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National Science Communications Strategy Released

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R&D Info report: The Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, has released a national strategy to increase public awareness and understanding of science.

The report proposed the development of a “coordinated national framework for public engagement” that will be developed from existing infrastructure such as CSIRO Education and Outreach and the state‐based CSIRO Science Education Centres, the ABC multi‐platform media network and Questacon. It will work with state‐based science centres and museums, research agencies, universities, professional bodies, academies, the media, the business sector and community‐based organisations.

Amongst the recommendations of the report are:

  • that the Australian Government support the development of strategic national priorities for communicating science and its benefits;
  • that Questacon provide leadership for the initiative, with input from a bational advisory group;
  • that a science communication summit be convened to identify strategic priorities and the optimal roles for different agencies and institutions;
  • that the initiative include continued funding for the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science;
  • that the initiative support promotional and awareness‐raising activities, including travelling exhibitions showcasing Australia’s capability in the sciences and promotional materials for scientists, science policy makers, overseas counsellors and other potential Australian science ‘ambassadors’ to use abroad;
  • that a national Science and Society forum be held annually to focus on the priorities for community engagement in science and key issues where science can serve the needs of society;
  • that the initiative provide continued funding for activities of National Science Week; 
  • that the national initiative support science communication and media training for scientists and that a short‐term working group be established to review mechanisms for further developing Australian science media content;
  • that the national initiative support science communication exhibitions and programs that target under‐served groups, such as those living in outer metropolitan, regional and remote areas, Indigenous communities, people for whom English is a second language, and people who are disabled or have limited mobility;
  • that the initiative support a program of research in science engagement—such as baseline and longitudinal attitudinal and behavioural studies, activity audits, program evaluations and impact assessments—to inform future investment decisions by government and its partners.

The strategy, Inspiring Australia, was developed by Questacon, a division of the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, under the guidance of a steering committee comprising Chief Scientist for Australia, the Chief Executive of CSIRO, the Director of Questacon, a senior representative of the ABC and a Deputy Secretary from DIISR as chair.

The report was initiated in 2009 when Questacon was asked to undertake national consultations to inform the design of a replacement for the DIISR Science Connections Program (SCOPE), which terminates in 2011.