Day 37. Science Meets Parliament

In September 2012 on September 18, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Wouldn’t it be great if our top scientists could meet face to face with politicians to help them (and therefore us) get a better grip on what science is, why it matters and how we can support it better?

What if there was a platform to improve scientists’ understanding of policy, media and communication – and perhaps reframe the way they think about the implications of their own work?

In Australia this is a reality right now. Science Meets Parliament 2012 finishes up today, and has involved approximately 200 scientists in sessions with federal parliamentarians over 2 days.

Yesterday I noticed many interesting tweets in my stream coming from attendees at Science Meets Parliament 2012 (marked with the hashtag #SmP2012). When I sent out an investigative tweet,

#SmP2012 tweeps: is there is a list of attendees, good summary article about what’s going on? Like to blog about the event. Cheers Sarah,

the answer appeared to be no. So I decided to do a bit of on-the-spot twitter research.

#SmP2012 perhaps I could ‘twitter interview’ some of you? 🙂 That’d be fun!

Lots of enthusiastic responses came back! Including this from astronomer, science communicator, football nut, foodie and dad Simon O’Toole,

Twinterview? #SmP2012.

Bang! He’d coined a phrase, and I was getting excited. So I came up with 3 questions:

#SmP2012 Twinterview Qu1: What is your day job? Please explain in 1 tweet (ie <141 characters) and target for a general audience.

#SmP2012 Twinterview Qu2: How did you end up at #SmP2012? (again, pls answer in 1 tweet)

#SmP2012 Twinterview Qu3: What do you hope will result from your attendance? (pls answer in 1 tweet and with a general audience in mind)

Responses came in from 6 attendees:

  • Helen Maynard-CaselyI’m a researcher working at the Australian Synchrotron on @Aus_Pod (the powder diffraction beamline at the Australian Synchrotron).
  • Janine McIntoshI am the schools manager at Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute. I support teachers to develop their Maths content knowledge to help them be better teachers.
  • Sarah Dods: [Works in] research in how the health system delivers services, and how we can use data, IT and communications to do it better.
  • Amanda Bauer: I’m a “super science fellow” at the australian astronomical observatory studying the formation of galaxies.
  • Andre TanI am understanding how chronic constipation in children can be overcome by a painless electrical stimulation.
  • BellaI’m a postdoc at USyd/CSIRO, investigating ways to make chemicals & materials from renewable sources.

Five of the 6 had been recommended to attend by the institution employing them, and Andre won an essay competition:

  • Helen: I was asked to go by my head of science (synchrotron is a sponsor).
  • Janine: Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute is new member of Science and Technology Australia. Our role: meet ministers and help them see the blockages in Maths pipeline.
  • Sarah:  I was offered the opportunity through #CSIRO, and came to talk about our work, and look through a different lens.
  • Amanda: I was invited by my organisation to attend, and came with enthusiasm, eager to learn about policy-making.
  • Andre: I won a competition run by Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia to attend #smp2012 to pitch my ideas on innovation.
  • Bella: I am representing the Australian Academy of Science (@Science_Academy) and I suspect I was nominated by @MVEG001 🙂

Hopes were high for planned outcomes, with both personal and broader goals featured:

  • Helen: I’m hoping to explain the use that blue skies research can have to the future and economy of Australia.
  • Janine: New contacts, training me in comms, foot in door with gov/opp is what I want to get out of it.
  • Sarah: Some great networking, sharpening of communications, and advice on better engaging with policy makers.
  • Amanda: I hope to understand policy-making more and the atmosphere of the press club.
  • Andre: Better understanding of budget and political process, networking with other scientists, pitching experience.
  • Bella: I’m hoping to raise awareness of the challenges and difficulties faced by early-career researchers, especially postdocs.

Thank-you to all the respondents, as well as other #SmP2012 attendees for retweeting my questions. Although we don’t yet know specific outcomes from the event, I hope by presenting this blog post I have managed to improve awareness of Science Meets Parliament, offered 6 scientists the chance to pitch themselves and their aspirations, and given a small snapshot of how twitter can be used as a communication tool in the sciences.

A record of tweets is available as a storify archive here. I suspect a follow-up post might be in order too! Keep your eye out.


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