Prize for citizen science; World Science Festival; scientists in Poliwood; and a first taste of National Science Week 2016

News from Inspiring Australia

2016 is off and running. The #ideasboom is rolling out with briefings around the country through March.

sciencesparkleCitizen science has received a funding injection through the National Innovation and Science Agenda—you can:

  • enter your success story for a new $10,000 prize for citizen science,
  • share knowledge through a dedicated citizen science association, or
  • see if your project can benefit from the work of thousands of volunteers as the official National Science Week project. Read on for details.

National Science Week—13-21 August—is the key date for science in Australia’s cultural calendar and a huge outreach opportunity. Last year’s program saw an estimated 1.3 million people participate in over 1,700 registered events around the country, with tens of millions more reached through the media coverage surrounding the initiative.

Think about how you can tap into Science Week and have a piece of the action this August.

National grants have been allocated, but there are several state and territory National Science Week grants programs open or soon to be announced, and grants of up to $500 available for schools. More below.

Today is the start of a mad March for science engagement:

  • Science meets Parliament starts tomorrow—follow it on Twitter via #smp2016,
  • Chief Scientist Alan Finkel will address the National Press Club tomorrow and US actor and science advocate Alan Alda will do so next week—both will be broadcast on ABC TV,
  • the World Science Festival Brisbane kicks off next week,
  • and there are science communication conferences in Brisbane and Perth. Read on for details.

Applications for Fresh Science are now open—a national science communication training initiative and competition that brings together scientists, the media and the public. Find out more below.

It’s also time to get in your entries for the 2016 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, which will award prizes in 16 categories for research and innovation, leadership, science communication and school science.

In this bulletin, we also share the Unlocking Inspiration report, where you can read case studies of great science engagement projects, such as the VIZBIplus biomedical animation project, ScienceAlert on Facebook and citizen science tracking meteorites through Fireballs in the Sky. And we meet South Australia’s new Inspiring Australia manager Sheryn Pitman.

I’ll be heading up to Brisbane for the Australian Science Communicators conference and hosting a couple of World Science Festival events while in town. If you’re in town too, it would be good to catch up and hear what you’re planning for 2016.

Tanya Ha, Associate, Science in Public

On behalf of

In this newsletter:

  • Citizen science: funding boost, new $10,000 Eureka Prize and call for project ideas
  • Grants, robots and writing tips: sowing the seeds for Science Week
  • Nominate for Fresh Science: it’s young talent time
  • Science meets Parliament 2016: 200 working scientists descend on Canberra
  • Unlocking Inspiration report
  • Count down to the inaugural World Science Festival Brisbane
  • Chief Scientist Alan Finkel to headline science communication conference
  • From ABC to ecology to art-meets-science in SA

Citizen science: funding boost, new $10,000 Eureka Prize and call for project ideas

Citizen science innovators could win a new $10,000 Eureka Prize, submit their ideas for the National Science Week project and share knowledge through strengthened networks, thanks to Christopher Pyne’s new $930,000 #ideasboom citizen science funding package.

Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne recently announced the package, which aims to get more people of all ages and backgrounds to become more involved in science and research through three key initiatives:

  • the National Science Week ABC Citizen Science project,
  • recognition of excellence through the new Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science, and
  • support for the Australian Citizen Science Association, which will enable networking, collaboration and knowledge sharing among the many and diverse people and organisations involved in citizen science.

The Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science becomes the third in a suite of prizes for science communication, sponsored by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science as part of the Inspiring Australia strategy. The other two are the Eureka Prizes for Science Journalism and Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research.

The 2016 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are now open. Encourage the great scientists and science communicators you know to enter.

Visit the Australian Citizen Science Association website for more information about the organisation.

Call for citizen science project ideas

Do you have an idea for an online citizen science project?

We’re looking for a great new idea for the 2016 National Science Week citizen science project. The chosen project will be built and produced by the ABC and promoted across their TV, radio and online channels.

Last year’s Galaxy Explorer project involved 18,000 citizen scientists classifying galaxies. Together, their contribution was equivalent to a research assistant working for 13 years.

Visit the Science Week website for more information.

Grants, robots and writing tips: sowing the seeds for Science Week

How will you and your organisation take advantage of National Science Week? It’s the national grassroots science festival that attracts around 1.3 million Australian and reaches millions more through news stories and social media.

A good event that engages the right audience takes time to plan, so now is the time to think about how you can get involved. The funded events included in last Friday’s announcement provide a good source of inspiration and ideas for your own potential activities.

Indigenous science, a ‘rock’ musical and pests in the pantry: federal grant recipients announced

Citizen science projects, art-science collaborations, and a singing palaeontologist are among the recipients of 41 grants totalling $500,000 that will help National Science Week come to life this August, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne announced last week.

These initiatives will give Australians from all walks of life the opportunity to meet scientists, do science, discuss the hot topics and celebrate the contribution of Australian science to our society, culture and economy.

