Who That’s What I Call Science co-managers Anna Abela, Kate Johnson and Olly Dove.
What Based in Tasmania, the volunteer-run radio show and podcast, That’s What I Call Science reaches over 10,000 people a week with programming designed to increase representation of diverse voices in STEMM. Since 2019, they’ve given the science community a platform to upskill and create engaging and accessible content for a breadth of listeners.
Members of the 14-person team awarded the 2023 Department of Industry, Science and Resources Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion
Can you tell us a bit about the inception of That’s What I Call Science?
Anna: After a suggestion from the president of Edge Radio, a community station based in Hobart, medical researcher Niamh Chapman asked several local STEMM professionals if they would be interested in doing a radio show. The original crew was Niamh, Ash Russell, Bianca Deans, and me. Through training sessions and coffee catchups, That's What I Call Science (TWICS) was born in 2018.
The program was broadcast live from Edge Radio, where each co-host was also the producer and editor of their episodes! I remember going into the community to interview guests and putting the recordings on USB stick. We would play different clips and chat about them with Niamh, who was the regular host, all of us scrambling between song breaks to get everything working. I'm happy to say it's a much smoother process now — we have a larger team, and our episodes are pre-recorded for the radio show and podcast.
Our team includes members with disabilities, neurodivergences, indigenous and culturally diverse backgrounds, and LGBTQIA+SB members ranging from students to senior lecturers and industry professionals.
Representation of diverse voices is a driving force behind your programming. How do you approach its design?
Anna: TWICS's original intention was to be a program run by women in STEMM. While supporting women continues to be a pillar of our mission, our team is no longer exclusively women. As the team grew so did our understanding of representing diverse voices and it now includes members with disabilities, neurodivergences, indigenous and culturally diverse backgrounds, and LGBTQIA+SB members ranging from students (undergraduate and PhD) to senior lecturers and industry professionals.
They choose the topics and guests for our programming. We are completely independent so there are no restrictions on what is covered. It gives our team members the opportunity to showcase their expertise and interests while reaching a wider network. We also ensure that we focus not only on the STEMM, but the people behind it, giving an opportunity for our guests to be their authentic selves. Through our team, our audience is introduced to an incredible variety of people doing phenomenal work.
What have been some of the unexpected outcomes of the radio show and podcast?
Kate: Gosh, the positive outcomes are endless. What comes to mind for me is that the support we have for each other within TWICS. It’s something special and the degree to which this positively impacts us each individually was unexpected. While we’re all here at TWICS because we have a common passion for science communication, diversity and inclusion, we ourselves are very diverse, coming from different STEMM and STEMM-adjacent fields, and different career stages.
I think this means we can support each other in ways that none of us expected. We share opportunities that other team members would never have known about, bring very different perspectives and all want to see each other succeed, which is so confidence-building. In terms of our content, several our guests have been offered other media, academic and community engagement opportunities after people have listened to their TWICS episodes. This is amazing for us to see, as it’s evidence that we upskill and uplift the people we interview.
What excites you most about radio and podcasting?
Olly: I find it so exciting that you can reach people so far away from you. It seems like such a simple feature of radio and podcasting, but connecting listeners to scientists who they might not have otherwise come across is wonderful. There’s so much in this world to learn about that it’s impossible to know everything but through TWICS, a listener could discover a field of research they’d never heard of before and it could ignite a new interest for them, which is such a fantastic thing.
Are there any plans or ambitions for That’s What I Call Science that you’d like to share with readers?
Kate: We’re currently in the process of becoming a not-for-profit. This is super exciting for us as it means we’ll be an official incorporated group, and that we’ll be able to receive grants and sponsorships to keep producing our weekly content, and do more activities and events. We love engaging with the greater community, particularly children and youth, in creative ways and we’re really pumped to be on the path to doing much more of this — so keep an eye out!
What does winning a Eureka Prize mean to you?
Olly: As a team, it means gaining the recognition the show deserves — so much hard work goes on behind the scenes that it’s wonderful to have our efforts rewarded. As an individual, it means that the funny looks and judgement I receive when I tell people I spend my free time working on science communication have all been worth it. Not that recognition is why we do it, but blimey, does it feel great.
Kate: It feels so good. We have all put a little piece of our heart into TWICS, and we dedicate so much volunteer time, so for the 14 of us and our alumni it’s quite emotional. The way we work together to build capacity and confidence within our team and with our guests sometimes feels like the antithesis of the competitiveness that can be hard to escape in an academic career. To win a Eureka Prize for a project that isn’t about winning demonstrates the power of this model of working and is more fulfilling and special than I can express.
To win a Eureka Prize for a project that isn’t about winning demonstrates the power of this model of working and is more fulfilling and special than I can express.
Anna: Winning the Eureka Prize affirmed that the work we are doing is important and special at a national level. When you're living on an island and working together as volunteers, you’re in a bubble. We do the work because we love it, and there's no expectation beyond that. But it's very exciting to step outside of the bubble and see that people are paying attention. As we become a not-for-profit, it feels like a push that we're taking the right direction. I can't wait to see where we change and grow next!
The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the country’s most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence across the areas of research & innovation, leadership, science engagement, and school science.