Academy Medal 2019 Peter Yates AM FTSE


How do we get science into Australia’s culture? In all times that I’d sat through programming meetings at Channel Nine, there was never a moment when we said, “What are the science stories this week?” Back in 2004, Peter Yates, recipient of this year’s Academy Medal, noticed that science was missing from mainstream media. It struck me, that given how important science is, and the decision-making around science for our community, that if the leading television station in the country didn’t really have any focus on science in any of its program meetings, I felt we had a problem. In 2005, Yates helped found The Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC), and later, The Royal Institution of Australia (RiAUS). His main objective was to change the way Australia looked at science. We have to make decisions which are based in expected scientific outcomes as a community, and we have to do that not as scientists, but as people making judgment about what we think the science means for us. Today, the AusSMC has a network of 1600 journalists and 5000 scientists, supplying evidence-based content to mainstream news outlets. And inserting the science angle into breaking news, whether it be a bushfire, a disease outbreak or a drug scandal in sports. Yates receives the prestigious Academy Medal in recognition of his outstanding contributions to science outside the Academy’s Fellowship. But he hopes that science can be an even broader influence on our society. The biggest surprise for me has been the disconnect between the business community in Australia and the science community. And I think that gets to a deeper issue for our community. And also, a tremendous opportunity. I’d have to say it’s improving a lot, and I think that the academies have done a tremendous job in reaching out to business people. But also business people are starting to learn more and more about why they need to be involved in that conversation.

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