SMC Heads-Up: Fat, SciJourno training, SAVVY
SMC Heads-Up: The fat debate, Scijourno training and last chance to enter SAVVY
Issue 255 1 - 7 Nov 2013
Saturated fat debate in the media
Is saturated fat as unhealthy as we think it is? A number of researchers have questioned the connection between saturated fats and poor health, drawing the ire of other academics who say the evidence is for the link is solid.
In the space of just a few days, several disparate and independent sources have called for a re-evaluation of the role dietary fats in heart disease and health more generally. Proponents of this fat rethink include a British cardiologist writing in BMJ, several physicians interviewed on an Australian Catalyst documentary and, here in New Zealand, Prof Grant Schofield from AUT who has been promoting a high fat - low carbohydrate diet.
The argument that dietary saturated fats are not linked to heart disease conflicts with the current thinking around healthy diets and has drawn criticism from a number of academics.
On the commentary site The Conversation, Prof David Sullivan from the University of Sydney slammed the argument the saturated fats were not linked to heart disease. The University of Otago's Prof Tony Blakely was more cautious regarding the role of fats in heart health. Writing on the Public Health Expert blog, he accepted that there were many overall positives to the diet proposed by Schofield, but ultimately disagreed with the notion that saturated fats are not linked to heart disease.
Some of the strongest criticism came in a press release from a broad group of health organisations headed by Prof Jim Mann, Director, Edgar National Centre for Diabetes and Obesity Research. Prof Mann and the numerous organisations supporting the release suggest that, "those who advocate for radical new dietary approaches have a responsibility to provide convincing peer-reviewed evidence of long term benefit as well as absence of harm. Such evidence does not exist for diets high in saturated and total fat, and very low in carbohydrate."
Prof Schofield, has responded to the criticisms on his blog, with an extensive post addressing the concerns as well as drawing attention to points that can be agreed upon by both sides of the debate.
The Ministry of Health's official guidelines recommend adults "prepare foods or choose pre-prepared foods, drinks and snacks with minimal added fat, especially saturated fat".
You can read more about the saturated fat discussion on the Science Media Centre website.
RNZ debuts The Wireless
Radio New Zealand last night unveiled its much anticipated youth project The Wireless, a website that will focus on issues of relevance to 18 - 30 year olds.
The website features news articles, blogs, video and audio pieces and the editorial team of four will collaborate with Radio New Zealand National to spread content across the station's programmes.
A particular theme will be featured each month, kicking off with a "free" special looking at personal budgeting and how young people manage their finances.
The Wireless editor Marcus Stickley told the SMC that science, health and environment-related themes would be considered for the website, which will steer away from purely entertainment driven stories but examine important and topical issues in an entertaining way. More from the Listener's Toby Manhire on the launch of The Wireless and a Publicaddress comment piece from The Wireless senior producer Megan Whelan.
Last chance to get media savvy!
Applications close this evening for the next Science Media SAVVY workshop.
21-22 November 2013 in Auckland
More than basic media training, Science Media SAVVY is designed specifically to help researchers and scientists gain the confidence and practical skills they need to engage effectively with broadcast, print and online media.
An intensive day of practice interviews and hands-on exercises is followed with a newsroom tour, media discussion panel, and the chance to hear from real journalists who cover science.
Applications close Friday 1 November at 6 pm
What was big in science news this week...
Focus on science journalism training
Journalists wanting to brush up on their use of statistics and numbers, as well as other thorny aspects of reporting on research, now have a new resource available to them online.
The SciJourno website, launched this week by our colleagues at the Australian Science Media Centre, is a free and open-access training resource for working media and others interested in improving communication of research findings to the public.The site provides six online modules covering a range of topics (see below) with hands-on activities and links to further reading.
The online modules are also intended for use in journalism training programmes, as a way of providing future media professionals with basic training in reporting on research findings. Tertiary education providers, teachers and trainers are invited to freely adapt the online activities for use with students.
• Telling an engaging science story
• Understanding a research paper
• Understanding statistics and numbers
• Reporting politicised science
• Using social media for news
• Visualisation in science journalism
The initiative follows recommendations of an Australian expert working group report, chaired by AusSMC head Susannah Elliot, aimed at supporting media coverage of science, and is one of several related projects undertaken as part of the Inspiring Australia programme.
The AusSMC marked the launch with a background briefing covering common pitfalls and red flags for reporters using numbers and stats. You can watch a recording of the briefing, featuring Young Statistician Nick Tierney of the Statistical Society of Australia, here.
Glowing squid come ashore in Auckland
Ever wondered what 3D-printed squid sculptures filled with glowing bacteria look like? Wonder no more.
Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles has teamed up with artist Rebecca Klee to produce a series of sculptures to feature in this year's Art in the Dark festival.
The collaboration came about after Rebecca saw Siouxsies animation about glowing bacteria living on the surface of the Hawaiian bobtail squid,
The annual Art in the Dark festival will be held over 7th-9th November in Ponsoby's Western Park and features pieces from about 40 different artists.
