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National Science Week kicks into action

Australia's annual celebration of science and innovation starts this weekend, running from August 16 to August 24.

NSW Chief Scientist Professor Mary O'Kane at the launch of Science Week. Nic Healey/CNET

The 16th annual National Science Week has been officially launched, with formal events starting this Saturday August 16.

Launching the event at the Australian Museum in Sydney, NSW Chief Scientist Professor Mary O'Kane said that Science Week aims to get people interested in scientific innovation, as well as acknowledging the contributions Australian scientists make to the world.

Professor O'Kane also noted that Australia's science literacy rates in schools had dropped in some recent reports and highlighted the importance of providing an environment where science was an exciting fixture in school curricula.

There was a sad irony in the timing of the Science Week launch: the same day saw the CSIRO announce that funding cuts would hit its infectious disease research lab in Geelong. The Australian Animal Health Laboratory is a world leader in zoonotic disease research (viruses that can pass from animal to human).

Additional CSIRO cuts will see neuroscientific research, including Alzheimer's and other dementias shut down entirely.

During the week there are around 1000 events happening around Australia at schools, universities, museums and more. While many of the events are aimed at school-age children, there's plenty to be found for university students and adults of all stripes.

The official science week site has a great search engine for finding events -- many of which run beyond the seven days of Science Week -- but here's just a few that caught our eye:

Backyard Safari Photography Competition

Encouraging budding wildlife photographers, Backyard Safari wants snaps of "small game" and other natural history subjects. There are three categories -- open, secondary, and primary -- with a prize pack from Canon on offer. Winners will also be features at the Museum of Tropical Queensland.

Great Australian Science Byte

The Byte is a five week long online science course cunningly disguised as a fun competition. Designed for a Year 10 science knowledge level, anyone can use it brush up on their science skills. Each week new challenges will be posted online and you'll get feedback on your research and answers.

Robogals Science Challenge

Robogals aims to get girls aged 5 to 15 learning about science and engineering. There are a range of minor and major challenges designed for girls to attempt either solo or in teams of two with a mentor.