A new collaboration will harvest the passion of leading non-government science organisations, providing a united voice on key scientific issues facing Australia.
The Science Sector Group – whose members include the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Science Media Centre, Science & Technology Australia and RiAus – will conduct joint public education campaigns for emerging scientific issues that have the potential to become controversial.
“Essentially, we’re working together across the sector on science-related issues that are important both to the nation and the sector,” says Kylie Walker, director communications and outreach at the Australian of Academy Science.
“Every time we get together at conferences and events, we say ‘we should work together’. The Science Sector Group formalises this idea,” says Kylie. “We will be giving it a red hot go.”
The Group will join forces, using their diverse approaches and networks, to clearly communicate the scientific understanding and evidence around a particular issue to enable better decision-making in society and in politics. The group will choose a topical issue that could benefit from this approach, such as vaccination, nanotechnology, genetic modification and climate change.
“To some degree, we’re informed by what hasn’t happened,” says Kylie. “Take climate change communication and imagine if we had had a coordinated approach across the sector 15 years ago. The discourse might be completely different.”
“Climate change deniers have had a coordinated approach. We know that.”
Will Grant, vice president of Australian Science Communicators, highlights the need for the science sector to have a similarly coordinated approach.
“There’s a powerful multiplier effect by having these organisations working together, rather than competing for viewers or attention,” says Will. “You can have more of an impact.”
Will says there is also a need for greater two-way communication between the science sector and broader society.
“When public concerns arise, we need to ask what actually is their problem? What do we need to help them with?”
The Group will choose an issue to address within the next 12 months, providing a test case that will inform their longer term plans.
Kylie says the group complements the Inspiring Australia strategy’s aim to deliver a more scientifically engaged Australia. “It’s important that Inspiring Australia has been involved. They’ve facilitated our gatherings.”
“There’s so much passion in this sector. Why not harvest that passion and multiply the effect?”
The Group was launched with seven founding member organisations at the recent Big Science Communication Summit in Sydney. Members include organisations that represent the vast majority of Australia’s working scientists or those involved in science communication. The seven members are:
- Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE)
- Australian Academy of Science (AAS)
- Australian Science Communicators (ASC)
- Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC)
- Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS)
- Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus)
- Science & Technology Australia (STA)