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Paul Holper

Winning, even if you don’t win (and we did)

Recently our company Scientell won the 2016–17 Monash Business Award in the Micro Business category. My co-Director, Simon Torok, said in his acceptance speech in front of a packed ballroom, ‘We were delighted to have been nominated for this award – and we nominated ourselves, so imagine how excited we are to have actually won.’

A business coach suggested that we enter the award. It was excellent advice, but not just because we won. The entire process of entering, being assessed and then attending the awards night was invaluable for us.

For starters, the nomination process helped us dispassionately assess our business, its activities and ambitions. We had to ask ourselves what our main focus was, what our objectives are, and how we can simply describe the business in a few sentences.

The judging process included making a short presentation at a lunch where we met other small business owners. This led to us catching up with a number of them over the ensuing weeks to share business ideas and look for opportunities to collaborate in future. As any small business owner knows, success comes from relationships. The Monash Business Awards introduced us to lots of people.

Of course, winning generates valuable publicity opportunities. It helped us highlight the value of communication of environmental, scientific and technical information. But even if we had known at the outset that we would not win, we would still have entered, such was the value of the process.

Sponsored by the City of Monash, the Monash Business Awards serve to ‘promote business success and excellence through the recognition of significant achievements and innovations’. The City of Monash, with almost 200,000 residents, is one of Victoria’s most populous municipalities. There are 18,000 businesses in the area.

 

MBA award to Scientell

How to write a media release

Scientell prepared this summary for members of the Ecological Society of Australia, who have employed us to provide communication support and advice.

Despite the rise of social media, writing and distributing a media release is still a very effective way of communicating your research to the media and hence to a variety of audiences including the public.

Preparing a media release has lots of benefits. It will help you think through the essential elements of your story, and order your findings in a way that highlights the important points first. It ensures that your colleagues, manager, funders, supporters and employer will be aware of your work. It will represent an agreed, accurate and enduring record of your findings.

So, here is a step-by-step guide on how to write a media release.

First, please seek the assistance of a professional communicator or an experienced colleague to write your release. You may be too close to your work to find the news angle. Moreover, an experienced person can help write a release that grabs journalists’ attention. They will also have media contacts to increase the likelihood of your work receiving coverage. They also might suggest that a release is not going to be the most effective way of telling your story and might have some other communication options for you (e.g. pitching directly to online discussion sites such as The Conversation).

 

  • Summarise the main points of your story, with ideally one main take home message. These are probably going to be the three or four points you make at a barbecue or party, when someone with little or no knowledge of your field asks you what you’re working on and why. Order your points from most important to least important.

 

  • Identify what is the newsworthy angle or ‘hook’. Why is this relevant to everyday people now? Do your findings shed interesting new light on a topic? Does your work overturn current thinking? Is it new evidence of things getting worse or better? Will people talk about your insights at the pub?

 

  • The first paragraph of the release is critically important. It should contain the who, what, when, where, why (who cares), and how of your story. Here’s an example with the above elements identified:

 

Birds’ wings growing to help escape the heat?

The wing length [what & how] of Ringneck Parrots [who] in the south-west of Western Australia [where] has been increasing since the 1970s [when], coinciding with that region becoming hotter and drier. This is a possible rapid evolutionary response to changing climate [why/who cares].

 

  • Write in the ‘inverted pyramid style’. After the lead paragraph, each subsequent paragraph should be less important. The release should make complete sense if it is cut from the bottom up. That is, it needs to work if just the first paragraph is used, or pars 1 and 2, or pars 1, 2 and 3, etc.

 

  • Write in short sentences and short paragraphs, with simple language (no scientific jargon).

 

  • Keep it simple. You need to interest a journalist who is not a science or environment correspondent, writing for people who know nothing about your science.

 

  • Include quotations, attributed to a named person with their position and affiliation stated (most likely you, and possibly a senior person in your agency).

 

  •  Add a punchy headline. Most journalists will read only the headline and first sentence of your release.

 

  • Check to ensure that the release contains no typographical or grammatical errors and then have it approved by your manager, and ensure your communicator, agency, funders, colleagues and anyone else involved are aware of the release before it is made public.

 

  • Restrict the release length to one page, add ‘Media Release’ to the top, agency logo, the date (clearly noting any embargo), and contact details including mobile number at the end.

