Guest Author

This is the Sciblogs guest blog, where we run science-related submissions from the Sciblogs community and beyond. Contact Sciblogs editor Peter Griffin about making a submission - or about hosting a blog on Sciblogs.

How New Zealand media reports chronic pain - Guest Work

Jan 17, 2020

Hemakumar Devan Around three million New Zealanders access news media (both paper and online) every week. Yes, you heard that right! So, the potential for news media to shape public health beliefs is common sense. As chronic pain affects one in five New Zealanders, we wanted to find out how New Zealand’s news media have reported chronic pain by doing an in-depth analysis of news reports. What we found From searching all popular news media published since 2015, we found 240 news reports on chronic pain. From our analysis, we found three major categories. (1) Reports that focused on people’s experiences of living with pain, (2) the management strategies used for chronic pain, which included both pharmaceutical and non-drug based strategies, (3) the challenges associated with accessing healthcare system for chronic pain diagnosis and management. (1) Chronic pain … Read More

In Outrage Over Its Bunk Science, Goop Finds Fuel for Growth - Guest Work

Jan 16, 2020

Michael Schulson For years, experts have said that Goop, the wellness and lifestyle brand founded by the actor and entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow, markets pseudoscience and overblown cures. And for years, despite the criticism, Goop has just kept growing. Now the company, which was valued at $250 million in 2018, seems poised to reach an even larger audience. Last week, Goop announced details of three new ventures: a distribution partnership with the cosmetics giant Sephora; a “wellness experience at sea” with Celebrity Cruises; and — to the chagrin of many science advocates — a six-part series on Netflix, the streaming service with more than 150 million subscribers. The Netflix show, set to debut later this month, will feature Paltrow and colleagues exploring a range of alternative healing practices, including energy healing, exorcism, and sessions with psychic mediums. “What … Read More

Tales of wombat ‘heroes’ have gone viral. Unfortunately, they’re not true - Guest Work

Jan 16, 2020

Dale Nimmo, Charles Sturt University If you’ve been following the bushfire crisis on social media and elsewhere, you may have seen reports of benevolent wombats herding other animals to shelter into their fire-proof burrows. These stories went quickly viral – probably reflecting the appetite for good news after the horrors of the bushfire crisis. However, the accounts are not entirely accurate. Wombats do not heroically round-up helpless animals during a bushfire and lead them to safety. But wombats do help other animals in a different way – even if it’s not their intention. Apparently wombats in fire effected areas are not only allowing other animals to take shelter in their deep, fire-resistant burrows but are actively herding fleeing animals into them. We’re seeing more leadership and empathy from these guys than the entire Federal government. … Read More

Mystery China pneumonia outbreak likely caused by new human coronavirus - Guest Work

Jan 14, 2020

Connor Bamford, Queen’s University Belfast Since December 2019, there has been a cluster of 59 cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, eastern China. The pneumonia is associated with a previously unidentified coronavirus related to the deadly SARS virus. Seven of those cases are thought to be serious, and one person – with serious pre-existing health problems – has died. The WHO has also just announced the first case outside China. A traveller from Wuhan, now in Thailand, has been confirmed by the WHO to have contracted the virus. The World Health Organisation has urged countries around the world to enhance their surveillance of severe acute respiratory infections, although no travel restrictions have been advised. There is no licensed vaccine or specific treatments for the new virus. The new coronavirus outbreak is linked to a market in Wuhan, which sold meat … Read More

Animal response to a bushfire is astounding. These are the tricks they use to survive - Guest Work

Jan 09, 2020

Dale Nimmo, Charles Sturt University Have you ever wondered how our native wildlife manage to stay alive when an inferno is ripping through their homes, and afterwards when there is little to eat and nowhere to hide? The answer is adaptation and old-fashioned ingenuity. Australia’s bushfire season is far from over, and the cost to wildlife has been epic. A sobering estimate has put the number of animals killed across eastern Australia at 480 million – and that’s a conservative figure. But let’s look at some uplifting facts: how animals survive, and what challenges they overcome in the days and weeks after a fire. This possum decided to flee a bushfire in the NSW Hunter region in 2018, but many other animals stay put. AAP/Darren Pateman Sensing fire In 2018, a staff member at Audubon Zoo in the United … Read More

