December 7, 2018 | Published by | ,

by Alvin Stone
Media Communications Manager

There have been some noticeably positive developments over the past four months that suggest the Centre’s communications strategy is coming along nicely. Our website, which is core to much of this strategy, is now operating much more efficiently after it was transferred to a faster server to cope with increasing traffic.

Quite a bit of that traffic is coming to our pages of research briefs. So, if you have a piece of research being published, make sure you send a brief outline of your findings, so we can add it to our website and share it on our social networks. To make writing a brief easier, we have developed a simple template for you to follow.

Contact Alvin for details at alvin.stone@unsw.edu.au.  

Combined Centre of Excellence Media Workshop

The Centre has always had a focus on developing our early career researchers as spokespeople for our science. In September, the University of New South Wales hub hosted a full day combined Centre of Excellence media workshop with researchers from the Centre of Excellence for Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology (CNBS), bringing together cutting-edge researchers from widely divergent fields. Teaching duties were shared between their media manager, Anne Meyers, and me.

Beyond developing communication fundamentals, the key aim of the workshop was to help our scientists understand that the need to simplify ideas and return to fundamentals wasn’t dumbing down their research but rather a case of translating it to an audience outside their peer groups. In this case the audience were fellow scientists of equal intelligence but in a field where there was almost no crossover whatsoever.

We certainly hit our target, but Anne and I were both delighted and surprised to find the researchers from both groups were so thoroughly engaged with each other’s work that the energy level remained high throughout the day. Communication partnerships were formed across the two Centres and we saw a number of the people in the workshop use what they had been taught to deliver really well-structured interviews. It also revealed some genuine media talent that I hope to develop over the coming few years.

The feedback was very positive with a number of people saying it was the best workshop they had ever attended, full stop. On the back of that success, Anne and I hope to produce a few more cross-Centre workshops and have tentatively pencilled in another media workshop for our Melbourne researchers in late February 2019.

Citizen science app WeatheX launched

In late October, the Centre of Excellence in combination with Monash University and the Bureau of Meteorology launched a citizen science initiative, the WeatheX mobile app. The app’s development was co-ordinated by Joshua Soderholm and Christian Jakob.

WeatheX uses a simple system of multiple-choice questions, phone photography and location to help fill observation gaps of extreme storm events. It is focused on collecting data around hail, wind, flooding and tornadoes. It has already produced effective reports of two events – a storm in Brisbane on Sunday, October 21 and a hail storm in Melbourne on November 7. The reports have been combined with Bureau radar readings to create very nice interactives.

The intention is to collect observations from the public and make them available to researchers. It is hoped this additional data may help improve our understanding of storms and our ability to forecast their impacts.

Workshop posters

I was delighted to see a clear improvement in the quality of posters at this year’s annual workshop. In general, the basics were well covered with good font sizes, clearly developed sections with a logical flow and a nice sense of priority for images and text. Many of the posters showed some considerable thought had gone into colours and themes.

While there is always room for further improvement – particularly in the area of alignments and active space (the two are linked) – it was great to see a large number of you had taken the opportunity to work through the academic poster guide. I can only see the quality of Centre of Excellence posters improve over the coming years and will put in place additional poster workshops when the opportunity becomes available.

CLEX Instagram

Whether or the Centre should have an Instagram account has been nagging away at me for ages. But a few conversations with Amelie Meyer and the quality of photos that turned up in the social media session at our recent ECR day have convinced me now is the time to get one going.

With this in mind, we will be looking to find one ECR or student at each node to be part of an Instagram team. Split across the five arms of CLEX, we expect the demands on team members will be relatively light, with only one post needed every five weeks if the load is shared.

The reason we need a young team from each node goes back to the analytics of Instagram. It is a young person’s social media outlet, with people aged 16-28 being the main users of the platform by a substantial margin. It’s not a space a media manager in his 50’s should lead.

I will certainly be involved but primarily in the background. The voice and direction definitely should come from our younger researchers. If you are interested in being a part of the Instagram team, contact me at alvin.stone@unsw.edu.au.