 

  • Good photos or videos will help ‘sell’ a release. State their availability.

 

  • Look for networks and linkages with other agencies such as universities, partner organisations and sponsors to help promote the release.

 

If you’d like advice or assistance in preparing a media release, please contact Scientell (www.scientell.com.au)

 

Rent, don’t buy?

When I was young, my parents always told me that if I wanted to buy something, I should save my money and pay for it outright. ‘Buy, don’t rent’, was their recommendation for procuring everything from a TV set to a house. The logic in this advice was that rent, or its equivalent in ongoing payments, represents ‘dead’ money.

We all used to apply my parents’ logic to software. We’d fork out several hundred dollars for the latest version of Microsoft Office and spend ages feeding the multiple CDs that stored the program into our computers. Then, when it became too annoying dealing with Word 7 when you had only version 6, you would upgrade.

A few years ago, the software industry woke up to the wisdom of my mum and dad – if you are on the supply side, far better financially to get the punters to rent, not buy.

So, Microsoft quietly, but forcefully, pushed their millions of users to a ‘rent’ model. It’s just a couple of dollars a week, they said. You’ll always have the very latest software on your computers, they told us. Say goodbye to version incompatibility.

That’s all fine, but what if you simply want to write stuff and don’t need to be able to import, rotate and link a Pivot table from Excel into Word? I know there are plenty of free programs that will just let you type. But then there’s the challenge in reading other people’s work that they email you in packages like Microsoft Word, with all its associated design elements.

So, we’re back to renting.

Let’s do a quick stocktake of all the software that our company Scientell rents. There’s the Microsoft Office subscription at $10 per month. We pay $60 per month for our accounting software. Delivering our public webinars and teleconferences incur a $12.50 monthly charge. Our web site and email host charges $15. We pay Google $4.58 for hosting documents. Dropbox subscriptions fees of $10.75 a month let us share files.

Take a deep breath and add up those subscriptions: the business subscriptions are $112.83 per month, which is $1,354 each year.

It all quickly adds up. Do we really need all this software and data? Good question – and one that is worth asking regularly. I’ll add a reoccurring note to my calendar to do a stocktake. I just have to ensure that my monthly Internet bill gets paid so that I see it.

 

 

On dinosaurs, widows and badly named pubs

By Sarah Holper, guest blogger 

The first dinosaur fossil ever found was named ‘Scrotum humanum’, owing to its resemblance to a petrified scrotum. Some thought it was a Roman war elephant’s thigh, or that of a biblical giant. It was, in fact, a Megalosaur’s femur.

Some cultural relativism ought to be applied to this laughable blunder. Before dinosaurs were known to science, giants and dragons were the natural explanations for impossibly hefty unearthed bones. Presumably with much eye rolling, biologist Richard Owen suggested that these bones belonged to an extinct group of reptiles. He coined the name ‘dinosaur’ in 1841, Latinised from the Greek ‘deinos’ meaning ‘terrible’ and ‘saurus’ meaning ‘lizard’. Incidentally, the word ‘dire’ stems from the same terrible root.

On terrible roots, let’s exhume some dismaying English artefacts. According to 1500s mindsets, a woman after her husband’s death became a dusty fossilised relict. Alas, our word ‘relict’ is from the Latin ‘relicta’ meaning ‘widow’. Further abandonment-flavoured words like ‘relinquish’ and ‘derelict’ derive from the Latin verb form ‘relinquere’ – to leave behind. Before deserting this etymological tangent, a dip into maritime lingo. ‘Derelict’, now synonymous with a state of neglect, technically refers to cargo irretrievably sunk at sea. Accidentally lost but still floating cargo is flotsam (both ‘f’ words are from the Germanic ‘floter’, meaning ‘to float’). Jetsam is cargo deliberately thrown (‘jettisoned’, from the same Old French root ‘getaison’, meaning ‘a throwing’) overboard to stabilise a ship in crisis. Hence ‘flotsam and jetsam’ has become a phrase to describe miscellaneous worthless trash (much like a widow in the 16th century, apparently).

Far from flotsam and jetsam is fossilised tree resin. Not only can it fossilise other creatures in a gloopy tomb, it can form a fossil per se: amber. Amber has a curious quality of acquiring an electric charge when rubbed with certain materials. Some 1640s amber-rubbing escapades led polymath Sir Thomas Browne to dub this attractive property ‘electric’. The leap from ‘amber’ to ‘electric’? Our old friend Latin, in which amber is called ‘electrum’.

