Program 3: Science Outreach: Education and Scientific Publishing

The highlights, deliverables and performance of our Science Outreach initiatives.

At CSIRO, we are in a strong position to help create a knowledgeable society by raising scientific literacy and communicating the outcomes, impacts and benefits of our research, so the community can engage with major issues related to science. Communicating scientific research helps raise the profile of science, and CSIRO, within the community.

Objectives and deliverables

Our science outreach programs aim to promote the importance of CSIRO science and its application to students, parents, teachers and the Australian community. We support undergraduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers to boost the calibre of researchers working in the Australian community and strengthen Australia’s future innovation capacity. We also operate CSIRO Publishing, an independent science and technology publisher. It has a global reputation for quality products and services covering a wide range of scientific disciplines, including agriculture, chemistry, plant and animal sciences and environmental management.

Program performance

This year, our Science Outreach Program continues to perform well. An assessment of the Program’s six key performance indicators (KPIs) identified in the Portfolio Budget Statements, showed we have largely met expectations and targets. Table 2.6 provides an overview of the evidence for each KPI with a more detailed analysis following.

Key performance indicator Target (and performance assessment) Performance
Utilisation of science outreach programs Increasing Utilisation of science outreach programs has been maintained with the increases outweighing the decreases. Subscribers for Maths by Email increased by 18 per cent compared to last year, while membership to Double Helix Science Club and Science by Email programs decreased by five and one per cent respectively. The CREativity in Science and Technology (CREST) program worked with over 3000 more students than in 2012. Visitor numbers increased across most visitor centres, excluding the Parkes radio telescope, which recorded a decrease of 8.8 per cent on last year.
Awareness of science by CSIRO stakeholders Positive perception and awareness As in 2010 and 2011, community awareness of CSIRO remains high, but knowledge of CSIRO achievements low. The online tracking of community attitudes survey showed the younger the cohort sampled, the less their knowledge about CSIRO and the less their likelihood of being engaged on science issues.
Success of participants in the Science Outreach Programs Qualitative evidence of success The majority of our outreach activities saw increased participation or visitor numbers this year. Ninety-three per cent of visitors to our Parkes radio telescope visitors centre rated their experience ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. Surveys from CDSCC indicate teachers remain positive about the programs offered, with repeat booking up until 2017, indicating a continued recognition of Science Outreach Programs.
International reach and impact of published journals Improving trend in impact Twenty-five journals were published, 14 of them in partnership with the Australian Academy of Science and 12 journals produced under agreements with Australian and international societies or institutions. ECOS, an online magazine, saw a significant increase, 40 per cent, in downloads compared to last year. Of the 25 journals, four are not ranked with Impact Factors. Nine journals improved their rating on the previous year. The average Impact Factor across all journals was 1.456.
New book titles Increase or maintain number of titles During 2013–14 CSIRO Publishing released 32 book titles in print and digital formats. This is down from 42 in 2012–13.
Net Profit from CSIRO Publishing Positive net profit outcome from CSIRO Publishing CSIRO Publishing delivered a net profit of $750,906 for 2013–14.

Blue shading: indicates positive progress for the year and the target has been achieved.
Green shading: indicates some challenges have occurred during the year but they were managed.

Utilisation of science outreach programs

Education programs

We conduct various science education programs for school students, teachers and the public. These programs inform students, families and teachers of the valuable contribution scientific research makes to the community.

CSIRO Education has centres in each capital city and in Townsville. In 2013, they welcomed 366,305 participants (over 3000 more than in 2012), offering hands-on science for primary and secondary students. The centres also support the Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools (SMiS), CarbonKids and CREativity in Science and Technology (CREST) programs and Double Helix events.

Over 11,000 school students participated in our CREST program in 2013, planning and carrying out research projects. This was 3000 more than in 2012.

SMiS links scientists and mathematicians with primary and secondary teachers and students. During 2013, SMiS managed over 1650 partnerships in 1177 schools (12 per cent of Australian schools). The program has been highly successful in engaging students in science and mathematics. It provides ongoing professional development and confidence for teachers and is a community base for scientists and mathematicians and their research.

CarbonKids is successfully established in over 300 schools, helping students understand the science behind climate change and reduce their own carbon footprint.

In 2013, CREST helped over 11,000 school students plan and carry out research projects (over 3000 more than in 2012). Over 70 per cent received awards for their work. Many went on to participate in BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards, which recognise outstanding scientific research and technology projects by school students and the commitment and expertise of their teachers.

See Table 2.7 for Education program numbers.

