Posts Tagged science communication

New media rules hit UK government scientists Peter Griffin Apr 02

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Science communication bodies have criticised a UK Government code for civil servants requiring ministerial approval before they talk to the media.

Fiona Fox

Fiona Fox

The UK’s Civil Service Code was updated this month requiring the pre-authorisation, which in theory also applies to scientists working for the government in units such as the Met Office and the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control.

In an open letter to cabinet secretary Francis Maude, the UK Science Media Centre, the Association of British Science Writers and Stempra, a science PR and communications network, wrote that the minor wording change could have a major chilling effect on government scientists speaking to the press on controversial issues.

Fiona Fox UK SMC director Fiona Fox told the Guardian: “What we need are messages from on high that are supportive and back scientists sharing their evidence and expertise to better inform these debates. Unless the situation is clarified, this will have a chilling effect. Scientists will keep quiet to be on the safe side.”

In an editorial on the issue, science journal Nature said changes to the Civil Service Code may not become a topic of debate in next month’s UK general election, but that scientists should “find their voices again” and question its meaning.

“Any block on transparency and openness is a step backwards. The government that takes over after the general election should clarify what it wants from its scientists, and how the rule change alters that. It should consider an exemption for researchers talking to the media about their work in acknowledged areas of public interest, such as climate or health.”

The New Zealand situation

Government-employed scientists working in New Zealand’s Crown Research Institutes generally can speak to the media as long as interviews are approved by their institute’s communications staff. But major controversial issues are often dealt with by senior ministry spokespeople, so scientists are told to defer to the officials. Many CRIs also undertake contracted work for ministries so are contractually obliged to refer all media queries to the ministry they are working for.

The New Zealand Association of Scientists will explore the issue next week in its Wellington conference Going Public: Scientists speaking out on controversial issues. The conference will feature journalists, scientists and the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman, who is developing a scientist’s code of conduct for public engagement with the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Otago looking for another science communication professor Peter Griffin Aug 09


Well this is exciting – the University of Otago’s Centre for Science Communication is undertaking a worldwide search for a science communication academic to join the Dunedin-based centre run by Professor Lloyd Davis.

Prof Lloyd Davis

Prof Lloyd Davis

The Centre for Science Communication is New Zealand’s only dedicated science communication academic centre and has won worldwide acclaim for its work in the area of science documentaries, thanks in part to a great partnership with Dunedin-based production Natural History New Zealand, which is now owned by Fox.

Where the centre hasn’t been as strong has been in the area of science communication research. Other science communication centres around the world do much better in this area. It appears then that the Dunedin centre is looking for an expert in science communication to come onboard and beef up its research output. This is a great move. Science communication research in New Zealand is fairly thin at a time when society’s relationship with science needs to be much better understood. With the earthquakes, Rena oil spill, the ongoing issue of fresh water quality all providing fertile material for science communication research projects now is exactly the time for the centre to expand in this area.

And what a cool job too – here are the details.

We invite applications to join the friendly and progressive Centre for Science Communication, one of the world’s largest university programmes devoted to postgraduate courses and research in science communication. Established in 2008, the Centre has grown quickly and has a strong international flavour, with approximately half of our 50-plus students coming from overseas at any one time. We are focussed on developing our international reputation for scholarship and research in areas of science communication.

For that reason, the successful candidate should have demonstrated sustained outstanding leadership in relation to research in some area of science communication. It is expected that you will develop a proactive research programme at the Centre for Science Communication and attract internal and external grants, postdoctoral researchers, PhD and Masters students.

The University of Otago has an enviable track record in research. Situated on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, Dunedin possesses a unique combination of cultural riches, fine architecture, world-famous wildlife reserves and is recognised for its beautiful scenery. Nearby is Central Otago, which is renowned for both its wine and its spectacular scenery.