Finally, an alphabetical fossil. Old English was written in runes. Christian missionaries arriving in the 9th century soon imposed not only their religion on the Anglo-Saxons, but the Latin alphabet too. The rune ‘thorn’, pronounced ‘th’, looked most similar to the Latin ‘Y’. Thus ‘Y’ took thorn’s place as the ‘th’-sounding symbol, while thorn was jettisoned into an alphabetical mass grave.

It follows then that pseudo-historical venues named ‘Ye Olde’ so-and-so ought to be pronounced ‘the old’, not ‘ye old’. A world-view flipping bombshell, I know. Now you know how the benighted masses felt when their ‘dragons and giants’ turned out to be dinosaurs.

On stones, mathematics and eschewing bad puns

By Sarah Holper, guest blogger 

Excluding patients with multiple titanium joint prostheses, the most common metal in the human body is calcium. This fact will assist in countless pub trivia competitions.

Chemist Humphry Davy first isolated pure calcium in 1808 by electrolysis of limestone. He named it ‘calcium’ from the Latin ‘calx’ meaning limestone. Fittingly, a decade prior he himself had become significantly stoned on nitrous oxide gas during a series of experiments to discern its chemical properties. (He concluded that it caused ‘a great disposition to laugh’, while noting in passing its soon-to-be groundbreaking anaesthetic effects).

The Latin word ‘calculus’ is the diminutive form of ‘calx’. A calculus described a little pebble used for counting. Strings of calculi on a frame formed an abacus. The verb ‘calculere’ literally meant ‘to use pebbles to perform arithmetic’ – to calculate, if you will. Leibnitz thus chose ‘calculus’ as the name for his newly invented system of calculating rates of change. Unfortunately, this etymology has encouraged puns based on ‘calculus rocks!’ and similar, which would not be funny even if under the influence of nitrous oxide.

Stones formed in various bodily organs are dubbed calculi, such as renal calculi and gallbladder calculi. Incidentally, urinating out a kidney stone is said to be the most painful thing a human can experience, including childbirth (this is based on a sample population of kidney-stone suffering mothers I have surveyed over the years).

Other stone-based etymologies pepper the human body. One of the skeleton’s densest bones is a rock-hard wedge of skull housing the middle and inner ear. It is named the petrous bone, from the Greek ‘petra’ meaning ‘rock’. Petroleum is thus ‘rock oil’ while to be petrified is to be turned to stone.

In a move of breathtaking unimaginativeness, Swedish chemist Arfvedson named a new element isolated from stone ‘lithium’, from another Greek word for stone: ‘lithos’. Earth’s uppermost mantle and stony crust is named the lithosphere. Printing using inscribed metal plates is still called lithography (‘stone drawing’), harking back to its origins of using stone slabs. The inner ear, behind its stony petrous bone, houses tiny calcium carbonate otoliths (‘ear stones’) to whose rattling you owe your sense of gravity and acceleration in space.

Finally, our English word ‘stone’ derives from the Proto-Germanic word ‘stainaz’. Germans morphed it to ‘Stein’, nowadays the common abbreviation of ‘Steinkrug’ (stone jug) for a drinking vessel. Before glass, steins were commonly made of stone or some sort of rock-based ceramic, hence the stony etymology. Albert Einstein’s surname, then, was literally ‘one stone’. This no doubt earned him some hefty schoolyard bullying. Let’s hope he wasn’t sporting a ‘calculus rocks!’ badge too.

 

Calculi being used to calculate on a counting board. (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e0/Rechentisch.png)

 

 

A gallbladder filled with gallstones. Ironically, in a kidney dish. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallstone#/media/File:Gallstones.JPG)

Writing with style

To communicate clearly and well, writing should be grammatical and consistent. Sloppy writing makes an audience work harder to understand the message; it is also likely to make them wonder whether the author should be relied upon in the first place.

No matter what your topic – from astronomy to zirconium – following writing conventions will help your communication.

Thankfully, the kind folk at Biotext (http://www.biotext.com.au ), a leading Australian science communication company, have devoted countless hours to compiling the Australian manual of scientific style (AMOSS). They describe it as a ‘key resource for the Australian scientific and communications community. It brings together a wealth of information on scientific writing, style and design, to support the presentation of clear and correct scientific communication.’

