Alan Alda opens new science communications centre

8 March 2016

The Centre here has an extraordinary grasp of the history and theory of science communication.

Actor Alan Alda, best known for his starring role in the television series M*A*S*H, has opened new facilities for the ANU Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS).

Mr Alda, US Ambassador to Australia, his Excellency John Berry, ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt, and CPAS Director Professor Joan Leach opened the new facilities.

The opening follows a new partnership agreement between CPAS and the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, based in Stony Brook University's School of Journalism in the United States.

Mr Alda is a visiting professor in Stony Brook University's School of Journalism and was a founding member of the Alda Center in 2009. His vision was to teach scientists the skills he had mastered as an actor to help them communicate better with policymakers and the public.

Mr Alda said it was time for CPAS and the Alan Alda Centre to join forces and to start collaborating.

"It couldn't be better. We both have something to offer the other," Mr Alda said.

"The Centre here has an extraordinary grasp of the history and theory of science communication. We have in turn innovative ways of teaching the actual skills of communication.

"We have turned many people who are not comfortable facing an audience, or even worse comfortable facing an audience but making an audience uncomfortable facing them, we've turned them into master communicators, and they are happy about it and their science is reaching the public."

Professor Schmidt said the new facilities celebrated the partnership between ANU and the Alan Alda Center and he looked forward to seeing the result of the new collaboration.

"CPAS is one of the jewels in the crown of ANU," Professor Schmidt said.

"The centre is Australia's oldest and most diverse academic sciencecommunication centre, and it was formed in 1996. It took very special people to come up with the vision for CPAS, and its development blazed a trail that has been emulated since by other institutions."

In his 60-year acting career Alan Alda is best known for his role as Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce in the long running TV show M*A*S*H, set in a mobile military hospital during the Korean War. He was also the host of the US television documentary series Scientific American Frontiers for 12 years.

ANU joins 15 other universities across the United States to work with the Alda Center to change the way scientists and doctors are educated and build an international hub of science communication knowledge and best practices. 

The partnership with ANU fosters exchanges of staff, students and research between the two institutions.