Inspiring Australian science undergraduates

Speaker submission
Submission by Kirsti Abbott
Organisation Monash University
Presentation Inspiring Australian science undergraduates

Each speaker will have 10 minutes to convey the story of their individual science communication challenge, the solution and most importantly the learnings from their experience.

What was your science communication challenge

We want to turn budding scientists into effective communicators and believe that science communication is about scientists as well as journalists taking responsibility for it. Starting in undergraduate degree programs, there is a real need for science students to learn how to critically evaluate and translate complex scientific ideas, discoveries and implications into targeted information for a range of audiences, and that it will make all the difference as they journey through their life and careers. Since Inspiring Australia suggested Australia invest in this in 2010, still less than half of Australian universities incorporate science communication training into their BSc, yet our expectations of graduates are wildly out of synch with this.
Our challenge is to teach our students of science the art of communication, and within this challenge come mini-challenges, micro-challenges, nano-challenges……

What was the solution

To inspire undergraduate science students into communicating we think that science communication might best be injected with passion into all undergraduate and postgraduate study programs. In our core compulsory science unit at Monash University, the solution lies in our toolkit of strategies to inspire students across all schools in the Faculty of Science. We understand that the concept of choice is important in a compulsory unit, and we also love the fact that within science there are some very creative individuals who just need an outlet to express it in science – we give them that.
To our students we offer activities and assessment tasks that expose them to the real challenges of communicating primary science to educated non-specialists, the public and other scientists. We’ve even negotiated sponsorship from The Age newspaper and COSMOS magazine to inspire them. Exposure to professionals does wonders for the ego, confidence and perceptions of one’s ability, which in turn often leads to actual improvement in students’ skill bases.

What did you learn from the experience

We have learned to continually update our material to include exciting examples of current science in action and give students choices as to how they communicate this science. We have learnt to persevere, and to guide them through resources to improve their writing, talking and listening, and give feedback at critical times in the writing process in order to inspire them to keep going.
This generation of scientists might just believe that they can communicate effectively, but don’t miss the opportunity to inspire.

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adennis 1 Like

Kirsti inspires people of all ages, not just undergrads. She is able to effectively communicate on many levels. She works with and challenges her audience at the same time.

There will be many kids out there who one day will choose to join the science field thanks to Kirsti.