So here are AMOSS’s answers to 10 style and grammar questions frequently asked by writers.

  1. Ten or 10?

‘Use numerals (digits) to express all quantities – whether small or large – in running text.’

  1. Fertilize or fertilise, etc.?
    ‘In Australia, we use ise and yse endings, not ize or –yze’.
  1. Should I put a space between the number and the unit?
    ‘Separate an alphabetic symbol from a number with a space. A nonalphabetic symbol is usually closed up to the number.’ So, you write 4 g and 28 mm, but 25% and refer to an angle of 45°. You also write ‘25 °C’.
  1. ‘sulfur or sulphur?
    ‘The element name is sulfur (lower case, except when starting a sentence).’ Compounds of sulfur, such as sulfuric acid, take the ‘f’.
  1. How do I describe the time?
    12:01 pm, for example
  1. What about year spans?
    ‘1998–99, not 1998/99’
  1. e.g. or eg?
    ‘eg’, and thus ‘ie’ and ‘etc’
  1. When do I use a semi-colon?
    ‘To link two closely related clauses that could otherwise be separate sentences. We submitted the paper to Virology; this was more appropriate for the topic than Cell.’
  1. Single or double quotation marks?
    Single, ‘smart’ quotation marks (‘ ’) are used.
  1. Do I use a semi-colon to end each bullet point in a list that starts with a sentence?
    ‘Use lower case for the first word and punctuate only with a full stop at the end of the list.’

What are your style and grammar questions?

 

On erosion, explosions and gopher waffles

By Sarah Holper, guest blogger

Plurals need not end in ‘s’ as all schoolchildren with teeth (to cite two examples) know. What’s more, plenty of singular nouns are divisible: try replacing ‘freedom’ in the following quote by Ronald Reagan’s quote with ‘lemon tart’:

‘Freedom is indivisible – there is no “s” on the end of it. You can erode freedom, diminish it, but you cannot divide it and choose to keep “some freedoms” while giving up others.’

The sentiment behind Ronald Reagan’s speech perhaps excuses its non sequitur basis. Yet in an Administration where the Chief of Staff’s name – Donald Reagan – differed from the President’s by one letter, grammatical precision was surely more important than usual.

According to Reagan, freedom, like embankments, can be eroded. Erosion is the transportation of sand, soil or rock between locations due to surface processes. The Colorado River boasts the Grand Canyon for its eroding efforts. Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos wobble skywards thanks to wind stripping sandstone off a sturdy limestone skeleton. More abstractly, erosion can describe the undermining of any institution by insidious forces, such as the erosion of accurate grammar by politicians using flowery prose.

The Oxford English Dictionary cites a 1612 medical text as erosion’s debut: ‘This infirmitie proceedeth from gnawing and eroding humours’. It is unclear exactly what ‘infirmity’ is under discussion, though syphilis is always a safe bet for any historical deforming illness. ‘Erosion’ stems from the Latin ‘erodere’ meaning ‘to gnaw away, consume’. Divide the word further (a possibility, lo and behold, despite the word not ending in ‘s’) and the etymological roots are revealed: ‘ex-‘ means ‘away’; ‘rodere’ means ‘to gnaw’.

Rodents – gnawing mammals like mice and gophers with continuously growing teeth – are thusly dubbed from the same Latin origin. Gophers’ waffle-shaped burrows earned them their name from the French for waffle: ‘une gaufre’. Confusingly, the masculine form ‘un gaufre’ means ‘gopher’ in French. If ordering a gaufre fresh off the griddle iron, be sure to clarify with le garçon to avoid a disappointing meal of fried batter instead of juicy gopher meat. Or vice versa.

‘Ex-‘ as a suffix meaning ‘away’ or ‘out’ is rife in scientific parlance. Exothermic reactions are characterised by taking away heat. An exothermic reaction gone awry may involve an explosion – from the Latin ‘explaudere’ meaning to ‘drive off by clapping’. Rowdy Roman audiences would scornfully ‘out clap’ weak actors. Indeed, the actor would ‘go off with a bang’. From that Latin ‘plaudere’ we get our words ‘applaud’ and ‘plaudit’. A reasonable hypothesis may be considered ‘plausible’, literally meaning ‘acceptable, worthy of applause’.

