WA science communicators meet to network and inspire

[March 2015]

The inaugural ‘Communicate to Inspire’ conference this March saw nearly 100 science communicators gather to network, share knowledge and improve their communication.  

Hosted by Scitech on 12 March, and funded through Inspiring Australia (IA), participants took part from across a wide range of government, private and not-for-profit organisations based in both metropolitan and regional areas of WA.  

Rangelands NRM was represented by Communications Manager Teresa Belcher, as well as the Roebuck Bay Working Group. Other WA NRM groups Perth NRM, Northern Agriculture Catchment Council (NACC) and Peel-Harvey Catchment Council also sent representatives.  

The opening address was given by WA’s Chief Scientist Professor Peter Klinken who told the audience that it’s vital to communicate work not only with your peers, but with the outside world.  

“You might’ve done the very best experiment in the world, you might‘ve just won the Nobel prize … but until you actually communicate with your peers and the outside world, no one knows what you’ve done,” he said.  

“At the end of the day, who’s paying for the research? Taxpayers. Every person is contributing towards our ability to do science. We need to bring them along, so they’ll be our supporters.”  

A panel session consisted of four policy and education representatives describing their experiences of using science communication as a tool to inform. The audience then heard from two researchers – Associate Professor Kate Trinajstic and Assistant Professor Brendan Kennedy – about their journeys over time communicating their work to the media.  

Australian of the Year and burns specialist Professor Fiona Wood gave an inspirational talk about focusing on knowing your audience, pitching your message at the right level and peeling away layers of an onion to reach the right approach.  

“When you talk to someone, focus on them for that moment, no matter what is going on in your head,” Professor Wood said.  

The day also saw a speed networking session working on everyone’s elevator pitch, a session on understanding your audience facilitated by WA-Branch Australian Science Communicators Renae Sayers, Sarah Lau and Emma Donnelly and an overview of the Australian Science Media Centre and how to tap into the media by Director Dr Susannah Eliott.  

Dr Eliott encouraged people to be bold, but not inaccurate; be visual (using images or visual language); and be online, now that 80 per cent of media are using social media.   

Ms Belcher said it was great to see such a diverse group of science communicators from all sectors in the one room.  

“The sessions were both engaging and inspiring, and I definitely took away some new ideas, met some new contacts and reconnected with my scicom peers.”  

Image: Participants at the inaugural Communicate to Inspire conference at Scitech. (Photo: Cam Campbell, Scitech)