Dear Australia, We Are Trying to Reach You

summit

We have dealt a lot with communication over the past couple of days. Looked at it from many angles, tackled many different ways to improve it and its delivery to very diverse target audiences. Awesome.

Quick question: do these audiences know we are trying to actually connect with them? Do we have to do it subtly? Can we actually broadcast to them bluntly that we want to connect with them? Find below a very brief letter to Australia and to science on a couple of things we may miss in our ever-enduring quest:

Dear Australia,

Science would like to engage you. As a matter of fact, we have been placing strong emphasis on the need to engage you in all of the wonderful and ground-breaking work we are doing, right here in your own country. We have employed Expert Working Groups to establish how better to engage you, built through our own government’s “Inspiring Australia” initiative, which itself exploits the diverse and expert resources available within the Australian scientific community. We are in the midst of answering some of the key questions and addressing key gaps in engaging you. We have comprehensive reports, ongoing database building, and some unique tools to understand the current state of science engagement in Australia. Resulting from our National Audit of Science Engagement Activities we can now visualise how different organisations, engagement methods, or even projects in different fields of science are performing (see here, have fun!)

Importantly, however, we write to ask…

  • Are you aware of the above, considering it is all publicly available and government-supported?
  • Did you know that since 2011, in excess of $21 million has been allocated to improving on our getting you actively involved in the science we are doing?
  • Did you know that there is summit dedicated specifically to science communication in Australia and how best to tackle the emerging challenges in this critical field?
  • If we asked, could you actually tell us what “Inspiring Australia” was?
  • Outside of topics such as “climate change/global warming”, “health”, or “medicine”, how many other science streams can you name that are regularly engaging you as the public audience?

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Dear science,

We have committed millions of dollars and thousands of individuals to the cause of specifically engaging the Australian public and involving them in our ground-breaking research. We have worked hard to understand science engagement in Australia, and we now need to address the issue of “where to next” with all that is at our disposal.

SO, we are building the data and the evidence base. BUT, ultimately, unless the “public” knows that we are trying to engage them at all, what good will all the results in the world be? Unless we have our audience’s own continuous input into how we are engaging them leading into the future, what difference can we really make? Does the public as a whole yet know of the efforts of recent years to allow them to be actively involved with Australian science and shape our own future, or do they still feel like the audience of a foreign movie without subtitles? Dear science, let’s now use our data to to engage Australia about engaging Australia. Let’s get Australia to get us.

About the author:

Sam Askin is a Biochemist at James Cook University and an independent
communications consultant. Founder of sciengage.

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