STREAM 4: Diminishing degrees of separation: developing collaborative approaches across sectors

Stream Moderator
Dr Craig Cormick
Corporate Communications, CSIRO
Brains Trust
Anna-Maria Arabia
General Manager of Questacon, Australia’s national science and technology centre
Leo HydeBrains Trust
Leo Hyde
R&D Manager Australia & ASEAN, DuPont

Workshop 1: 12.00pm – 1.30pm
Workshop 2: 2.30pm – 4.00pm

We all hold pieces of the jigsaw that makes up best practice in science communication, and finding ways to more easily collaborate and join our efforts provides for a sum picture greater than any of its parts. Such collaboration needs to occur across state and territory boundaries, between education, science, media/public relations and industry sectors and between key national organisations such as the Academies, Science and Technology Australia, Australian Science Communicators and CSIRO. There are currently a number of networks including the Inspiring Australia officers in each state and territories and nationally, and other federal, state and territory government networks, as well as a national science communications community that cross media, education and private enterprise.

Collaboration clearly makes a lot of sense, so what is currently preventing these and other networks better collaborating and maximising their impacts? And do networks make it harder for non-aligned individuals to participate?

This workshop will seek to map better ways to bring those jigsaw puzzle pieces together to collaborate nationally, examine what can realistically be achieved, and discuss what will indicators of success look like?

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Craig Cormick
Craig Cormick 1 Like

The top three impediments and solutions from yesterday's workshop. What do you think?

Stream 4: Diminishing Degrees of Separation

Issue 1: Cultural divides and lack of common goals


Find common goals - both sides have to win

Formal agreements are essential

Embed people in key collaborating organisations

Build trust and find how you both can benefit from collaborations

= Provide best-practice models for collaboration and mechanisms to bring potential collaborators together.

Issue 2: Communications not integrated within projects


Build communications into research grants

Embed science communications into schools and universities’ science courses.

Research grants to include communications/outreach components

Embed science communications into science courses

Issue 3: Collaboration not appropriately rewarded


Create recognition for collaborative work.

Define the financial value of collaboration.

=Institutions to develop ways to actively reward collaborative work.

=Provide best-practice models for collaborations that include economical benefits of collaborating.

Bronwyn Terrill
Bronwyn Terrill 1 Like

@Craig CormickThey're three great issues -- I assume that they're not in order (if they were, no. 3 would be highest in my book -- not necessary $$ but considering other types of recognition/reward). 

I'm relieved to see that there is strong support for framing and modelling best-practice collaboration for the community; in my experience, it's one of the best ways to help people to see how these things can be both managed and rewarded. 

Issue 2 is an interesting reflection of models I've experienced in the US (where the NSF offered additional funds for education/dissemination) and the UK (where Wellcome are attempting to encourage funds to be kept aside for public engagement). I'd love to hear that some high-level conversations with funders happen as a result of this. That would be a wonderful result...

One other thought: I'm slightly intrigued about the framing of these solutions: the idea of 'both sides' is probably the most interesting, since it's exactly this kind of language that you're trying to overcome in these situations. Also, in my experience it's usually many sides and many viewpoints rather than just two. On the other hand, I _really_ like the building trust and working out how you can both benefit -- that leads wonderfully into the reward issue.

Craig Cormick
Craig Cormick 1 Like

Okay, a very BIG question for all panel streams - are we too distracted by the word 'Science'? Is Science our obsession - and should we rather be talking less about the Process and more about the Endgame, such as:

- Environmental sustainability

- Productive industries

- Better health services

- More informed citizens

- Being healthier, wealthier and wiser etc etc etc?

Bronwyn Terrill
Bronwyn Terrill 1 Like

@Craig Cormick Thanks for this question, Craig. I do like the endgame focus and, particularly in my current role, do happy describe my work in terms of informed citizens and better healthcare. However, I'm very happy to have people spruking the more general 'science' message because I do find that some aspects of discussions with different groups are rooted in people's relationship/view of "science" and "research", particularly with respect to their practices, regulation and ambition.

Craig Cormick
Craig Cormick 1 Like

There clearly seems to be a lot of good will and interest in better networking across education and industry and government and all the various disciplines that make up science communication - so what then is stopping it from happening?? Lack of a single point of networking? The time and financial pressure to stay within one's discipline and work field? Our inherent human tribalism?? I'd like to hear what people think are the key blockers to being better connected.

