[ASC-list] Promoting prizes related to communication of science

Bobby Cerini bobby.cerini at anu.edu.au
Wed May 4 02:37:36 UTC 2011

I have mixed feelings about this so apologise in advance for a bit of a
ramble on the subject. On the one hand, is just Œdoing our jobs¹ as
communicators really anything special? If we make a good living from what we
do, we¹ve already been rewarded; if our programs are designed to have an
impact, and they¹re successful at that, then we have really just done our

Perhaps in science communication we ought to become better at celebrating
the many small and large successes we have without necessarily needing a
prize for them. There¹s a bunch of ways we could do this; for example a role
for ASC might be to collect case studies of what we consider our best
projects, so that others can learn from them. More celebrating of other
members when they achieve something exceptionally good would also be in
order, so that we all hear about it and can admire/envy/ congratulate their
work. It doesn¹t have to cost much to give people public acknowledgement and
celebrate their success.

On the other hand it would be great to have more industry-specific awards to
motivate and inspire us (and put on our CV¹s, for future employers and
granting agencies to admire). I too can see a role for ASC in creating some
of these, funded initially through our membership fees. I would be happy
with that, because for a few dollars more ASC might build its networks with
employers, industry and government as it calls for entries, and in time
could grow a number of categories which attract sponsorship from individuals
and organisations, much in the same way that the Eureka Prizes does. Like
Marina, I think ASC Prizes (or Scommies) could be announced at each
conference (surely attracting more attendees?). Naturally, we would also
have to have a hilarious and newsworthy Scummy Award for Greatest Science
Communication Failure. ASC could also encourage science communication
employers to create internal awards for their staff.

If we do want to award excellence then I also think we need to consider
further what that means. Perhaps communication that truly saves lives,
provides breathtaking insights into unseen worlds, addresses significant
social divisions/ disadvantage or excels on the national/international
entertainment stage might be our benchmarks. But then there are the
Œover-and-above¹ programs that are equally worthy; those run by volunteers
outside their normal work hours; those where a new idea is self-funded,
tested and publicly proven to really make a difference (which includes
community initiatives and small businesses); programs which have been
evaluated on like measures and those evaluations made accessible so that the
best can actually be identified; I also agree that more state National
Science Week awards for best performer/program/demo/use of technology/unsung
hero would be a great addition and supporting of the SA model.

So saying, I would just like to say how disappointing it is that one of the
few prizes for aspiring young science communicators in Australia was cut a
few years back. This was the tertiary students category in the Sleek Geeks
Film competition. Without detracting from the excellent work the Australian
Museum does with these awards, in 2009 I was told the tertiary prize could
not be awarded because the quality of submissions wasn¹t good enough. Since
then it hasn¹t been offered at all.

Personally I find this very discouraging. I would like to see us encouraging
and building capacity in science communication, recognising that everybody
starts out as an amateur and that small incentives and rewards along the way
are a powerful motivator to keep persisting. Early career science
communicators at all levels ­ not just primary and secondary school kids ­
benefit  from the presence of support and rewards no matter how small. If
there¹s not enough talent then we need to develop it and encourage it as it
grows. For this reason, I¹ve been working on the Science and Factual
Filmmaker¹s Network idea, and coordinating with SCINEMA. For science
filmmakers, that festival is brilliant at giving people a chance to see
their work up on screen. And it does offer prizes ­ not always in cash, but
with trophies and other incentives which encourage people to keep making
films. As Rob points out, a beautiful trophy goes a long way towards making
someone feel successful, and doesn¹t have to cost much either.


Bobby Cerini
PhD Candidate & Consultant in Science Communication

The Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS)
A Centre for the National Commission of UNESCO

The Australian National University
Building 38A ­ Physics Link
Canberra, ACT 0200 
CRICOS provider 00120C

Email: bobby.cerini at anu.edu.au
Web: http://cpas.anu.edu.au

Australia - 0415 032 701 or (02) 6125 7634
UK landline - 020  3239 2018
USA landline - (202) 657 4036

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