Recognition for Flinders science communicators

Flinders University academics, Dr Sam Elliott and Dr Rong Zhu, have been rewarded for their efforts in research excellence and the promotion of science, with both named a South Australian Young Tall Poppy for 2022.

Presented by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science, the Tall Poppy Campaign was created to recognise and celebrate Australian intellectual and scientific excellence and to encourage younger Australians to follow in the footsteps of outstanding achievers.

Flinders University Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Robert Saint congratulated the Tall Poppy recipients on being recognised with such a prestigious award.

“It is an excellent achievement for our researchers to be acknowledged, not only for their significant research efforts but also for their strong commitment to communicating this work to a larger audience and encouraging science participation,” says Professor Saint.

“Helping our broader community to understand research and allow them to share in the delights of discovery is now more important than ever. It is vital we support and reward researchers for stepping up and helping to nurture a love of research and I know Doctors Elliott and Zhu will be outstanding role models for their fields.”

Dr Sam Elliott

Currently a Senior Lecturer in the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work, Dr Sam Elliott is a leading expert in sport parenting, participation and retention, and psychosocial outcomes in youth sport and has published extensively in his field.

Alongside his research, Dr Elliott has also maintained a strong commitment to communicating his work to those who will most benefit, such as families, coaches and sporting clubs, including being the creator and co-host of Beyond the Club – Australia’s leading science communication podcast for community sport with over 2500 downloads across 20 countries. 

“My work aims to make the sporting journey less turbulent, more enjoyable and more rewarding for families and helps to keep children in sport long-term, so it’s important I take that information and communicate it in ways that are accessible to those it can impact and make a difference to,” says Dr Elliott.

“To be named a Tall Poppy in South Australia, especially as a social scientist in sport, is quite remarkable and quite rewarding. It’s great recognition for the work I have done over the past 10 years but it’s also recognition for the teams that I have worked with throughout that time as well.”

Dr Rong Zhu

A Senior Lecturer in Business Economics in the College of Business, Government and Law, Dr Rong Zhu has researched extensively across labour economics, education economics, and health economics and published in a number of leading journals.

A member of the Research Working Group for the National Strategy of Volunteering (2023-2032) appointed by Volunteering Australia in 2021, Dr Zhu’s work has led to widespread media engagement and a presentation to the World Bank amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, together with advising the government and business agencies on policy formulation and business decision-making.

“I have a huge interest in science communication because I think it helps me to maximize the impact of my research by reaching a wider audience,” says Dr Zhu.

“It’s such a great honour to receive this award and I’m very grateful to the Australian Institute of Policy and Science for this important recognition. It feels so good that my efforts towards research communication and outreach have been recognized.”

As winners of Young Tall Poppy Science Awards (‘Tall Poppies’), Drs Elliott and Zhu will for the next 12 months take part in activities to promote interest in science among school students and teachers, as well as an understanding and appreciation of science in the broader community.

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College of Business, Government and Law College of Education, Psychology and Social Work Flinders University Institute for Mental Health and Wellbeing Research Sport, Health, Activity, Performance and Exercise Research Centre