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

Shelling out to lure top global research talent - Griffin's Gadgets

Jul 20, 2016

When I visited universities and research institutes in Israel last year I was struck by two things – their entrepreneurial outlook and their eagerness to bring international entrepreneurial research collaborations to fruition. A focus in these areas – enabled by state, private and foreign investment, has paid off for Israel in the form of a research sector that creates a pipeline of ideas and intellectual property that industry can then commercialise. Researchers want to relocate to Israeli institutions because they know they are a hotbed of innovation. Universities cash in on intellectual property developed by their researchers. Other countries do this and New Zealand does reasonably well for its size. But a new government fund unveiled today as a 50-50 partnership with the universities suggests there’s recognition of the fact we need to step up this kind of activity to … Read More

180 seconds of science - Griffin's Gadgets

Jul 11, 2016

New Zealand’s early career researchers are being challenged to showcase their science in videos up to 3 minutes long, as part of the Trans-Tasman competition, 180 Seconds of Science. I’m on the judging panel for the New Zealand entries and am really looking forward to seeing what the researchers come up with. 180 seconds is a generous amount of time for a video – consider that the average clip on the 6 o’clock news is typically 60 – 90 seconds. At the Science Media Centre, we’ve run one-day workshops over the last couple of years giving researchers the basics of how to shoot and edit video on their phones. Some have gone on to develop their own videos and animations. These are great tools to bring their science to a broader audience and video is an increasingly popular … Read More

Choosing who to kill – the moral dilemma with driverless cars - Unsorted

Jun 24, 2016

Should a car swerve to miss a pedestrian on the road, even if doing so would kill the passenger? What if it was two people on the road? Or ten people? New US research, published in Science, explores this ethical dilemma in a series of surveys, revealing that people generally want automated cars to be utilitarian (i.e. prevent the greatest loss of life) but when pressed, admit that they would prefer to buy a driverless car that protects the driver at all costs. “Most people want to live in in a world where cars will minimize casualties,” says Iyad Rahwan, an associate professor in the MIT Media Lab and co-author of a new paper outlining the study. “But everybody wants their own car to protect them at all costs.” Regulation may provide a solution to … Read More

Scifest – heading south for a dose of science - Griffin's Gadgets

Jun 22, 2016

We are less than a month out from the New Zealand International Science Festival, the biennial showcase of events, lectures, art and people that sees Dunedin become science-central for a full week. The festival runs July 8- 16. This year’s line-up looks particularly good. I’ll be heading down myself and am particularly looking forward to hosting a panel discussion on concussion and brain damage featuring former Wallaby Peter Fitzsimons,  Prof. Damian Bailey from the University of Wales and Prof. John Sullivan from the University of Otago. Former Wallaby Peter Fitzsimons Concussion among rugby players was the focus of a major New Zealand Herald investigation earlier in the year which looked at a Ranfurly Shield-winning rugby team from 1964 that has seen five former players diagnosed with dementia. This would be well above the average across the population, but it is … Read More

Dunedin Study gets funding security - Griffin's Gadgets

Jun 15, 2016

The Health Research Council funding round results are out, revealing the projects receiving a share of $60 million.  One health research-related question was answered alongside today’s announcement. The Dunedin longitudinal study, currently the subject of a fascinating TV series, received around $6 million in HRC grants. As the Otago Daily Times reports: Richie Poulton, director of the university’s Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit, which co-ordinates the internationally recognised Dunedin Study, yesterday received a five-year programme grant of $4,994,717. The research is based on the continuing study of 1037 children, born in Dunedin in 1972-73. The latest funding will support a “lifecourse study on ageing processes to inform early intervention strategies”, to be undertaken through the Dunedin Study. And another researcher involved in the study, Bob Hancox, has received a further grant of $1,195,332 for “next generation studies”, linked to … Read More

