Last updated March 6, 2017 at 10:43 am
I have to confess, and to paraphrase Charles Darwin it’s a little like confessing a murder, but I’ve never attended a Science Meets Parliament before – and I’ve been in science all my professional working life either as a researcher or as a science journalist. So I’m looking forward to the next few days with some interest just to see what happens.
Science Meets Parliament is an initiative of Science and Technology Australia (STA) and their ancestors FASTS (Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies) started it all back in 1999. It’s an annual event that has two objectives: to stimulate and inform parliamentarians of how science contributes to and informs public policy, and; to assist in professional development through providing participants with an insight into political, policy, media and parliamentary processes.
Reading between the lines, it’s an attempt to address the age-old problem that science and politics do not share a common tongue but communication between the two is vital for the national health and welfare. There are three possible solutions to this conundrum: parliamentarians, both the politicians and senior government officers, could learn to speak science; both parties could develop a common language, or; scientists could learn how to talk to parliamentarians.
It appears from the agenda that it is the latter approach taken by Science Meets Parliament. Over the next two days there are sessions on meeting the media, an explanation of the national innovation and science agenda, understanding policy, tips for talking to pollies and other addresses that appear to be squarely aimed at the scientists who make up the bulk of the delegates. There’s also a session at the National Press Club where the new Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel will talk to the nation via the ABC.
And, while all these events and sessions are going on, there is a complex schedule of meetings between the delegates and a number of parliamentarians. These more intimate meetings are with representatives of both houses and from across the political spectrum. It’s these direct meetings that are the most productive when it comes to the implicit proposition of Science Meets Parliament – an opportunity for scientists to talk directly to the people in power of their concerns and issues from a scientific perspective.
So the next two days promise to be very interesting for me as I get to sit on the sidelines and report on what is going on. You can keep up with what happens by following me on Twitter @fossilcrox or through the @RiAus handle or using the hashtag #smp2016 as well as @ScienceAU. I’m looking forward to telling you all about what goes on!