In the lead up to the announcement of Australia’s most prestigious science honours, the AM Eureka Prizes team sat down with some of this year's science stars.
Who: Carl Smith, Natasha Mitchell, Brendan O'Neill and Hamish Camilleri, ABC
Finalist: Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Science Journalism
What: The multi-media series ‘The Hidden Women of Australian Computing’ for the ABC’s Science Friction reveals the pioneering contributions of women to the history of the technology industry. Stretching back to the 1800s when many worked as ‘computers’ themselves, women were responsible for calculating mathematical problems, however their stories were often omitted from history. The series highlights the roles women played in some of Australia’s biggest scientific discoveries. These answers were provided by Carl Smith, ABC Science Journalist.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I spend most of my time making audio features. So, depending on where I am with a project, I might be doing interviews, research, scripting, audio editing or some combination of those. If I'm in the field, I might also be taking photos or shooting videos. It’s a busy job, but I love getting out to see science and scientists in action.
With the amount of dodgy claims on the internet, having a mix of talented communicators and discerning journalists has been incredibly important to keep Australians informed.
What role do science communicators and journalists play in our society?
I think both science communicators and science journalists play crucial roles. The COVID-19 pandemic has only emphasised how important they both are in helping people understand the latest science, and why it’s important or exciting. With the amount of dodgy claims on the internet, having a mix of talented communicators and discerning journalists has been incredibly important to keep Australians informed. Journalists have the added role of asking the tricky questions and holding people and institutions to account.
How did you first hear about the story of Australian women working on the Astrographic Catalogue?
As is often the case… conversations with guests from another story! I was working on a piece about how Australia’s first digital computer learned to ‘sing’. I was talking to several people across the ICT industry about the deep history of computing in Australia, including Barbara Ainsworth. She mentioned Dr Toner Stevenson’s work digging through the Astrographic Catalogue, an 1887 project to photograph the night sky, and I was hooked.
In addition to your team’s podcast Science Friction, what shows do you recommend everyone add to their library?
The most interesting thing I’ve been wrapping my head around this year is how conspiracies and false information find traction online. We’ve just released (13-27 September) a series about this on Science Friction, called 'Click-Sick'. But I think Rabbit Hole (New York Times) is a beautiful, nuanced explanation of that turf. If you’re after something a little more escapist, I really enjoyed the dystopian enviro-thriller Forest 404 from the BBC. The experimental structure of that whole project was a delight – each episode of the fictional story is paired with a talk, and an immersive soundscape. In terms of friendly conversational science communication, go check out Ologies with Alie Ward. And for a bit of fun, CBC’s Personal Best is very clever and very off-beat.
The Eureka Prize for Science Journalism is presented by the Australian Museum