Table 2.7: Science outreach: education programs
Program 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
CSIRO Science Education Centres (visitors) 386,500 389,287 374,797 363,099 366,305
Double Helix Science Club (members) 19,656 15,821 13,851 15,958 15,209
Science by Email (subscribers) 34,933 38,156 41,204 42,422 42,011
Maths by Email1 (subscribers) - 9,255 14,967 17,292 20,381
Creativity in Science and Technology (CREST) (participants) 8,801 9,668 8,385 7,767 11,048
BHP Billiton Science Awards (participants) 3,114 3,658 3,770 4,065 7,125
The Discovery Centre and major visitor centres

The hands-on exhibits of our Discovery Centre cater for audiences of all ages.

We host the CSIRO Discovery Centre in Canberra and major visitor centres at the Parkes and Narrabri observatories in NSW and the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC). These centres are purpose-built to showcase our research in an entertaining way that demystifies and educates people of all ages about research and innovation.

CSIRO Discovery Centre continues to attract large crowds with its biggest audience being local and interstate school groups – 36,947 students during 2013–14. Discovery is a growing attraction, complementing Canberra’s other science-themed institutions and receives over 120,000 visitors a year to its working laboratory, exhibitions and events – a six per cent increase on 2012.

For Canberra’s 2013 Centenary year, our team at Discovery developed a walking tour of the region iPhone app, looking at CSIRO’s contribution to the community over the 100 years, plus some significant locally-developed research achievements.

In 2013, Discovery also introduced the ‘Ruby Payne-Scott Lecture’ as part of our CSIRO Lectures series. The inaugural lecture honoured the legacy of one of Australia’s greatest heroines of both science and women’s rights. Two new exhibitions were opened highlighting our work in agricultural sustainability and our history in computing. A reassessment of capabilities saw weekend trading, children’s birthday parties and commercial venue hire of Discovery’s public spaces conclude at the end of 2013.

Bubble chart showing statistics for visits to national facilities and centres around Australia in different sized circles.

Visitor numbers to CSIRO Visitors Centres in 2013.

Show text description

The Parkes radio telescope welcomed 84,698 visitors in 2013, an 8.8 per cent decrease on 2012. This was due to a significant drop in senior travellers. Visitor surveys noted higher fuel prices and reduced disposable income for self-funded retirees. Conversely, education and outreach programs were well up: 41 school groups compared with 27 the previous year, with approximately 1025 students and 100 teachers. Public outreach events included 25 school holiday workshops, 12 solar telescope viewing days, monthly amateur astronomy meetings and the annual Astronomy from the Ground Up! teachers’ workshop weekend.

Public outreach activities at the Australia Telescope Compact Array at Narrabri included a self-guided visitor centre experience with approximately 12,500 visitors in 2013, up 2000 from 2012. Regular visitors to the observatory included seniors coach tours and local school groups (450 primary school students and teachers).

The CDSCC provided education programs to 10,023 students and teachers in 2013. Programs covered the broad spectrum of science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects, with a focus towards their uses in space exploration and astronomy. Total visitor numbers were 67,554, down 1.7 percent on the previous year with surveys indicating the impact of higher fuel prices and lower disposable income for retirees the cause.

See Table 2.8 for visitor numbers.

Table 2.8: Science outreach: visitor centres
Discovery Centre and Visitor Centre 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
CSIRO Discovery Centre (visitors) 94,365 100,920 108,060 113,000 120,000
Parkes radio telescope (visitors) 112,342 95,104 96,609 92,876 84,698
Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (visitors) 67,582 70,044 77,350 68,710 67,554
Australia Telescope Compact Array, Narrabri (visitors) - - - 10,500 12,500

Postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers

Our postgraduate scholarship program provides opportunities in science and engineering for outstanding graduates who enrol at Australian tertiary institutions as full-time postgraduate students for research leading to the award of a PhD. PhD students at CSIRO are co-supervised by a university, allowing students to maintain and develop their university connections while being exposed to research in a working environment (see Table 2.9). The number of students fluctuates, with uneven intakes each year. A reduction in student numbers is often seen when a cohort moves through the program.

Table 2.9: Science outreach: CSIRO’s Postgraduate Students and Postdoctoral Fellows as at 31 May 2014
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Sponsored postgraduates2
PhD 375 333 291 294 254
Masters 13 24 20 16 19
Honours 25 19 17 22 23
Total 413 376 328 332 296 3
Supervised postgraduates2
PhD 733 655 639 642 601
Masters 47 59 77 68 90
Honours 60 77 64 82 61
Total 840 791 780 792 752







Postdoctoral Fellows 330 333 326 324 325

Awareness of science by CSIRO stakeholders

In 2013–14, we received further analysis from our third online tracking survey into community attitudes towards CSIRO. Conducted by Ogilvy Illumination, it confirmed that CSIRO is the first organisation to come to mind when Australians think about science and research in Australia. As in 2010 and 2011, community awareness of CSIRO remains high, but knowledge of CSIRO achievements low. The survey showed that the younger the cohort sampled, the less their knowledge about CSIRO and the less their likelihood of being engaged on science issues. This is a trend throughout developed countries. The study provided greater insight into people less interested in science (approximately 40 per cent of the population), showing what types of messages could increase their interest and what media best reaches them.