The University of Otago is looking for a candidate who clearly demonstrates energy, drive and enthusiasm for the study of science communication. You will be expected to take a constructive and active role in the academic development and management of the Centre, with a view to assuming the role of Assistant Director and working closely with the Director of the Centre, Professor Lloyd Davis. Therefore, evidence of leadership skills and an ability to nurture and develop academic staff and students are important qualities for this role. It is envisaged you will have a PhD or equivalent research degree, considerable teaching experience and be research active.

Applications quoting reference number 1301291 will close on Thursday, 12 September 2013. Please click here to apply via our online recruitment system.

Deborah Blum’s creative science writing Peter Griffin Aug 08

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if you have read The Poisoner’s Handbook, or any of Professor Deborah Blum‘s science features, you’ve probably marveled at how she spins a gripping story woven through with well laid-out scientific concepts. 

Professor Deborah Blum

Professor Deborah Blum

Take, for instance, her Slate feature about the US Government’s little-known Prohibition-era bid to stop people drinking – poisoning the industrial alcohol bootleggers were stealing and selling as hard liquor.

Here’s how Blum starts that fascinating piece:

It was Christmas Eve 1926, the streets aglitter with snow and lights, when the man afraid of Santa Claus stumbled into the emergency room at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital. He was flushed, gasping with fear: Santa Claus, he kept telling the nurses, was just behind him, wielding a baseball bat.

How could you not read on? This is the power of creative writing, but Blum of one a rare breed of writers who can employ this style to science writing, to great effect.

Here’s another from Slate about unpasteurized milk:

Worshippers at the milk shrine—to indulge in yet more hyperbole—stand before only one image of that perfect food. It’s golden, creamy, foamy, fresh from grass-fed, family-farm cows. It doesn’t cause but cures illness. Raw milk, with its legion of followers, has become a poster child of the food rights movement, giving emotional power to the idea that all of us deserve access to untainted, unprocessed, healthy food.

Prof. Blum, now an academic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, won a Pulitzer Prize for beat reporting in 1992 for a series known as The Monkey Wars about the ethics of primate research. She turned that series into a book and has covered topics as diverse as gender and the paranormal in books since then.
She will be in Wellington giving a one-day masterclass as part of workshops on creating science writing and digital story telling in November. Here is how Victoria University is pitching the workshops:

1.       CREW352: Creative Writing Workshop (Science Writing): International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington, 18 November-22 December 2013.Offered for the first time, this workshop provides expert support for writing projects with a science focus.  You’ll be working with leading science writer and Listener columnist Rebecca Priestley and noted essayist and poet Ashleigh Young, exploring the diverse range of nonfiction science writing possibilities: essays, articles, memoir, travel narratives, biography. As part of this course you will also attend a one-day masterclass by Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and author of the New York Times bestseller The Poisoner’s Handbook. Limited to 12 places. More information.

2.       The Digital Storyteller: 9am to 1pm, 27 November 2013, Victoria University of Wellington. “The rise of digital publishing has opened up a new world for writers and some exciting opportunities,” says Deborah Blum, professor of science journalism, best-selling science writer and Pulitzer Prize winner. “It’s changing the way we write about science and opening new opportunities”. This half-day masterclass, taught by Professor Blum, will focus on both long-form narrative storytelling and on the new platforms for telling such stories, including the rise of e-single publishers and digital magazines. With a focus on writing about science, topics will include the geometry of story structure and other tools for crafting a narrative piece, marketing stories, and the new publishing options. Limited to 10 places. More information.

These look to be great workshops and a rare opportunity to gain advice and insights from great local writers like Dr Rebecca Priestley and Ashleigh Young as well as the visiting Prof. Blum. Places are tightly limited so get in quick.

Aussies petition for more science news – should we? Peter Griffin Jul 24

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A group of science students and researchers at Queensland University have started a petition seeking 20,000 names in support of a letter urging Australian youth radio network Triple J to feature more science news.

The group dubbed And in Science quote research from ANU University that suggests the public is very interested in stories about science, health, new discoveries and environmental issues – more so than sport and politics. From the 2010 ANU Poll, which surveyed 1200 Australians:

The latest ANU Poll looked at public attitudes about science. It found that far from being a nation of sports obsessives, Australians would prefer to hear about health issues, medical discoveries and the environment in their news bulletins. However, the poll also found that the public felt poorly informed about science, are confused about climate science, and think politicians are too easily swayed by media reaction when they should be listening to scientists.

