beverage here events happening across Australia.

Last night, the Wholesome Show did a special National Science Week event titled ‘Scientists who bloody love their jobs’. The guest speakers spoke of their passion and general career happiness in research, while hosts, Dr Will Grant and Dr Rod Lambert, comedically compared their happiness to a very scientific Huffington Post article.

The night kicked off with Dr Niru Mahendran who spoke of how she “fell into” research and her work now as a “real doctor” in clinical neuroscience research. The audience then heard from Prof. Susanne Scott about gravitational waves that have recently allowed astronomers to observe black holes or potentially even 1 cm tall ‘mountains’ on the side of white dwarf stars. Fortunately, we were assured that while these gravitational waves are all around us, they are so small that they won’t knock over your beer.

Dr Erin Walsh described her personal quest for answers – and how it didn’t really matter for her career happiness what the question was (although it does help that she is currently working on the important problem of brain aging). The night concluded with Dr Brad Tucker talking of his plans for a meteor mining mission, while trying to convince us that he wasn’t Dr Evil (“You’re not truly evil if you’ve consulted all stakeholders!”).

The podcast is available online and via iTunes.

A slightly different take to the science in the pub theme is the BeakerStreet@TMAG approach who will host Australia’s first pop-up science bar this weekend, featuring hands-on workshops, SCINEMA short films and live music.

But what is a science bar? BeakerStreet say it’s an experimental, experiential event where you will be able to witness live anatomical body painting, enjoy local live music, chat to some excellent experts, and see the finalist images from their science photography competition.

Guest speakers included senior curators from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG); Prof Rob Brooks of UNSW, author of Sex, Genes and Rock ‘n’ Roll; Costa Georgiadis, Host of ABC’s Gardening Australia; and members of the Tasmanian digital media studio involved in the filming of Attenborough nature documentaries.

Find out more on the events calendar or by checking out

There are plenty of events left in the National Science Week calendar – make sure you don’t miss out on a pint of science at your local. Cheers!