Issue 216 1 - 7 February 2013
In This Issue
rules of the news
Not-for-profits and shoe-string "hyperlocal" media start-ups are increasingly helping set the news agenda as the US media industry struggles to make the digital business model pay.
Public interest journalism centres, such as the
Center for Pubic Integrity, Propublica and the Center for Investigative Reporting are contributing to investigative reporting efforts as mainstream newsroom numbers are cut.
Science Media Centre manager Peter Griffin has been visiting public interest journalism centres in the US as part of a Fulbright-Harkness Fellowship. Some of these centres have broken award winning stories in science, health and the environment, partnering with mainstream news outlets in the process. The Center for Public Integrity, where Griffin is currently based, also hosts the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which recently uncovered the international and unsanctioned trade in human tissues and unsustainable fishing practices in the Pacific.
"Many of these centres are funded by foundations that recognise the importance of public interest journalism to a healthy democracy," says Griffin.
"But they and the mainstream media at large are struggling with the fundamental issue of making this sort of journalism sustainable longterm."
Along the way he has visited hyperlocal news start-ups that have sprung up to serve communities where mainstream media outlets have largely withdrawn from. One such start-up, the Alhambra Source, near downtown Los Angeles, was set up to try and improve civic engagement after local body elections in the town of 85,000, failed to produce any candidates.
You can follow Griffin's
updates as he looks at new innovations in journalism at
On the science radar...
270-Million-Year-Old tape worm, virtual super powers impacting reality, brewing new medicines, pigeons' Bermuda Triangle and Pharma data cover-ups.
Callaghan Innovation launches
Callaghan Innovation, the new "high-tech HQ" aiming to bolster the economic impact of the government's science and research investment, officially launched today at a breakfast event in Auckland.
The new Crown Agency will aim to "help get New Zealand's most innovative ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace more quickly," according to background on the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment's website
In the run up to the launch, the Science Media Centre contacted a range of key players in the NZ science and innovation sector to assess their expectations of the new agency, asking:
In your view, what is the single most important thing Callaghan Innovation could do to boost private sector innovation in New Zealand?
Prof John Raine, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Innovation & Enterprise), Head of School of Engineering, AUT University, responds:
"In this small country, it is vital that we build much more collaborative behaviour to better use limited resources to support product innovation and the growth of high-tech export businesses.
"The single greatest thing that Callaghan Innovation could do to boost private sector innovation would be to use its own embedded engineering and science capability, in partnership with that of the universities, ITPs, other CRIs and industries, to catalyse a massive increase in the level of industry-demand-driven high technology R & D project activity in New Zealand."
Prof Shaun Hendy, President of the New Zealand
Association of Scientists,
"Callaghan Innovation represents a great opportunity to close the knowledge gap between New Zealand and the other advanced economies. The organisation needs to develop effective new ways of bringing together researchers, entrepreneurs and businesses. ..."
"We will be able to tell if Callaghan Innovation is on track in a year or two by whether it has been able to significantly grow the numbers of scientists and decrease the number of bureaucrats that work there."
You can read full comments from more experts on the Science Media Centre website.
Just three weeks to go to the Science Communicators Assoc. of New Zealand (SCANZ) and International Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) joint symposium in Christchurch.
The conference Disasters: Communicating in the Crisis and the Aftermath, takes place 21 - 22 February.
Don't miss out on the exciting line-up of international
and local speakers. The organisers promise there'll be
something for everyone involved in science communication.
View the programme online here and register here.
• Health, agricultural, environmental and natural disasters and best practice for communicating with the public, (including case studies on PSa, Christchurch Hospital's Emergency department and the Rena oil spill)
• Panel discussion on scientists' responsibilities and the media's role when handling probability, hazard and risk
• Latest thinking from Asia, Europe and Australasia on climate change discourse, the Fukushima disaster and how Italian scientists were held to account for failing to predict a natural disaster
• World launch of Earth Girl: The Natural Disaster Fighter, an educational computer game informed by real life events
• Canterbury's Science Alive! museum on how they adapted when their building was lost to the Feb 2011 quake
And much, much more. Find out more about the conference on the SCANZ website.
