Dr Falkner Goes to Canberra Day 1 “Your Science in 60 Seconds” (#smp2014 #AdelED @rodl @willozap)

This is the second part of the talk and apparently we have to present 30-60 second summaries of what we’re going to talk about. I think this is something that we just do on our tables and then further so I can’t really summarise this either. Ok! See you next post!

Dr Falkner Goes to Canberra Day 1 “Getting your science out of the lab” (#smp2014 #AdelED @rodl @willozap)

Ok, the play is over and it was interesting but effectively uncaptureable in this format – you can see it in the Tweet stream. Sorry about that. The speakers for this session Dr Rod Lambert and Dr Will Grant, both of the ANU Centre for the Public Awareness of Science. Here’s a chance to practice a 60 second pitch of your science – which will be held after the convenience break.

It’s been an intense morning so the banter, which would normally be quite engaging, appears to be losing some of the people in the audience from looking around. Hopefully they’ll settle in shortly.

A question from the floor – there’s some anxiety about the purpose of the meeting, how to approach it, how to build for it and how to build on it afterwards. Answer: all communication is personal. What are you trying to say? Say it to the person opposite you as if they are a person – because they are. Remember that the politician is happy to meet you – let’s start from there and build some common ground. Stick to your own persona and be yourself. You can tailor your personality but don’t go overboard. The meeting may not go to the details you want, but don’t overwhelm with caveats and detail. Listen to the other person, hear their values and motivations and, once again, tailor your message.

Question from the floor – scientists are trained to respond in a particular way where we are very rarely certain but we are actually quite certain enough for most intentions out in the community. How much do you present the uncertainty (without misrepresenting it). Politicians don’t act in certainty and have to make risk calculations before they take action. Talk enough but know when to stop.

You can’t offer a doom and gloom – you need to offer a solution and a way out, something that the politician can do. Be simple in discussions: “My research can do X, then possibly label it.” If you get a blank look, back off, shift down, go forward. You are aiming to communicate, not impress with your intellect. Remember you’re representing someone and you can fall back onto their agendas!

I realise many of my friends don’t necessarily agree with this but the common message is that you have to be good at the show, as well as good at the science, because without communications it doesn’t get communicated. It makes me a bit sad to agree with this because I know some wonderful people who aren’t as great in front of an audience – but this means you need a screaming front person who can help you with it to get the ‘right’ people listening.

And, yes, I’m for hire. (You’ll need to speak to my manager.)

Dr Falkner Goes to Canberra Day 1 “The art of the perfect political meeting – experts tell their stories” (#smp2014 #AdelED @DrEmmaLJohnston)

This is another panel, which may be hard to summarise, introduced by Professor Emma Johnston, STA (@DrEmmaLJohnston)  and run by Mr Martin Laverty, CEO, Catholic Health Australia (chair), Mr Gary Dawson, Chief Executive, Australian Food and Grocery Council (@AusFoodGrocery), Mr Simon Banks, Managing Director, Hawker Britton Public Affairs Solutions and Mr Paul Chamberlin, Partner, Endeavour Consulting. (There’s a lot of suit power up on the podium.) Apparently one of the people up on the podium helped put together the power sharing deal that saw Ms Gillard become Prime Minister at the preceding election – please welcome Simon Banks. Gary Dawson dropped Science in Year 10 and ended up as Mr Howard’s Science adviser, so stick to those books, kids. No… wait.

I’d note that everyone on the podium has spent considerable time working for politicians and now they are all CEOs, MDs or partners in consulting firms. What a happy coincidence!

Oh, they’re putting on a playlet. It’s a pro- and anti-science hypothetical entitled “Australian Scientists Need More Money… (and with many other words)” You know what? You really have to be here. I don’t think I can capture this. Be back soon.