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New Course for Women to Teach and Communicate about Nuclear Science and Applications


Casey Cassandra, General Manager of Communications and Community Relations at the Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation, describes the importance of effective nuclear communication to the regional training course participants. (Photo: ANSTO)

In cooperation with the Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation (ANSTO), the IAEA launched a regional training course for women educators in Asia and the Pacific about the role of nuclear science in the global endeavour to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The virtual training course began on November 30 and is scheduled to conclude on 11 December.

“Gender parity is crucial in creating a stronger, more equal and more diverse workforce that can drive development and sustainability in the nuclear field,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi on the opening day. “This is why the IAEA is supporting this training course, and it is also why we have just launched our Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellowship Programme, which will support one hundred women every year in their studies to obtain qualifications in nuclear science and technology.” The course is specifically targeting women with jobs that reach out into their communities.

“We are supporting women in their important roles to teach and inspire young people and to inform the wider community on how nuclear science and technology is helping to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” said Annabelle Bennett, Chair of ANSTO’s Board.

Almost half of the 59 participants have a graduate or doctorate degree in fields such as medicine, biomedical science, chemistry, experimental physics, biotechnology, atomic and molecular physics, environmental technology, water and waste water treatment, food science, or nuclear engineering, nuclear physics, reactor physics or nuclear fuel cycle, and the others have master’s or bachelor degrees in advance radiotherapy practices, medical physics,  radiation protection,  radiation technology, mathematics, biomedical engineering, political science, economics, business or marketing and communication.

Organized through the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme, the two-week-long training course included presentations on the basics of and innovations in nuclear science, power fission reactors, production and use of radio isotopes, isotope tracing in earth systems or provenance tracing and animal migration as well as mitigation of climate change, with exchanges on the importance of teaching, leadership and communication skills to transmit that knowledge further. Students also participated in hands-on exercises on science writing, creation of school education resources, social media and online engagement.

Melissa Denecke, Director of the IAEA's Division of Physical and Chemical Sciences, delivered an opening presentation to participants of the IAEA's first training course for women educators about the role of nuclear science in development. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Through both group and targeted individual activities, course participants will enhance their oral, written and digital communication skills, and will learn how to appropriately draft reports for decision-makers, liaise with news media, engage with regional networks and analyse emerging scientific issues. 

“Communication needs to be clear, concise and passionate,” explained Karina Meredith, a Research Scientist in ANSTO’s Isotopes for Water Project, and a training course lecturer. “The best science communicators channel their love of science into clear concise messages that everyone can understand.”

The first iteration of a new and continuing education programme, the course takes advantage of the state-of-the-art facilities located in Australia, with virtual and in-person tours of the Open Pool Australian Light-water (OPAL) multi-purpose reactor, the Australian Synchrotron, the Centre for Accelerator Science, and the Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering.

At the end of the programme, the participants will be required to prepare and present a communications strategy for their national nuclear agency, promoting and explaining the benefits of their work. This final assignment will build on the skills they developed throughout the training course, and their strategies are expected to include key performance indicators, planning milestones and impact tracking.

A selection of successful graduates will be invited to act as resource speakers in coming training courses, with the ultimate aim of nurturing a network of graduates across programme cohorts to further propagate the message of atoms for peace and development.

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