National Science Week 2024

Marvel at the groundbreaking science and innovation happening at UNSW.

graphics for 2024 science festival

SciFest 2024

Friday 16 August, 4pm-8pm
Roundhouse, UNSW Sydney 

The festival that brings science to life – throwing open laboratory doors and transporting science into the everyday. Head back to science class with interactive activities, games, live stage shows and talks that showcase the wonders of science, technology, engineering, maths, medicine, and the arts.

Designed to appeal to all ages, from curious kids to inquisitive adults, the festival features an array of activities that will spark imagination and curiosity. 

Don't miss this interactive and immersive science adventure the whole family can enjoy at the Roundhouse, UNSW Sydney, during National Science Week.

What's on?

Communicating Science

Conducting scientific research is important. Talking about science and research is also important. 

But for a scientist, giving a lecture at a scientific conference is not the same as talking to a friend, or a business partner, or the general public about their work. This is where science communication comes in. 

A key part of science communication is distilling lots of information in a clear and accessible way, as well as knowing what the most important message is for your audience.

It can be very rewarding to see the moment someone has understood a complex scientific topic thanks to a clear explanation. See the joy in our scientists when we challenge them to summarise their research in 12 words.  

From humour, to metaphors, these experts have also provided some of their top tips for science communication.  

Kelly Clemens

Associate Professor in the School of Psychology, Associate Dean Impact Partnerships in the Faculty of Science

12 words: How drugs of abuse change your brain, behaviour and your DNA (11)

Why is science communication important in your role?

“Talking about our science is fundamental to our role as scientists, if we don't tell anyone what we are working on, that new knowledge will never spread and create change in thought or practice. You never know who is listening and how that knowledge might influence someone's life. Also, much Science in Australia is funded publicly, so we have an obligation to tell them what we do with their money, and to show that we are using it wisely - there is immense trust and privilege in this interaction for us as scientists, we need to take that responsibility seriously.”

What is your top tip for effectively discussing your work with the general public?

“Keep it conversational, imagine you are just having a chat.”

What advice would you give to someone that feels that science communication is out of their comfort zone?

“Like anything, it takes practice. Be prepared to take things step-by-step, be open to all the different types of advice and figure out what works for you.”

Indrani Mukherjee

Dr, Lecturer and Researcher, School of Biological, Earth and Environment Sciences

12 words: I look at the chemistry of rocks to travel back in time (12) 

Why is science communication important in your role? 

“Science communication is key in my field of geoscience to ensure we have the next generation of skilled geoscientists to solve issues related to the future of our planet. Misinformation, bad publicity and general lack of awareness of the broad discipline of Earth Sciences (other than just the mining aspects) has led to a steady decline in geoscience enrolments across Australian universities. The onus is now on us to articulate the importance of our work to the younger generation to reinvigorate their passion to study our beautiful planet.”

What is your top tip for effectively discussing your work with the general public? 

“Humour and using content that is familiar!”

Why is science communication important in your role? 

“Science communication can be in written and oral form, so one can always choose which media they are most comfortable with. Alternatively, if science communication is not one's forte, then ensuring their science is disseminated in the public is key. That can be done via strong collaborations with people who are skilled communicators.”

Joe Cincotta

Interdisciplinary HDR student, Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Science) and the School of Computer Science and Engineering (Engineering)

12 words: I'm using artificial intelligence for supporting animal welfare and wildlife conservation (11)

Why is science communication important in your role?

“After working in digital advertising, financial services and startups for over 20 years, I found an opportunity to use my computer science skills to help in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. The more I learn about fauna and the natural environment we inhabit, the more I see we desperately need understand our impact. This has become the focus of my research. For me, effective science communication is sparking interest, curiosity and inspiration to use computer science and AI for positive social and environmental impact.”

What is your top tip for effectively discussing your work with the general public?

“Invest in a diverse portfolio of metaphors (see what I did there?). Metaphors allow you to connect very complex ideas with an audience by connecting to their own lived experience. If you can develop the habit allowing your mind to wander and find analogous relationships between your research and simple everyday concepts – you can save these for later.”

What advice would you give to someone that feels that science communication is out of their comfort zone?

“Fulfilment doesn’t come from our comfort zone. Effecting positive change doesn’t come from our comfort zone. Growth doesn’t come from our comfort zone. I’m autistic and I will never be comfortable in front of an audience, or public speaking. Find your voice. Get comfortable with discomfort.”

Sammy Burke

Dr Samantha Burke, PhD graduate from the school of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences (BEES)

12 words: How coral reefs are changing with ocean warming and climate change (11)

Why is science communication important in your role?

"I believe science communication is a necessary part of science research. When I was first taught science, my teachers spoke about the scientific method to do research, and communication was always the last step. Without communicating your research, the only person to know this new, vital information is you.

In marine ecology, much of research is done with the purpose of informing conservation initiatives. However, conservation strategies won't be enacted without the right drive, and this drive often comes from public interest. When I can show the public the findings of my research, it helps build support for necessary action by those with the power to put conservation strategies into place."

What is your top tip for effectively discussing your work with the general public?

"Meet people where they are. In academic circles, it’s relatively easy to find speaking opportunities such as university seminars and conferences. While these are great experiences which help to develop speaking and presentation skills, it requires different skills to help someone who hasn’t thought deeply about science in years to understand the complexities of your research. You’ll need to remember to explain some ideas that are often known by your peers, but those outside of your field probably forgot years ago. Additionally, these academic speaking opportunities often don’t reach the public. Finding opportunities which advertise widely and are at times people who don't work in your field can attend, like Pint of Science, are crucial. Appearing on a radio show to reach workers on their daily commute, producing content on social media, and seeking ways to get involved in local events are all ways I’ve tried to meet the public where it’s convenient for them."

What advice would you give to someone who feels that science communication is out of their comfort zone?

"Let your passion show! It’s much easier for people to get excited about your research when you show how excited you are about it. Anecdotal stories about the experiment that went wrong, field work shenanigans, and why you got inspired to enter your field all have key areas anyone can relate to. Remember that no one will judge you for showing that you take interest in something different from them. And, in cases where someone doesn't share your passion, that's okay! We're all different people with different interests. It's important to do what you can to reflect your passion and respect when others don't share it."