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Gearing up for World Science Week NZ

Gearing up for World Science Week NZ

The Scientists are coming! As many as 2,000 experts in all sorts of fields will begin arriving in Auckland from next weekend as they gather for a collection of high-level science conferences.

Many of the events fall under the banner of World Science Week New Zealand, with public lectures planned throughout the week.

Elsewhere, scientists will gather to discuss everything from the latest Antarctic research findings, to science policy advice to governments.

The International Council for Science will cap things off with its general assembly bringing together representatives from the world's scientific bodies.

The events represent valuable opportunities for journalists to meet and interview senior scientists from around the world. Contact the SMC to get a full schedule of events and a list of media contacts for arranging interviews in the run-up to and during World Science Week New Zealand.

The SMCs from New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Japan and Canada will hold their own summit during the week, which will provide an invaluable opportunity to plan for collaboration across the network - and to hear from representatives of prospective SMCs that are looking to get off the ground.

We are also involved in a number of science communication events during the week including...

Negotiating science communication minefields

Curtis Brainard
The founders of the Science Media Centres in the UK, Australia and New Zealand - Fiona Fox OBE, Dr Susannah Eliott and Peter Griffin, will recount working on some of the most controversial science-related stories of the last decade in an event hosted by the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand. Register here.

Workshop on science blogging

Scientific American blogs editor Curtis Brainard will host a workshop on science blogging, identifying what works in a science blog and the opportunities for New Zealand bloggers to get international exposure. He will be joined by Sciblogs editor Peter Griffin and science blogger Dr Souxsie Wiles.

The workshop is free and aimed at scientists who are interested in getting into blogging or taking their writing to the next level. Workshop limited to 30 participants - apply here.

Media 101 for Antarctic researchers

Emerging scientists from around the world will take part in a workshop hosted by the SMC's Peter Griffin and Dacia Herbulock and offering advice on working with the media to communicate their science.
On the science radar this week...


Ticking clocks boost baby-making urges, real-life 'tractor beam' invented, dolphins get ahead of themselves, bizarre butterfly-head dinosunearthed, and its a wrap for Egyptian history - or is it?
Naked Scientists feature NZ research

Around a dozen scientists from Auckland and Wellington had their science stripped down to the bare essentials when they took part in the Naked Scientists live shows last week.

Virologist and science broadcaster Dr Chris Smith anchored the shows along with Radio New Zealand's This Way Up host Simon Morton as part of a collaboration supported by AUT University, the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Science Media Centre.

Chris and Simon kept a diverse group of scientists on their toes as they drilled down into the research projects, many of which came to life in a series of demonstrations in front of the live audiences. Radio New Zealand broadcast the Auckland show live last Saturday as well as streaming a video feed of the event. Audio from both shows will now be broadcast on the BBC and Australia's ABC.

The live show attracted a sold-out audience of around 400 people at Wellington's Paramount Theatre, illustrating the public appetite for science-related events in the capital. The various parties involved are now looking at a repeat performance of the Naked Scientists Live next year, with Dr Smith hugely impressed with the reception and the breadth and quality of science underway in New Zealand.

Dr Chris Smith (left) and Simon Morton at Naked Scientists Live
Mastering the podcast

The Cambridge-based founder of the weekly Naked Scientists podcast, which has been downloaded around 40 million times since 2001, also hosted science podcasting workshops in conjunction with the SMC, which saw 50 scientists and science communicators in Auckland and Wellington learn the ins and outs of what makes for a successful science podcast.

Participants learned how to come up with a format and style for a podcast, the technology involved and the crucial art of marketing, as well as receiving free copies of Podcasting Made Easy by Auckland podcasting consultant Steve Hart.


Sanitised hands don't stop sick days

Compared to good hand washing practice, using hand sanitisers does not reduce school sick leave in children, suggests New Zealand-led research published in PLOS Medicine this week.

The study, led by Associate Professor Patricia Priest and colleagues from the University of Otago, involved almost 2,500 pupils at 68 primary schools in Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill.

As part of the study, the scientists split the schools into two experimental groups, and gave all the pupils in both groups a 30-minute lesson on hand-washing. The first group of schools then carried on as normal, while the second group had hand sanitisers installed in classrooms and the pupils were told to use them after coughing or sneezing and before they left the classroom for break or lunch.


After two terms, the researchers found that the schools with hand sanitisers did not have fewer absences due to a specific illness (respiratory or gastrointestinal). Additionally, the presence or absence of sanitisers did not affect the length of illness and length of absence from school, or the number of episodes in which at least one other family member became ill.

"The provision of hand sanitisers in addition to usual hand hygiene in primary schools in New Zealand did not prevent disease of severity sufficient to cause school absence," the authors noted in the research paper. This suggests that using hand sanitisers is not as critical to preventing illness as previously thought.

However, they also point out that the results may have been skewed by the fact that the study was carried out during the 2009 flu pandemic, a time at which public health messages about general hygiene may have promoted more heavily than usual.

The study has been covered widely in global media. Read selected coverage on the SMC website.

ends

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