Paul Homes passes on
The Nation has lost one of it's most iconic broadcasters.
Renowned New Zealand television and radio presenter broadcaster Sir Paul Homes passed away, aged 62, at his Hawke's Bay home this morning.Sir Paul was knighted earlier this month at special ceremony brought forward because of his poor health.
Radio New Zealand - Rural news
"In waterways, as with many agricultural chemicals -- as with fertilisers, as with pesticides, as with agri-pharmaceuticals -- they're beneficial on land, but they tend to be bad in water. ... Indeed this is what we found in our experiments with DCD."
- Dr Marc Schallenberg,
Freshwater lakes specialist
University of Otago
New from the SMC
DCD in milk: Agribusiness expert Prof Jacqueline Rowarth sheds some light on the controversy over trace amounts of dicyandiamide in NZ milk.
Callaghan Innovation: Science and innovation experts give their two cents on the nation's new economy boosting biz-tech agency.
Staring death in the
Sciblogger Dr Siouxsie Wiles has teamed up with data visualisation expert Mike Dickison to create a series of infographics looking at the morbidly fascinating topic of what New Zealanders die from. Check out the results here.
of the highlights from this week's
Is your region warming? - Ken Perrot blogs about a New Scientist tool which enables you to access regional temperature data illustrating how the world has warmed, by simply entering your city/town.
Antarctic voyage: the Mertz
Polynya - Dr Helen Bostock, marine geologist at
NIWA, kicks off the new Field Work blog with post about her
upcoming Antarctic voyage.
The use of DCD to control nitrogen pollution
in NZ - With DCD in the international headlines
following trace findings of it in NZ milk, Bob Wilcock
explains its use by dairy farmers and the role it plays in
Climate change complicit in Australia's
disastrous summer - Jesse Dykstra links the
extreme weather (scorching heat, bushfires, flooding and
tornadoes) experienced lately in Australia with climate
Shaken Not Stirred
Please note: hyperlinks point, where possible, to the relevant abstract or paper.
what is believed to be the first study of its kind,
researchers used genomic techniques to document the presence
of significant numbers of living microorganisms -
principally bacteria - in the middle and upper troposphere,
that section of the atmosphere approximately four to six
miles above the Earth's surface. Future research will aim to
identify the features that allow bacteria to survive at such
sensory system: Researchers have identified a
system of touch-sensing nerves in mice which only respond to
gentle stroking and appear to trigger feelings of wellbeing
and relaxation. Further studies are needed to see if similar
sensory neurons exist in humans. Video clip available (contains
boosts milk nutrition: Dairy cows that are fed
flaxseed produce more nutritious milk, according to a new US
study. Milk from flaxseed-feed cows contained more omega-3
fatty acids and less saturated fat than milk from cows on a
standard diet, but retained a similar texture. The
researchers also noted that butter from the flaxseed-fed
cows was softer at refrigerated
Journal of Dairy Science
Health outcomes of coming out:
Lesbians, gays and bisexuals who have openly disclosed their
sexuality to others have lower stress hormone levels and
fewer symptoms of anxiety, depression, and burnout, than
their peers who are 'in the closet', according to a new
study. The researchers highlighted the importance of such
findings, saying, "Coming out is no longer a matter of
popular debate but a matter of public
Microchips enter a new
dimension: Scientists from the University of
Cambridge have created, for the first time, a new type of
microchip which allows information to travel in three
dimensions. Researchers believe that in the future a 3D
microchip would enable additional storage capacity on chips
by allowing information to be spread across several layers
instead of being compacted into one layer, as is currently
Some of the policy highlights from this week:
Meaty agreement: The red meat industry has agreed to work together to promote and assist in the adoption of best practice by sheep and beef farmers, as part of a new $65 million dollar sector development project with Government co-funding.
• Open Research Conference - 6-8 February, Auckland.
• The Invisible World: Images of Nanotechnology - Opening 8 February; Exhibition 8-23 February, Auckland.
For these and more upcoming events, and more details about them, visit the SMC's Events Calendar.