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Analysis and Comment (100)

Robot on a comet, that’s all. ESA/Rosetta/MPS

Why the Rosetta mission is this generation’s moon landing

The thing everyone seems to talk about with the moon landings is the idea of the whole world stopping to watch. It was a mission that overcame nationalism, it wasn’t “America” putting a man on the moon…
Your inner self. pureblacklove

The science of anatomy is undergoing a revival

Only two decades ago, when I was starting my PhD studies at the University of California in Berkeley, there was talk about the death of anatomy as a research subject. That hasn’t happened. Instead the…
GIFs can help show the effects of climate change. Patrick Kelley

How GIFs are changing the way we talk science

The use of “GIFs” has exploded in recent years. They are used for news, views and entertainment but are most commonly seen as a light-hearted medium. Now scientists are beginning to see how GIFs can be…
Young people are harbouring misconceptions about climate change. But what can be done about it? Thinking image www.shutterstock.com

What do young people really know about climate change?

The next generation will be the ones to feel the increasing effects of climate change. But how much do they really know about it? After all, it’s one thing to say: yes, I believe in climate change. But…
Our attitudes to genetic modification are based on how we feel about risk, technology and the pace of change. John Serrao

How values affect our attitudes to genetically modified food

As Rod Lamberts reminded us here recently, when it comes to debates on genetically modified (GM) foods, arguing about the validity of the science is about as effective as descending to name calling. That’s…
Thanks, we don’t want to know what you have to say. lewishamdreamer

Popular Science is wrong to get rid of online comments

Popular Science has announced that it will be closing online comments on its news stories. Uncivil commenters have an overly negative effect on readers, it claims, with a small number of negative commenters…
You can’t combat a point of view based on values with arguments based on science. John Virgolino

To change anti-science activists' minds, go beyond science

The ABC recently reported that 400 people in the Philippines trampled vitamin-enriched “golden rice” trial crops because of fears to human health and biodiversity. A Greenpeace representative in Manila…
Even when the Climate Commission was taxpayer funded it was good value. The Climate Council

Communicating climate change is great value for money

Many will be relieved at today’s announcement by board members of the Climate Commission that they will be continuing their work by setting up a community-funded Climate Council. Communicating climate…
Climate Commissioners, such as Veena Sahajwalla, talked with the public about climate science and ways to respond: who will do that now? Climate Commission

Axing the Climate Commission splits Australians from science

The new Abbott Government decided today, just one day into governing, to axe the Climate Commission. This decision demonstrates to the Australian public the government is not interested in talking to them…
Complicated, but not as complicated as us. NASA

To be effective citizens, we all need a feel for science

Science isn’t just for scientists. It’s not just a training for careers. Today’s young people – all of them – will live in a world, ever more dependent on technology, and ever more vulnerable to its failures…
The future is in your hands, tread carefully. bbcradio4

Astronomer Royal on science, environment and the future

This is a transcript of a speech given at the British Science Festival in Newcastle on September 12. It’s always a pleasure to speak at the British (Science) Association, but there are two special reasons…
Studies suggest around 30% of people are “generally unengaged” with science. Suarez Leandro

Engaging the unengaged in science? Try a little harder

Like many Australians, you may have recoiled in horror or laughed heartily when the results of the Australian Academy of Science’s science literacy survey surfaced last month. You may have had a similar…
There’s a public appetite for more science … so how should it be sated? London Permaculture

And in science news … can we have more science news?

Why is science not delivered as part of our routine news bulletins in the same way as, say, business and sport? Enter a group from the University of Queensland, who yesterday posted an open letter to radio…
Understanding how the world works as a system is vital. Rigmarole

Does science literacy matter? Yes, and here’s why

When the email notice for The Weekend Conversation landed on Saturday, I was intrigued and slightly startled by the opening teaser from the site’s Science + Technology editor, Paul Dalgarno. He got one…
A day out in woods, for science. GlacierNPS

Citizen science heading for world domination

People from all walks of life and all corners of the world are becoming scientists. Citizen science empowers those with an interest in any area from ecology to astronomy to be a part of the scientific…
“If we don’t evaluate our impact we risk becoming our own worst enemies.” mollybob

Ring the changes on science communication

Public concerns about issues such as wind farms and vaccines have led to a discussion about why some people have strong fears or adverse reactions, and why their perception of risk doesn’t align with those…
Social media provides new ways for journals and scientists to interact. Scientists should take an active role in shaping this exchange. Noura

Social media is shaping dialogue between scientists and journals

More and more scientists are communicating via social media to find, publicise and discuss current research. This trend has been highlighted in two recent papers that look at the influence of social media…
If advice isn’t acted upon, is it good advice? kevincollins123

Bees, pesticides and … what are chief scientists for?