Source: ANU Poll 2010

Source: ANU Poll 2010

Here is what And in Science want, specifically:

We, the undersigned, believe that science deserves equivalent representation to that of politics, culture, breaking news, and sport. We believe that science is both interesting and relevant, and meaningfully contributes to our understanding of the world (and universe) around us. Therefore, we hereby petition Triple J (Australia’s publicly owned youth radio station) to include an ‘In science’ report in their hourly news updates, of one or more contemporary and current science news items and of at least 20 seconds duration.

It seems like a reasonable request and I hope they get to their target of 20,000 signatures at

I’d obviously like to see more science coverage in the mainstream media – and that’s an issue I could write a lot about.

But let’s deal for the moment with youth radio in New Zealand.

Ironically, I just did my weekly Dear Science slot on Bfm where I wrap up the big science stories of the week with the Wednesday host of The Wire, Georgia Moselen-Sloog. The station, which is similar to Tripe J in many respects, but is not publicly-funded, actually has a fairly strong science focus. I know this because often I have to drop science or environment stories from Dear Science because they have had significant coverage earlier in the day. A lot of experts and scientists are featured in Bfm interviews. Other stations that are part of the bNet network of student radio stations also cover a lot of science-related stories.

The point is, I think, that young people host these shows and produce these news bulletins, and young people are particularly interested in science, environment and tech stories. So I think the problem is not so pronounced here as it may be with Triple J.

We will also towards the end of the year see the formation of a youth-orientated news service by Radio New Zealand. This is an exciting project and will see a true multimedia approach to news mainly online, with content also running on National Radio. I’ve spoken to the team behind it – they are enthusiastic about science coverage. Both they and I see it as a great opportunity to communicate science in a way that cuts through with a younger audience.

Mainstream commercial media the problem

So for me, youth-orientated radio does reasonably well on science – there could always be more, but I see good anecdotal evidence that science-related content is a strong part of the news mix.

A problem remains with science coverage in the mainstream media in general. Most editors and executive producers tell me that science stories are no more or less important than other types of stories and need to slug in out with them to find a place on the news agenda. But the reality is that it is down to resourcing. No news outlets, other than Radio New Zealand, have fulltime science reporters on staff. General reporters cover science alongside politics, spot news and crime.

It means that when a science story gets the green light from an editor, it is likely to get a decent treatment. But it also means that there are few dedicated outlets for science news, that long-running topics and issues like climate change are covered randomly and often without much context. This is not ideal and I’ve been pushing for years for more resourcing of dedicated science coverage.

Editors also tell me that science rates well on news websites, which I think helps build the case for dedicated resourcing of the round, though judging by what’s driving traffic to Stuff today, science more often than not, doesn’t get much of a look-in.



I don’t think a petition for more science news will go very far in New Zealand but I’d certainly like to see some decent research done on what sort of news a cross-section of New Zealanders want. If science similarly rates highly as it did in the ANU Poll, the case to push for more science coverage across the board would be very strong.

Scibloggers clean out science communication awards cupboard Peter Griffin Nov 29

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I spent an enjoyable morning at the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes where the glow of last night’s premiere of The Hobbit was obviously still buoying attendees – particularly the Prime Minister, who at one stage suggested there were “cauldrons of opportunity” in science.

Professor Shaun Hendy

The PM’s Science Prizes spell the end of the science awards season, following the New Zealand Association of Scientists awards and last week’s Royal Society of New Zealand Research Honours awards. They also represent the most lucrative of the prizes, with one million bucks going to the recipients collectively.

Full details about the award-winning scientists, science teacher and remarkable student winner Helen Ng are here.

But it was particularly pleasing to see Sciblogger Professor Shaun Hendy pick up the PM’s Science Media Communication Prize. Professor Hendy divides his time between Industrial Research and Victoria University and until recently was Deputy Director of the MacDiarmid Institute. This is Shaun’s second win – he picked up the Callaghan Medal for science communication at the RSNZ awards last week.