From examining the pests in Perth’s pantries to a mobile HealthLAB touring the Territory; from citizen scientists saving Nemo to celebrating Indigenous science and scientists at Redfern, Mr Pyne said Science Week festivities will play an important role both in inspiring the next generation of innovators and increasing community awareness of science in our everyday lives.

rock musical

See Minister Pyne’s full media release.

Read the summaries of the initiatives that have received federal grants.

Expressions of interest called for Sydney Science Festival

Expressions of interest are now open for the 2016 Sydney Science Festival—a core National Science Week initiative for the Harbour City, taking place from 11-21 August.

If you have an idea for an event, talk, workshop, tour or exhibition, the organisers want to know about it. You can submit planned National Science Week events to be part of Sydney Science Festival too.

Like Science Week, it’s free to submit an event. Submissions will be reviewed by the Festival program committee to make sure events meet a simple selection criteria around relevance, quality, engagement and feasibility. Selected events capitalise on the extensive publicity program planned for the Festival.

Applications close on 7 March.

Get more information and apply online, via the Festival website.

State and territory grants…

Missed out on a federal grant? There might be more opportunities closer to home.

Some states and territories have announced, or will soon announce, local grant programs. For example:

  • The 2016 NSW Regional Science Grants program is now open, offering grants from $2,000 to $10,000 in support of the Regional Science Hubs program. More information is online.
  • ACT National Science Week grants will open shortly. Information will be posted next week on the Inspiring the ACT website.
  • Tasmania’s seed grants round (small grants up to $500) for public events will open on 21 March. Information will be available then via
  • The WA National Science Week small grants (up to $2000) and Community Resource Centre micro-grants ($200) will be open for applications on 29 March. Information will be available then via the WA section of the Science Week website.

The Queensland National Science Week Co-ordinating Committee is also looking for ideas and bids to develop a launch for National Science Week in Queensland. They will award up to $10,000. See the Science Week website for details.

We will include further grant updates in the next Inspiring Australia newsletter. You can also stay in the loop by signing up for the dedicated National Science Week newsletter.

And grants for school

Need some extra cash to help students get into science week?

The Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA), with funding assistance from the Australian Government, provides grants of up to $500 for school-initiated National Science Week activities.

All Australian schools—from pre-school to senior secondary—can apply. Applications open today and close on 22 April. See the website for details.

Each year, ASTA also produces teaching resources for schools. The 2016 schools theme is ‘Drones, Droids and Robots’—exploring autonomous technologies, how they work and their real-world applications in areas such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing, medicine, and space and deep ocean exploration. These will be available online later in the year.

Tips for writing a strong event description

speak bubbleYour Science Week event may be brilliant, but no one else will know without you telling and convincing them.

A strong and clear event description excites punters: tell them what will happen at the event, who will be speaking, and what they might get out of attending. And it can also help you get more media coverage.

Read our guide to writing a great Science Week event description online

Nominate for Fresh Science: it’s young talent time

The #ideasboom needs bright sparks ready and able to tell their science stories.

Do you know an exceptional early-career researcher who has made a peer-reviewed discovery and received little or no media attention?

Encourage them to nominate for Fresh Science—help them find their ‘story’ and their voice.


Nominations are open for Fresh Science 2016, a national competition that selects early-career researchers with research results, an invention, or a discovery, trains them how to tell their story, and helps them share their findings with the media and the public.

For example, Trevor Chong’s research explains how you can remember things you didn’t have time to see, while Robert Pfeifer has described how mysterious particles called ‘anyons’ are like Mexican waves in quantum computing. Trevor and Robert—both Fresh Scientists from the class of 2015—can explain their research to a pub night audience in the time it takes a sparkler to burn.

Successful applicants will participate in a day of media and communication training, learning how to find and share the key, compelling ‘story’ in their research, followed by a public communication challenge.

Applicants can be researching in any field of science—from medicine to mathematics, from environmental science to computer science.

Nominations are now open and close 23 March.

Science meets Parliament 2016: 200 working scientists descend on Canberra


Science & Technology Australia (STA), the peak body for scientists and technologists, will bring 200 working scientists to Canberra for a two-day program of professional development and networking. The 16th annual Science meets Parliament takes place on 1 and 2 March, and aims to help scientists better communicate their science to the media, policymakers and parliamentarians.

This annual event is strongly supported by the Federal Government and Opposition, and engages a large number of MPs. It’s a unique opportunity for Australia’s scientists to share their work with our decision makers.

You can engage with the event via Twitter by following STA at @ScienceAU and the event hashtag #smp2016.

Read the wrap-up of last year’s event online.

Unlocking Inspiration report

From Fireballs in the Sky to finding where the wild things are in the ocean (and logging them with Redmap); from ScienceAlerts to Indigenous science education, the Unlocking Australia’s Potential grants program has engaged hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life with science and technology.

Unlocking Australia’s Potential—a key component of the Australian Government’s Inspiring Australia strategy—provided $5 million in grant funding for 63 projects and hundreds of events across all states and territories between 2011 and 2014, reaching an estimated 470,000 people. The grants attracted $11 million in co-funding contributions and, significantly, over two-thirds of the projects are now continuing on their own resources.

