Science Deadline: Biosecurity funding boost, Mars landing site chosen and our first 2019 SAVVY
Biosecurity funding boost
combatting kauri dieback and myrtle rust was given a $13.75
million funding boost this week.
The BioHeritage Challenge – one of the National Science Challenges – will receive the funding to conduct the research and it will be split between the two diseases with work on myrtle rust receiving $5m and kauri dieback $8.75m.
BioHeritage Challenge kaihautū Nick Waipara said his team was acutely aware of the urgent need to stop the diseases spreading, but his excitement at the new funding came with caveats, Newsroom reported.
“It’s not a huge, huge programme. Research is quite expensive. It’s not going to solve everything we need to know about kauri dieback.”
"That money that's been allocated will probably seal some of the gaps but maybe not all of them, and maybe not the most important ones either."
Days before the announcement, Minister Woods approved a separate $422.5 million total additional investment in the 11 National Science Challenges, saying they were "fundamentally changing the way science is being undertaken in New Zealand".
“Right now its very hard to tell whether the challenges are engaging well with emerging or Māori researchers, for example, or whether funding is going to an old boys’ network.”
"If you're going to really try and transform the science system and put these goals out there ... there should be some analysis of the extent to which that's working or not, so I think that's what we'd like to see."
MacDiarmid Institute and University of Auckland Associate Professor Nicola Gaston on the National Science Challenges mid-way review, which has not been publicly released.
Mars landing site chosen
NASA has announced the landing site for its Mars 2020 rover, which is due to touch down in February 2021 in a mission to search for signs of ancient life.
A giant impact basin known as the Jezero Crater was the winning site from four final contenders – chosen for its geographically rich terrain, with landforms up to 3.6 billion years old which NASA hopes will shed insight into the planet’s ability to sustain life.
University of Auckland astrobiologist Professor Kathy Campbell was part of a team that unsuccessfully pitched a hot springs landing site known as Columbia Hills - which has already been visited by the Spirit rover, where it got stuck in late 2009, she told Newstalk ZB.
Hot springs are hotbeds of microbial life on Earth, and this would have been the perfect opportunity to send a better-equipped rover to finish what Spirit started, she said, but believed the space agency wanted to avoid repetition.
"In a way, there's a huge advantage of us knowing what's going on, and in a way which was a huge disadvantage in terms of site selection. They just wanted to go somewhere new and make new discoveries."
"The engineers’ job is to get the mission landed without a mishap, whereas the scientists want to go to the most interesting places – and ‘interesting’ generally means ‘dangerous’."
The SMC gathered expert reaction on the announcement.
Upcoming SAVVY workshops
Our flagship media training course returns in 2019 - with the first two-day workshop of the year in Christchurch.
Further 2019 workshops will be confirmed at a later date, but we're taking applications for Christchurch now, and it would be a good idea to apply before Christmas:
Our experienced facilitators provide a supportive environment for researchers to consider their work from different perspectives and find new ways to describe the value of their research to the public.
Ideally suited for researchers with previous media experience seeking further development of their skills, as well as beginners anticipating media interest in their work.
Applications close 10 January
We're also bringing our 15-minute media training Science Media SAVVY Express programme to two conferences before the end of the year. Participants in SAVVY Express receive individual coaching to help them speak on camera about their research in an engaging way, and receive a polished 90-second video edited from their best takes during the session as an added bonus.
We work hard to create a supportive, confidence-building environment for participants, and find the conference setting provides an ideal opportunity for busy researchers to try their hand at new skills.
SAVVY Express is also great for experienced researchers seeking a quick refresher of prior media training.
We'll be at the following conferences before the
end of the year. If you'll be attending, sign up for a
session and encourage your fellow conference-goers to do so
28 Nov Dunedin