Professor Ian Chubb is Australia’s “Chief Scientist”. He’s a very accomplished and highly decorated science vet with an earned Oxford DPhil and 4 honorary doctorates in his collection. He was recently a panellist on ABC’s flagship current affairs program QandA, along with a number of other science gurus. I love science and this was a wonderfully stimulating program.
One of the questions put to the panel was “Does science have a marketing problem?” Ian’s exact words of response, “Yes, science does have a marketing problem.” There is evidence of science’s failure all around us. We have political leaders who still fail to recognise the possibility of anthropogenic climate change. We have some believers calling for Creationism to be taught in schools. (Actually, I’m OK about that, as long as it’s in an RE class, not in the science curriculum.) The numbers studying science at advanced levels in schools have been declining for some years, and enrolments in university science degrees are alarmingly, well, alarming. Science can give us answers about why the world is as it is. Science will deliver solutions to many of the world’s material problems, and more importantly science liberates peoples around the world from ignorance and fear.
So… back to Ian Chubb. I’m a marketing professional, and I love science, so what to do about the QandA program. The following day, I wrote to Ian at his Chief Scientist email account. Here’s what I wrote: “I’ve been a Professor of Marketing – a marketing scientist, if you will – in 4 countries. I can help you build and implement a marketing strategy that will change what stakeholders know, feel and do about science. I’d like to help because I believe passionately in the importance of science for Australia’s future and the benefit of humanity.”
I got an immediate reply. I was so excited. Here’s what it said: “Thank you for your inquiry. The Office of the Chief Scientist receives a very high quantity of inquiries each day, so emails are prioritised. Responses on seemingly routine matters can take up to one calendar month for a reply. Advertising or generic emails will not automatically receive a response.”
Well, over a month has passed, and no further correspondence has been received. Am I disappointed? You bet. Am I surprised? No, not really. Maybe my offer was deemed to be ‘advertising’. The Chief Scientist’s Office will have no budget for promoting science. Who does, though? How will this marketing problem be solved?