Without good advice, governments are in extreme danger of creating erroneous or damaging public policy. So it’s a serious matter when a government science adviser is accused of ignoring scientific evidence…
Australia is stuck in a “deficit model” of science communication. -{GP}-

Science engagement in Australia is a 20th century toy

Science engagement in Australia is trapped in the 20th century. It operates under an outdated model that aims to promote and celebrate science, rather than encouraging the public to participate in, and…
Australia is faced with the choice of falling behind or taking steps to keep pace with others. Marco Crupi Visual Artist

Hang on … Australian R&D doesn’t punch above its weight

Australia punches above its weight in terms of global research, producing more than we might expect given our small population. At least … that’s the line we’ve been fed for years – but is it true? A cracking…
Artistic license should be avoided in scientific illustration. Crossett Library Bennington College

What makes a good scientific illustration?

When you open a science textbook or magazine, it’s often the images that capture your attention. Some of these images help you visualise the topics, while others - such as diagrams - can be instrumental…
Scientists let the climate change debate get by them. It’s not too late to own energy. David Reeves

Scientists, this is a call to arms over energy policy

Climate change no longer attracts the headlines it once did, as the recent conference in Doha showed. Global media attention since its 2009 peak during the Copenhagen summit has fallen off a cliff – according…
There’s still plenty to discover about how the brain works but what we know now is irrelevant to education. Brain image from www.shutterstock.com

Weird neuroscience: how education hijacked brain research

Neuroscience: the word oozes sophistication and intelligence – the very qualities we might want to nurture in our students, our children, our general populace. Maybe that’s why many people involved in…
Presenting scientific information isn’t likely to change made-up minds, but there are a lot of un-made-up minds out there. Department of Energy and Climate Change

Science alone won’t change climate opinions, but it matters

Does scientific knowledge matter in the climate debate? Recent research suggests that it is not “what you know” but “who you are” that counts in making up your mind about climate change. What are the implications…
We’re underestimating what primary school students can understand in science. Formula image from www.shutterstock.com

Testing the theory: taking Einstein to primary schools

School students today are taught physics based on obsolete theories and outmoded ways of thinking. Instead of the truth, most learn a naive simplification - the 300 year-old Newtonian physics, itself based…
Why is it that we no longer teach the big story of how everything came to be? Universe image from www.shutterstock.com

Big History: why we need to teach the modern origin story

All human societies construct and teach creation myths or origin stories. These are large, extraordinarily powerful, but often ramshackle narratives that try and tell the story of how everything came to…
Open-access journals are gaining credibility and prestige. rvm_71

Open access will change the world, if scientists want it to

While the Australian Research Council considers its policy on open-access publication and others within the scientific community call for the increased sharing of scientific data, the British are already…
Since 1739, David Hume has been telling us to take a look at our decision-making processes. Oscar Palmer

Don’t wait for science to ‘settle’; decide what society needs

If you listen to the debate between science and society in most of the West, you get one version or another of the linear model. Science comes first. When it is “settled”, society will know what to do…
An experienced lab technician is one of the most readily employable people in the R&D-intensive industries. fungiman_MD

Beware: research technicians need more than just a pulse

Earlier this year the American journalist David Plotz wrote in Slate that: America needs a lot more good engineers and scientists, more competent scientists, even more mediocre scientists. I agree that…
A renewed interest in citizen science could help engage the wider public in research projects. Mount Rainier NPS

Citizen scientists are nothing new, and their value will only grow

Academic discussions of citizen science are all the rage right now (see here, and here, and here). While most describe the successes of individual projects, none (to my knowledge) have taken the long view…
A more “authentic” science curriculum can be achieved for schools. aDecorusUniversitas

Teachers note: science and society are intertwined

Is science being taught badly? In the broadest sense, yes. Most Australian school science curriculum documents I see today seem to be about teaching students how different science is from the rest of society…
Could listening be the way forward for scientists and science? shannonkringen

Help needed: can you fix the science/ society divide?

