By Gonzalo M. Estavillo – Plant Science Education Representative (2013-2015)
The Australian Society of Plant Scientists (ASPS ) is a scientific society promoting all areas of plant related research. ASPS nurtures the next generation of plant scientists and has the potential to educate the non-specialized audience about the importance of plants and plant research. Our society offers a unifying representation of plant scientists across Australia that collaborate with international plant science organizations linked through the Global Plant Council.
It has been highlighted that “the planet needs more plant scientists” to meet future demands for food and fibre, an issue that appears further compounded by an increase in the average age of plant scientists in some parts of the world. Future plant scientists will need to be equipped with a deep knowledge of the plant sciences and armed with cutting edge technologies to address future climate change issues that challenge food security and plant biodiversity. As importantly, sustainable agricultural systems will need to operate with less arable land and water resources. Scientific societies such as ASPS have the potential to ignite new interest in plant science and help attract younger minds to identify new solutions to current and emerging problems.
The “Plant Science Education Representative” coordinates and promotes the education and outreach efforts for ASPS. In addition to the “Education Rep”, six “Discipline Representatives” are responsible to drive agendas in specific research areas in close coordination with the Executive Committee.
The Education Rep is commissioned important tasks for science outreach, recognition and communication, in addition to the general Discipline Representative duties. For example, the Education Rep organizes two Education sessions at the annual biology conference ComBio along with the corresponding Representative for the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. These sessions include a lunch workshops featuring high profile speakers, such as the Chief Scientist or professional science communicators, as well as symposia concurrent with scientific sessions, where the keynote speakers are teaching prize awardees.
The ASPS Teaching Award recognises innovative contributions to undergraduate teaching. The Education Rep chairs an ad hoc committee composed by an external teaching academic and a student to rank the applications and recommend the most outstanding one as the award recipient. The Education Representative is also responsible for continuous development and maintenance of the Teaching section of the ASPS website.
Different Social media platforms allows ASPS to interact with its members and communicate plant sciences to non-specialized audiences. These tools, and current initiatives such as FoPD and National Science Week provide excellent outreach opportunities to effectively communicate the importance of plant research to our society while enhancing the profile of the ASPS and its members. Education and effective communication of our science are the means to inspire the new generation of plant biologists.