Elf Eldridge

Science and Society dream team? - Just So Science

Oct 04, 2013

With today’s announcement of the first 3 National Science Challenges (NSC’s) and the opening of their request for proposals*, I’m forced to reflect again on the Science and Society challenge. I’m assured that it’s moving forward behind the scenes (and I actually believe it is!) but I’m going to take this opportunity to prompt a little discussion with the science community about what we might like it to look like and, specifically, who might be some excellent thought and practice leaders to ensure it actually achieves what the Panel intended rather than to simply meet the milestones that will be set out for it (as so many projects end up doing – both public and private). Who would you pick to keep the science and society challenge on course? – Image from Wikimedia Commons First off: what … Read More

Evaluating Science Outreach? - Just So Science

Sep 24, 2013

Given the audience of Sciblogs.co.nz, I doubt I’ll be going out on a limb by saying that science communication and outreach is important. The issue I’ve been grappling with recently is how effective, and important the outreach we actually do is. Let me set the scene. In Wellington* we have a huge number (circa 70) of different organisations that are in some way (or have been) involved in science outreach and communication programmes. They cross the spectrum from non-profits to CRIs and Universities and community groups, and the list is still growing – please get in touch if you know of any omissions! Most of these operate independently from one another, most struggle daily for funding and people to continue their work, and all approach the issue of science outreach and communication in their own personal ways. So, … Read More

Putting science in the ‘too hard’ basket - Just So Science

Sep 23, 2013

A friend put me onto this article that appeared on Stuff this morning. It deals with a warning that the Ministry of education has received from Secondary Principals’ Association about being force to drop Year 11 science as a compulsory subject as students are struggling to achieve NCEA Level 1 by including it. I particularly enjoy the opening line “Scientists are alarmed…“, personally I find that a little bit of an understatement! Whilst I understand that school funding is linked to students success rates – the idea that you simply drop something as integral as science because students struggle to pass utterly confounds me. Lets imagine if a similar situation arose with English, where students were struggling to pass. Would we then drop English from the curriculum? One would certainly hope not, as some knowledge of english is … Read More

Ethical Skepticism - Just So Science

Sep 05, 2013

This weekend myself and my fellow scibloggers Siouxie Wiles and aimee whitcroft are privileged enough to be talking at the New Zealand skeptics conference alongside the likes of Pamela Gay and Kylie Sturgess. Needless to say I’m more than a little excited (especially as I get to show off the capabilities of the Carter observatory planetarium the following week with Dr. Gay)! During the panel discussion we will be broaching some rather difficult topics (I hope). So I wrote this post to give sciblogs readers the opportunity to comment on some of my ethical musings and hopefully have their thoughts feed into our discussion.* I grew up in a household with a very open mentality. All religions, philosophies, myths and legends were fair game for debate, discussion and belief or disbelief. If my … Read More

Hope and the Science and Society Challenge - Just So Science

Aug 20, 2013

Is anyone else slightly concerned about the absence of commentary on the Science and Society National Science Challenge? For those who either missed it (or forgot about it in the intervening months since its announcement at the end of April this year) the “Science and Society” challenge was touted as a leadership challenge for the government to: “…take take a lead in improving the science capacities and the public’s understanding of science…” – quote from here The peak panel recommended several (non-exclusive) areas that needed targeting: Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education in primary and secondary schools Public understanding of science, technology assessment and risk forecasting Early discussion amongst society on new technologies to develop the social licence and agree boundaries. I must admit as a panel member this was by far the most exciting challenge. In … Read More

National Science Challenges – an insider perspective - Just So Science

May 02, 2013

With the announcement yesterday of the national science challenges, it’s a blessing that I can now openly talk about being (partially) involved in the process. I’ve watched the process (and the large amount of cynicism that accompanied it almost every step of the way!) evolve and the response from researchers is, in a word – predictable. The Science Media Centre has some excellent comment from experts in the field here if you want a broad overview of New Zealand scientist’s responses.  Yet from some of the comments I do get the distinct impression that some hadn’t read anything about what the national science challenges were attempting to achieve. It’s worth stressing, particularly for the issue of climate change and many of the others, that to be selected for inclusion scientific research HAD to be at the … Read More

Predator-Free NZ: Our ‘Space Programme’? - Just So Science

Mar 22, 2013

Last night I attended the “Pesty Science” lecture hosted by Victoria University looking at the issues surrounding the idea of a Predator-Free New Zealand. The lecture was presented by Landcare Research’s Dr Andrea Byrom, and really dug into the nitty-gritty questions we have to ask if we (as a nation) seriously want to consider a predator-free NZ as a potential future. To her credit, Dr. Byrom began (in typical scientific fashion) by stating that although she has a personal interest in the problem she was NOT advocating a stance either for or against “Predator-Free NZ”. She discussed the need for people to appreciate the difference between ‘pest-contol’ and ‘pest-eradication’ – and noted New Zealand’s decent track record when it comes to pest eradication on small islands. Brushtail Possum – Image by Bryce McQuillan via Wikimedia Commons I … Read More

The Case of the Vanishing Elf - Just So Science

Feb 05, 2013

It really has been far too long since my last post, but thanks to some prodding from the local Sciblogs community (God bless them!) I’ll try and summarise why Just So Science has been so quiet since last year. And I wish I could say it’s because I’ve been putting my nose to the grindstone and focussing on my PhD work – but it’s really not! In it’s simplest form, I guess you could say I’ve been testing a hypothesis of mine that emerged from the Transit of Venus forum in the middle of last year. For anyone not at the forum, one of the take home messages from Sir Peter Gluckman (echoing the words of Sir Paul Callaghan) was that “If we want to see a change in the science environment it’s up to individuals … Read More

Cross-section of Wellington’s High-Tech Businesses - Just So Science

Sep 05, 2012

In keeping with our aim to connect students with industry, on the 4th August, Chiasma Wellington held our “Introduction to Wellington Industry” at Victoria University. Wait! Before you leave this page thinking this is another shameless self-promotion post that I seem to spew out with unerring regularity, there is a real reason behind me mentioning the content of this. (OK and yes there is a little self-promotion inherent in the post as well!) We tried something a little different, having suffered through numerous long boring industry presentations in the past, we gave each speaker a mere 15 minutes to not only explain who they were and what their respective company/organization did, but also to give a high level overview of their entire industry in Wellington. We hoped that being active in their fields would give our presenters a reasonable … Read More

Eureka! Symposium synopsis - Just So Science

Jul 20, 2012

Last Thursday I had the honour of attending the first annual Eureka! young science orator’s awards, an event born out of a collaboration between the late great Sir Paul Callaghan and Rotary. The premise is deceptively simple, get 12 young erudite people, passionate about some aspect of science, bring them to Wellington and get them to speak directly to some of the movers and shakers of science in New Zealand – and so the Eureka! awards came to fruition. Throughout the course of the day we heard challenges criticism, but most interestingly, hope about New Zealand’s future as a nation that not only appreciates, but entirely embraces science and its methodology. I could condemn the typical lack-lustre political addresses that bookended the day (although I admit I was presently surprised with parts of Steven Joyce’s closing) , but … Read More