Peter Griffin

Peter Griffin is the founding manager of the Science Media Centre and the founder and editor of Sciblogs. Prior to founding the SMC, he was Technology Editor of the New Zealand Herald. He is a technology commentator for the New Zealand Listener, Radio New Zealand and Newstalk ZB. Peter is a member of the senior management team of the Royal Society of New Zealand. x

Dealing with post normal science and post truth politics - Griffin's Gadgets

Oct 07, 2016

As the defacto capital of the European Union, Brussels is a bureaucrat’s Mecca. But last week it also drew some of the most senior science advisors from around the world as our own Sir Peter Gluckman held the second International Network from Government Science Advice meeting there – in the well-appointed assembly room of the European Commission’s Charlemagne Building, no less. Post #BREXIT and with the US Presidential race entering its final stages, there was plenty of talk of “post truth politics” and discussion of whether we are living in a “post-fact” society. Do facts matter any more? Does the public care about the input of experts? The general consensus was that yes, the public wants evidence-based decision making and to be appraised of the facts about big issues facing society. They expect politicians to push evidence-based policies. But the scientific … Read More

Science Learning Hub – relaunched, refunded - Griffin's Gadgets

Oct 05, 2016

Last night saw the relaunch at Te Papa of the Science Learning Hub, an educational resource that has amassed nearly 5,000 videos and articles about everything from nanotechnology to climate change – and showcased the work of hundreds of New Zealand scientists in the process. Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce unveiled the new-look Science Learning Hub website and said the Hub’s funding had been extended out to 2019. The Science Learning Hub is probably the biggest collection of New Zealand-created, science-related resources for students. It is also now one of the biggest content contributors to Pond, the search-engine for education-related resources. The Hub’s website has had a major revamp and is looking very sharp – check it out here. Read More

Aussie fluoride review: it is safe and effective - Griffin's Gadgets

Sep 14, 2016

As debate rumbles away in some New Zealand communities about whether public water supplies should be fluoridated, a new report from the Australian Government looks at the situation across the Tasman and gives fluoridation a big tick. The National Health and Medical Research Council’s  draft consultation paper,  Effects of water fluoridation on dental and other health outcomes was published today and gives a good, concise overview of the evidence, the safety and efficacy of water fluoridation. In many respects, addressing nagging concerns from some quarters about the safety of water fluoridation is more important in Australia as a greater proportion of the population is currently drinking fluoridated water. Here in New Zealand, around 56 per cent of the population has access to reticulated water supplies that are fluoridated. In Australia, as the graphic below shows, the proportion is higher … Read More

Is chlorine the next chemical battleground? - Griffin's Gadgets

Aug 18, 2016

Hundreds of people in Havelock North are gradually returning to full health after coming down with gastroenteritis when their water supply was infected with campylobacter. The bore water many of the townsfolk were drinking wasn’t treated with chlorine, which kills bugs and viruses and would have taken care of the campylobacter – avoiding this major public health crisis. But, as with fluoridation of community water supplies, not all areas of the country put chlorine in their water supplies, with local councils making that call. Around 15 per cent of the nation’s drinking water supply isn’t chlorinated, according to the Ministry of Health. The key reason for that is those places have reliably good water quality and people don’t like the slight chemical taste of chlorinated water. The Ministry of Health monitors the quality of drinking water supplies in the country and its most … Read More

Hawke’s Bay gastro disaster – what the experts say - Griffin's Gadgets

Aug 15, 2016

Campylobacter – it can cause a nasty bacterial infection usually associated with chicken and food poisoning. But for up to 2,000 Hawke’s Bay residents currently ill with the side effects of the infection (think nausea, vomiting and diarrhea) didn’t get it from under-cooked chicken, but from Havelock North’s town drinking water supply. Prof Michael Baker On Thursday, a sample of bore water tested positive for campylobacter, but officials suspected it was contamination from the water tanker itself, not the bore. It didn’t go public until the following evening when it advised residents to boil water to kill the bacteria. By then, the damage was done, thousands had consumed the water and the bacteria. It is unclear exactly how the bore water was infected, but groundwater has been a source of campylobacter in the past. In this Expert Q&A with Michael Baker, Professor of … Read More

