New staff at the University of Otago Centre for Science Communication (from left) Dr Fabien Medvecky, Associate Prof Jesse Bering and Prof Nancy Longnecker. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Academic staffing has doubled at the University of Otago's
Centre for Science Communication, with a professor appointed
and ambitious plans unveiled to further develop the centre.
Nancy Longnecker, previously a professor of science
communication at the University of Western Australia (UWA),
takes up her Otago post next month.
She developed and led UWA's science communication teaching
and research programme between 2002 and 2014.
Jesse Bering came from the United States this month to take
up an associate professor role, and Fabien Medvecky, formerly
a research fellow at the University of Queensland, also
joined as a lecturer this month.
Centre organisers said the ''phenomenal increase'' in
academic staffing was a major development.
Otago University vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne welcomed
the appointments, and said the Otago centre already provided
the largest science communication programme in the world, in
terms of student numbers.
Adding such high calibre academic staff augured well for
Otago to continue to lead internationally in a discipline
''crucial to ensuring public understanding of, and support
for, scientific endeavour'', Prof Hayne said.
Centre director Prof Lloyd Davis said the increase in
academic staffing, to more than six full-time-equivalent
staff, was highly significant.
About 25 people graduated each year with a master of science
communication degree gained through the centre, Prof Davis
Although the centre had been operating only since 2008, the
master of science communication degree was already the third
most popular of 22 master's degree programmes offered at
It was ''really exciting'' that there was now ''worldwide
recognition of the importance of science communication''.
Born in New Jersey, Associate Prof Bering was director of the
Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen's University
Belfast (2006-11) before returning to the United States to
become a fulltime author and science writer.
He has written three books and contributed to many
publications including Scientific American and The
Dr Medvecky gained his PhD from Sydney University in 2012
before joining Queensland's science communication programme.
Prof Longnecker has written many books, book chapters and
research papers and has obtained more than $2.5 million in
funding involving research, education and communication