Intensive agricultural practices have sparked an explosion of erosion. Over-grazed land stripped of soil-anchoring trees is a prime erosion target. Now exposed, quality topsoil is whisked away to leave salty, low-nutrient soil. Mulching, encouraging vegetation and reducing runoff with water tanks are all plausible solutions to combat erosion.

As a B-Grade actor in ‘King’s Row’, Reagan quipped: ‘Alright. I know. I’m always wrong. I always have been, ever since I can remember’. He may have been wrong about plurals, but he was right about the dangers of erosion.

Keeping it real and regional: communication to get Victoria climate-ready

This article first appeared in the December 2016 edition of Eingana, the journal of Environment Education Victoria.

 

How do you tell a Melbournian what their city’s climate will be like in the year 2070? You could explain that, if the world gets its act together and manages to lower its emissions of greenhouse gases, average temperature will rise by about 1.5°C. If emissions continue to be high, the temperature will rise by about 2.6°C.

Then you could say that extreme temperatures are likely to increase at a similar rate to average temperatures. Melbourne will endure more hot days, those hot days will become significantly hotter, and warm spells will last longer.

If their eyes are yet to glaze over, you could add that winter and spring rainfall are likely to be less than today, and that the frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall events will rise.

But how do you really convey what does all this mean? What will be the impact of this sort of temperature rise and rainfall reduction? There has to be an easier way of quickly communicating this complex, important information.

Thanks to CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, there is. You can just say that in 2070, the climate of Melbourne will be more like the current climate of Adelaide. Most people know that Adelaide is hotter and drier than Melbourne, so they should immediately get a feel for what Melbourne’s climate will be like in future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Photo: Paul Holper]

That city comparison comes from a communication tool called ‘climate analogues’. You will find it – and much, much more – on the Climate Change in Australia web site. The web site contains all the information underpinning the national climate projections released by the agencies in 2015.

The tool matches projected rainfall and maximum temperature with the current climate experienced in another location for 20-year periods centred on 2030, 2050 and 2090. You can find climate analogues for hundreds of Australian locations.

Regional climate change

The CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology projections are the most comprehensive ever prepared for Australia. However, their use at an intra-state/regional scale is limited.

The Victorian Government commissioned CSIRO to prepare regional climate projections for the state. The government were then faced with the challenge of conveying this information – so it informed people about their changing climate, explained the likely impacts of climate change, and described how best to adapt.

The Victorian Government contracted me and colleagues Karen Pearce from Bloom Communication and Rohan Hamden, a climate adaptation specialist, to prepare communication products that met this challenge.

The project represented the perfect opportunity to put into action some of the latest thinking and advice on communicating complex science.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lakes Entrance in Gippsland, one of the regions for which the Victorian Government has prepared climate change brochures. The other regions are Greater Melbourne, Barwon South-West, the Grampians, Loddon Mallee, and Hume. [Photo: Paul Holper]

 

The psychology of communication: Here and how; not gloom and doom

Decades ago, science agencies began employing information officers, communicators, public relations people and the like to pump out the facts. These staff wrote media releases, newspaper features, brochures, pamphlets and books describing scientific, technical and environmental findings.

The approach was based on the ‘empty bucket’ or ‘deficit’ model. It assumes that people have information gaps in their brains ready to be filled with facts, and that if a little fact pushing doesn’t work, then increasing the flow of brochures, newspaper articles, and radio talks will help.

The problem is that the deficit model has limited effectiveness. Often it fails completely, having the opposite effect of what was intended.

Climate change is an example of the failure of the deficit model. Despite massive communication efforts, a considerable proportion of people still do not accept that climate change is caused by human activities. A 2014 CSIRO survey (Leviston et al., 2015) found that 8 per cent of Australians don’t think that climate change is happening, 8 per cent have no idea whether it is happening or not, and 39 per cent of Australians say that it is happening, solely due to natural causes. Brulle et al. (2012) suggest that climate science has little direct influence on public opinion on climate change in the United States.

Propagation of more and more information is not the way to engage people with complex issues like climate change. Social scientists have long realised that inclusion and dialogue are essential.

Dr Sander van der Linden is a Social Psychology lecturer at Cambridge University. In a paper entitled ‘Improving public engagement with climate change: five “best practice” insights from psychological science’, (van der Linden et al., 2015), he provides recommendations on this topic. The five insights apply more widely than climate change.

