Increasing Women’s Participation at Academic Conferences

A new study by James Davenport finds that men are more likely to ask questions during conference presentations especially when a man chairs the session. Davenport and a group of volunteers collected data for 225 astronomy talks at the AAAS American Astronomical Society conference. Seventy-eight of these presentations were by women speakers (34.7%) and 147 (65.3%) were by male speakers. A total of 634 questions were recorded during these talks, with only a quarter of the questions asked by women (153 questions) and almost 76% of questions asked by men. Continue reading Increasing Women’s Participation at Academic Conferences

Science on Google+ for the Win!

Drawing of protesters hold signs saying 'science serving the common good' and others

Here is a terrific, in-depth look at the passionate and dedicated discussions that take place every day on Google+ communities. Thanks to journalist Simon Owens for delving deeper into what makes G+ so special, and laying to rest the tired old argument that “Google Plus is a ghost town.”

Simon quotes Google product manager Danielle Buckley who says of G+ communities “People come up with really interesting ways of talking to each other that are community defined and make them really special.” 

I was interviewed for this piece, representing our tireless Science on Google+ Moderation team. Simon highlights our collective curation effort as well as the truly exceptional science posts by our members. I was super thrilled to see Simon chose to feature some of my favourite posters, Johnathan Chung, Jonah Miller as well as our fun ice spike post, and several others by our Community members.

Thank you to all our members who make our community one of the top 10 largest communities on Google+ as well as an amazing place for smart science discussion! Simon highlights some of our favourite posts by our community members. Continue reading Science on Google+ for the Win!

The Science of Colour

What’s the science behind the famous impressionism painting style of pointillism? I’ll expand on the colour theory behind this style, how it was influenced by science, and how this art has, in turn, influenced neuroscience, the study of visual perception.

Georges Seurat - Pointillism
Georges Seurat – Sitting Model, Profile, 1887, Close up of Pointillism brush stroke

Continue reading The Science of Colour

Explaining Ebola

Most of what the media is reporting about the epidemic is incorrect. Ebola is not airborne. It is transmitted by close contact with blood and bodily fluids and secretions. This is why Ebola is spreading in developing regions in Western Africa that have inadequate healthcare.

I co-dhosted this Science on Goolge+ event where we spoke with virology expert Professor  Vincent Racaniello and Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Dr Tara C. Smith. They talk about what Ebola is, how it’s transmitted, how the current epidemic might be contained, and we also talk about some of of the media-driven misconceptions about the virus. We discuss why an outbreak in developed nations is unlikely and we cover the socio-economic factors sustaining the epidemic in poorer nations. 

Vincent is a professor of virology at the University of Columbia and is a fantastic science communicator. Tara is an epidemiologist at Kent State University who has written numerous articles debunking some of the myths surrounding Ebola.

Why Ecology and Environmental Science is Everyone’s Business

I’ve summarised one of our Science on Google+ Hangouts on Air. Our guests discussed three fascinating fields of ecological study: air quality; marine life; and extreme weather events.

Our most recent Science on Google+ Posterside Hangout on Ecology and Environmental Science was excellent and well worth watching in full. It highlighted the intersections between climate change the social consequences of environmental damage. The presentations covered the measurement of air quality; disease outbreak amongst fish; and the relationship between extreme thunderstorms and global warming. Below I give a detailed summary of the points I was most interested in as a social scientist (I will do the same for our previous hangouts).

I urge you to watch the presentations in full and comment on the talks from your perspectives. I am particularly interested in different social science reactions to these talks: how can we make a contribution to weather and marine sciences using the ecological frameworks and methods described by the presenters?

Environmental advocacy is truly an interdisciplinary endeavour that requires both critical public debate and empirical solutions. This includes improved data collection and innovative responses that connect scientific theory to social policy and practice. A collaborative and proactive approach to climate change is not assured. Australia recently changed Government and one of the first tasks our new Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, put into effect was to dismantle the Climate Change Commission, which was led by eminent scientist Tim Flannery. (Thankfully the work continues thanks to crowd-source funding.) Abbott also removed the position of Science Minister (along with other adverse social policy shifts). Climate change policies in some other countries are in a better state, but many nations remain reactionary to environmental disasters. For these reasons, ecology and environmental science require our full participation.

Continue reading Why Ecology and Environmental Science is Everyone’s Business

Citizen Science: Getting Students into STEM

Very excited to be co-hosting this Science on Google+ event. We are chatting with paleontologists Jason Osborne and Dr Aaron Alford about their efforts to improve citizen science. In particular, we’ll talk about outreach to students through data collection. I especially love their work that gives youth from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to participate in practical science, including a chance to publish their findings. 

Continue reading Citizen Science: Getting Students into STEM

Science Rules Google+


Science on Google+ is a Community that I help to moderate. With close to 230,000 members, our Community is the largest science community on Google+ as well as one of the top 10 biggest communities on Google+. Social Times also named us as one of the fastest growing communities on that social network, noting that Google+ has a more active membership than LinkedIn, Twitter and Tumblr. The fastest growth ha sbeen amongst people interested in science.

Our Moderation team are all qualified scientists encompassing the major branches of the sciences: Applied, Earth, Life, Physical and Social.

Our aim is to elevate the quality of science discussion on social media, so that we’re going beyond surface level science news stories. We encourage our members to write about peer reviewed science in an engaging way to reach a broader audience. We regularly work to debunk junk science and to dispel myths and hype perpetuated by the media. We also have sections to discuss cross-disciplinary issues such as policy and practice, and a dedicated space for the public to ask questions of scientists.

I curate the Social Sciences stream. If you’re interested in reading, writing or chatting about science, join us! 

Video: Science on Google+ Community Reaches 20K Members

This is so exciting! Our Science on Google+ Community is about to reach a landmark 200,000 members! The Curators will host a celebratory Hangout on Air. I’ll be there – join us so  you can meet our team. Hear about our favourite posts and also pick up some tips on how to write science for a public audience!

During our Hangout On Air, you’ll get a chance to meet the moderators and curators who dedicate so much time and energy into making sure that good, quality science content rises to the top in the community. 

After we hear from the moderators on who they are, we’ll have a discussion on what the curator team looks at for community posts to get put on the Curator’s ChoiceCheck us out!


Visual Sociology as Public Outreach

People walk across Circular Quay in Sydney on a sunny day

There are many things that some people may take for granted because we are habituated not to notice, or because there’s simply no room for us to question the things we see every day. Who can we ask about trees that we pass on the way to work? Why are does one particular species grow in certain places? Can we make better use of its properties? Sure we can look things up on the internet, but how might a biological scientist explain the world around us?

What about sociological phenomena: how do people queue on the escalators at your local train station? What about the silences in group conversations: who speaks, who is quiet, how are bodies organised around the table, and what might this tell us about culture, gender and class? When you go to a gallery, is there a fair representation of artistic excellence, or are certain groups left off the canvas? 

Visual sociology describes methodology sociologists use to collect visual data, as a way to interpret or analyse social phenomena. This includes creating photos, videos, comics, art and other visual media in order to illustrate theoretical and methodological concepts. Alternatively, visual sociology can involve asking participants to create these visual data to represent their experiences or worldview. Visual sociology can also be used to convey research insights, to support delivery of policy and public program improvements, and create social change.

Let’s see some examples of visual sociology.

Continue reading Visual Sociology as Public Outreach