Researchers go after blogger and lobbyist for defamation - Griffin's Gadgets

Jun 14, 2016

We all know the blogosphere can be a brutal place. While we’ve become desensitized to some of the mud slinging and smearing that goes on in blog posts and their comment sections, some people forget that the online realm is still subject to the law. Prof Boyd Swinburn Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater and lobbyist and PR consultant Carrick Graham had a reminder of that yesterday as three public health experts began defamation proceedings against them in the High Court at Auckland. University of Auckland professor Boyd Swinburn, University of Otago professor Doug Sellman and tabocco control advocate and Pharmac advisor Shane Bradbrook allege a “campaign of deliberate and sustained defamation”, on the Whaleoil blog over several years. Just plug “Boyd Swinburn” into the search bar on Whaleoil and you’ll see what has so irked the researcher and his colleagues. To be repeatedly labelled a “trougher” and in the … Read More

Thirty Million: Sobering look at the impact of sea level rise - Griffin's Gadgets

Jun 14, 2016

A team of New Zealand filmmakers has released a documentary focussing on the estimated 30 million people in Bangladesh likely to be displaced by the end of the century as a result of sea level rise.  The documentary was funded by the United Nations and features a short, powerful interview with our own Helen Clark, administrator of the UN Development Programme and a front runner in the contest to be the UN’s next secretary general. The film was co-directed by New Zealand-based Adrien Taylor and Welsh climate scientist Dr Daniel Price. It features interviews with scientists, environmentalists, politicians and the people on the frontline of sea level rise, making their living farming along the coast of Bangladesh. It is a compelling and beautifully shot film that’s available for free to view online and at a limited number of screenings around the country this … Read More

Goldacre live: Bad Science meets Bad Pharma - Griffin's Gadgets

Jun 03, 2016

Many Sciblogs readers will know the work of Dr Ben Goldacre, the doctor, academic, Guardian columnist and author of the best seller Bad Science. Goldacre touches down briefly in Auckland in September for one event at the Mercury Theatre, which if his previous public appearances are anything to go by, will be a funny, enlightening and ironic affair. He made his name for his Guardian columns and blog posts exposing pseudoscience and the media’s own mistreatment of science. That spawned the 2008 book which tapped into the frustration many worldwide were feeling about the various anti-science tropes that kept doing the rounds in the mainstream media and in public discourse at large. Sunlight on clinical trials Goldacre has never been one to defer to authority or to gloss over the failings of journalists and scientists, which as made … Read More

Book review: The First Migration – Maori Origins 3000BC – AD1450 - Scibooks

May 31, 2016

If Tangata Whenua, the fantastic illustrated history of Māori from Pacific origins to modern day, is the coffee table book every Kiwi family should own, The First Migration is the truncated desk reference for the office. Both are published by Bridget Williams Books and The First Migration, by acclaimed archaeological researcher Professor Atholl Anderson, draws heavily on the first two chapters of Tangata Whenua, which Anderson wrote with Judith Binney and Aroha Harris. What we get here is a matter of fact and brisk summary of the scientific evidence and oral histories and traditionals that give clues to the population of the Pacific and ultimately the migration to Aotearoa, which the best evidence suggests happened sometime in the late thirteenth to late fourteenth centuries. If you are looking for a dramatic retelling of long distance canoe trips and tribal battles in the islands, this … Read More

The closest thing to a Kiwi Nobel for now - Griffin's Gadgets

May 27, 2016

New Zealand mathematician Roy Kerr was last night presented with the prestigious Crafoord Prize, basically the equivalent of a Nobel Prize, at a ceremony in Sweden. Kerr, who is a sprightly 82, shared the prize with Stanford University theoretical astrophysicist Professor Roger Blandford. The prize for astronomy and mathematics (it rotates through certain disciplines year to year) comes with a cheque for the equivalent of around NZ$1 million which Roy and Roger will no doubt have split. Roy Kerr (left) and Roger Blandford receive the Crafoord Prize from the King of Sweden in Stockholm.  Photo: Laura Pishief The Crafoord Prize is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, not to be confused with the Swedish Academy, which award the Nobel Prizes. They also come with big cheques, the financial legacy of dynamite magnate Alfred Nobel.  The Swedish know … Read More