SMC Science Deadline: Rena recovery, silenced science & young dads

By Sciencemediacentre.co.nz received 4 years ago

Categories: Science
Age: 19 until 30 year 31 until 64 years 65 and older
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Issue 340,  07 Aug 2015

In this issue:

Rena recovery
Mediated Access
Young dads Policy updates
New from the SMC

Quick Links

SMC Alerts
Media Registration
About us
Contact the SMC

New from the SMC

Reflections: Siouxsie Wiles on the future of science   Reflections: NZ must do more on climate change – Ralph Chapman   Expert Reaction: Young fatherhood and midlife death   Expert Reaction: NZ Police to carry Tasers   Expert Reaction: Te putaiao mo apopo o Aotearoa — The future of science in New Zealand
The SMC network
  Expert Reaction: Consumption of spicy food and risk of death   Expert Reaction: Biomarker associated with breast cancer risk   Expert Reaction: Young fatherhood and likelihood of death in midlife   Expert Reaction: Impact of negative emissions technology on climate change   Expert Reaction: Carbon dioxide removal won’t reverse ocean acidification
Australian SMC
Expert Reaction: Blue Mountains winter bushfires – are they unusual?   Expert Reaction: Wireless radiation and cancer

  Find out more about our media training for scientists:
Science Media SAVVY

Top news from scimex.org  the Science Media Centre's news sharing platform.

Tuskless walrus emerged from ancient changing seas

Zombie spiders are slaves to their manipulative wasp masters

Horses have a long face list

Scientist stung by his frog discovery

Rena recovery effort winds up

Human efforts saved environment from major long-term damage, says scientist.
The $2.5 million, 3.5 year Rena Recovery Plan has run its course with no new oil sighted on beaches since last March and scientists reporting that wildlife and shellfish are returning to health.
The main concern now is the wreck itself, which remains on the Astrolabe reef and which local iwi are concerned could continue to negatively impact on the environment.
Rena Recovery Group Co-Chair and Ngāti Ranginui representative Carlton Bidois told Maori TV:
“Great progress has been made but we can’t say we’re back to pre-Rena state just yet. It will take more time for Mother Nature to complete her work. Iwi and hapū still have some concerns about long-term cumulative effects, and consider that the mauri will never be fully restored while the remnants of the wreck and its contents remain on Ōtāiti.”
Professor of coastal science at Waikato University Chris Battershill, who has been monitoring impacts since the Rena ran aground in October 2011, told Radio New Zealand that the environment had recovered well.
"We didn't expect that, and we think it's because of the massive human effort that was deployed to clean up the beaches," he said.
In 2013, an initial programme of environmental monitoring found little evidence of long-term impact on beaches, reefs and fisheries. The Rena disaster response and clean-up involved dozens of scientists, from oiled wildlife specialists to coastal ecologists.

Past SMC coverage of the Rena oil spill
Scientists on Rena impacts - AUDIO
Rena oil spill effects and response
Oil in coastal ecosystems
Break-up poses variety of hazards

Science silenced? - US report

Barriers between reporters and government scientists are making it harder for journalists to keep the public informed, according to a new US report.

The report, titled Mediated Access, is based on a survey of over 250 science journalists conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The survey highlights the sometimes obstructive role institutions play in scientists-journalist interactions; more than half of respondents agreed with the statement “the public is not getting all the information it needs because of barriers agencies are imposing on journalists’ reporting practices”.
The issue has been the subject of debate here in New Zealand. Earlier this year the New Zealand Association of Scientists raised concern over scientists’ freedom to speak to the media, especially those working in the public sector.
The new report did offer a number of recommendations to government agencies to remedy the situation, including: Allowing interviews with subject matter experts Removing ‘pre-approval’ requirements for scientist interviews Developing media policies and practices that are consistent with standards of scientific integrity. Further recommendations were also directed at journalists, scientists and the government.
Matt Shipman a US-based public information officer and author of the Communication Breakdown blog, was disappointed by the findings.
“...if an institution makes it difficult for reporters to talk scientists – the relevant experts on the work that is guiding government policy – then that institution is making it difficult for reporters to do their jobs. And, ultimately, the institution is making it harder for the public to keep informed about what its government is doing.
“And in any form of representative government, that’s a problem.”
The Royal Society of New Zealand has been tasked with leading the development of a code of practice for public engagement for scientists in this country -- which will include guidelines on media interaction. A guidance group overseeing this activity will have its first meeting next week.

Quoted: Southland Times

"Things are drifting everywhere. Anything is possible."
  NIWA Physical Oceanographer Dr Phillip Sutton comments on the likelihood of MH370 debris washing up in Southland

Young dads' early death risk

Becoming a dad before the age of 25 is linked to a heightened risk of dying early in middle age, according to new Finnish research.

The authors of the new study looked at over 30,000 men who became fathers by the age of 45, and found that younger dads had poorer health and died earlier than those who delayed fatherhood. The research is published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Men who were dads by the time they were 22 had a 26% higher risk of death in mid-life than those who had fathered their first child when they were 25 or 26. At the other end of the scale, those who became dads between the ages of 30 and 44 had a 25% lower risk of death in middle age.

The researchers also undertook a further analysis in a sample of 1124 siblings, to tease apart social and genetic factors, and found similar results.

“The findings of our study provide evidence of a need to support young fathers struggling with the demands of family life in order to promote good health behaviours and future health,” write the authors.

Thomas Lumley, University of Auckland Professor of Biostatistics, told the SMC the findings build on similar results from earlier studies.

“If these are really effects of early fatherhood, they are quite large — about 3 premature deaths for every 200 early fathers, with “early” defined very broadly — and could suggest that increased support for young families would provide population health benefits.”
You can read more about the study, including a full media release and further expert commentary, on Scimex.org.

Policy news & developments


Data partnership: The government has announced the establishment of a Data Futures Partnership, a cross-sector group of influential individuals working collectively to help drive change across New Zealand’s data-use ecosystem.
New ECan commissioner: Elizabeth Cunningham has been appointed as a commissioner at Environment Canterbury (ECan).

New from Sciblogs

Some of the highlights from this week's Sciblogs posts:
Data shows women led companies are better! Michelle Dickinson highlight new figures examining women in the workforce.
Modelling tobacco tax - Tony Blakely shares recent research and reflects on the personal journey behind it.
Public Health Expert
The future of science in NZ - Robert Hickson does a wrap up of the recent 'Future of New Zealand Science' special issue to which he contributed.

Upcoming events

Please see the SMC Events Calendar for more events and details. IPCC 5th Assessment Report - Challenges & Opportunities ahead of COP21 in Paris - 10 August, Wellington. Lecture by Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, Vice Chair of the IPCC and Professor of Climatology and Environmental Sciences at the Universite Catholique de Louvain, Belgium.
  Bird Evolution: From Dinosaurs to DNA - 11-20 August, various locations. Harvard University's Prof Scott V. Edwards talks about birds being the living descendants of dinosaurs and how deciphering their genetics reveals the origin of birds’ unique traits, such as feathers.
WILD THINGS - Environmental Defence Society conference - 12 -13 August, Auckland. Addressing terrestrial, freshwater and marine biodiversity loss.
From Quantum Mechanic to Quantum Engineer for the economy - 12 August, Wellington; 13, Auckland. University of Otago Winter Lecture with Prof David Hutchinson.
2015 Rutherford Lecture: Going Super Heavy - 11-26 August, various locations. Distinguished Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger FRSNZ, Director of the Centre of Theoretical Chemistry and Physics at Massey University, gives his Rutherford Lecture on the Periodic Table in both historical and modern times.

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