#onsci is evolving


Sarah, Heather, Kristin and James: The monthly twitter chat known as #onsci held its inaugural event “Telling Better Science Stories” in April 2011. It stemmed from a real-life chat between Kristin and Heather, who wanted to conduct conversations ‘on science’ in the online space, and hoped that a diverse group of participants could be attracted to join in.

Back then, The Inspiring Australia program had been in existence for approximately one year, and the Federal science portfolio sat under Labor Minister Kim Carr. The Conversation – an online source of news and views from the academic and research communities – had just been launched in Australia. Many scientists and other professionals were starting to feel more comfortable with using online platforms and social media as a means to chat with others both in- and out-side their areas of expertise. In the media space more generally, the ABC had launched its online platform The Drum to reflect a move towards presenting news and opinion with a digital and social emphasis. Globally, the ongoing ‘Arab Spring’ string of events showed how social media can play a role in news and information sharing across communities and the world.

Since that time, #onsci has become a popular monthly event renowned for its cracking pace and up-to-the-minute relevance to scientific and related groups. With approximately 50 participants per session (mostly Australian but also some internationals), #onsci has become a forum for those interested in science to come together, share ideas and develop their personal and professional networks. More than 25 hour-long chat sessions have covered science communication, education, policy, research, marketing, professional well-being and more. Interested parties also use the #onsci tag to share relevant resources and conduct conversations outside of designated chat times. On a broader level, #onsci has also contributed to the development of science policy via a submission to the McKeon Review, and teaching of science communication in Australia through informal associations with courses taught at Universities and online. Over time, #onsci has developed many characteristics of a community of practice.

With #onsci now approaching its third anniversary, it’s time to shake it up a little. We believe #onsci participants are ready to start exploring many issues a little more deeply, and to an extent which requires expertise from diverse specialist fields.

We would like use the April 2014 #onsci chat to launch a new phase in which we invite others to lend their knowledge and time to ensure that conversations can remain relevant, evidence-based and outcome-driven. We’d like to explore science and why it matters for us and the broader public.  This could include its interactions with:

  • Psychology, the way we think, how beliefs form, marketing, identity
  • Politics, policy, influence, outcomes
  • Research, emerging interests, funding, priorities, big questions
  • History, evolution of science and communications
  • Philosophy of science
  • Pedagogy, ways we learn, ways we teach
  • Work, career paths, STEM, future of science-related employment, and
  • Art, cross-disciplinary links, visualisation for communication.

So what can you do? Tweet us at @onsci with suggested topics you want to explore. Recommend a great article or paper that could be used as the material for a deeper conversation. Suggest a set of smarter questions we could use to change and deepen the conversations. Identify an expert that we might be able to bring in for a Q&A session for the first 20 mins to help surface more details. Offer to host a session that matters to you. We will work with you on topic development, and successful precedents do exist: #onsci in September 2011 was hosted by educator Charlotte Pezaro, and looked at Science in Primary Schools. The April 2013 #onsci “Outreach versus Inreach” was lead by students from ANU.

The twitter chat format will always be fast and furious, but by drawing in your expertise we believe we can find rabbit holes and windows into deeper conversations.

We look forward to your responses, and seeing where #onsci can take us as it evolves further.

[image thanks to craigfinlay on flickr]






  1. Sounds promising – I’m in!

  2. sarahkeenihan says:

    great Ben! what’s your idea 🙂


  1. […] March 2014: #onsci is evolving […]

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