Well said Will.

Especially valid point given that this week's passionate (but constructive!) discussion was sparked in part by one member's concerns over another member's work.

Any code needs to be appropriate for our wide ranging membership and robust enough to hold up to scrutiny.

From: Will Grant <will.grant@anu.edu.au>
Date: Tuesday, 19 November 2013 8:45 PM
To: JCribb <jcribb@work.netspeed.com.au>
Cc: ASC Lists <asc-list@lists.asc.asn.au>
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] Past, present and future of ASC: who we are

Hi Julian / all,

I am with you on the desirability of having a Code of Ethics for the ASC - and I certainly don’t relish the concept of such a code being used to sack people from the association. 

But before we put ethical standards in the Constitution we very much need to understand the ramifications. While our intent might be to protect members, we have to recognise that that is not the only way such a Code might actually be used. 

Imagine a pseudoscience charlatan (slimming tea anyone?) publicly trumpeting their membership of the ASC as a way to demonstrate their science credentials (is there anything stopping such a person joining now?). 

Would you, as an ASC member, be happy about this? I certainly wouldn’t. 

Might an ASC member say that this charlatan is breaching point 10 of the code:

  • 10. Not permit personal interest, belief, payment, persuasion of coercion to undermine our commitment to truthfulness, fairness, balance or professional integrity in communicating science.

and demand that their membership be revoked? 

In practical terms, how would this be decided? Does the Exec decide? Do they have the power to remove a member? Do we want to be in a position where we are forced to say, publicly, that we have a Code of Ethics but that our members aren’t actually obliged to follow it?

I’m not hoping for such a situation, but publishing such a code will provide a tool through which community members will be able to discipline the shape and membership of the community. On this matter, our intentions just don’t count. 

(This could get very tricky dealing with contentious (but not demonstrably fake) scientific topics.)

Is all of this bad? I really don’t know. It’s probably not. It might even be good. But I think we need a deeper discussion about the meaning and practicalities of a Code of Ethics before we enact it carte blanche. I understand this wasn’t your intent - but I think thinking through ramifications of such a Code is actually a useful thing to do. 

Will

Dr Will J Grant
Graduate Studies Convener | Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science
The Australian National University | Physics Link Building, Building 38A | Canberra ACT 0200 Australia
e: will.grant@anu.edu.au | p: +61 2 6125 0241 | f: +61 2 6125 8991
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On 19 Nov 2013, at 4:45 pm, JCribb <jcribb@work.netspeed.com.au> wrote:

A bit of ancient history regarding ASC and how it came to be.
 
The original proposal, from the late Peter Pockley, was to form a science writers or science journalists association, like they have in the US with membership mainly from the media.  However it was clear from the outset, we’d have to hold out meetings in a phone box and, nowadays, you can make that a shoebox.
 
So, after much debate we decided that besides science writers there were a heap of other people, like communicators working for science agencies, teachers, Questacon grads, film-makers, even scientists who love to communicate science and believe it is very important to do so. So ASC was formed with its current mega-diverse constituency.  I for one hope it keeps it – though there’s no reason not to have ‘communities of interest’ within the umbrella organisation.
 
We just need to be creative in how we come together, work together and share ideas.
 
Another important dimension in the original concept was that we wanted to further the careers of science communicators, and recognising that they are often not in positions of power, afford them some protection from the pressures of managements that might want to misuse them as propagandists or filing clerks rather than communicators. That’s why I keep banging on about the ethics code.  The intention is, when asked to perform a task that is outside our remit or professional ethics, we have a professional standard to point to just as journalists can (and often do) point to the Journalists Code of Ethics when an editor asks them to breach it. They have the protection of the media and arts alliance.
 
Where the notion came from that we should use this to sack people that breach it, I have no idea - but that was never the intent and it is not helpful. We are not going to be like doctors or lawyers where every graduate is forced to join the professional body.
 
And finally a thought. Science, on its own, is useless if not communicated. Almost all of the world’s great problems – climate, pandemic disease, global contamination, resource depletion, extinction, food insecurity, poverty – can be overcome with the help of scientific knowledge, but only if it is communicated widely and well to as many of Earth’s citizens as we can reach, in forms they can adopt and use. There is no doubt in my mind ours is an utterly vital profession, and that the future of civilisation depends on it and on how well we do our job.
 
While we debate the inner issues of communication, let us never lose sight of this great responsibility or magnificent task.
 
 
Julian Cribb FTSE
Julian Cribb & Associates
ph +61 (0)2 6242 8770 or 0418 639 245
Skype: julian.cribb
 
From: ASC-list [mailto:asc-list-bounces@lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Jess Tyler
Sent: Tuesday, 19 November 2013 4:11 PM
To: George Aranda
Cc: ASC Lists
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] Past, present and future of ASC
 
Daniel, that was eloquently put. It's a shame we lost you as a member!
 
I too, am thoroughly loving the debate about who we are. It is only through this that we can move forward. I'd go so far as to suggest that this is what we're about more than anything right now. We're still 'developmental', even after so long, because we are asking these questions. The organisation has to keep asking and shifting. In this context, benefit and value propositions are going to be hard to pin down.
 
There is nothing wrong with the introspection, the debate, the diversity - but there is something wrong if we can't harness it and move it forward. Many organisations reach a crossroad where they need to take stock. This needn't be frightening, confronting, nor should it put anyone in a position of feeling that they've not done enough, or too much, or they're feeling hurt....this is a genuinely healthy place to be, if you think about it.
 
