Welcome to Phytogen for September 2019. It is getting closer to our annual meeting. A draft timetable can be viewed on the ASPS2019 website. Abstracts for posters (only) are still open until 30th September. Registration is still open until then too. You can register and submit your poster abstracts by clicking on this link. We look forward to seeing you in November. It will be a busy month for science as Science meets Parliament will also be occurring.
Science meets Parliament is designed to bring together decision makers and Australia’s leading STEM professionals, to promote the role of science, technology, engineering and mathematics – and the valuable part these sectors can play in politics.
This will be the 20th year and ASPS will be represented by Tracey Cuin and Ricky Milne. Tracey works at the University of Tasmania. She is researching action potential signals through plants. Fast responses to an external threat depend on the rapid transmission of signals. Ricky works at CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Canberra. He is researching resistance to fungal pathogens, and exploiting the transferability of this resistance to other economically important crops. Fungal diseases such as rust pose a constant threat to global grain production.
Each year more than 200 scientists, technologists and STEM professionals take part in this unique event over two very full days. On Day One delegates hear from leaders in policy; media; science and technology; and advocacy. They share their rich insights through panel discussions, presentations and workshops. Day One then concludes with a Gala Dinner which traditionally sees the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader present their position and plans for science, technology and innovation in Australia.
On Day Two, delegates meet face-to-face with Parliamentarians across the political spectrum. It’s a chance for scientists and technologists to share their enthusiasm for science and information about their work and discipline. This is a rare opportunity to speak directly to politicians and is the highlight for most who attend. Delegates will also have the chance to be part of the live audience for the National Press Club Address and to attend a session of Parliamentary Question Time. Additionally, delegates get ample opportunities to meet other men and women working in STEM – from early career researchers through to senior decision-makers. Below are reports from Janet Wheeler, La Trobe University and Mike Haydon, Melbourne University who attended in 2018.
Janet: In Feb 2018 I represented ASPS at Science meets Parlianment. It was a whirlwind 2 days with plenty of networking, seminars, workshops, meetings and photo opportunities.
The first day was spent at the National Gallery where we heard from Dr Cathy Foley, CSIRO Chief Scientist who highlighted the responsibility we have to ensure our elected leaders have the opportunity to access our expertise. Science and technology effect the available solutions. Dr Foley also shared advice on how to hone your pitch and shape the discussions we would be having the following day with members of parliament.
The next morning we made our way through security at Parliament House and saw “Chuck the shrimp” embeded in the foyer floor. I met with Graham Perrett Federal Member for Moreton (Qld) and highlighted the significant contribution plants make to the Australian ecomomy and contibution plant science makes to current and future challenges.
Another highlight for me was seeing Question Time in person. It happened to be an exciting day as Barnaby Joyce was a day or so away from steping down as Deputy Prime Minister. So theatrical.
Mike Haydon (second from right) with Nick Champion (middle) and Rachel Burton (second from left).
Mike: I had the pleasure of representing the ASPS as a delegate at Science meets Parliament in February 2018, a major annual event organised by Science and Technology Australia. I enjoy the circus that is Australian politics and so it was quite a thrill to get some insight into the ‘Canberra bubble’. The first day was at the National Gallery of Australia and included talks, networking and panel discussions on science policy and engagement, involving our Chief Scientist, prominent science communicators and experienced lobbyists. In the evening, we attended the Gala Dinner in the Great Hall in Parliament House, where we mixed with MPs and were addressed by the then Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, and the Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Michaelia Cash. This was before the infamous whiteboard incident and subsequent controversies.
On day two we attended Parliament House. There was a program of presentations from parliamentary science advocates including Kim Carr, Adam Bandt, Karen Andrews and Richard Marles, each making promises about supporting science. The major feature of SmP is the opportunity to meet with Parliamentarians in small groups. Together with Rachel Burton, I spent a relaxed 30 minutes with Nick Champion, the Assistant Shadow Minister for Science. We enjoyed lunch at the National Press Club, during which we were passionately addressed by Emma Johnson, the Presidentof STA, about the importance of supporting Australian science. In the afternoon, we were entertained by the interrogation of Barnaby Joyce during Question Time over his living arrangements.
I greatly valued the opportunity to attend SmP on behalf of ASPS. It provided a new perspective on how to contribute to science policy, presented novel networking opportunities and was a great experience to be inside The House.
To finish, have a look at #tsbakeoff and @TSCommissioner for Australia’s threatened species of plants and animals.