Evidence of success in the science outreach programs

Science outreach and education are vital components of our community role. In 2013, we continued to deliver on this, with some changes to accommodate extraneous factors affecting the way we go about it.

A review of our education and outreach activities conducted in 2013 recommended that our programs should measurably and sustainably:

  • contribute to expanding awareness and understanding of CSIRO amongst young Australians by providing authentic learning experiences
  • encourage future employees towards careers in CSIRO
  • increase awareness of the role of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and CSIRO’s place in the National Innovation System.

The long-term effectiveness and impact of education and outreach programs, including Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools, CarbonKids and BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards, will be measured in coming years.

Our CSIRO Discovery Centre had over 120,000 visitors, with successful events. The Easter EGGstravaganza Inspiring Australia event saw 6000 visitors engage in fun, hands-on science across the Easter weekend.

One of the telescopes at the Australia Telescope Compact Array

Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2013, the Australia Telescope Compact Array held an Open Day attracting around 800 people to its remote site.

Our Parkes radio telescope visitors centre conducts monthly exit surveys. In 2013, ninety-three percent of visitors rated their experience ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. School programs this year focused on student learning outcomes and increasing understanding of the telescope’s role in space exploration.

The Australia Telescope Compact Array has a steady flow of visitors, approximately 12,500 to its remote site in 2013. The visitor centre includes a space science exhibit highlighting radio astronomy science at the observatory. Highlights for 2013 included an Open Day marking its 25th anniversary, attracting approximately 800 people.

Education and outreach programs at the CDSCC attracted 10,023 school students and teachers during 2013, 19 per cent down on 2012. This was due to a reduction in education staff from two to one and the decision to reduce the intake of students for guided programs from 12,500 to 9000, to keep the remaining role manageable. Surveys of teachers indicate schools remain very positive about our programs, with repeat bookings up until 2017. The CDSCC was prominent during the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Deep Space Network, with excellent national coverage in all media.

CSIRO Publishing

International reach and impact of published journals

CSIRO Publishing operates within CSIRO on a commercial basis on behalf of authors and customers in Australia and overseas.

During 2013–14, 25 journals were published by CSIRO Publishing. Fourteen were published in partnership with the Australian Academy of Science, a successful relationship since 1948. Twelve journals were produced under agreements with Australian and international societies or institutions. Additionally, special issues of journals were published in connection with societies and conferences in the United States, China, Japan, Italy, India, Germany and New Zealand. The journals are available free to developing countries through the United Nations program Research4Life. This program fosters scientific understanding and education in developing nations.

Online use of the journals resulted in 2,819,798 articles being downloaded. ECOS, the online magazine about science for sustainability, saw a significant increase, 40 per cent, in downloads (see Table 2.10).

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
CSIRO Publishing journal (downloads) 2,092,283 2,633,703 2,653,848 2,641,160 2,819,798
ECOS story (downloads) 200,740 241,525 296,448 454,385 639,271

$9,802,464 total revenue and $750,906 net profit delivered by CSIRO Publishing.

Front cover of the 'Biodiversity' book.

Published in 2014, 'Biodiversity' is the latest title in our Science and Solutions for Australia series.

New book titles

During 2013–14, CSIRO Publishing released 32 book titles, in print and digital formats. The digital books comprised approximately eight per cent of sales.

A highlight among the titles was Biodiversity from the Science and Solutions for Australia series. This work, authored by CSIRO scientists, provides a comprehensive assessment of biodiversity in Australia together with possible solutions to biodiversity-related issues.

Net profit

A positive net profit of $750,906 was delivered for 2013–14. CSIRO Publishing’s total revenue for the period was $9,802,464. The market continued to see greater sales of digital products at levels that match publishing industry trends.

  1. Launched in 2010
  2. A student may be either sponsored, supervised or both. The total number of individual students sponsored and/or supervised was 777, including more than 23 supervised in collaboration with Cooperative Research Centres and 60 through the Flagship Collaboration Fund. See Glossary for definition of sponsorship and supervision.
  3. Includes 48 students fully sponsored and 248 students partially sponsored by CSIRO.


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