Policy news and developments
Animal ethics: National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee will embark on a new research programme this summer looking into the decision-making processes of animal ethics committees.
Incubators: The government is planning to set up a series of high-tech business incubators to support start ups witrepayable grants.
Rebuild support: The Government has agreed to provide up to $260 million to the University of Canterbury to support its rebuild programme following the destructive Canterbury earthquakes.
Monorail: Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith has released official advice recommending he approve the Fiordland monorail, subject to extensive conditions.
Psychoactive hotline: the Ministry of Health has launched an 0800 Psychoactive Substance Hotline to help the public report concerns about psychoactive substances in their community.
"I'm really pleased to see peer review mentioned here. This is certainly what many of us were calling for during the crisis - show us the data and the methods! "
Dr Siouxsie Wiles on the results of the
inquiry into the Fonterra food scare
New from the SMC
Batty origins for SARS: Experts respond to a study of Chinese bats which identified several coronaviruses very similar to SARS, suggesting the human pathogen originated in bats.
Marsden fund: Read the initial information release and list of winner of this year's Marsden Fund projects.
Marsden media: Read selected media coverage of the this years Marsden winners.
Some of the highlights from this week's Sciblogs posts:
Poking needles in child's tongue unlikely to bring back missing DNA - Grant Jacobs covers the latest media story of pseudo-science and dubious charity.
Code for Life
You need a common base to measure changes - Are ten percent of Kiwis alcoholic? 'No' says Eric Crampton, putting a damper on the latest media booze blitz.
Academic profiling - unwise, unfair, unethical, but common? University rankings can be useful. They can also be used inappropriately to discriminate inaccurately and unjustly, writes Wayne Linklater.
Water quality - What about the fish and the anglers? - Neil Deans goes fishing for facts in the stand off between farmers and recreational fishers.
Some of the major research papers that made headlines this week.
Please note: hyperlinks point, where possible, to the relevant abstract or paper.
Trojan Females:Femme fatales carrying male sterility genes could be the latest weapon in the fight to control New Zealand pests. Researchers have described and modelled a radically new approach for pest management - the "Trojan Female Technique". The approach harnesses naturally occurring mutations in the maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA that reduce male fertility while having little or no fitness impacts on females. The authors suggest the technique has the potential to provide persistent and effective control in a wide range of animals, from mosquitoes to rats.
Heat hiding in the Pacific: New research supports the suggestion the recent slowdown in global warming is due to the fact that the oceans are taking up some of the excess heat, at least for the moment. In a reconstruction of Pacific Ocean temperatures in the last ten millennia, researchers have found that its middle depths have warmed 15 times faster in the last 60 years than they did during apparent natural warming cycles in the previous 10,000.
Trial data unpublished: Almost one in three large clinical trials remain unpublished five years after completion -- despite US laws requiring trial data to be published. This means that an estimated 250,000 people have been exposed to the risks of trial participation without the societal benefits that accompany the dissemination of their results, say the authors of the study, who argue that not revealing the outcomes of trials "violates an ethical obligation that investigators have towards study participants".
Cancer diagnosis linked to suicide risk: Teenagers and young adults are at increased risk of suicide after being diagnosed with cancer according to a study of more than 12,500 young people diagnosed with cancer. Researchers found there was 60% increased risk of suicide or attempted suicide among cancer patients with the risk being much higher (150%) was highest during the first year immediately after diagnosis.
Drylands face nutrient imbalance: An increase in aridity due to global warming will disturb the balance of nutrients in the soil and reduce productivity of the world's drylands, which support millions of people, a landmark study predicts. The research, conducted by a global collaboration of scientists analysing 224 dryland sites in 16 countries, shows that increasing aridity is associated with a reduction in carbon and nitrogen in the soil and an increase in phosphorus.
Walking with dinosaurs: One of the world's largest dinosaurs has been digitally reconstructed, allowing it to take its first steps in over 94 million years. Laser scanning of a 40 metre-long skeleton of the vast Cretaceous Agentinosaurus dinosaur allowed researchers to build a computationally intensive model recreating the dinosaurs walking and running movements.
Upcoming sci-tech events
For these and more upcoming events, and more details about them, visit the SMC's Events Calendar.
• Bioethics Centre 25th Anniversary Symposium - EmbodiedCognition and Neuroethics - 6 November, Dunedin.
• Otago International Health Research Network - 6th Annual Conference- 7-8 November, Dunedin.
• New vaccines for the developing world - who is responsible? - Prof Kim Mulholland - 7 November, Dunedin.
• The origin of life as a philosophical problem: Is it relevant to biotechnology? - Associate Professor Peter Wills - 8 November, Auckland.
• General Practice and Rural Health 30th Anniversary Celebration and Symposium - 8-9 November, Dunedin.
• Kiwicon - Computer security and hacker conference - 9-10 November, Wellington.