Paraphrased, they are:

  • our brains value experience over analysis;
  • we are social and mimic peer behaviour;
  • the here and now is more important than something that may (or may not) affect us profoundly in future;
  • we like to win; and
  • human motivation is powerful.

Applying these insights to communication means that we should:

  • highlight personal experiences and local examples;
  • describe effective local action;
  • emphasise local changes;
  • accentuate the positive (for example, reducing emissions equals cleaner air); and
  • seek to build a better tomorrow.

So rather than ineffective messages of gloom and doom, the more effective communication approach relies on familiarity, hope and optimism

Climate-ready Victoria

The Victorian Government commissioned six brochures, covering each of the state’s regions, and an overall state-wide publication. The set, entitled Climate-ready Victoria carry the description: ‘Getting climate-ready involves understanding how climate change is likely to affect you and your region, and working out ways to adapt.’

We sought to develop content that:

  • has a clear, positive, empowering message/narrative;
  • provides a clear regional context in terms of climate, economic and demographic information;
  • highlights regional impacts of a changing climate; and
  • showcases real examples of climate-ready actions that are already under way.

We also catered for the many ways that people interpret information by incorporating:

  • clear, plain English and textual signposts;
  • pictograms and infographics to provide clear visual cues and summaries; and
  • different styles of graphs and tables to convey data.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presenting technical information in a variety of ways can help people absorb information. The Victorian climate change brochures use a variety of graphics to convey information.

 

Throughout the process, the content development was refined by feedback from stakeholders and scientists to ensure that the information was accessible, useable and relevant to the particular region, but also that the underlying science was not lost in translation.

The brochures included the climate-related risks for primary production, infrastructure, tourism, health and the community, and the environment. They describe potential impacts on each sector and relevant adaptation measures.

Climate risks for primary production include lower rainfall, more heat days and increased fire weather. Potential impacts are likely to include earlier flowering times, changed distribution of pests and diseases and reduced water security. Adaptation measures could include considering enterprise diversification, different crop varieties and sowing times and regularly accessing long- and medium-range outlooks, as well as short range weather forecasts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warmer conditions will bring adaptation challenges for agriculture. [Photo: Paul Holper]

Supporting the brochures are regional data sheets for a range of climate variables, presented annually and by season.

‘The brochures present great information about climate change that is easy to read and understand. They help start the conversation about how the potential impacts of climate change could affect different industries and business, especially for understanding the potential risks and whether these should be considered in budgets. They also provide great references to where to get further information,’ said Sandi Bowles, Sustainability Programs Officer, Port Phillip Region, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

Ben Craven from Emergency Management Victoria, said ‘The brochures have been a valuable resource, combining all the relevant information into a single, easy to understand source. There’s the right amount of detail to bring people up to speed on the projected impacts of climate change. This information is useful in helping us understand Victoria’s needs for the future.’

 

References and further reading

Brulle, R., Carmichael, J. and Craig Jenkins, J. (2012) Shifting public opinion on climate change: an empirical assessment of factors influencing concern over climate change in the U.S., 2002–2010. Journal of Climatic Change.

Leviston, Z., Greenhill, M., & Walker, I. (2015) Australians attitudes to climate change and adaptation: 2010-2014. CSIRO, Australia. Available at https://publications.csiro.au/rpr/download?pid=csiro:EP158008&dsid=DS2 https://publications.csiro.au/rpr/download?pid=csiro:EP158008&dsid=DS2

van der Linden, S., Maibach, E., & Leiserowitz, A. (2015) Improving public engagement with climate change: Five “best practice” insights from psychological science. Perspectives on Psychological Science.

 

The climate change projections for Victorian are based on material from the Climate Change in Australia website, produced by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, at www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au.

The Climate-ready Victoria brochures and data sheets are available at www.climatechange.vic.gov.au/understand, under the ‘Being Climate Ready’ tab.

 

 

2017 AMOS conference: What to expect

This article first appeared in The Bulletin of the Australian Meteorological & Oceanographic Society, vol 3, 2016.

 

Canberra’s average February maximum temperature is 28 °C. So that sounds just about the perfect time to visit the nation’s capital to converse on climate, opine on oceanography and wonder about the weather.

Each year, the AMOS conference seems to get bigger. The number of abstracts submitted indicates that we can expect to be rubbing shoulders with around 500 colleagues at the 2017 event.