Bronwyn Terrill
Bronwyn Terrill 1 Like

@Craig Cormick From my experience, it's the difficulty of knowing who to talk with and the lack of opportunity to meet people who have similar interests. From there, it's the lack of funding/practical incentives for cross-disciplinary endeavours and the difficulty of needing to read across many specialist publications around the one kind of topic. I found it slightly simpler in the UK when my specialism became a government priority -- suddenly everyone wanted to talk with everyone else. Without those collaborative hubs, it would have been very difficult to join up the social scientists, scientists, communicators and educators. One other challenge is that the very nature of collaboration across disciplines is difficult: there are different languages, priorities, methodologies and assessment/quality indicators. I have found it enormously worthwhile and wouldn't consider working any other way, but I've found that if your senior management doesn't feel the same, it's difficult to make a case quickly because it always looks simpler to go solo...

Bronwyn Terrill
Bronwyn Terrill 2 Like

I'd be keen to be part of discussions that looked at practical ways of encouraging collaboration between science communicators, science educators (researchers and practitioners), and social science researchers. I've been encouraged by the involvement of people like Professor Rennie in this summit and initiatives like the Inspiring Australia Expert Working Group on developing an evidence base for science engagement. However, I think it would be of enormous benefit to science communication practice if there were more opportunities to draw upon expertise, principles and theory from related disciplines. I also wonder how much of this would be helped along by encouraging (and funding) a culture of evaluation in science communication...

lisushi 1 Like

@Bronwyn Terrill Agreed Bronwyn.  As a practitioner in the field with a background in the natural sciences (I was a biochemist in a previous life), for me one of the big challenges I struggle with is the disconnect between what the social science research is telling us about effective science engagement and what is being done.  But yes- social science outputs and methods are a whole new world to me, and working in a not-for-profit I also can't even access most of the academic literature through journal paywalls.  I know I need to develop in this area and it's something I'm working towards but I can certainly see how many organisations are pushed towards delivering programs and there is less time and priority on reflecting on or participating in the research. 

Bronwyn Terrill
Bronwyn Terrill 2 Like

@lisushi @Bronwyn Terrill Hi Lisa, it's challenging, isn't it! I remember working myself to the bone trying to keep up with and access all of it when I was younger (with no small people to look after), while I was desperately trying to earn the title of 'reflective practitioner'. Luckily, in my last role (overseas), multi-disciplinary discussions were _really_ valued and I was core- (and well-) funded. As a result, I had the opportunity to hire in researchers to do in-depth reports on priority areas (eg. social media, collaboration, skills development frameworks etc) which incorporated literature from a huge range of sources including science/public engagement, museums & science centres, education, human resources etc. With those in hand, I could fairly quickly grasp the basic theories and approaches and work out who to try to interest in collaborations. But that was an amazing luxury. Now I'm in quite a different context, so I need to see if I can make the right friends and networks here -- without the comprehensive research -- in the calm before the relentless deliverables...

sciencerewired moderator

@Bronwyn Terrill Thanks for your contribution - great points.

scibizcomms 1 Like

Quite often the measurement index is the bothersome part - how do we 'count' science communication 'success', particularly in new media? As with science and innovation, the standard business metrics don't generally apply. 1 piece of science communication doesn't = $1 or 1 job directly. The challenge is to create a rubric that makes sense of the reality of science, the data that comes out and the knowledge it creates, and how that gets communicated. A key blockage is commercial-in-confidence and other IP issues. Another is capacity in science communication - there are not enough story tellers! More collaborative ventures like the Australian Science Media Centre, The Conversation and RiAus and pioneers and leaders in this, and it remains to be seen how their business models can be replicated at smaller scales to open up local/state networks. There is no, dedicated national 'channel' for cross-linking the areas mentioned above. A Science Communications Clearing House or CRC or something similar, where we expand the techniques of science communication as well as the technology used to create it, in collaboration with government and industry, would be stellar.

sciencerewired moderator

@scibizcomms great points, certainly agree re the story tellers - they add a lot of value and can make the communication far more compelling

jazz_vibes 2 Like

Improve science collaboration. Gov funded research should be open access. There could be funding bonuses for intervarsity research.

kyliesturgess 1 Like

ACARA’s Australian Curriculum includes seven general capabilities, which includes “Critical and creative thinking” – I'm interested in seeing what critical and creative thinking means in general for the classrooms of the future, let alone science classes.

Since TechNYou (Critical Thinking Introduction.doc – TechNyou science education) have started resources addressing this and the Federation of Australasian Philosophy in Schools Associations are also planning a conference a month after ScienceRewired ( – there may be an opportunity for both groups and/or other stakeholders to speak on what opportunities and options will arise. Perhaps realistic achievement of collaborative approaches could be done by networking with non-science groups to see what they're doing in a similar direction with critical thinking?