I agree that we're not sure what we all have in common, us mongrels (love it) and there is a valid reason for finding out what that is. Is there room for us to look at different organisational structures? What are other organisations doing? Is our traditional structure holding us back? Does it leave all the work in too few laps? Can we crowdsource fund some special projects? Are there potential partners out there we can't see for looking?
 
There are many roles the executive needs to take (besides the administration): a memberships role to work on specific strategies to boost memberships. Then there's a partnerships/sponsorships/alliance role, where we can attempt to level the financial playing field. Then there's the professional developer role to work with members on what they want, what we can achieve with training, education, etc. Then there's an overall  marketing/communications role..of course the list goes on, importantly including a code of ethics or a charter of some sort.
 
Many, many moons ago I created the first ASC member directory. It was a print thing and it was cross referenced around who worked where, what their skills were, what they called themselves. At that point I felt that any member could easily find out who others were. It was a painful task but totally worth it.
 
As I've said before, as many others have, we've all tried different things with varying results. It would be great if we could gather together our collective wisdom, as we have been doing in this email trail, in a formal way, as a 'census' of how ASC operates, what works, what people want. Surveys are hard, but a good one is worth every bit of effort. So let's not call it a survey. Let's call it a census and be positive.
 
I would be pleased to put a census together, with a project team, if people that that was a good idea. Just to at least get a line in the sand on where we're at.
 
Open to suggestions...or not.
 
Cheers
 
Jess Tyler

Jess Tyler
SciBiz Media & Communications
M: 0408 298 292

 

On Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 3:44 PM, George Aranda <george.aranda@deakin.edu.au> wrote:
Well said Daniel (via Lee).
 
I am relatively new to ASC (a couple years as a member, but now part of the Victorian committee). I am interested in science communication as a science educator and academic, which I believe is a very small part of what ASC does.
 
A question. Have there been SIGs (Special Interest Groups) before? I would be interested in being part of discussions with those who would be interested in my small area, and embrace using Skype, google hangouts and other video conferencing technology.
 
Are people interested in SIGs??
 
George
 
 
-- 
Dr George Aranda
Research Fellow – Science Education
Faculty of Arts and Education
 
From: Mobile Science Education <info@mobilescienceeducation.com.au>
Date: Tuesday, 19 November 2013 3:26 PM
To: ASC Lists <asc-list@lists.asc.asn.au>
Subject: [ASC-list] Past, present and future of ASC
 
The following is from Daniel Keogh, ex-ASC member, and is shared by request. A valuable contribution to the current ‘debate’.
 
(and on a related note: has there ever been any effort to do an exit survey on members who let their financial status lapse for more than 1 year?)
 
Lee Harrison
Mobile Science Education
 
0430 588 757 or (08) 8395 9586
PO Box 556, Ingle Farm, SA 5098
-------
 
It’s been great to watch this evolving debate on the ASC-list; a refreshing shift from the small fry problems such as how one pronounces ‘kilometre’.
 
As Nancy mentioned, the diversity of opinions demonstrates passion and commitment to the cause.
 
But let’s talk about diversity…
 
As many have mentioned, being a science communicator is a tricky thing to classify. We have journalists, communications officers, entertainers, educators and producers.
 
But there’s diversity in our financial, geographical and practical dimensions too.
 
Some of us are contracted with healthy salaries, others run small business. There are freelancers who live by each paycheque and dreamers whose desire is simply to affording the oil to give their rags an aroma.
 
We’re from all over the nation. Our nearest event could be within our building, a drive from beyond the metro or a flight from the other end of the country.
 
There’s also what is practical and relevant to each of us. We have some that directly antagonise social media platforms, and others that live by them. Those that value practice and those that value theory. Some serve masters and some are their own. There’re talkers and actors and curious spectators.
 
Roll the dice on any of these dimensions and you have a science communicator, each with different circumstances. What a bunch of mongrels we are, you and I?
 
My profile falls in the category where the travel is too long and costly, the discussion is inapplicable and the communication methods inefficient. That’s why I don’t support a conference and why I ultimately left the ASC.
 
But I’m just one member of this multi-disciplinary monstrosity. Others have clearly found value with the group and continue to create it too.
 
However, I feel diversity isn’t helping our community. Go back to first year Science Communication: who is your audience ASC?
 
Is it science public relations and communications officers?
or science journalists?
or science outreach teams?
or academics?
Or science popularisers and performers?
 
We’re really just a family of orphans here, planning what we’ll do at Christmas. Will we bring together the ‘family’? Or hang out with the people we have more in common with?
 
As far as I see it ASC needs to pick what it wants to be, or else nurture the diversity.
 
Lee rightly feels marginalised when people on the list (who can afford to attend conferences and help organise them) don’t value his input, or even address him in person. And you wonder why survey responses are so low.
 
And how can individual branches expect more than single figures when an event may only be relevant or appealing to a few members? Or the discussion group goes dead after the grammar nazis are done discussing their pet peeve?
 
Perhaps it’s chapters we need, or forums for different types of communicators, or to define exactly what ASC is and isn’t. But you’ll never grow your membership unless you embrace and increase what you all share in common.
 
And honestly, besides a love of science, that’s not a whole bunch.

Daniel Keogh

 


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