Want to help fix the science/ society divide? We’re making a documentary looking at how we might do this, and we’re looking for your help. Why? Well … You don’t need to be a rocket sociologist to know…
An introduced species can be invasive without causing native species' decline. Leaping to conclusions won’t help manage the problem. Degilbo/Flickr

We love to hate the common myna, but what should we do about it?

In Australia we are all too familiar with devastating environmental impacts of introduced species such as foxes, rabbits and cane toads. But did you know that some introduced species may have a relatively…
Many pro-science arguments rest on the belief science is simply a “very good thing”. Raul Lazaro

Science in crisis? Go on then, prove it

Litanies about how poorly science and the science “brand” are doing have become a little too common for my liking. The most recent notable example came courtesy of the EU’s Science, it’s a girl thing campaign…
Climate change is only one of many pressures farmers will have to adapt to. Pete Hill

The three Ps of climate change and agriculture

Opinions on anthropogenic climate change vary greatly across society, and it appears that Australia’s farmers remain largely sceptical about the causes of climate change. Recent surveys show that only…
Glamorising women in science or incredibly offensive? You decide. http://science-girl-thing.eu

Science, it’s a girl thing! But I’ll keep my adjustable spanner

You’ve really got to wonder when even Hollywoodgossip.com is questioning whether the latest European Union campaign to attract girls towards a science career is a spoof. The video being referred to was…
Advanced computational skills are required for day-to-day work in most areas of modern science. kodomut

How to teach science and computing in the age of big data

Earlier this week, Senator Chris Evans announced A$5 million worth of science communication grants for 63 projects as part of the Unlocking Australia’s Potential program. We were successful in getting…
How best to quantify the performance of Australian researchers? Storyvillegirl

Strength in numbers: do ERA rankings add up for universities?

The Excellence in Research for Australia Initiative (ERA) is the federal government’s latest attempt to quantify the “excellence” (or otherwise) of Australian researchers. And just a few short weeks ago…
The public often thinks science and technology are the cause of their problems, not the solution. Erik Berndt

Ask and you shall receive - smart consultation leads to better science

Worldwide, and especially in Australia, much valuable science is being wasted or stalled through what is known as technology rejection – the public’s hostile reception of new technologies or scientific…
Rhetoric, even when light as a feather, can carry more weight than scientific evidence. Ark in Time

Eat your heart out, scientists: evidence is a balancing act

The Book of the Dead describes the ancient Egyptian “weighing of the heart” ceremony as the placing of a heart on one side of a set of scales and a feather on the other. Goddess Ma'at’s feather represents…
There’s knowing science, then knowing how to teach it. B Rosen

Teaching the nature of science (and keeping students engaged)

Last week’s Health of Australian Science report, by the Chief Scientist of Australia Ian Chubb, has again highlighted the issue of declining student engagement in science in primary and secondary schools…
You want the truth? You can’t handle the … wait: it’s actually quite simple. Daveblog

The truth, the whole truth and … wait, how many truths are there?

Calling something a “scientific truth” is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it carries a kind of epistemic (how we know) credibility, a quality assurance that a truth has been arrived at in an understandable…
Good science policy will help bridge gaps in our relationship with Asia. Kalexanderson

Good science makes good neighbours in Asia

AUSTRALIA IN THE ASIAN CENTURY – A series examining Australia’s role in the rapidly transforming Asian region. Delivered in partnership with the Australian government. Today, Dr Sally Gras considers the…
Making sure what’s intended is what’s heard can be more difficult than it seems. Melvin Gaal (mindsharing.eu)

Listen and learn: the language of science and scepticism

As scientists, one of our responsibilities should be to promote clarity. A lot of problems are caused by an incorrect or incomplete understanding of terms we regularly, and even lovingly, use. When I use…
Scientists and politicians rely on each other – so how best to develop that relationship? mayhem

Scientists and policy-makers: it’s time to bridge the gap

“Our lack of ability to position our argument in the public means science has not influenced public debate as it should.” So said Australian National University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young at…
Art reflects back the crisis we’ve created. Simon Hennessey: Sunset over Metropolis

Can art change minds where science can’t?

