Archive for the ‘Science Communication’ Category

Two years ago I blogged about my experience of attending the university-wide final of the Three Minute Thesis (3MT). You can check out that post here. Well I was once again privileged to attend the UQ 3MT Final, held at the stunning heritage building, Customs House. You can read about Customs House here

Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland (UQ) and involves postgraduate research students presenting their research in 3 short minutes in a language that everyone can understand.
It is a fantastic example of science communication – taking a complex scientific topic and transforming it into an engaging, accessible and lay audience appropriate story. Students from the eight faculties and institutes vied to win. 

Anna-Liisa Sutt from the Faculty of Medicine won the Final and also won the People’s Choice, as voted by the audience. You can read about Anna-Liisa’s win and research here.

This year I had an amazing professional science communication opportunity. I was asked to tweet on behalf of UQ Health! I live tweeted throughout the Final. I received some good feedback from our marketing and communications team and hope I’ll have a few more opportunities in the months and years to come. You can check out UQ Health on Twitter here and on Facebook here

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Over the weekend of 12th and 13th March I volunteered and checked out the World Science Festival Brisbane held in the cultural precinct at Southbank, Brsbane, Australia. Wow! An awesome experience!

My girl and I headed in to Southbank (the festival’s main location and home to Brisbane’s cultural precinct comprising museums, art galleries, the state library and performing arts centre) on the Saturday. As I was on my shift, my girl checked out Street Science (science shows, displays and demonstrations in the cultural forecourt near the Brisbane River). 

My shift was at QAGoMA (the Queensland Art Gallery-Gallery of Modern Art) as part of the Art Conservation Apprentice Program – a behind the scenes and practical look at preservation and conservation of artworks. Participants put broken ceramics back together and learnt about mourning and preserving photographic works (testing the pH of mounting boards, microscopic examination to find out how the photograph was printed). 

Fresh from my shift I met up with my girl for lunch Greek street food. Then it was on to see Dear Albert, a play written by Alan Alda based on Albert Einstein’s personal letters. He had a tumultuous love life, and was a passionate scientist and comedian. Fascinating! 

Next it was more Street Science – we saw Australian tarantulas and golden orb spiders being gently placed on willing kids’ hands – such fascination and lack of fear! Kids sifting through piles of rock and bones experiencing palaeontology, 3D bioprinting, robotics, reef conservation and the science Olympiads. 

Then to round out the day we saw Loggerhead turtles hatching from their eggs and earlier hatchlings swimming in tanks. Amazing! The hatchlings were to be released off the coast of Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast where it was hoped they would catch the current and evade predators. 

On Sunday my shift was in the Whale Mall at the Queensland Museum. It was a kids activity – the Lego Tower Challenge – build a tower strong enough to hold a pile of text books. The kids has so much fun. So lovely to see kids of all ages, genders and background getting stuck into building. Fun but exhausting! After my shift I wandered around Street Science then caught up with my parents for a late lunch. 

What a day! What an experience! Privileged to have been involved. Can’t wait for next year. And no I didn’t get to meet or see Alan Alda. Maybe next year?  



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Some photos of advertising in South Bank, Brisbane in the lead up to World Science Festival Brisbane – 9th to 13yh March 2016.



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It seems a long time since I heard that the World Science Festival (a beckon and bench mark for science communication public engagement activities) was coming to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia – see my           The World Science Festival & Alan Alda (!!) Coming to Brisbane post. But now it’s here! And it’s on. The World Science Festival Brisbane (WSFB) starts today (9th March Brisbane time) and continues until Sunday (13th March).

The WSFB website describes the Festival – ‘The inaugural World Science Festival Brisbane will bring some of the world’s greatest thought leaders to Queensland, showcase local scientists and performers from around the Asia Pacific region, and host the brightest and the best from previous events in New York.’

‘At the World Science Festival Brisbane, the biggest stars of science will present the beauty, complexity, and importance of science through diverse, multidisciplinary programming that is the World Science Festival signature…..’

And I am very lucky to have the opportunity to be a volunteer for the Festival. I will volunteering at two events over the weekend. And am hoping I gain some invaluable and practical science engagment experience. 

WSFB, hosted by the Queensland Museum, will be held in Brisbane annually for three years. A wonderful opportunity to showcase the scientific and research work being undertaken in Queensland and to present the fascinating world of science to the Queensland public – to all walks of life. 

Check out the WSFB website for more information and the program of events.

