UPDATE: 12:35pm 8 AUGUST 2013 in the processing of posting this story, it has become apparent that The Australian has decided there was a better photo option to accompany their story: check out the thumbnail at via the Higher Education home page http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education. While pleased with this outcome, I’m still including the original photo and caption included, if only to prove I’m not making this up…..
Maybe it’s because it’s National Science Week, when we celebrate the importance of science and the multitude of fields in which our relatively small country has consistently produced some of the world’s best and brightest.
Or because, for the first time, Australia’s most senior minds in higher education, science and innovation have come together to call for a non-partisan support for science and research, to avoid the very real danger of not only wasting our nation’s talent, but falling behind our region and the rest of the world.
Maybe it’s because only last week, The Australian sought and ran an opinion piece by one of this country’s most respected and important scientists, the President of the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Suzanne Corey, on why we need more women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Or because one of the few things the major parties can agree on is that science and research is the key to Australia’s future economic security and prosperity.
But when our only national newspaper accompanied a story on calls for an increase in public sector spending on R&D with an illustration like this, I was amazed. Not angry, not disappointed, not even cynically weary – not then anyway. Flabbergasted, yes; checking I hadn’t accidentally landed on a satirical site run by The Chaser boys or the Gruen Transfer team, absolutely.
That a Higher Education feature on a policy – and a perfectly well-written piece at that – could attempt to reinforce its message regarding the disparity between the current and proposed funding levels with a pun in its caption that my 14 year old nephew would be ashamed by, is wrong on so many levels. “Poles apart”, really? A “more gymnastic approach to spending”?? Just to work in a stock photo from a corporate stablemate of three perfectly pleasant, healthy and quite possibly science-minded pole dancers.
Maybe our problem is not the limitations of funding, science talent, or public policy – maybe it’s an Australian media better suited to working on Mad Magazine or covering Anthony Wiener’s text message debacle than the issues that really affect our country. That seem to think the Australian public needs a little FHM to be induced to read the “boring bits” between the headline and the sports pages.
Because with coverage like this in what claims to be Newspaper of the Year, it’s not just our science literacy that needs work by Science Week 2014.