“Artists are shape-shifters and in this there is a perennial, ferocious hope; the hope which transforms, which whispers of possibility, of vision, of change and radical healing. Existing art about climate…
If the US Research Works Bill passes, public access to US research will be restricted. Flickr/the Firebottle

A small bill in the US, a giant impact for research worldwide

Over the Christmas period, a short Bill was introduced into the US House of Representatives. The Research Works Act aims to make it illegal to require researchers to make their work publicly available…
You may be home late if the entire universe is your test tube. morgantj

Science can seem like madness, but there’s always method

THE STATE OF SCIENCE: How does science work? And how can we experiment on things that don’t fit in a lab? Dr Will Howard examines the many faces of the scientific method. As adults, our understanding of…
Australia ranks poorly for the number of graduates emerging with a science degree. epSos.de

Science, maths and the future of Australia

Australia faces many big challenges – in the economy, health, energy, water, climate change, infrastructure, sustainable agriculture and the preservation of our precious biodiversity. To meet these, we…
Scientists who have paved the way for a vaccine that could stop a deadly face cancer killing off Tasmanian Devils were among last night’s winners. Flickr/DrewOtt

Tassie devil and racehorse saviours among 2011 Eureka Prize winners

Scientists hoping to fix a deadly cancer killing Tasmanian Devils and researchers behind a new needle-free immunisation technique were among the scores of Australian researchers celebrated at the Oscars…
Demanding climate data won’t provide a new window into global warming. nasa hq photo/flickr

Access to climate research data ordered

When it comes to obtaining research data, Canadian academic Steve Easterbrook said it best: “Any fool knows you don’t get data from a scientist by using FOI requests, you do it by stroking their ego a…
How we frame the climate change debate is important. Modified image: HamishM/muffet/flickr

You’ve been framed: six new ways to understand climate change

Mike Hulme of the University of East Anglia, the institution at the centre of “Climategate” and the focus of a recent data Freedom of Information request, responds to Clearing up the Climate Debate. There…
Christopher Monckton deliberately misleads the public on climate change. AAP

The chief troupier: the follies of Mr Monckton

CLEARING UP THE CLIMATE DEBATE: Associate Professor John Abraham puts Christopher Monckton’s climate claims to the test. This summer, the people of Australia will yet again be treated to a circus tour…
Be honest: when’s the last time you googled “science”? teotwawki/Flickr

Brand Science is dead, and it’s time to break up the company

Ask us what we mean by “science” and you’ll find us a little circumspect. In fact, we think the word “science” is close to useless. This might seem odd, given we work at the Australian National Centre…
Could artists and scientists be enjoying a more fruitful union? Ben Stansall/AFP

Art and science: make love, not war

When art and science come together, the relationship tends to be uneven, and too often art becomes the unintended junior partner. As researchers working at the interface between art and science, we have…
Scientists need to do a better job of communicating with non-scientists. Brewbooks/Flickr

Forget what you’ve read, science can’t prove a thing

Do scientists have a language problem? Do policy makers have hearing issues? It would certainly seem so. Of late there have been frequent lamentations about scientists' failure to make their case to the…
Too much focus on balance doesn’t present the true picture. AAP

When the science is so clear, why is the argument so clouded?

While the evidence for climate change continues to strengthen, public acceptance of the science keeps declining. Closing the gap could be a question of better communication. At the commencement of the…
Barren: the public is being let down on climate change reporting.

The science of reporting climate change

Foundation Essay – In his recent statements on the poor state of the Australian debate on global warming (meaning discussion of its causes, and how to deal with it in policy terms) Professor Ross Garnaut…
Why is science so hard to communicate? Andrew Huff/Flickr

A better formula for science communication

Foundation Essay – Getting certain points across can be difficult. And yet democracies don’t function properly in the absence of broad, public discussion based on well-sourced information. Especially when…

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