Aside from his blogging at A Measure of Science, Shaun has been prolific in the media. He is a regular contributor on Radio New Zealand and is often quoted in science-related news articles, TV and radio pieces. I learnt this morning that the book he is publishing next year will be called Get off the Grass, (great title!) and will carry on some of the ideas first explored in Sir Paul Callaghan’s well-received and through-provoking book Wool to Weta.

Both awards are well deserved and hard-earned. Like Sir Paul, Shaun is able to relate science to the big picture issues facing the country. He understands the needs of journalists. And he isn’t reticent about standing up for what he believes in. Amid the controversy this week over Dr Mike Joy’s comments in the New York Times about the state of our environment, Shaun, in his capacity as President of the Association of Scientists issued a statement defending Joy and attacking a heavy-handed Herald editorial about Joy.

Standing up for science

“The clear statement is that the potential damage to New Zealand’s reputation, and economic benefit of ‘big-spending American tourists’ outweighs the need for truth in  public debate,” the NZAS release stated. “This is an issue that the Association takes very seriously, and emphatically refutes criticism of Dr Joy on this basis.”

I had a chat with Industrial Research Ltd. CEO Shaun Coffey at the PM’s prizes this morning, a man who has been instrumental in giving Shaun the time and freedom to engage with the media. Coffey is running a very successful experiment in science communication himself, having amassed nearly 130,000 followers on Twitter. His updates and links to interesting articles on R&D, science, economics and agriculture are addictive reading for me.

Dr Siouxsie Wiles

Picking up the NZAS Science Communicator’s Award was another Sciblogger, Dr Siouxsie Wiles who blogs at Infectious Thoughts. Currently you can see Siouxsie fronting a national TV ad campaign for the National Science Challenges. She is also active on the media front and has been successfully testing out crowd funding of scientific research through the Rockethub platform.

What is great to see is that we have a growing number of scientists who are skilled communicators, willing to engage with the media, conscious of the news agenda and the interplay between science and the issues of the day and proactive about getting the science out to the public. Others such as Dr Mark Quigley, last year’s PM’s Science Media Communicator’s Prize winner, and Professor Chris Battershill have quickly had to hone their media skills when demand for their expertise put them in the media spotlight. In the case of Quigley, it was the Canterbury earthquakes, for Battershill it was the Rena oil spill.

The better scientists are at communicating their science, at relating its value to society the better the public’s understanding of the importance of science will be. And those who recognise that science communication is an ongoing endeavour, an investment, rather than an obligation tied to the need to promote research findings or secure funding, will ultimately better serve the people who are indirectly paying for their science.

When science writing is King Peter Griffin Jul 09

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If you are a blogger writer or science communicator, you should seriously consider checking out the upcoming Writing Science event being held at the Michael King Writers’ Centre in Auckland in October.

I’ll be there and the programme looks pretty impressive.

What’s the workshop about? The following quote from the workshop promotional material pretty much sums it up:

“..There is increasing concern about the conflation of water security, food security and energy security against the backdrop of global population increase to at least 9 billion by 2050, climate change and rising incidences of non-communicable disease… Science is essential to addressing these components of the ‘perfect storm’…The issue of public engagement and understanding is already a challenge and will grow.”

Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Advisor, Transition To Sustainability Conference, University of Auckland, 2010.

Sir Peter was tapping the same vein at the recent Transit of Venus forum in Gisborne where he called for better science communication to address that exact “perfect storm” he mentions above.

When it comes to science writing there are few short workshops that let busy professionals drop in to get some guidance on science writing – Dave Armstrong leads an excellent course at Victoria University that’s spread over three weekends – I’ve been a guest speaker the last couple of years and love watching Dave lead the class.

The Michael King Writer’s Centre course is more conference than workshop. It will really appeal to people working in and around science who want to take their writing to the next level, get ideas from established science writers like Rebecca Priestley, michael Corbalis and Geoff Chapple and figure out the lay of the land in terms of outlets and opportunities for science writing.

