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The Press launches new science page

The Press launches new science page

The Press newspaper expands on its science coverage fromMonday with the launch of Catalyst, a weekly page devoted to science stories.

Catalyst builds on the science column The Press has been running in recent months, which is complied by science reporter Dr Sarah Jane O'Connor. The page will feature news articles focused on local science news and the latest research findings published in peer reviewed journals.

Dominion Post science columnist Bob Brockie will also now feature in The Press, as well as guest columnists and a regular Ask a Scientist section.

The page is overseen and edited by The Press associate editor Paul Gorman.

The Press joins the Dominion Post in running a weekly science page, reversing the trend away from dedicated newspaper science sections.

The New Zealand Herald also recently increased its capacity for science coverage with science reporter Jamie Morton now on the science round full-time.

"The important thing about these promising developments is that they are driven by feedback from readers," said SMC manager Peter Griffin.

"Reader surveys reveal that people want more science content and science stories consistently rate highly on the news websites. It is a sign that people are increasingly seeing science as being important and relevant to their lives."
On the science radar this week...

Volcanoes - not asteroids - shaped our Moon, flies look like their mum's ex, sharks havepersonalities too, sealion whiskers help balance, and how brain waves reveal criminal knowledge.
Code of Practice sparks discussion

Plans for the development of a Code of Practice for scientists were the topic of intense discussion in the blogosphere and mainstream media this week, with some scientists voicing their fears that a new code could put a crimp on scientists ability to speak out about controversial science-related issues.

The Prime Minister's chief science advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, and the Royal Society of New Zealand are jointly developing a code of practice on public engagement for scientists, something that was an outcome of the Government's National Strategic Plan for Science in Society.

Radio New Zealand reported this week that scientists approached for comment said that "there is no need for a new code and some fear that such a code is actually a way to rein them in".

However, Sir Peter said such codes were becoming common around the world, that New Zealand scientists have been known to stray outside their areas of expertise and that the code would actually encourage scientists to speak out, but would give guidelines for doing so.

Sir Peter expanded on his comments in a blog post published on his website, writing: "Science's key role in society depends in no small part on its claim to a privileged place in knowledge production and hence in the processes of public reason.

"When that is threatened by scientific misconduct, hubris and bias, or when advocacy extends beyond the reasonable boundaries of inference that the data allow, the explanatory power of science is jeopardized.

"Career pressures on scientists to publish and to patent and the rise of scientific celebrities have introduced new pressures and opportunities that can be as destructive as they are constructive to the public's relationship with and trust in the science sector."

Blogging on Sciblogs, University of Auckland physicist and PM's Science Communicator's Prize winner Professor Shaun Hendywrote: "We have an opportunity to strengthen our Code of Ethics in a way that would protect the ability of both academic and CRI scientists to speak out on difficult issues. The public's confidence and trust in the scientific community rests on our ability and willingness to stand up when the public interest is threatened."

Other commentary

RSNZ chief executive Dr Andrew Cleland: Radio NZ interview

Nicola Gaston: Science and democracy

Matt Nolan: Scientists as advocates

Sudden eruptions a risk in New Zealand

Following the unexpected eruption of a volcano in Japan last week, New Zealand media are asking if local volcanoes could also undergo similar 'blue skies' eruptions.

Last week Mt Ontake, an active volcano and popular hiking destination in central Japan, erupted without warning. The explosion was determined to be a phreatic eruption, caused by groundwater flashing to steam, creating large clouds of ash and gas.

The eruption was not preceded by any clear signs of volcanic unrest and caught hikers on the mountain unawares. At last count, 47 climbers are reported dead, having been caught ash and volcanic gases produced by the eruption.

Here in New Zealand, the news media questioned whether New Zealand's active volcanoes could similarly erupt without warning.

Much like Mt Ontake, New Zealand's Mt Ruapehu and Mt Tongariro are scenic recreational destinations, drawing thousands of hikers, sightseers and skiers every year. The geological processes responsible for creating such impressive landscapes continue, however, beneath the surface.

