Audio Robyn Williams talks on communicating science to the public, 2008

TLF ID R10265

This is an edited sound recording of science journalist and broadcaster, Robyn Williams, talking about communicating science to the Australian public and the challenges of overcoming 'woeful ignorance' and 'tremendous confusion'. He suggests that the media and modern education hamper public understanding of science by encouraging a tendency to expect instant answers, and suggests educators should be encouraging the public to think of science in terms of ideas, rather than as a body of information. It was made in December 2008.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This recording gives an insight into what one of Australia's leading science communicators regards as the challenges in endeavouring to increase the level of public understanding of scientific issues. At the time of this recording Williams (1944-) had been a professional communicator of science in Australia for more than 30 years.
  • This recording of one of Australia's leading science communicators depicts a high level of disenchantment with both the approach to science education by the mass media and with modern education methods. Williams says both tend to run counter to his own philosophy that science should be learned through a process of exploration of ideas. The Australian Science Teachers' Association (ASTA), however, does support inquiry-based interactive lessons.
  • This recording from the perspective of a science communicator explains why the public should be interested in science. Williams points out that virtually every modern profession has been transformed or significantly affected by scientific developments. His concern that the public views science as a body of facts that must be learned at school to be later examined, echoes ASTA's belief that lack of time and training for teachers of science leads to over-formal lessons.
  • At the time of this recording Williams had been the presenter since 1975 of 'The Science Show' on the ABC's Radio National. The show is one of the longest-running ABC Radio programs. He has also conducted numerous interviews on ABC TV programs with leading scientists across the world and has written more than ten books.
  • In 2008, Williams was the only journalist to have ever been elected (in 1993) as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. He had also served as president of the Australian Museum Trust, chairman of the Commission for the Future, and president of the Australian Science Communicators. As well, in 1987 he was named as one of Australia's National Living Treasures.
Year level

6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • science
  • Science/Science as a human endeavour

    Other details

    • Publisher
    • Date of contribution: 20 Sep 2013
    • Organisation: Education Services Australia
    • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
    • URL:
    • Copyright holder
    • Organisation: Education Services Australia
    • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
    • URL:
    • Remarks: Copyright Education Services Australia Ltd
    • Content provider
    • Organisation: Education Services Australia
    • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
    • URL:
    • Author
    • Date of contribution: 2008
    • Name: Robyn Williams
    • Remarks: speaker
    Access profile
    • Colour independence
    • Device independence
    Learning resource type
    • Sound
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    • © Education Services Australia Ltd, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements.