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

Lamberts Rod rod.lamberts at anu.edu.au
Thu Nov 14 23:32:11 UTC 2013

Howdy Julian (and all),

There are at least 2 main reasons the pursuit of a code of ethics (and related) for the ASC has stalled recently that I can see. 

(1) The ASC is run by one part timer and a tiny band of volunteers. 

When I became Prez last year, one of my key ‘platforms' was to push for a full and frank conversation for such a code, and link it directly to an ASC-wide conversation about professionalisation. This began well early this year, driven by one of the 2 new VPs (my colleague, Will Grant). While some people did offer interesting and useful thoughts early on in the process, responses were a little underwhelming. 

The impression could be drawn that in fact not too many members were genuinely that interested.

But the bigger issue that stalled the conversation about ethics etc was my being struck down in April by nasty medical matters and having to step down not just as President, but from the any useful role in the executive. Losing even a single person from the executive has a significant effect on workloads. Claire was brave and very generous to step up from VP to act as President, and all the exec began working from that point with one less person - a significant drop in human resources. 

I think everyone needs to remember that while it’s easy (and not unreasonable) to suggest ‘the ASC' should do things (as I have done myself in the past), it’s very easy to forget that the only permanent and paid ASC person is Kali, and she is officially very much a part timer (though she works above and beyond, without pay, all the time). Everyone else is a volunteer, with the roles often changing hands year-to-year. It certainly can make it difficult to get coherent and sustained action going.

(2) Improvements and (some surprise) changes to the internal workings of the ASC in 2013.

This year has seen the introduction of a new and vastly more functionally rich IT back-end to the ASC’s workings, as well as a new-look shiny version of Scope (with a new editor). It took all of Kali’s official time (and then some) just to work with the IT stuff, better yet continue to handle the day-to-day. When you add in the organising of the conference for 2014, time disappears fast! 

There were also a few things about the way in which the ASC was set up that needed tweaking, and thus required a lot of research and investigation (thanks to Kali, Pete W, Claire and Jesse). On top of this, Claire (with the comm’s team) was already working hard to massage and improve internal communication before she stepped into my role. Her old responsibilities didn’t disappear, she just added a bunch more!

The bottom line, I believe, is that there would be a lot of good to be had in moving the ASC towards having a recognisable code of ethics for the reasons Julian, others (and I) have argued before. 

However, what needs to be considered as an Association is (a) how much we really want it, and (b) if we do want it, how much people prepared to do to get us there.

In short - if you want new and good things out of the ASC, it’s going to take people raising their hands to help get them done. That, or pay a significantly higher membership fee to have an employed exec/ secretariat.

Hope this helps add useful background folks,

On 15 Nov 2013, at 9:51 am, JCribb <jcribb at work.netspeed.com.au> wrote:

> 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 dollars.
> 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 Kirk
> 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 alerts.
> 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 list.  
> 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.
> S
> 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.”
> <SciComm Charter 1.doc>_______________________________________________
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> list at asc.asn.au
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Dr RG Lamberts

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

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