The climate crisis is also a biodiversity crisis - Guest Work

Jan 08, 2020

Dr Andrea Byrom Like many of us, the summer break has seen me transfixed with horror at the scale and magnitude of the bushfire crisis in Australia. As an ecologist, I can’t help but be appalled at the loss of some of Australia’s most beautiful ecosystems and landscapes. And as someone who experienced all 20,000 (and counting) Christchurch earthquakes, I know only too well the human toll of such disasters. Whole communities will now experience ongoing anxiety, loss, dislocation, and mental health issues for years to come. And the bushfire season isn’t yet over. The biodiversity crisis At times like this, the climate change debate heats up.  As it should – what more will it take to force denialist politicians to acknowledge that we’re in the midst of a climate crisis? What will it take to compel you and … Read More

Will there still be Santa? - FutureworkNZ

Dec 23, 2019

Amelia Sharman I’ve got some bad news about Santa Claus. The North Pole may be far, but it’s not too far to avoid the tentacles of technological change. While Santa is no slouch when it comes to adopting technology (having adopted assembly lines about 100 years ago, and more recently using real-time warehouse management systems to run his 4 million square foot distribution centre), this time round, the predictions are dire. It’s no less than a threat to Santa Claus’ very existence – I’m talking about the prediction that Santa himself will be put out of work by technology. How might such a horrific future eventuate you may ask? Well, look at the possibilities: No longer will Santa be needed to keep a track of who’s been naughty or nice – your smart fridge or whatever … Read More

Where are all the part-time students? - FutureworkNZ

Dec 21, 2019

John MacCormick You’d think that with low unemployment and ever-improving technology for distance education, the proportion of tertiary students studying part-time would be on the rise. But it’s not. There’s a puzzle here that may help to reveal some of the challenges our tertiary education system faces in meeting the skills needs of New Zealand’s workforce. The number of people studying at tertiary education providers has been falling for a while. This reflects falling unemployment rates (especially for people aged 18-24) and demographic trends. Total enrolments are forecast to stay pretty flat for the next five years at least. Tertiary student numbers NZQF level 3 and above (headcount and equivalent full-time student enrolments) Source: Ministry of Education            Notes: Data excludes international students The proportion of students studying part-time has flatlined (or … Read More

15 years of editing Wikipedia - Guest Work

Dec 20, 2019

Stuart Yeates Today is my 15th-anniversary editing Wikipedia under my own name. I was recruited to join Wikipedia from the Everything2 community, one of several predecessors to Wikipedia, where I’d been editing since 2000. Everything2 was fun to write, editors voted on each other’s articles and humour was an important factor in getting good ratings, but it clearly wasn’t optimising the quality of encyclopedic output. My contributions were about what you’d expect from a reasonably-literate young lad pitching humour to a like-minded community under a pseudonym. Everything2 rapidly faded between 2003-2007 once it became clear that Wikipedia had a much better model for encyclopedia building: enforcing referencing, a rigorous style guide, formal quality control mechanisms, a multi-tiered governance structure and so forth. Initially, when I started editing Wikipedia I continued to use pseudonyms, but after a couple of years … Read More

What to put in a Wikipedia biography – and what gets left out - Guest Work

Dec 19, 2019

Stuart Yeates continues a blog series following the process of creating biographies in Wikipedia. See part one here. What does (and doesn’t) get included There is some information I deliberately leave out of biographies of the living: dates of birth are out (but not year of birth, since this is how librarians distinguish between people of the same name and can be invaluable for disambiguation); as are messy private lives and tabloid-type coverage. There are a lot of aspects of professors’ lives which will happily await the appearance of obituaries before it gets added to Wikipedia. Inevitably there are some professors whose research kaupapa I personally disagree with or who are linked to international intrigue, in which case I use reliable independent sources that have addressed the issue directly rather than editorialise. This information goes into … Read More