[ASC-list] Where's ASC headed? Was science or persuasion

JCribb jcribb at work.netspeed.com.au
Thu Nov 14 22:51:24 UTC 2013

I second Susan's remarks, especially (at the risk of repetition) about the
need for a professional ethics code for science communicators. I have been
pushing this for 5 years or more now, but it seems to have stalled
completely. Don't you guys believe in having ethical standards?


An ethics code is not just there to provide guidance to science
communicators - it is also intended to protect you from unethical
requirements imposed by your employer, eg when they ask you to write
something which you know in your heart is just marketing hype or even
misinformation, not fact-based science. Far too many communicators are
treated by their organisations and managers as spin merchants, rather than
as knowledge sharers, and we need to defend the ideal of sharing human
knowledge in an objective, unbiased way. 


As universities, especially, become more commercial their behaviour comes to
resemble that of corporations: the communications function is subsumed into
marketing, promotion, advertising and PR. It is directed at making money for
the institution rather than educating society. Ditto for a great many
government comms functions nowadays - what used to be public information has
been translated into political propaganda by the grubby realpolitik of
today. Science agencies, too, are driven more by the need to appease
political and commercial paymasters rather than inform, educate, enlighten
and account to the Australian people for how they invested our tax science


Those are valid professions - but they are not science communication, and
they are not out job. We need to make clear the distinction, and have a
written code that explains it not only to ourselves, but to anyone who tries
to misuse us. Or else we will end up being a despised subset of the
advertising industry.


Attached is the draft I originally submitted to ASC in 2008.


Over to you!


Julian Cribb FTSE

Julian Cribb & Associates

ph +61 (0)2 6242 8770 or 0418 639 245

Email: julian at cribb.net.au

Web: www.sciencealert.com.au/jca.html

Skype: julian.cribb


From: ASC-list [mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Susan
Sent: Friday, 15 November 2013 9:23 AM
To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
Subject: [ASC-list] Where's ASC headed? Was science or persuasion


I think Charles has a valid point..  ASC is beginning to look like
Food4media or TravMedia. 

Maybe we should do what some other associations do and charge a premium for
these media release postings? They are after all advertising.  I think there
are other better places to get media release, AusSMC, Eureka, Google alerts
are a few of the places I subscribe and of course science direct topic

I personally would like to see more communication about communication on
this list.  I know you can take the horse to water etc. But why don't
members feel comfortable airing their bits on here?  So many times people
have responded to me off the list.  I feel like shouting.  Keep it on the

I would also like to see more communication from the executive on this list.
We haven't heard anything about the new website.  We keep employing scope
editors and the newsletter keeps flopping.  We keep talking about becoming
more professional but what's happening to our charter and code of ethics?  

Members are not involved in any of the communications for any of the events
or funding or anything really, the only communication comes from those few
that can be bothered to raise questions or liaise on the list. 

I repeat.  We can't operate in a vacuum.  

Please don't email me off the list with your replies.  Keep it on the list.


Susan Fairbairn (nee Kirk)   B.comm  freelance Journalist
Member and Queensland Web Editor -  Australian Science Communicators (ASC) 
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) 
tel: +61 7 5478 6761 | mobile: 0414645953 | email: susan at susankirk.com.au
www.susankirk.com.au |  Skype: susanakirk | Tweet: @SusanAKirk
Facebook group: Plant Power

"If you don't ask the right questions you won't get the right answers."

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