Royal Institution of Australia
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Opened in October 2009, the Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus) is a national scientific not-for-profit organisation with a mission to ‘bring science to people and people to science’.
As a national hub for science communication, RiAus concentrates on promoting and supporting public engagement with science. RiAus creates real-world and virtual spaces in which people listen, talk and think about science in all its shapes and forms. Developing innovative and accessible ways of engaging people is designed to increase scientific awareness and debate on critical issues arising from science and technology.
It is housed at the Science Exchange in South Australia, which is Adelaide's former Stock Exchange building. Half of the building, which is open to the public on weekdays, has heritage value. The other half was gutted by 2 fires in the 20th century and is now office space for RiAus and the Australian Science Media Centre.
RiAus was founded with government funds and some corporate support, mostly from Santos Ltd.. It has a paid membership program. Most events are free. Programs outside of The Science Exchange building are funded by government departments in different Australian states and territories to target specific audiences, such as rural schoolchildren, teachers or those with little traditional engagement with science.
RiAus arose from recommendations made by Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield, as Thinker in Residence for the South Australian Government during 2004 and 2005. RiAus is the first and only Royal Institution outside the UK.
The establishment of RiAus was amongst the recommendations Professor Greenfield made during her Adelaide residency, which included initiatives to encourage collaboration and complementary research programs across South Australian universities, science communication programs for children, professional development for school teachers and the establishment of the Australian Science Media Centre. A key recommendation was the Bragg Initiative, which encouraged a relationship between South Australia and the RiGB  and was taken up by the South Australian government.
In June 2008, work commenced to convert the former Adelaide Stock Exchange building, which had remained empty for many years, into the Science Exchange.
RiAus took on responsibility for Science Outside the Square, an SA Government initiative, and runs other programs outside the Science Exchange, such as Free Range Science, a program for people living in regional Victoria and another in collaboration with Cosmos magazine in New South Wales, building a national program beyond its Adelaide headquarters.
The Bragg Initiative, which led to the initial development of RiAus, was named for William Henry Bragg and William Lawrence Bragg. This father and son team won the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics for their “services in the analysis of crystal structures by means of X rays”. The Braggs worked most of their lives in Adelaide, but both served as directors of RiGB at different times. Both father and son had an enormous passion for communicating science to the broader community. The Bragg Initiative was as program within the Department of Premier and Cabinet, South Australian Government and was managed by Linda Cooper, Project Director.
The current Director is Dr Paul Willis, a palaeontologist, science journalist and broadcaster. Prior to taking up his appointment at RiAus, Dr Willis was a presenter for ABC-TV’s Catalyst. He replaced Acting Director, Dr Jane Lomax-Smith, who filled in after the resignation of Professor Gavin Brown.
Most programs are panel discussions about science for the general public and for special interest groups such as Australian Science Communicators.
RiAus supports a summer school for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students called ASSETS and oversees SpiRit of Science scholarships, which enable 10 students from low socio-economic backgrounds to travel to London for the RiGB Christmas lecture series, including planning their own itinerary as a group.
- Royal Institution of Great Britain
- William Henry Bragg
- William Lawrence Bragg
- Baroness Susan Greenfield
- Thinkers in Residence
- Australian Science Media Centre