The Unlocking Inspiration report shares the achievements of Unlocking Australia’s Potential, and is packed with examples of science communication and community engagement that have worked for different audiences and subject areas.

Read the report online for ideas and insights.

Count down to the inaugural World Science Festival Brisbane

  • Minds and machines: what makes us human?
  • Can we save our precious reefs in time?
  • How is music good for the mind?

These are just a few of the topics that will be explored at the World Science Festival Brisbane, running from 9 to 16 March 2016.

WSFThe World Science Festival takes science out of the laboratory and into the streets, parks, museums, galleries and premier performing arts venues.

The Queensland Museum in Brisbane will host the first World Science Festival outside of New York, featuring international thought leaders, local scientists and performers from around the Asia Pacific region.

Some of science’s brightest stars making special appearances at the festival include Emmy award-winning actor, author, science enthusiast and World Science Festival board member Alan Alda; Nobel Laureate physicist Brian Schmidt; pioneering marine biologist Sylvia Earle; celebrated astronaut Andy Thomas; renowned physicist, best-selling author and festival co-founder Brian Greene, and many more.

For more information, follow @WSFBrisbane and visit

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel to headline science communication conference

The Australian Science Communicators is holding its conference in Brisbane to coincide with the Festival on Friday 11 March.

Hear from Australia’s new Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, the Associate Director of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science Christine O’Connell, the award-winning Editor-in-Chief of Cosmos magazine Elizabeth Finkel, and a stellar line up of other working science communicators, journalists and researchers.

Hear about and explore important topics, such as understanding and responding to people’s rejection of science and the future of science journalism.

For registration information and the full program, visit and follow @auscicomm on Twitter.

Hey WA! If Brisbane is too far, here’s a local conference for you

Inspiring Australia WA’s second Communicate to Inspire conference is being held on 23 March. This is a professional development opportunity for science communicators across WA where they can network, develop skills in social media, explore citizen science, hear from and connect with innovators, and more.

Catriona Jackson, CEO of Science & Technology Australia will present the keynote address about science communication and policy.

See the conference Eventbrite page for more details.

From ABC to ecology to art-meets-science in SA

Meet Sheryn Pitman: a science communicator with a multidisciplinary background

SherynJust as diversity is important for a healthy natural environment, a diversity of experience is useful for science engagement—which is what Dr Sheryn Pitman brings to her role as the new program manager for Inspiring Australia in South Australia.

Writing for radio, government agency and stakeholder engagement, teaching, ecological literacy, sustainability and habitat restoration are just some of the skills and experience Sheryn brings to the job.

We asked her to tell us a bit more about herself:

What is your background?

Very multidisciplinary—my two passions are language and nature. Education-wise, a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English, Graduate Diploma in Education, Master in Environmental Studies, Diploma in Project Management and a PhD in Ecological Literacy.

I have spent much of my working life as a creative writer including theatre, radio, film and television. I taught humanities subjects in secondary schools for a while, and more recently have taught environmental science at university.

I spent seven years with Greening Australia managing revegetation and habitat restoration projects, as well as a youth environment program and community education. Then I spent over eleven years based at the Botanic Gardens of South Australia managing multi-agency partnerships in sustainability and ‘green infrastructure’.

That brings me to Inspiring Australia, where my love of both science and the arts come together!

What was your first job?

My first job was as a writer for an ABC radio series for children. The program was called Just Imagine. I was 15 and very fortunate to get such an opportunity so young.

What Inspiring Australia initiatives are happening in your area? Is there a success story or two that stand out?

We have been operating for only a few months, but we have four regional science hubs that are ticking along nicely. My trip to NSW with [Inspiring Australia NSW manager] Jackie Randles’ regional hub leadership forum was a personal highlight as I learned much about the possibilities and power of bringing sciences and arts together. This is something I really want to foster here.

What are the science strengths of South Australia?

Research organisations in South Australia undertake world-class research in a number of fields including photonics/optics, biomedical science, agriculture, wine, aquatic sciences, renewable energy, water management, paleontology, mining and probably more! We also have RiAus and science communication is strong here. Our state government is making science something of a priority and so we have a growing focus on science-related education.

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

I am especially fond of David Attenborough and Brian Cox productions – I always find their styles and content most inspiring! However I also love Catalyst and the many programs that explore everything from DNA to the Universe. What an amazing world we live in!

What are you currently reading?

I have just finished Tim Winton’s Island Home – I am a Winton fan from way back. Just love his language skills and his insights into relationships between the Australian landscape and people.

What is the best thing about your job?

The potential to achieve creative, interesting and impactful outcomes that really do lead to more scientifically literate communities.

What is the most challenging thing/issue you face in your work?

The mountain of administrative tasks!

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

I believe that effective science communication is just about the most important thing we can do to achieve a healthy and sustainable world. Every day every person makes countless decisions about how they live, work and play, and for these decisions to be wholesome and wise, our communities do need to be well-informed. So find a way—make science fun and entertaining for sure, but never dumb it down (my pet annoyance)!

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