Is science still missing from society?

  Last updated November 8, 2019 at 1:56 pm


We need to bridge the gap between science and business, and bring meaningful science communication to the mainstream audience.

science communication Mind The Gap

Why This Matters: Science isn’t useful if you can’t tell people about it.

A significant gap exists between the business and science communities in Australia, according to Peter Yates, who has just been awarded the prestigious Australian Academy of Science Medal for his public work promoting science.

Peter first noticed that science was missing from key elements of the community in the early 2000s while working as Managing Director and CEO of Kerry Packer’s Publishing and Broadcast Limited.

“In all the times I’d sat through programming meetings at Channel Nine there was never a moment where we said ‘what are the science stories this week?’,” said Peter.

“It struck me that given how important science is and the decision making around science for our community, that if the leading television station in the country (Channel Nine at the time) didn’t really have any focus on science in any of its program meetings, I felt we had a problem.”

Deeper: Getting science into Australia’s culture

Peter Yates

Peter Yates

A broader influence on society

This led Peter to found the not-for-profit Royal Institution of Australia which produces Cosmos Magazine and Australia’s Science Channel, education resources for teachers, and organises the Scinema International Science Film Festival, the largest in the southern hemisphere.

Peter is also Chairman of the Australian Science Media Centre, an independent service for journalists, to help them cover some of the biggest stories in the news – from climate, energy and natural disasters to diet, health, technology and space.

Today he hopes that science can be an even broader influence on society.

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, says that Peter had recognised that we needed to bring meaningful science communication  to the mainstream audience.

Also: A letter to a Year 10 student from Australia’s Chief Scientist

He also pointed out that science communication is “increasingly deafened by the amplified chatter of soundbites, inaccuracies and extreme claims about science that pepper the internet and media.”

“The biggest surprise for me has been the disconnect between the business and science communities in Australia and I think that gets to a deeper issue for our community but also a tremendous opportunity,” says Peter.

Science and business need to have a cultural relationship

He told The Australian that there was too often a “transactional relationship” between science and business, “not a cultural relationship”.

“There isn’t the same relationship you would find between business and politics. You can also commercialise an internet or venture capital idea over a cup of coffee, but you can’t commercialise a science idea. Because the coffee conversations don’t take place,’’ he says.

Peter shares the 2019 award with Megan Clark who has led innovation in science nationally, as the first female chief executive of CSIRO, and now as Head of the Australian Space Agency.

You can read more about the award here.

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About the Author

Lyndal Byford
Lyndal is the Director of News and Partnerships at the Australian Science Media Centre. She spends her days turning complex science papers into tasty morsels to help news journalists cover science. Lyndal has an Honours Degree in Biotechnology from Flinders University and a Graduate Diploma in Science Communication from the Australian National University. She has spent the last 20 years communicating science in a range of settings including science museums, within the pharmaceutical industry and in media relations both here and in the UK. Lyndal regularly speaks about science on ABC Radio National and 2CC in Canberra. Lyndal was also a member of Inspiring Australia’s Science and the Media Expert working group for the Federal Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.

Published By

The Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC) is an independent, not-for-profit service for the news media, giving journalists direct access to evidence-based science and expertise. We aim to better inform public debate on the major issues of the day by improving links between the media and the scientific community. The Centre works with journalists to help them cover science as well as identify the science angles in everyday news stories and works with the scientific community to help them interact more effectively with the media and ensure that their voices are heard on issues of national importance.

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