The centre is calling for applications with places limited to 24:

The workshop is limited to 24 applicants.  Writers applying to attend the workshop should have some publishing record or be specialists in their field. Participants will have published articles in journals, magazines or websites, and some will have published chapters in books or have books published or in progress. Those attending may be scientists, historians of science and medicine, natural history and technical writers, science journalists, Te Ara/Encyclopedia writers, writers covering public health and environmental issues, those currently writing in the science field and crossover published writers who have recently started writing about science.

Applications should be made to the address below by 15th July 2012 and include a writing CV.  Registration forms will be sent to those accepted by 30th July 2012  Payment is due following acceptance and may be made in two installments.

Is this a Conversation worth having? Peter Griffin Mar 30

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There’s a new player in science communication that has emerged across the Tasman, in the form of The Conversation, a website backed by numerous Australian universities and overseen by a highly experienced team of journalists and scientists.

I’ve known The Conversation was coming for some time – our colleagues at the Australian Science Media Centre are a supporting partner. It is an interesting and promising concept – one that has emerged as people seek out a proliferation of alternative sources to mainstream media coverage of science.

So what’s the deal? The Conversation is a Melbourne-based web start-up featuring content written by scientists, finessed by trained journalists and presented directly to the public.

It is essentially a reaction to the media’s lessening ability to do coverage of science-related issues justice. It has the financial backing of ANU, Monash, Melbourne, UTS, UWA and the CSIRO to the tune of millions of dollars per year and counts those organisations plus a hardful of others among its content partners.

The idea is that The Conversation‘s journalists set the editorial agenda and seek out experts at the scientific institutions to come up with articles and opinion pieces. This graphic nicely sums up how The Conversation differs from the mainstream media.

Source: The COnversation

Source: The Conversation

That could be a recipe for dry, highly-technical pieces from academics, but out of the gates The Conversation is generating interesting, well-written and even controversial material. The hidden hand of seasoned journos shines through in the writing, which so far has covered subjects as varied as the Google Books court reversal and a neuroscientist’s view on “chiropractic quackery“.

The experts featured so far form an eclectic group. There are disclosure statements to cover off potential conflicts of interest and discussion is encouraged with comments open on each article and Creative Commons repurposing of the content endorsed.

The editorial team at The Conversation is headed by Andrew Jaspan, former editor of The Age, The Observer (London), The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday. That amounts to some serious journalism experience in Jaspan alone. A team of around 18 makes up The Conversation, though a number of them seem to be part-time assistant editors. As such however, The Conversation represents probably more resourcing in science journalism and communication than any media organisation in Australasia is committing – barring possibly the ABC.

Is it sustainable?

But will it work longterm? The public still gets 90 per cent of its information about science from the mainstream media – newspapers and magazines, TV and radio broadcasts and the online portals of those organisations. The Conversation is a new player that seems to be committed to high-quality content. What it doesn’t have however, is a large audience to put that content in front of. Its readsership will increase over time, but The Conversation will likely need to forge content-sharing partnerships with media organisations for its content to gain traction with the wider public.

This isn’t as hard as it sounds, and The Conversation already has AAP as a strategic partner, suggesting some content sharing with the newswire service is in the pipeline. At  Sciblogs, we’ve found that articles written here can quickly catch the media’s attention. Today alone, nutritionist Amanda Johnson was on radio and TV on the back of her piece about the influence of marketing on children’s perceptions of food.

Since late last year, Sciblogs content has been syndicated via the New Zealand Herald website and occasionally Stuff and NBR. Coverage by our bloggers of the Ken “Moon man” Ring affair pushed Sciblogs traffic last month above the 100,000 visitor per month mark for the first time. So there is mainstream media appetite for good quality content and increasingly, editors are deciding to reach out to bloggers and op-ed writers to supplement their own coverage. This is a good thing and something The Conversation will, I think, find it easy to exploit. The problem is the media are rarely willing to pay for such content, which is leading to a preculiar thing – where some specialist areas of journalism, such as science journalism and investigative journalism, are starting to be funded by groups outside the mainstream media.

