[ASC-list] Past, present and future of ASC: who we are

JCribb jcribb at work.netspeed.com.au
Tue Nov 19 05:45:07 UTC 2013

A bit of ancient history regarding ASC and how it came to be.


The original proposal, from the late Peter Pockley, was to form a science
writers or science journalists association, like they have in the US with
membership mainly from the media.  However it was clear from the outset,
we'd have to hold out meetings in a phone box and, nowadays, you can make
that a shoebox.


So, after much debate we decided that besides science writers there were a
heap of other people, like communicators working for science agencies,
teachers, Questacon grads, film-makers, even scientists who love to
communicate science and believe it is very important to do so. So ASC was
formed with its current mega-diverse constituency.  I for one hope it keeps
it - though there's no reason not to have 'communities of interest' within
the umbrella organisation.


We just need to be creative in how we come together, work together and share


Another important dimension in the original concept was that we wanted to
further the careers of science communicators, and recognising that they are
often not in positions of power, afford them some protection from the
pressures of managements that might want to misuse them as propagandists or
filing clerks rather than communicators. That's why I keep banging on about
the ethics code.  The intention is, when asked to perform a task that is
outside our remit or professional ethics, we have a professional standard to
point to just as journalists can (and often do) point to the Journalists
Code of Ethics when an editor asks them to breach it. They have the
protection of the media and arts alliance.


Where the notion came from that we should use this to sack people that
breach it, I have no idea - but that was never the intent and it is not
helpful. We are not going to be like doctors or lawyers where every graduate
is forced to join the professional body.


And finally a thought. Science, on its own, is useless if not communicated.
Almost all of the world's great problems - climate, pandemic disease, global
contamination, resource depletion, extinction, food insecurity, poverty -
can be overcome with the help of scientific knowledge, but only if it is
communicated widely and well to as many of Earth's citizens as we can reach,
in forms they can adopt and use. There is no doubt in my mind ours is an
utterly vital profession, and that the future of civilisation depends on it
and on how well we do our job.


While we debate the inner issues of communication, let us never lose sight
of this great responsibility or magnificent task.



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 Jess
Sent: Tuesday, 19 November 2013 4:11 PM
To: George Aranda
Cc: ASC Lists
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] Past, present and future of ASC


Daniel, that was eloquently put. It's a shame we lost you as a member!


I too, am thoroughly loving the debate about who we are. It is only through
this that we can move forward. I'd go so far as to suggest that this is what
we're about more than anything right now. We're still 'developmental', even
after so long, because we are asking these questions. The organisation has
to keep asking and shifting. In this context, benefit and value propositions
are going to be hard to pin down.


There is nothing wrong with the introspection, the debate, the diversity -
but there is something wrong if we can't harness it and move it forward.
Many organisations reach a crossroad where they need to take stock. This
needn't be frightening, confronting, nor should it put anyone in a position
of feeling that they've not done enough, or too much, or they're feeling
hurt....this is a genuinely healthy place to be, if you think about it.


I agree that we're not sure what we all have in common, us mongrels (love
it) and there is a valid reason for finding out what that is. Is there room
for us to look at different organisational structures? What are other
organisations doing? Is our traditional structure holding us back? Does it
leave all the work in too few laps? Can we crowdsource fund some special
projects? Are there potential partners out there we can't see for looking?


There are many roles the executive needs to take (besides the
administration): a memberships role to work on specific strategies to boost
memberships. Then there's a partnerships/sponsorships/alliance role, where
we can attempt to level the financial playing field. Then there's the
professional developer role to work with members on what they want, what we
can achieve with training, education, etc. Then there's an overall
marketing/communications role..of course the list goes on, importantly
including a code of ethics or a charter of some sort.


Many, many moons ago I created the first ASC member directory. It was a
print thing and it was cross referenced around who worked where, what their
skills were, what they called themselves. At that point I felt that any
member could easily find out who others were. It was a painful task but
totally worth it.


