SMC Science Deadline: Forensic furore, fellowship funding and crayon concerns

By Sciencemediacentre.co.nz received 3 years ago

Categories: Science
Age: 19 until 30 year 31 until 64 years 65 and older
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Issue 345,  18 Sep 2015

In this issue:

Forensic furore
Crayon concerns
Fellowship funding Policy updates
New from the SMC

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SMC Alerts
Media Registration
About us
Contact the SMC

New from the SMC

Reflections: Prestigious fellowships funding NZ research   In the News: Testing reveals asbestos in crayons   In the News: Tsunami warning in wake of Chile quake
  The SMC network
  Expert Reaction: ‘Naturally occurring GM butterflies’   Expert reaction: Chile earthquake   Expert Reactions: Alcohol consumption, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality   Expert Reaction: Effectiveness of the antidepressant paroxetine in adolescents with major depression   Expert Reaction: Outdoor air pollution and global premature deaths
Australian SMC
  Expert Reaction: Can you ‘catch’ Alzheimer’s from contaminated injections?   Expert Reactions: Radiation therapy suppressing the immune system

  Applications open for Auckland and Wellington two-day workshops
Apply Here

Top news from scimex.org  the Science Media Centre's news sharing platform.
Want to cycle more efficiently? Don’t pedal too fast

Air pollution a global early killer

Nearby red dwarves could reveal planet secrets

More time outside improves kids' vision

Blood-spatter backlash

A newswire story reporting on US animal rights campaigners’ reaction to New Zealand forensic science research which used live pigs to study gunshot wounds to the head attracted emotive headlines as it was syndicated around the world this week.

The research, published in the International Journal of Legal Medicine in July, used high-speed cameras to record blood spatter patterns. It was part of a larger blood pattern analysis research project carried out in 2009 testing the accuracy of mannequins and mathematical models for future forensic research. The data from pigs, published separately, was used for comparison as part of these studies.

Media reports quoted activists’ claims that the experiments were “incredibly violent” with pigs allegedly “tied down” and “shot in the face”.
Independent animal ethics experts contacted by the Science Media Centre dispute these claims:

“The study made use of five live pigs that were anaesthetised throughout and there is no mention in the paper of the pigs being tied to a table,” comments Prof Craig Johnson, Deputy chair of the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee.

“This research was approved by an animal ethics committee prior to being undertaken and the process of peer review means that the results will have also been scrutinised by independent experts in the field who will have judged the information worthy of publication.”

“This study appears to have been conducted in an ethically acceptable way and the welfare of the animals involved appears to have been an important concern for the researchers who undertook the study.”

ESR funded the research, which was carried out at the University of Otago. In a statement on their website, ESR backed the study saying it provided valuable data:

“Although there are obvious differences in human and animal forms, observing and analysing the behaviour of blood with similar viscosity, pressure and temperature has produced valuable information that has been shared with the global forensic community.”

“This kind of high quality research underpins justice systems by helping present informed, robust and accurate evidence – evidence that could help prove or disprove witness testimony and help a court determine a person’s guilt or innocence.”

University of Otago Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research, Prof Richard Blaikie also commented in response to the coverage:

“The project’s purpose was to investigate the biomechanical basis of back-spatter from close-range gunshots, an area that had been little studied.

“Back-spatter is the term given to blood and tissue that issues from the entry wound caused by a bullet and moves back towards the person shooting the firearm. It is often important evidence in homicide cases and its accurate interpretation can be key to exonerating the innocent or convicting the guilty.

“The project was undertaken to help confirm whether a model head created for studying back-spatter successfully approximated an actual human head. As the data to validate the model head has been obtained through this study, no similar experiments are planned.”

Policy news & developments

Funding for birds, whitebait: the DOC Community Conservation Partnership Fund is providing more than $150,000 in funding for the Whaka Inaka project and Braided River Partnership projects.
Rare diseases: Pharmac's $25 million rare disorders contestable funding pilot has announced the first drug to be funded under the scheme.
Fishing limits: Catch limits for some gurnard, stargazer and rig stocks in the South Island have been increased while limits have been decreased for the New Zealand hoki stock and the oreo stock on the Chatham Rise.
Sustainable aquaculture: The A+ Environmental Sustainability Management Framework was launched this week, supported by funding from the Sustainable Farming Fund.

Tests find asbestos in crayons

Some crayons sold in New Zealand have been found to contain traces of asbestos following random testing by the Ministry of Health.

The Ministry of Health has confirmed the presence of asbestos in three of 21 crayon products randomly sampled from the market, but noted the risk to the consumer is considered to be low.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance composed of fine silicate materials which, if inhaled, can cause lung complications and cancer.

