Why be a member of ASC?
One key value of ASC to me is that it provides a professional family. Sometimes families have spats. And ASC is a hugely diverse family. The education cousins have different priorities to the media cousins who may be different again from the oranisational communication cousins. There are older siblings who think they know it all. There are teenagers who think they've invented something new when their parents had the same experiences 20 years ago. But at the end of the day, most members of the family have a (sometimes grudging) respect for each other and how everyone contributes to the greater whole. And if there is a threat from outside, families can coalesce quickly against a common enemy. [Perhaps ASC should invoke Andrew Bolt. ;) ]
One thing ASC members (and non-member list readers) have in common is believing it is worthwhile to communicate about science with wider communities outside of one's own discipline. That's what we do at work. As Niall has said, ASC provides the forum for introspection and professional growth – to communicate about communication.
Shared values help define a community. I have worked since the mid-90's with science communication as my primary professional focus. I have had immediate supervisors who have been hugely supportive of science communication and others who think it is a waste of time. I have fellow employees within the organisation who have variable understanding and appreciation of the value of science communication as an academic discipline and as a professional activity requiring highly developed skills. Even after 10+ years of building a successful science communication program, I struggle regularly within my workplace for support of science communication. I share values about research and education with most of my work colleagues but do not share values about science communication with many.
ASC provides a refreshing 'home' where I don't need to explain that science communication is important and useful. That is a given within our ranks. An occasional whinge via email, a pat on the back and appreciation or understanding from science communication colleagues is hugely important for those of us who spend a fair bit of our professional lives battling for science communication as a valid and valuable professional activity.
The code of ethics promoted by Julian and others will
help ASC develop greater clarity and identity. For those with the time and
energy to work on that, there are many of us willing to support it. That someone else hasn't taken it up doesn't mean people don't think it is
important. It means others are juggling various demands and have different
priorities. Having different priorities does not mean that ASC members cannot share
values, common visions and similar goals. Everyone is doing 'the most important thing' as
they've defined it for themselves. Members' activities vary. Some focus on
education, some on media; some communicate within their organisation, some with external audiences. ASC topics vary as well. Some members work on climate
change. Some on conservation. Some on health issues. Some on new technologies.
Some on corporate responsibility. Who is to say that any activity or topic is more
important than another? Working on what someone is most passionate about is
likely to result in greater productivity.
The recent discussion on the ASC-list has benefited me personally and I am grateful to the provocateurs. It has caused me to reflect on why I am an ASC member and why I continue to recommend ASC membership to others. I am grateful to all those who have helped shape the organsation and who have provided the home that is ASC. I I have offered these observations as simply that. My experiences as a salaried worker within an organsiation may or may not reflect those of others. There are advantages and disadvantages to every mode of work; hats off to those with the vision and dedication to freelance. I am not trying to suggest any experiences are better or worse than the experiences of others in this diverse association.
Professor Nancy Longnecker
School of Animal Biology, M092
The University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley, WA 6009
ph: 61 8 6488 3926
CRICOS Provider No. 00126G