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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
You can read more about the award here.