As I've said before, as many others have, we've all tried different things
with varying results. It would be great if we could gather together our
collective wisdom, as we have been doing in this email trail, in a formal
way, as a 'census' of how ASC operates, what works, what people want.
Surveys are hard, but a good one is worth every bit of effort. So let's not
call it a survey. Let's call it a census and be positive.


I would be pleased to put a census together, with a project team, if people
that that was a good idea. Just to at least get a line in the sand on where
we're at.


Open to suggestions...or not.




Jess Tyler

Jess Tyler

SciBiz Media & Communications

M: 0408 298 292


On Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 3:44 PM, George Aranda <george.aranda at deakin.edu.au>

Well said Daniel (via Lee).


I am relatively new to ASC (a couple years as a member, but now part of the
Victorian committee). I am interested in science communication as a science
educator and academic, which I believe is a very small part of what ASC


A question. Have there been SIGs (Special Interest Groups) before? I would
be interested in being part of discussions with those who would be
interested in my small area, and embrace using Skype, google hangouts and
other video conferencing technology.


Are people interested in SIGs??






Dr George Aranda

Research Fellow - Science Education

Faculty of Arts and Education



From: Mobile Science Education <info at mobilescienceeducation.com.au>
Date: Tuesday, 19 November 2013 3:26 PM
To: ASC Lists <asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au>
Subject: [ASC-list] Past, present and future of ASC


The following is from Daniel Keogh, ex-ASC member, and is shared by request.
A valuable contribution to the current 'debate'.


(and on a related note: has there ever been any effort to do an exit survey
on members who let their financial status lapse for more than 1 year?)


Lee Harrison

Mobile Science Education


0430 588 757 or (08) 8395 9586

info at mobilescienceeducation.com.au


PO Box 556, Ingle Farm, SA 5098



It's been great to watch this evolving debate on the ASC-list; a refreshing
shift from the small fry problems such as how one pronounces 'kilometre'. 


As Nancy mentioned, the diversity of opinions demonstrates passion and
commitment to the cause.


But let's talk about diversity.


As many have mentioned, being a science communicator is a tricky thing to
classify. We have journalists, communications officers, entertainers,
educators and producers.


But there's diversity in our financial, geographical and practical
dimensions too. 


Some of us are contracted with healthy salaries, others run small business.
There are freelancers who live by each paycheque and dreamers whose desire
is simply to affording the oil to give their rags an aroma.


We're from all over the nation. Our nearest event could be within our
building, a drive from beyond the metro or a flight from the other end of
the country.


There's also what is practical and relevant to each of us. We have some that
directly antagonise social media platforms, and others that live by them.
Those that value practice and those that value theory. Some serve masters
and some are their own. There're talkers and actors and curious spectators.


Roll the dice on any of these dimensions and you have a science
communicator, each with different circumstances. What a bunch of mongrels we
are, you and I?


My profile falls in the category where the travel is too long and costly,
the discussion is inapplicable and the communication methods inefficient.
That's why I don't support a conference and why I ultimately left the ASC.


But I'm just one member of this multi-disciplinary monstrosity. Others have
clearly found value with the group and continue to create it too. 


However, I feel diversity isn't helping our community. Go back to first year
Science Communication: who is your audience ASC?


Is it science public relations and communications officers? 

or science journalists?

or science outreach teams?

or academics?

Or science popularisers and performers?


We're really just a family of orphans here, planning what we'll do at
Christmas. Will we bring together the 'family'? Or hang out with the people
we have more in common with?


As far as I see it ASC needs to pick what it wants to be, or else nurture
the diversity. 


Lee rightly feels marginalised when people on the list (who can afford to
attend conferences and help organise them) don't value his input, or even
address him in person. And you wonder why survey responses are so low.


And how can individual branches expect more than single figures when an
event may only be relevant or appealing to a few members? Or the discussion
group goes dead after the grammar nazis are done discussing their pet peeve?


Perhaps it's chapters we need, or forums for different types of
communicators, or to define exactly what ASC is and isn't. But you'll never
grow your membership unless you embrace and increase what you all share in


And honestly, besides a love of science, that's not a whole bunch.

Daniel Keogh


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