The conference will be at the Australia National University’s Manning Clark Centre, a from 7 to 10 February 2017.

The Monday before the conference, 6 February, will feature workshops on topics as varied as communication, software, and climate projections data, so consider spending a week in the ACT.

The list of high-profile international speakers is headed by David Grimes, World Meteorological Organization President and Canadian Meteorological Service Director. Also present will be Laura Furgione, NOAA Weather Services Deputy Assistant Administrator and US National Weather Service Deputy Director.

Here are just some of the fascinating topics that leap out from the list of accepted abstracts:

  • The impact of the Great Barrier Reef on local climate
  • Improved monitoring and prediction of fire weather
  • Increased population exposure to climate change-driven precipitation extremes
  • Record temperatures set in Australia in recent years to become the norm by 2030
  • Future snowfall probabilities for Alpine Australia
  • Indigenous seasons of north-east Arnhem Land
  • Heatwave forecasts
  • One thousand years of past hydrologic variability
  • Hail and lightning climatology
  • Impacts of 1.5 degree warming on the occurrence of extreme El Nino events
  • Urban heat mitigation strategies to cool Melbourne
  • Marine heatwaves and their drivers
  • The strongest, longest and largest marine extreme events

We know from experience just how much work is involved in organising a large conference, and we can tell you that our Executive Officer, Jeanette Dargaville is doing a superb job of managing tis complex event.

Working closely with Jeanette is the Local Organising Committee of Clem Davis, Mary Voice and Bob Cechet.

Special thanks to conference sponsors: Bureau of Meteorology and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, Vaisala, NIWA, NCI and CSIRO. The Meteorological Society of New Zealand is an event partner, and the ANZ Climate Forum, American Meteorological Society and Scientell are conference supporters.

 

 

20 Top Twitter (and social media) tips

These pointers come from Twitter science social media stars ‪@AstroKatie, ‪@EuanRitchie1 and ‪@astroduff who were panellists during an Innovation week event hosted by @miss_toni on 11 November 2016, at the Royal Society in Melbourne.

‪Hash tags: #SciSocialites ‪#innovationwk

  1. Social media panelThe advantage of Twitter is that you can engage with people who would otherwise never engage with you. You can have ‘conversations’, for example with scientists and actors such as Brian Schmidt, Stephen Fry, or Will Anderson.
  2. Twitter is very inclusive. If you are a scientist wanting to ensure your research has impact, you can reach people with particular interests, such as farmers. ‘Making my science matter’ is the motivation. You can also reach journalists and other influencers.
  3. You can use Twitter for communication; advocacy; and highlighting your work, yourself, your field, and your agency.
  4. It’s most important to choose the right hashtags to maximise exposure and impact.
  5. Social media allows researchers to bring science to the public, bypassing pay-walled journals
  6. Warning: Current and prospective employers will check out your social media!
  7. Dealing with trolls – just block them and don’t engage beyond a succinct polite message.
  8. Consider muting people rather than blocking.
  9. Sharing your own perspective can be more effective that trying to change someone’s views directly. Try to remain calm and supply accurate information. People might not agree, but there are lots of examples of people listening and acknowledging the response of others.
  10. Interacting and being multi-dimensional, and responding to people will encourage people to engage with you.
  11. There is software that will send your material out to different social media platforms in one go, such as Buffer (https://buffer.com).
  12. You never know what a tweet can lead to. A researcher spoke of being concerned about a mooted change to environmental legislation. He tweeted some key researchers, urging action. This was a public discussion and it resulted in a significant research paper.
  13. Commit time to tweet. One panellists said he spent at least 30 minutes each day tweeting.
  14. Social media represents a great opportunity for organisations to engage very swiftly and to respond to issues.
  15. Be aware that social media can be an ‘echo chamber’ where lots of people just self-select those with identical views.
  16. Twitter is probably in decline. Instagram may be rising.
  17. Facebook is more closed than Twitter. It is a good medium for a distinctive community, where you can keep material for perpetuity.
  18. Snapchat is popular especially among younger people; Tumblr is popular among uni students.
  19. Your social media choice will be dictated by you knowing your audience and your communication objectives.
  20. To build your Twitter profile: Follow thought leaders and influencers; always include your twitter handle in presentations; be personal, have a ‘voice’; build trust; tailor your message to the audience.