The Science Media Centre contacted volcanologists for comment on the situation in Japan and how it relates to New Zealand:

Prof Shane Cronin, Earth Sciences, Institute of Agriculture and Environment, Massey University, comments:

"We are familiar with similar types of eruption at NZ volcanoes, such as 2007 Ruapehu and 2012 Te Maari/Tongariro. The suddenness of these eruptions is a real challenge for any monitoring technology. We have been very lucky in past situations in NZ to avoid such calamitous situations, although such blue sky eruptions remain a real possibility at both Ruapehu and Tongariro."

Mike Rosenberg, GeoNet Duty Officer, comments:

"Often, volcanoes let us know about ahead of time about eruptions by producing a swarm of small, shallow earthquakes that have unique energy signatures which can be identified. It is rare that a cone volcano will erupt without giving us a heads up first, but it has happened in the past decade in New Zealand."

You can read full comments and a round up of New Zealand coverage on the Science Media Centre website.

SAVVY workshop in Auckland

Applications are now open for our next Science Media SAVVY workshop in Auckland.

Our two-day Science Media SAVVY course will be held on the campus at the University of Auckland Centre for Brain Research, November 20 - 21.

This workshop caters for both established and emerging researchers who want to gain practical skills for explaining their science to a wider audience and feel more confident engaging with the media.


What participants say about Science Media SAVVY:

"This workshop was simply fantastic - a great intro to the media for scientists with lots of practical experiences. Absolutely would recommend it to colleagues."

"I had done media training before, but the science focus of this one made it miles better."

"There aren't many opportunities that merit two whole days of a researcher's time, but this was worth every moment."

Two scholarships covering full course fees ($595 +GST) are available, one for a qualifying early career researcher and one for a postgraduate student who shows exceptional promise in science communication. Please see the application for full details.

Help us spread the word: download a flyer for your department or office notice board.

If you are potentially interested in sponsoring course fees for successful applicants from your faculty, department, research area or association, please contact the Science Media Centre for more information.

Quoted: LA Times

"It was one of those situations where it sort of took your breath away.

"I'd never seen anything like it."

Dr Dilys Johns, University of Auckland Archeologist, recalls the first time she saw the remains of the Anaweka canoe - a 20ft Polynesian seafaring vessel.

The Friday video...

Spider superglue snares prey

Policy news and developments

More funding for high tech R&D - New Research and Development Growth Grants, expected to be worth more than $32 million over three years, have been awarded to another 22 high tech companies by Callaghan Innovation.

Fungicide application declined - The Environmental Protection Authority has declined Tui Products Limited's application to manufacture or import the fungicide 'Tui Disease Eliminator' due to environmental and health risks.

Submissions sought on new herbicide - The Environmental Protection Authority is inviting the public to make submissions on a herbicide to improve broadleaf weed control in maize. The substance, called 'Cadet', contains fluthiacet-methyl and would contain a new active ingredient to New Zealand.

Ebola unlikely in New Zealand, but we're ready - Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew says New Zealand is well placed to detect and respond to Ebola if it were to reach the country.

Rutherford Discovery Fellowships awarded - Ten of New Zealand's most talented early to mid-career researchers have been awarded Rutherford Discovery Fellowships for 2014.

New From the SMC

Experts respond:

Ebola becoming airborne: Media coverage around the continuing Ebola outbreak has questioned whether or not the virus could in future change its mode of transmission to become airborne, though this is thought to be unlikely.

First case of Ebola in United States:
The first imported case of Ebola in the US has been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and authorities are monitoring at least five schoolchildren who came into contact with the patient after he became sick and infectious.

NZ ranks high in global ageing report: New Zealand is the 10th best country in the world to grow old in, ranked above both Australia and the UK by the Global AgeWatch Index 2014.

Volcanic eruption in Japan: Japanese volcano Mount Ontake erupted suddenly over the weekend, when the popular recreational site was crowded with hikers, resulting in significant casualties.

In the News:

NZ ranks 10th in global ageing report: New Zealand is the 10th best country in the world to grow old in, ranking above both Australia and the UK as part of an international assessment of how the elderly are faring globally.

Climate and canoe offer colonisation clues:
Two new studies from Australian and New Zealand authors have shed light on the travels of the first Polynesian settlers of New Zealand.