The Conversation is a prime example of this. Sciblogs, which was intially funded by the New Zealand Science Media Centre to some extent is also an example of that. In the area of investigative journalism, US not for profits, the Center for Public Integrity and ProPublica are examples of this. All of the above area funded by Government, public institutions, philanthropists or a mix of all three.

So we are starting to see a shift in the media landscape where resource-intensive journalism of complex issues is being taken up and funded by third parties. That reflects the commercial reality of the state the media is in at the moment, but isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As long as the quality and independence of content can be maintained, who cares where it comes from?

But the issue of independence shouldn’t be underestimated and The Conversation, like Sciblogs and any other organisation seeking to put out credible information should never the importance of independence – both real and perceived. Editorial decisions need to be made independently of the organisation’s financial backers.

So far so good for The Conversation. The content is making me stop and read, the site looks pretty good. It arrives at a time when major science-related issues of public concern (the tsunami and nuclear situation in Japan, extreme weather events in Australia etc) require effective explanation on the part of experts. This venture facilitates that and therefore shows a lot of promise. So yes, a conversation that is indeed worth having.

Good science presentations – don’t forget to chunk Peter Griffin Feb 13


Listen to past and present world leaders like Barack Obama, Tony Blair and even George W. Bush and you’ll hear a particular speech-making tool in action – chunking.

I was introduced to chunking today at a presentation at the Foo Camp “unconference” held at Mahurangi College just out of Warkworth by Olivia Mitchell, a speech expert with Effective Speaking.

She had a room full of scientists and technologists who had similar hang-ups when it came to getting across often highly-technical concepts in speeches to laypeople.

Many in the room talked of getting tongue-tied, using fillers like “um” and “ah” to fill awkward silences and talking too fast due to nerves. For myself, I’m definitely familiar with the latter, particularly in front of large crowds, when the presentation can feel like a hurtling train ride to the final slide. The only time things seem to slow down is when there’s a glitch with the presentation or your computer crashes – in which case a few seconds can feel like a minute.

Enter the method of chunking, which is designed to slow down your speech, give you time to think and your audience time to absorb what you are saying.

The key to chunking is to think about how you want to break up your sentences to deliver aspects of the concept you are explaining. Talking for a few seconds followed by a pause of a second, then another burst of speech and so on, is an effective way to deliver an impactful speech without becoming flustered and adding in those clunky and noticeable fillers.

It takes a bit of getting used to, but after a few tries in the session today, I was talking fairly smoothly in chunks about a fairly complex science-related topic. The regular pausing means you can collect your thoughts to find the right words to start your next sentence and means you are lest likely to ramble on just to fill dead air, which the public speaker naturally dreads.

Chunking teaches you to make good use of regular pauses, which also allows you to pause for impact as you let your audience absorb your words.

Tony Blair is apparently the master of chunking, as numerous Youtube clips illustrate. Blair earns in the region of $600,000 per public speaking engagement, such is the effectiveness and impact of his speeches. He had extensive training in the art of chunking early in his political career.

Mitchell touched on an aspect of speech delivery that is particularly distracting and unfortunately, fairly common among public speakers in New Zealand – the high rising change in tone at the end of a sentence. It’s particularly common among females apparently. Here’s Mitchell’s tip to avoid doing it – think about the end of the sentence – where you want to end up with this particular chunk of speech. If you know the final words you are going to deliver in the sentence, you will have more confidence in the style in which you delivering, eliminating the uncertain, questioning tone that the rise in tone suggests.

We only had a short workshop with Mitchell, but I’ll be working on my chunking ahead of my next presentation!

More on chunking:

Describing your research – soundbites from Wellington Peter Griffin Jul 13

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The Wellington workshops of the Emerging Researchers roadshow featured the highest number of social scientists of all the main centres.  Here’s how they summed up their research in a couple of sentences…

My colleague Dacia Herbulock stepped in to run these sessions while I was down in Dunedin for the science festival.

