Day one of Science & Technology Australia’s twenty-second Science meets Parliament was a superb start to what promises to be an incredible week.
Our delegates began the day being warmly welcomed to Country by Ngunawal Elder Uncle Wally Bell, with the message to “respect Country, listen to Country and to show respect for others on Country.”
Officially opening the event, Science Minister Melissa Price MP thanked scientists and technologists for their role amid huge challenges – and for bringing their deep expertise to policymakers. “You are key to tackling the diverse challenges facing Australia today.”
Shadow Science Minister Richard Marles MP welcomed delegates with the message that science and technology are key to building a more complex economy and where lies modernity, lies prosperity. “There’s never been a more important time to be part of the scientific community.”
Opening Keynote: Laureate Professor Peter Doherty
In a virtual fireside chat, Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty urged scientists to forge careers with deep public impact by always being clear on “what you’re about and who you are”. He noted how important it was for the world of science to engage “wisely and well” with those who doubt the science: “You can’t convince everybody, but you can engage everyone with respect”.
New to Canberra: How the Parliament, the Public Service, and Policymaking Work
Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources secretary, David Fredericks, urged delegates to “find the champions of STEM” within the public service with the reminder that to effectively shape policy, forging enduring relationships of trust with decision-makers is key. “At its heart, policy is a people business.”
To influence policy, Digi Managing Director Sunita Bose urged delegates to “find out who is the decision-maker” and “make yourself an invaluable friend of the process”.
Accenture Managing Director Amit Singh urged delegates to bring small, digestible facts to a meeting: “You know how they always say you should never take a knife to a gunfight? You should always take a killer fact to a policy fight.”
Australian Technology Network of Universities Executive Director Luke Sheehy reminded delegates to be succinct and draw on the right level of evidence. “Data and facts are absolutely beautiful – but if there are too many, they get lost.”
Our own Science & Technology Australia Secretary Jas Chambers reminded delegates to “read the room”, charm and disarm, and tap expert networks.
Practice Your Pitch
To explain science in the most compelling way, former Science & Technology Australia Vice President Tanya Ha noted that “passion is key, know your audience, and make it relatable”.
Cooperative Research Australia CEO Jane O’Dwyer reminded delegates to “practice, practice, practice our pitches”, be yourself (fun, quirky, authentic, memorable), and answer the key question: “Why should anyone care?”
ATSE Policy Director Peter Derbyshire told delegates to “be succinct, make it a conversation not a lecture, and read the play”.
Science & Technology Australia Vice-President, and Session Chair, Dr Anita Goh reminded delegates that “brains love stories” and urged them “to people-ify our material”.
Finally, in her keynote to the welcome reception and speed networking event, Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley reminded delegates that the work of science was crucial to the nation.
“Be open to diverse ideas and perspectives – because that’s crucial for forging new opportunities.”