Taking science to the people is key

Sue Stocklmayer

The head of the nation’s oldest academic science communication centre has welcomed a new national report calling for a greater emphasis on making science relevant to more Australians.

The Inspiring Australia report on communicating science in Australia was released by the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, at The Australian National University on the 8th of February 2010.

Associate Professor Sue Stocklmayer is Director of the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) at ANU. Founded in 1996, CPAS is the oldest continuing centre in Australia focusing on education and research around science communication.

“We strongly support the recommendations of the Inspiring Australia report, as well as applauding its motivating spirit,” Associate Professor Stocklmayer said. “There is no denying that science is playing a key role in some of the defining issues of our time: climate change, water and food security, and pandemic responses, to name a few. So it’s absolutely vital that there is a broad and ongoing conversation in the Australian community about scientific research and its outcomes.”

Associate Professor Stocklmayer said that CPAS is leading the way on developing an evidence base for national levels of scientific awareness, which is one of the report’s key recommendations.

One recent CPAS project asked 1500 scientists in Australia to express their willingness to communicate scientific outcomes to the wider public, as well as exploring their perceptions about support mechanisms and impediments to conveying the broader relevance of their work. A second stage of this project is planned for later this year, with a national survey to gauge how members of the public relate to scientific thinking and information.

Another CPAS project, beginning this year, will explore how scientific issues are raised on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, and how this kind of information can help shape public information campaigns.

“These examples demonstrate that not only do we support the recommendations of the Inspiring Australia report, but we’re already working towards many of the goals it outlines,” Associate Professor Stocklmayer said. “This is also true for the emphasis that the report places on the importance of collaboration among science communication organisations. Through our partnerships with institutions like Questacon, we’re working hard to take the relevance and excitement of science to the broader community.”

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