Here are her top 10 favourites…

Does moving in time with other people, like dancing, bond them together and make them behave more cooperatively? I am testing this with controlled experiments, manipulating synchrony and measuring pro-social behaviour.

I am a translator of geology, I can read the landforms and landscape and tell you the story of past climate.

Trying to find out the cellular targets of a potential drug is like bumping into osmeone in the street and tracking the next thousand people that they meet.

All smokers know how badly they need a cigarette when they can’t have one. I’m trying to figure out how our brain chemistry tricks us into thinking we need this.

Getting your message communicated clearly in the media is like trying to tame a tiger. You can use a whip and a hoop, but as soon as your back’s turned, it will bite your head off.

Can colour make your food crop appear distasteful to insects? Using experiments and evolutionary theory to reduce the ise of insecticides.

I am looking at why there is no “I” in team. I examine the language that rugby players use with one another to create a team identity.

I study invasive yellow crazy ants. If we find out what makes them crazy, we might be able to stop their invasions.

Electrons spinning in harmony help us save space and energy.

Same as Stephen Hawkins’ quote but replace “universe” with “human wellbeing”.

And a cross-section of the rest…

* Talking about sex with your friends and keeping a straight face, can be a harrowing experience. Place this conversation in a typical secondary school classroom and it becomes a social minefield. THis is why I am interested in the use of language in sexual education classrooms.

* Fly fishermen catch rainbow trout as they migrate upstream. I study how trout that migrate up different rivers and streams are related and how we can manage trout to keep them running upstream all season long.

*Planets zoom around the sun without slowing down, but down here on earth, electrons have a much harder time moving through materials. How then do they move with no resistence in these new superconductors and why at such high temperatures?

* Tuatara are one of the most primitive vertebrate forms of life on th eplanet. Yet they have a very complex immune system and are free of a wide range of diseases that affect people and other animals. Why?

* Apparently water flowa through rocks, but how does it really flow? That is what I am trying to measure.

* Like a paint blob spinning on a turntable, my research screams in and out of focus as each new layer gets squirted into the mix. Can I summon the courage to turn off the turntable and see what it really looks like?

* To discover new medical treatments, it makes sense to get help from someone that has been in trhe game for millions of years – nature.

* Moving to a new country can sometimes feel like a move to a different planet. People act differently, speak differently and look differently. I do research that looks at how these newcomers make their strange new worlds feel like home.

* Growing up with more than one culture is confusing. My research asks what does it really mean for a young person to be multicultural in New Zealand and do some young people manage this better than others?

* Churches are organisations which have a large influence on people, so I’m looking at how the architecture of churches influences and organises our behaviour and relationships.

* You can tell who they are by the viruses they carry, developing a method to distinguish salmonella isolates based on pro phaqe content.

* Sexual offending affects a majority of New Zealanders. My research focuses on how to rehabilitate and reintegrate sex offenders so future sexual offences are prevented.

* Are charity appeals insulting to both the viewers and the subjects? I’m studying the reaction of young people in New Zealand to charity appeals. Do they motivate or turn people off aid? Plus, what do the subjects of these appeals think?

* We make artificial sea shells.

* Effective teams need diversity to be effective. This is especially true for the teams that create computer software that we now rely on in our daily lives.

* Gas escapes from us all and we know where it comes from too. The production requires an absence of O2. What about the oxygenated ocean? Where does the methane come from and how is it generated in the presence of O2? This is the oceanic methane paradox.

* What first aid is provided in the New Zealand workplace today and how did we get to this place?

* The aim of my research is to examine socio-culturally diverse workforce perception of workplace diversity practice. Just simply look at people’s perception towards diversity at the workplace in multicultural society.

* A needs analysis of polytechnic business students in writing business correspondence in English.

* To study the expression of human qualities in art and science.

* Former breast cancer patients preconceptions, experiences and evaluations of public and private healthcare systems in New Zealand.

