Dr Graziela Miot da Silva, from the School of the Environment at Flinders University and Dr Elin Charles-Edwards from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at University of Queensland represented the Australian Council of Environment Deans and Directors at the Science Technology Australia 2017 Science meets Parliament event. They were among 200 scientists who gathered in Canberra to participate in a range of activities over two days. The event is designed to provide professional development to scientists in media and political engagement. They heard Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, speak about the importance of good science for policy making, particularly in an age where misinformation and alternative facts sometimes rule the day and from media representatives about the difficulties faced by scientists in getting their science into the public domain. The loss of dedicated science reporters, strong profit motives and the need for media outlets to entertain as well as inform are major barriers to science reporting. They heard that for science to get any traction in today’s media, findings must be pitched in a simple and understandable way: a “memefication” of science. The afternoon sessions provided insights into the parliamentary process and how to engage parliamentarians, culminating in an interactive session on pitching research to non-experts “Science in 60 Seconds”. They heard from the Honorable Arthur Sinodinous MP, the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, and the Honorable Bill Shorten MP, Leader of the Opposition both of whom recognised the critical role of science in driving future economic prosperity along with challenges such as a lack of gender diversity and the need to create defined career pathways for emerging scientists.
The second day provided delegates with the opportunity to meet with a parliamentarian (in small groups), and attend question time and a parliamentary forum. Dr Charles-Edwards met with the Hon. Anthony Albanese, the shadow minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development who discussed his shadow portfolio, and in particular his interest in sustainable and smart cities. Dr Miot da Silva met the Hon. Mark Butler MP the Shadow Minister for Climate Change. She was able to talk about her research and some of the challenges that environmental programs in higher education face, such as the decrease in enrolments.
Both Dr Charles-Edwards and Dr Miot da Silva enjoyed and benefitted from the opportunity.
Honorable Mark Butler with Graziela Miot da Silva (second from right) and other scientists at Science meets Parliament.
Dr Elin Charles-Edwards (right) with other scientists following the “Science in 60 seconds workshop”.