The cohort were enlightened by a panel of six successful science communicators who discussed the importance of communication in a rapidly changing world.
The rapid advancement of science and technology in the world and its effect on our everyday lives means it is more important than ever for scientists to effectively communicate beyond their peers to a broader audience.
Science communication has an important role to play in educating everyone from Government policy makers to the everyday person on the street so they can make better informed decisions and have a voice when it comes a range of topical issues that affect us all. Science communication makes science more accessible to the public.
During the NYSF 2020 Year 12 Program, Session B participants gained an insight into the increasing importance of science communication and its diverse applications. The cohort were enlightened by a panel of six successful science communicators who discussed the importance of communication in a rapidly changing world.
Facilitated by Chief of Staff, Rebecca Hermanus, the panel consisted of ABC Radio National journalist and host of ‘The Science Show’, Robyn Williams; award-winning astrophysicist and Australian ‘Survivor’ contestant, Samuel Hinton; CEO of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Science, Catherine Lukin; Queensland Government policy advisor and volunteer for the Jane Goodall Institute, Jessica Pinder; freelance science communicator and PhD candidate Jake Clark; and NYSF’s own CEO and award winning science communicator, Dr Melanie Bagg.
To kick things off, the panel was asked what they believed the purpose of science communication was? Each panellist had a different perspective on the subject but agreed it was an all-encompassing two-way conversation about STEM issues of importance and if used well has the potential to increase Australia’s scientific literacy.
The panellists discussed why science communication is important in the 21st century, and how it might evolve. Again, each panellist highlighted different viewpoints. Catherine Lukin discussed its value in the development of evidence-based scientific policy, and the misuse of scientific information under a political context, emphasising that policies need to be transparent with the information they use. She also said the ‘lone scientist’ we see in the movies and history is dead … "to succeed as a scientist in the modern world we must all be communicators within a multi-skilled team."
Robyn Williams captivated the audience with recollections from his time at the BBC, collaborations with Sir David Attenborough, Monty Python and Betty the Crow. Robyn focused on the evolution of science and the importance of communicating it as the next generations emerge;
“Science communication is not a fringe activity, it’s not an add on. Science communication is different now to what it was 5 years ago and will change again. It’s about everything, everywhere. If you look around the room it’s about the prospects for your health and wellbeing, it’s about where this energy comes from, whether the carpet is made of chemicals that we can breathe in. Science is absolutely everywhere.”
Referring to Climate Activist Greta Thunberg, Robyn shared how pivotal Australian students had been in Greta’s campaign and highlighted the importance of using emotion to convey the importance of your scientific message.
“You’re not just adding facts and information, but adding to the relevance, and most importantly, adding emotion."
Jessica Pinder echoed this opinion and explained her communications work to help people see that humanity is not living in balance with our planet and the unintended consequences of that. Jessica believes through science communication and the ability to understand its wider relevance to society the wider population can adjust their attitudes and help create change.
Commenting on the NYSF participants role in science communication, Dr Melanie Bagg encouraged all of us to always question what we hear and think critically:
“Be sceptical with everything you’re reading and digesting. Never stop asking yourself is this real, what is the source, how do I find out more info? Don’t be afraid to ask these questions."
Participants were invited to ask the panel their own questions. Following the discussion, each guest panellist gave a brief presentation on science communication.
Samuel Hinton taught participants how to make more engaging presentations to get a point across effectively and concisely for different types of audiences.
Jake Clark shared his inspiring journey to become a science communicator, coming from a low socio-economic area and at one point considered unlikely to graduate year 12, to now being on the journey to graduate from a PhD. He added “Year 12 isn’t the last year of your life.”, reminding participants that no matter where they come from, there are so many study and job opportunities in STEM.
Jessica Pinder described science communication as a two-way relationship between the scientists and the public, explaining to participants that they too can truly inspire change and impact the world around them.
Catherine Lukin spoke about the roles NYSF participants will play in the future, and the role of science communication in policy making, asking them to think about:
“Who are you? Who do you want to be? Who would you like to be talking to? That is the key thing you should reflect on as you progress with your interest in science and think about how to best help bring about change."
Robyn Williams wrapped up the session, speaking about the value of big ideas, having visions for the world, and getting out of your comfort zone. He again emphasised that science communication is not a fringe activity, nor an add-on, but absolutely essential to guide society through future challenges.
“There’s a whole world of undiscovered talent out there”, he surmised, challenging the participants to submit their ideas and join him on the “Science Show."
It was evident from the session that science communication comes in many forms and has many applications from speaking to governments, to shaping policies, to educating the public. Most importantly it is in all of our interests to be asking questions and starting conversations about science. The session was rated very highly as a highlight of the entire program, leaving participants enlightened and eager to actively participate in science communication.
Year 11 students can apply for the NYSF 2021 Year 12 Program here before June 14.