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I was reading an email last night from the Australian Science Communcators, and I was excited to find out that the World Science Festival will be coming to Brisbane in 2016. The Queensland Museum will host the Festival for three years in Brisbane, and it will be the first time the Festival has been held outside of New York City. My brain has already wondered what the program for the Festival will hold – theatrical and comedic performances and academic talks on all things science. A science festival for adults! Yes! I have an avid interest in making science fun for adults. Science centres don’t don’t draw my interest that much as the exhibitions are aimed towards children). Celebrating science, making it fun, and using multiple communication channels to represent science, scientists and contributions to society, medicine and knowledge is one of the pinnacles of science communication practise for me. In one of my science communication courses taken last year I made an 8 min podcast about science cabaret and making science fun for adults. I interviewed a physicist-science communicator who sung songs about science, and a local Queensland band (the Ragtag Band) who were performing a series of cabaret shows (called Do It For Science) featuring songs about science and burlesque performers. 

And just to spark my interest even further (and get me into fangirl mode), Alan Alda who played Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H (one of my favourite shows) will be at the Festival!! Alan is on the Board of the Festival and has been an advocate for science literacy and science communication. He was also instrumental in setting up the Alan Alda Center for Commnicating Science at Stony Brook University in the U.S. As described  on the Center’s mission we page, the Center “works to enhance understanding of science by helping train the next generation of scientists and health professionals to communicate more effectively with the public, public officials, the media, and others outside their own discipline.”

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As part of the final assessment for my science communication class on controversial science, we had to write an essay about our chosen controversy, and, discuss communication issues and how the controversy may be resolved. Below are some excerpts from May essay discussing some of the communication actions the anti-‘raw’ milk faction (primarily governments and public health agencies) could take to help bridge between the two sides perhaps help resolve the controversy.

Communication and associated issues play a key role in the raw milk debate and have helped perpetuate it. An open dialogue between the two opposing sides may help resolve some of these issues. A number of the issues that have exasperated the raw milk debate are associated with communications from government and public health agencies. These agencies could undertake a number of actions to acknowledge and engage with pro-raw milk representatives, such as acknowledgement of different and is similar values and public forums, and these are summarised in the table below. Educational and science communication actions may also assist with bridging the gap between the opposing sides and providing information that is easily understandable by all stakeholders involved.

Suggested Actions for Governments & Public Health Agencies

  • Acknowledge that people consume raw milk and will consume raw milk regardless of public health messages and legal status.
      – Provide information to potential and current raw milk consumers regarding proper handling and storage.
      – Promote safe and hygienic milking, handling and storage techniques to farmers and consumers
  • Acknowledge differences in beliefs between pro- and anti- raw milk sides
  • Acknowledge desire to support local farmers and communities and other ways of doing this
  • Acknowledge and understand differences in perception of risk between the two sides
  • Acknowledge that both sides are concerned with human health and healthy eating
  • Engagement & Dialogue

  • Conduct public forums, discussions and call for submissions from consumers, advocates, scientific, public health and agricultural experts, farmers and legislators
  • Openly discuss –
    standards/guidelines and/or regulation of raw milk processing
    different methods of pasteurisation and alternatives to pasteurisation, including advantages and disadvantages of each methods
    assisting raw milk producers to comply with regulations (Schutz and Ferree, 2012)
  • Engage with key stakeholders and organisations in debates
  • Engage with individual consumers
  • Education

  • Clearly explain the regulatory issues involved in regulating raw milk
  • Explain (in appropriate language with examples that a lay audience can understand) reasons for discouraging the consumption of raw milk, including –
    food-borne diseases and symptoms
    regulatory issues and obligations and to ensure food safety and protect citizens
    pasteurisation as standard practise
  • Science Communication

  • Use science communication methods to discuss and disseminate –
      – results and conclusions from research and epidemiological studies regarding food-borne illness and raw milk
      – results from immunological and biochemical studies in relation to health benefit claims and effects of pasteurisation on milk
  • Will we see this implemented? Will governments and public health agencies open a dialogue and listen to all the stakeholders in the ‘raw’ milk debate?

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    Last night I had a fabulous opportunity to attend the University of Queensland final of the Three Minute Thesis competition. The final was held at a lovely historic building, Customs House in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland.

    Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland which challenges research higher degree students to present a compelling oration on their thesis and its significance in just three minutes in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience (Three Minute Thesis). It is a fantastic example of science communication – taking a complex scientific topic and transforming it into an engaging, accessible and lay audience appropriate story.

    The competition, held in a spectacular room complete with a dome, was hosted by a local radio host. Students from the faculties and institutes presented their 3 minute presentations to the audience.

    A gut feeling helps Megan win Three-Minute Thesis competition showcases the winner of the final and her research into pre- and probiotics and kidney disease.

    Afterwards I had the opportunity to attend a cocktail reception on the outside terrace. One of Brisbane’s most famous bridges, the Story Bridge, was lit up with purple lights. The moon rising behind the bridge was a sight to behold.





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