I’m a science journalist, feature writer, editor and filmmaker in Sydney with a passion for long-form storytelling. Best known for my work in science, technology and the future, I have also written extensively on business, politics, international affairs, climate change and human rights.
For nine years, I was editor-in-chief of Cosmos, the visually lush popular science title I helped create and grow into Australia’s #1 science magazine in print, iPad and online. Under my leadership it captured 48 awards, including two Magazine of the Year trophies, two Editor of the Year prizes and four National Press Club awards. I also led the development of the highly-interactive Cosmos iPad edition, named ‘Best of 2012’ apps by Apple.
Cosmos was my brainchild, and the flagship product of Cosmos Media, the successful multi-platform media company I co-founded, which produced 24 print and digital titles during my tenure. Among them was G: The Green Lifestyle Magazine, the country’s first carbon neutral title and the first produced entirely on post-consumer recycled paper. Under my editorial leadership, G Magazine took out seven prizes, including Consumer Magazine of the Year, Best Internet Site, and the Sydney Lord Mayor’s Sustainability Award.
I drove Cosmos Media’s editorial strategy, managed budgets, commissioning, design and staff; contributed to marketing and sales; and promoted the company with frequent television, radio and public appearances. And I spearheaded the company’s custom publishing operations, generating substantial revenues from print and digital publications, apps, videos, animations, websites, posters and events. Clients included the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, the University of Melbourne and the Australian Academy of Science.
A notable initiative was HELLO FROM EARTH, a viral marketing campaign I conceived to promote National Science Week for the Australian Government. A website was created to collect goodwill messages from the public to be sent to Gliese 581d, an Earth-like planet outside the Solar System. The initiative was reported in more than 1,000 media outlets internationally, featured in over 11,000 blogs and, in just 10 days, almost 26,000 messages were recorded from 190 nations. These were transmitted by NASA and will arrive in December 2029.
As a filmmaker, my most celebrated documentary was The Diplomat, which followed Nobel Peace laureate José Ramos Horta as he worked to secure independence for East Timor, a former Portuguese colony invaded by Indonesia in 1975. It was shot over a crucial 18 months: from just before the fall of Indonesian dictator Suharto from power in May 1998, to Ramos Horta’s triumphant return to a liberated East Timor in December 1999 after 24 years in exile. I first proposed the film and convinced Ramos Horta and the Timorese resistance to participate, serving as a producer and screenwriter. The Diplomat earned me the AFI Award for Best Documentary, played at 32 international film festivals and won a further five awards.
I’ve also been a reporter and producer for ABC TV, Australia’s public broadcaster, where I researched, wrote and presented stories for the weekly science program, Quantum. A 30-minute documentary I wrote, presented and co-produced – Passing the Bug: The End of Antibiotics? – was the show’s season premiere, and later won the Bronze Medal at the London International Medical Film Competition.
My career as a journalist began on The Sydney Morning Herald, and I later worked as a technology writer for The Age in Melbourne – the two oldest quality newspapers in Australia. For five years, I was a foreign correspondent at Reuters, the London-based global newswire, where I covered business, diplomatic and technology news for an international audience. Highlights include visiting the Johnston Atoll chemical weapons incineration facility in the North Pacific Ocean, reporting on the Non-Aligned Summit in Jakarta, and working at the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery in Ottawa and the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery in Canberra.
I was the founding managing editor of the science magazines Newton and Science Spectra, and served as managing editor of 21C Magazine, the avant-garde futures title; I was also the science news editor of ABC Online, the news portal of the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
As a freelance journalist, my writing has appeared in a dozen newspapers, including The Australian, The Sunday Age, The Australian Financial Review and The South China Morning Post. Magazines where my features have appeared include Australian Geographic, The Australian Financial Review Magazine, New Scientist, The Weekend Australian Magazine and Nature. I’ve also have had stories featured in The Best Australian Science Writing anthologies of 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2020.
CONSULTANT AND COMMUNICATIONS ADVISOR
Working as a consultant for the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada, I helped create the WGSI Equinox Summit series, a biennial international ideas symposium aimed at developing solutions to complex global challenges. Run by the Waterloo Global Science Initiative, a partnership between Perimeter and the University of Waterloo, it brings together an interdisciplinary, cross-generational group of science, engineering and policy experts every two years to develop ideas in a mix of televised sessions and in-camera deliberations.
Appointed content director in early 2010, I led the creation of the meeting’s structure and its unique approach. Over the five days of the first summit – Equinox Summit: Energy 2030 – I chaired the televised sessions broadcast on Canada’s TVO and the closed-door debates, and was editor of the summit report, Equinox Blueprint: Energy 2030.
As a communications advisor for the University of New South Wales in Sydney, I provided advice, wrote opinion pieces, created content, media kits, video and animations and staged press conferences for the Faculty of Engineering, Australia’s largest.
Media coverage – a key performance measure for the role – rose dramatically during my tenure, with stories on CNN, BBC News, Reuters, Xinhua, Bloomberg, China’s CCTV and magazines like Technology Review and Wired. In Australia, UNSW research featured on ABC TV and Radio (inc. Triple J, News24 and programs like 7:30), made front pages of The Sydney Morning Herald and ran on TV shows like The Project, Sunrise and Today.
I was responsible for the university’s top three media stories in 2016, and was a finalist for the UNSW President’s Excellence Awards in 2017. My new initiatives included the print/digital magazine Ingenuity; a Journalist-in-Residence program for international media; and the Ada Lovelace Medal, a new national award celebrating women in engineering. The first issue of Ingenuity was a finalist for Launch of the Year at the 2017 Publish Awards, while my cover story for the first edition won the Single Article of the Year trophy.
I have donated my time to many science education and communication projects over the years. Elected president of the World Federation of Science Journalists to oversee this international non-profit, I worked part-time, chairing teleconferences and overseas meetings. This involved marshalling a diverse executive board and three committees, with representatives from 12 nations, to develop strategies, raise funding and launch international programs. I oversaw the transformation of the organisation from a loose network into a dynamic non-profit with defined goals, an active agenda, a permanent secretariat and a solid multi-million dollar funding base.
I’ve served six years as a councillor, and later as president, of The Australian Museum Society; six years as a board member, vice-president and then president of the Australian Science Communicators; two terms on the management committee of the Australian Society of Authors; as a judge of the Australian Museum’s Eureka Prizes; as a member of the Science Advisory Council at the University of New South Wales; and as a member of the Expert Working Group on Science and the Media created to advise Australia’s Department of Innovation, Industry, Science & Research.
I was the founder of the Talking Science community radio program, and co-founder of Science in the Pub, a popular public event occasionally broadcast on Australia’s ABC Radio National, and for which I was a co-winner of the 2000 Eureka Prize for the Promotion of Science. I was chairman of the Prize Jury of the SCINEMA International Science Film Festival for six years, and a member of the New South Wales Committee of National Science Week for four years. I also served on the steering committee of the Consensus Conference on Gene Technology in the Food Chain, headed by Sir Laurence Street, former Chief Justice of New South Wales; and was a member of the Australian Advisory Group for the International Year of Astronomy.
I will be among the first to fly into fly into space with Virgin Galactic, founded by Sir Richard Branson, a company that is developing commercial spaceliner service to provide suborbital spaceflights for tourists and space science missions for clients. I’m scheduled to fly sometime in 2024 aboard VSS Unity, a spacecraft that will be air-launched from beneath a carrier aircraft known as White Knight Two. It was a replacement spaceplane for VSS Enterprise, which crashed in October 2014 on its fourth rocket-powered test flight, breaking apart in mid-air and tragically killing the co-pilot.