Reflections on Science:

Dr Nicola Gaston on science and democracy: In a guest post for the Public Address blog network, Dr Nicola Gaston, President of the New Zealand Association of Scientists, outlines her thoughts on public trust in scientists and a potential new code of practice for public engagement.

From the SMC Network

From the UK SMC:

Expert reaction to alcohol consumption and HPV infections in men

Expert reaction to alcohol consumption and sperm and semen quality

Expert reaction to media coverage questioning whether Ebola could become airborne

Expert reaction to NICE recommendation for nalmefene to help people reduce their dependence on alcohol

Expert reaction to Home Office investigations into animal welfare standards following BUAV infiltrations

Expert reaction to midlife personality and Alzheimer's

Expert reaction to the first case of Ebola diagnosed on US soil

Expert reaction to maternal cigarette smoking and male offspring fertility

Expert reaction to broad-spectrum antibiotics in infants and obesity in children

Expert reaction to study on antibiotic treatment failure

From the Australian SMC:

EXPERT REACTION: First imported case of Ebola in the US

Sciblogs highlights

Some of the highlights from this week's Sciblogs posts:

Women scientists get vocal about top billing on Twitter - Victoria Metcalf highlights the responses to the Top 50 Science Stars of Twitter list.

Ice Doctor

Scientists as advocates
- Scientists should be able to speak freely on their political beliefs like everyone else - if it's done with humility, says Matt Nolan.

The Dismal Science

NZ drought and record Aussie heat worsened by warming - Gareth Renowden reports on the findings from a New Zealand-led study looking at current climate change effects.

Hot Topic

Scientists need to hold policy-makers to account - Shaun Hendy discusses how policies influence scientists' voices, and whether policy-makers listen to scientists when forming decisions.

A Measure of Science

Monday Micro: glowing dog bones in Taranaki! - A woman was surprised to see her dog's new bone emitting an eerie blue light. Siouxsie Wiles investigates.

Infectious Thoughts

Research highlights

Some of the research papers making headlines this week.

World Falling Short of Biodiversity Goals for 2020: An international consortium, including the University of Auckland, has found that the 20 biodiversity Aichi Targets - which were agreed upon by 150 nations at the 2010 Convention on Biological Diversity - are unlikely to be met by 2020 unless efforts are redoubled.

Curiosity creates better learners: The more curious we are about a topic, the easier it is to learn information about that topic, according to a new study that looks at what happens in the brain when curiosity is piqued. The findings could help scientists find ways to enhance overall learning and memory in both healthy individuals and those with neurological conditions.

Death - you won't smell it coming: The inability of older adults to identify scents is a strong predictor of death within five years. Almost 40 per cent of those who failed a smelling test died during that period, compared to 10 per cent of those with a healthy sense of smell. In fact, a poor sense of smell predicted mortality better than a diagnosis of heart failure or cancer!


Vitamin D doesn't prevent diabetes: A large genetic study has concluded there is no causal link between vitamin D deficiency and the development of type 2 diabetes. The findings of the study challenge evidence from earlier studies suggesting that taking vitamin D supplements might prevent type 2 diabetes.
The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology

Shifting sands hint at martian winds: A year's worth of high-resolution satellite imagery from the red planet has identified shifting ripples in the deserts of Mars. The sand shifts daily and shows seasonal patterns, allowing researchers to estimate the strength of winds in the thin martian atmosphere. Image available.
Nature Communications

Upcoming sci-tech events

For these and other upcoming events, and more details about them, visit the SMC's Events Calendar.

IceFest - 27 Sep to 12 Oct, Christchurch. Creative and interactive festival highlighting New Zealand's leadership in, and the global importance of, Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

New Zealand Population Health Congress - 6-8 October, Auckland. Joint event between the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine (NZCPHM), the Public Health Association of New Zealand (PHANZ), and the Health Promotion Forum of New Zealand (HPF) to connect communities with policy and science.

Flaunting it on Facebook - 9 October, Hamilton. Massey University Associate Professor Antonia Lyons discusses how new technologies are being used by young people in their drinking practices and cultures.


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