April 1, 2020 | Published by |

Before COVID-19 turned the world upside and reduced coverage of climate stories in Australia alone by around 61% – the highest drop recorded worldwide – CLEX researchers had been extremely prominent. It seems somewhat distant now, but our voice in terms of bushfires and drought was pronounced through December and January. Amongst the mass of commentary that drowned out much new research because of the focus on current affairs we also had a number of papers receive significant coverage including the multi-century record of positive Indian Ocean Dipole led by Nerilie Abram and research led by Rishav Goyal showing how the Montreal Protocol slowed global warming. There was also a wonderful story on marine heatwaves in The Washington Post that featured our own Neil Holbrook. If you have hit your limit of free articles at The Post, you can also find it in The Seattle Times, here.

A particularly noteworthy coup during this period was getting Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick into the news.com.au newsroom for two weeks to work on Time Is Now, a series of articles on climate change. She even got a video slap-back at some of the odd climate denier comments that turned up in this series.

The Time is now series was the result of an initiative between the Australian Science Media Centre, Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas, and news.com.au. It prompted significant public commentary and social media chatter about the articles and how surprising it was to see them in a News Corp outlet. However, it is worth noting that the news.com.au editors have far more latitude than most News Corp outlets because, until the bushfire season and the current pandemic, news.com.au was the most visited news site in the country. That mantle during the bushfire and pandemic crises has now been taken by ABC Online, suggesting that Australians place a lot of trust in their national broadcaster.

Australian Science Communicators Conference

I was invited to the Australian Science Communicators conference 2020 at Monash University as part of a plenary panel and also as a specialist mentor. The panel was led by Alison Leigh a former series producer and executive producer of ABC’s TV Science Unit. Her control of the panel discussion was outstanding, and I would highly recommend her if you need an experienced panel chair for any science event. My fellow panel members included NESP leader and former ARCCSS CI David Karoly, documentary filmmaker Sonya Pemberton, ABC presenter for kids show Scope Lee Constable, and author of Living with the Anthropocene: Love, loss and hope in the face of environmental crisis Cameron Muir. I have since been in discussion with a number of the panel members and when the current pandemic has passed plans are afoot to develop some climate projects with CLEX researchers.

This conference was also impressive for its practical sessions, which was quite a deviation from year past, and also because the opportunity to network was well thought out. This improved networking has opened a number of doors for further initiatives down the track. One that is of particular interest is the opportunity to create a travelling climate science roadshow that visits rural Australia and uses climate scientists who themselves come from regional Australia. Like many of our plans, this has been put on hold, but it would be very useful for any climate scientists who hail from regional Australia to let me know if they would like to be part of something like this.

The conference also featured a nice little Australian developed video app, Brivvio. The free version can be set up to automatically brand and upload any video you take on a mobile device. It’s an ideal app for conferences, workshops, and short interviews. If you subscribe to the paid version, its speech recognition software will automatically caption the video as you talk. Any errors in the captioning are easily edited. I’ll be using it once we get back to being able to hold workshops again.

Between networking opportunities and some very insightful sessions, this was an excellent conference and has made me reassess the value of attending these conferences in the future.

Blogging on the CLEX website

I must take a moment to comment on a recent blog post by Kim Reid. Kim has taken up the challenge of writing a regular blog for the CLEX website, something I have tried many times to encourage others to do. After just over a year she has written six articles. They have all been excellent but her most recent post, How to have a successful conference when you are an introverted agoraphobic, is outstanding. This was a very personal post that tackled some big issues and the response from colleagues inside and outside CLEX shows it had an impact. It highlights for me, beyond the fundamental practice of writing for a broader audience, blog posts by researchers also resonate with their colleagues and can often be incredibly helpful to students setting out on their research journey.

I do believe we have the writing talent in the Centre to blog about our research and the CLEX journey in an engaging and helpful way. Some of the articles in this newsletter would have made outstanding blogs, such as Clara’s story about Curious Science, Rob Warren and Sonny Truong’s engaging pieces about being on board the RV Investigator and Annette Hirsch’s travels among the silos and towers of the public service to understand policymaking.

I would certainly love to read more about your journey through CLEX and research generally, so if you have any inclination to chart part of your path through the Centre, please don’t hesitate to contact me at alvin.stone@unsw.edu.au.