* Information and communication technology is a popular tool of the 21st century. Improving Pasifika tertiary students achievement can be enhanced through upskilling their ICT skills.

* Science investigation becomes a norm in science classrooms at the lower secondary school in Malaysia. However, how effective this approach ti promote student learning is remains unknown.

* I go diving and take photographs to create a flicker book through time of how sponge assemblages change through space and relate the pattern worldwide.

* Drugs of abuse rewire the circuits in your brain. We want to know how so we can flick the switch off to stop the change.

* Just as how we organise a party determines who is going to ocme, how we manage cities determines what kind of space we get.

* Sensible beliefs structure creates practical teaching practices that identifies learners’ diverse needs.

* Young women get a hard time for getting sexy in public. Just because its blah for the audience, doesn’t mean its not good for young women doing it.

* Two people are paddling in opposite directions in a canoe. The canoe doesn’t move as there is no change in direction.

* I work with bacteria that shields itself from the human immune system to cause disease. I am trying t find a way to break that shield.

*What is it about being online that is so compelling for individuals that it drives them to connect with others even when they don’t know who they are?

Describing your research – soundbites from Palmy Peter Griffin Jul 09

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Slightly belated, but here are the results of the Palmerston North workshops on the Emerging Researchers roadshow, where scientists had five minutes to sum up their research in one or two sentences only.

My top 10 favourites from Palmy…

Imagine if we could have the FIFA World Cup stadium surface area condensed into a one gram material. What could be done with this kind of material?

It’s like the Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – finding clues tohow microbes are stuck to each other in the rumen of the cow.

How to make chickens lay one egg per day or 365 eggs in 365 days. I want to increase the amount of protein for human consumption.

I pretty much know how much water I drink, cook with, use to take a shower and flush the toilet. But water footprinting can also tell me how much water it takes to make my cup of coffee, my shirt and my shoes.

A glass of milk or a pieceof cheese. Have you wondered how the proteins interact differently in order to change from one state to another?

Like layers of paint on an old fence our floodplain sediments preserve a record of river behaviour over time. By peeling back the  layers we may better understand how river systems have responded to environmental changes and how they may respond in the future.

Our Earth’s future could be resting in the mouths of cows. Reducing methane emissions could save our precious planet from overheating.

Searching for a falcon in a pine forest is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Using the broadcast of a falcon’s call is like using a magnet to attract the needle.

Will a child affected with Duchenne and Beckens muscular dystrophin be able to walk, run and do all the sorts of things a normal child would? Yes, if scientists crack the code and solve the structure of missing proteins.

And a sample of the rest

* Malnutrition among infants in developing countries continues to rage like a hurricane. A replacement in cereal given to them with sweet potato holds the key to this storm.

* Find where the bacterium come from and where theywill go. Oh, the bacterium is campylobacter and it causes diseases in the human gut.

* Good  manners for cows!

* Can we save people from misleading truths of science by clearly emphasizing the ‘truth’ behind the crucial research connected to the welfare of humankind?

* Thousands of hectares of trees are cut down each year that are home to New Zealand’s only land mammals – bats. What happens to these bats and can we protect them?

* Environmental pollution is pushing us to a point of no return. Resources need re-investment, otherwise volcanic ash and oil spills will take our breath. This bank is closed for cash-out.

* Surprisingly you will find solar energy will improve your diet with  more nutrition and less microbes.

* Greenhouse gases cause global warming and climate change. We mitigate them by putting  less fertilizer on your farm.

* Icebergs are created the same way as breaking off a piece of chocolate. The only question is what happens when we run out of chocolate?

* Plants differ in the way they recycle their nitrogen. This research is about finding those plants that are really good at it so that we can use less fertiliser and have a cleaner environment.

* How do we feed the world tomorrow? Design plants for sustainable agriculture.

* Pine infecting fungus slows growth of New Zealand’s  pine plantations. We are testing other fungi for their ability to wage war against the pine pathogen and encourage growth ofour forest pine.

* Are you drowning in a huge amount of data but staring at information? If so,  you really need data mining to help  you out.

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