The announcement from the New Zealand Government follows similar testing undertaken in Australia which also identified the presence of asbestos in a number of crayon products. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission did not believe that traces of asbestos in crayons presents a safety risk to consumers because the asbestos is fixed within the crayon wax and stated there is no need to panic.

US government testing undertaken in 2000 indicates that the presence of asbestos is linked to the use of talc as a binding agent in the crayons.

The US report stated that the risk posed by asbestos in crayons was “extremely low” but called on manufacturers to reformulate their products as a precaution.

The three products in New Zealand found to contain asbestos were:

Disney – Planes, Fire & Rescue – Double ended crayons Avengers Age of Ultron – 8 Chunky Crayons Art Series – Jumbo Colours 12 Non-Toxic Bright Colours

The Ministry recommends concerned parents or carers check any crayons against the those tested and, if still concerned, stop using the crayons and dispose of them.

The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) is currently consulting on a proposal to ban the import of asbestos containing products to New Zealand.
More information and examples of national media coverage can be found on the Science Media Centre website.

Quoted: Our Changing World

"Some people refer to them as the Genghis Khan of the ant world. They come along and kill off all their competitors and other species within the area and take over the landscape"
  Prof Phil Lester, Victoria University Wellington, describes the invasive Argentine ants.

Fellowships fund NZ research

Virtual babies, breast cancer genomics and criminal psychology are just a few subjects to be studied by researchers awarded prestigious fellowships this week.

The recipients of two separate sets of fellowships were announced yesterday, totalling millions of dollars of research funding for established and up-and-coming researchers.

Twelve of New Zealand’s most talented early to mid-career researchers have been awarded Rutherford Discovery Fellowships, providing funding of up to $800,000 each over five years to cover salary and research costs.

Research funded through the Rutherford Discovery Fellowships includes: analysing adult-baby interactions using a virtual baby (Dr Annette Henderson, University of Auckland), research determining who should receive genetic testing for breast cancer and interpreting the test results (Dr Logan Walker, University of Otago) and studying what stops convicted sex offenders from re-offending (Dr Gwenda Willis, University of Auckland).
You can read the full list of recipients on the Royal Society of New Zealand website.

BabyX, developed by the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, will be used by one of the Rutherford Discovery Fellows to study adult-baby interactions.

Four researchers also received James Cook Research Fellowships, awarded to academics at the height of their research careers. The fellowships provide $200,000 over to two years to free researchers from administrative and teaching duties, allowing them to focus on their chosen research topic.
Read more about the 2015 fellows here.

Science Media SAVVY Auckland

Applications are now open for our next Science Media SAVVY workshop in Nov.

Our next two-day Science Media SAVVY course will be held in Auckland on on the 26-27 November 2015.
Science Media SAVVY workshops are designed to increase researchers’ confidence and skills and help them engage more effectively with the wider public through the media.
Participants gain firsthand insight into the media landscape and learn practical techniques to improve communication, deal with nerves, adapt their message to their audience and respond effectively when an interview becomes challenging. Highlights include a behind-the-scenes newsroom tour and Q&A panel with journalists.
Established, active researchers with previous media experience, and those likely to attract media interest in future, are especially encouraged to apply.


Help us spread the word: download a flyer for your department or notice board.


New from Sciblogs

Some of the highlights from this week's Sciblogs posts:
Have surgery, wake up on Sydney time - Lynley Hargreaves asks Guy Warman about his research showing patients who receive anaesthesia for surgery may wake up jet-lagged.
Infrequently Asked Questions
Why is it so hard to choose a flag? 'We thought we knew what we wanted from a flag, but really we didn’t.' Will Hayward unpicks the psychology of choosing.
The Psychologizer
Google’s big rival in driverless cars - Israeli startups are taking on the giants with high-tech and -- technically illegal -- self driving cars, writes Peter Griffin.
Griffin's Gadgets

Upcoming events

Please see the SMC Events Calendar for more events and details. Coasts & Ports 2015 - 15-18 September, Auckland. Conference bringing together engineers, planners, scientists, stakeholders and researchers to focus on the technological, scientific, policy, planning and design issues related to our diverse and developing coasts.
The Nature of prosperity: safeguarding biodiversity in development - 23 September, Lincoln. Fourth Symposium, NZ Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Lincoln University, featuring Dr Marie Brown of the Environmental Defence Society.
NZBIO conference 2015 - 23-24 September, Wellington. Featuring sessions dedicated to key focal areas in the NZ bioeconomy including: human health, animal health, agriculture, food and natural products.

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