The Dirty Dozen – our biggest users of dubious carbon credits - Griffin's Gadgets

Aug 15, 2016

The Morgan Foundation has just published its second report on the use by New Zealand companies of carbon credits of dubious origin.  In Morgan’s newest installment, researchers look at the 12 companies that were the biggest users of carbon credits purchased from Russian and Ukraine between 2013 and 2015. The Dirty Dozen The Morgan Foundation now wants the Government to “right the wrong” of allowing importation of dodgy carbon credits. “We want these businesses to join our call for the Government to ‘dump the junk’. At the very least Government should not carry forward any surplus units past 2020; the only reason we have these surplus units is because we traded in fraudulent foreign units in the past.” Over at the Science Media Centre we rounded up reaction from a range of experts. Among them is Massey University … Read More

30 ways to sabotage the introduction of solar power [SPOILER – we’ve tried them all!] - Guest Work

Aug 15, 2016

by George Jones If for some reason someone wished to delay the introduction of solar panels into New Zealand, here are some ideas on how to do it. 1. Insist that the electrical industry eliminate any incentives that might inadvertently have been imposed in the past.  Make sure that the Electricity Authority stamps out these incentives where it can, by saying that the supply authorities are doing so within the rules. 2. Add a shaming promotion that makes sure that it is known that anybody leaving the grid will have the stigma of being seen to be anti-social, as all other users on the grid, especially the poor, will have to shoulder the costs, to guarantee the profitability of the industry. 3. Insist that the profitability of the electrical industry is dependent on an increasing electricity usage, and that … Read More

Sciblogs implements Instant Articles - Griffin's Gadgets

Aug 02, 2016

If you are reading this article on your phone and tapped on it after seeing it in your Facebook newsfeed, then congratulations – you are reading an “Instant Article”. The article should have loaded instantly rather than taking a few seconds to send you to the Sciblogs website. It should look quite nice, with a clean interface and crisp text. Instant Articles are the creation of Facebook, which is increasingly a source of traffic for media outlets. Sciblogs on Instant Articles To give you an idea of how important Facebook has become as a driver of traffic for the media, consider some of Sciblogs own statistics – around 21% of traffic to our articles is derived from Facebook, 9% from Twitter. So 30 per cent of our traffic is from social media where we post our articles on … Read More

Paying tribute to a science reporting star - News

Jul 29, 2016

RNZ’s Veronika Meduna, one of the country’s most experienced and respected science journalists, finished up co-hosting the popular Our Changing World show last week. After 17 years at the broadcaster, most spent producing and fronting science and environment stories for Our Changing World, it wasn’t her choice to go. Frozen budgets at RNZ and restructuring to achieve audience growth and improve the public broadcaster’s digital presence, have forced some difficult decisions, with long-running shows and well-known names among the casualties. RNZ says it will continue to have a strong focus on science and the Our Changing World show remains in a reduced 20 minute format featuring Veronika’s co-host of the past eight years, Alison Ballance. But Veronika has no plans to leave science reporting behind. We asked the former microbiologist and award-winning writer to reflect on her time as a science broadcaster, on … Read More

Malaghan, Otago, GNS among rising stars in science - Griffin's Gadgets

Jul 28, 2016

The scientific journal Nature has just published its annually updated Nature Index to identify the rising stars among research institutions around the world and a couple of New Zealand institutions get a mention. [UPDATE: I left out GNS Science, which came in 18th!] In the Asia Pacific picks for the top 25 rising stars are the University of Otago in 8th place, GNS Science in 18th place] and the Malaghan Institute for Medical Research in 20th place. The other 22 rising stars are Australian research institutions. What do the rankings mean? As Nature puts it: On its own, the index is a powerful tool to assess research performance. But, combining its data with other information, such as country-level R&D spending or researcher numbers, reveals which countries and institutions are the most efficient at producing world-class research. The … Read More