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

Budget 2016: On the face of it, science did well - Griffin's Gadgets

May 26, 2016

The Government claims it will put around $100 million extra into science and innovation each year for the next four years in a series of funding top-ups revealed in today’s Budget. It is always hard to tell for sure this early in the piece whether some of that is money reallocated. But the big ticket items certainly do appear to have significant new investment attached to them. Contestable research funding The country’s two major independent research funds get boosts with the Marsden Fund receiving $66 million extra over the next four years and the Health Research Council getting $97 million additional funding over the same period. This should make researchers very happy, but many will point out that it only makes us look less bad internationally when it comes to per capita research spending and success rates for funding … Read More

Pre-Budget announcements reveal science funding boost - Griffin's Gadgets

May 18, 2016

There had been rumours of a significant science-related Budget announcement and yesterday we discovered what it was – a $97 million funding boost over four years for the Health Research Council.  Following some of the awkward self reflection that went on around the science system last week as Shaun Hendy’s book Silencing Science appeared, the unexpected funding news has allowed for a rare outbreak of unanimous positivity. Well mostly. New Zealand Association of Scientists president, Dr Craig Stevens, welcomed the increased funding for health research but told RNZ: “It leaves some concerns around public good research, underpinning research, like environmental science, that maybe doesn’t have an immediate return financially but sets up society and our environment over much longer periods. University of Auckland Distinguished Professor Ian Reid also welcomed the funding increase, but pointed out in that same RNZ … Read More

Silencing Science: in the long run, openness is the better strategy - Griffin's Gadgets

May 10, 2016

The new book Silencing Science, by University of Auckland physicist Professor Shaun Hendy highlights some recent examples of where scientists have been missing in action when the public needed their knowledge and insights the most. I can personally relate to this. During the Fonterra botulism scare, the 2014 Yersinia outbreak and for periods in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes, we struggled at the Science Media Centre to find experts who were willing to offer commentary to the media about what was going on. Journalists were calling us asking for independent experts who could inform their reports. These were senior reporters who had a genuine interest in informing the public and they took their job of explaining the risk and uncertainty seriously. We knew the people who had the expertise and the media training to handle … Read More

Sciblogs – seven years in, we have a comments policy! - Griffin's Gadgets

May 06, 2016

Sciblogs was born in 2009, a time that could now be considered to have been the tail end of the golden age of blogging in general. Back then, commenting on blog posts was a relatively popular thing, lots of people did it. Then Facebook, Twitter and Reddit came along and much of the commentary shifted to those platforms. All the while, Sciblogs never had an official policy on comments. We’ve moderated them and used what I think is considerable judgement to keep Sciblogs a reasonable place for discussion. While we’ve deleted a good number of comments from threads over the years, it has, I believe, been for pretty well justified reasons. We’ve only ever had to block a handful of people form commenting and I think we’ve only ever closed off comments half a dozen times. We discuss some pretty contentious stuff here, from … Read More

Amid media uncertainty, some great science-related stories emerge - Griffin's Gadgets

May 04, 2016

I’m asked to give a lot of presentations to groups in the science sector about what is going on with the media. These days, that involves changing my presentation on a weekly basis. Last week’s update accounted for the review of feature programmes at RNZ, including the long-running Our Changing World science show, the launch of Herald Focus – the twice-daily video news bulletins produced by NZME, and rumours of a merger between NZME owner APN and Channel Nine in Australia. This week, the slides feature the departure of “mate of the nation”, TV3 presenter Hilary Barry and One New’s partnership with Stuff to feature the former’s video reports on the latter’s website. With all the consolidation and uncertainty, how is science journalism faring? Well, we have less science journalists than ever before and the latest shake-up at RNZ raises … Read More

What are they doing with that big balloon anyway? - Griffin's Gadgets

Apr 19, 2016

The NASA scientists gathered in Wanaka had to abandon their effort to launch a hot air balloon this morning, the latest of many attempts thwarted by the weather. The media let out another exasperated sigh: So what is this balloon for, exactly? As NASA explains here: Some science is best done or can only be done at mid-latitudes. The potential of flying for much longer periods of time offer the scientists much greater data acquisition time or more bang for the buck. This is the background for the need for the Super Pressure Balloon development. The Super Pressure Balloon development is more than just a design process. It has to interrelate the design, materials, manufacturing, flight operations, support systems, safety, and flight control toward a successful approach. A new tool for Science! Source: NASA So Wanaka … Read More

Carbon trading and fraudulent credits: New Zealand’s dangerous game - Guest Work

Apr 18, 2016

by Dr George Preddey [Ed: The Morgan Foundation today released a report examining New Zealand’s use of “fraudulent” carbon credits purchased from the Ukraine. This piece from physicist Dr George Preddey pre-dates the release of the Morgan Foundation report but covers the same ground and comes to the same conclusions…] It is self-evident to this physicist that applying a market solution to the “greatest … market failure ever seen” is unlikely to succeed despite the faith of neoliberal free market believers in it.  Put succinctly, “emissions trading is unfair, it is unethical, and it just doesn’t work“. Pre-eminent climate scientist James Hansen told a carbon trading conference in New York that carbon trading is “a path focussed on corporate greed”.  It increases the cost of energy for the public, as utilities … Read More

Online privacy – companies not government the biggest concern - Griffin's Gadgets

Apr 14, 2016

Despite the Edward Snowden revelations of mass online collection of meta data and some high profile data breaches at our own government departments, what Kiwis most fear is not snooping spies, but companies harvesting our Facebook likes and internet searches. The latest World Internet Project survey of nearly 1400 Kiwis included for the first time a set of questions about online privacy and the results were interesting to say the least: Twenty-nine percent of respondents indicated that they were concerned about violations of their internet privacy by the government. This is fewer than the 42% percent who are concerned about such violations by corporate entities but the same as those concerned about privacy violations by other people. In addition, 45 per cent of survey respondents agreed or agreed strongly with the statement that “There is no privacy online and I accept it”, while a further … Read More

Book review: Pacific – The Ocean of the Future - Scibooks

Mar 07, 2016

I took incredible pleasure in slowly working through Simon Winchester’s new book Pacific, which serves as a sort of companion piece to his 2010 effort Atlantic. And what better a place to delve into a book about the world’s greatest ocean than in the middle of that ocean – Tahiti, where I was lucky enough to spend a week recently, with Winchester’s new book my reading material over successive afternoons, sitting under a palm tree, a warm breeze blowing in off the turquoise sea. Like most of Winchester’s books, Pacific is a gripping and evocative mix of official history and colourful anecdotes he’s picked up along the way. With Atlantic, he struggled to come up with a way to structure the book, choosing in the end a framework based on Shakespeare’s seven ages of man from his play As You Like It … Read More

Five years on – scientists reflect on the Christchurch quake - Griffin's Gadgets

Feb 22, 2016

Five years after the biggest disaster in modern New Zealand, experts who were involved in communicating the science of the quakes share their experiences and thoughts. At 12:51pm on the 22nd of February 2011, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the city of Christchurch. The disaster killed 185 people and caused billions of dollars of damage. Five year later, as we approach the anniversary of the tragic quake, we asked earthquake and disaster experts to reflect on the event and how their research field has changed because of it. We now have one of the best sets of seismic data in world for a major earthquake and we are using this data to help design and retrofit structures to better withstand shaking from large earthquakes. – John Ristau   Dr Kelvin … Read More