SMC Science Deadline: Showcasing southern science, bowel screening and emissions trade-offs

By Sciencemediacentre.co.nz received 3 years ago

Categories: Science
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Issue 342,  21 Aug 2015

In this issue:

Bowel cancer
Carbon trading Policy updates
New from the SMC

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SMC Alerts
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New from the SMC

In the News: Bowel cancer screening
Expert Reaction: Latest carbon trading stats   Reflections:The Taonga Genome Project on Radio NZ   Expert Reaction: Chemicals at Tianjin explosion site   Expert Reaction: Cook Islands seabed mining
The SMC network
  Expert Reaction:  Fertility and light-dark cycle in mice   Director's Blog: The news may not do nuance – science should   Expert Reaction:  Neonicotinoid seed coating and bee colony losses   Expert Reaction: Long working hours, stroke and coronary heart disease   Expert Reaction: ‘GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health’
Australian SMC
  Expert Reaction: Working long hours linked to higher risk of stroke   Expert Reaction: Cut fat not carbs to lose body fat   Briefing: Are we alone? The $100m question

  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.

Global effort needed to barricade our forests against invading pests

Day of the Triffids? We're helping alien plants take over

Hot chilli may unlock a new treatment for obesity

Teens who use E-cigarettes more likely to take up smoking

Showcasing southern science

A new online NZ science show is putting the spotlight on Southern Hemisphere science.

Sci21, launched today, is a series of online webcasts which will dig into the big science issues of the 21st century, with a focus on research from New Zealand and our Southern Hemisphere neighbours.
The series is the brainchild of Auckland University of Technology (AUT) professor and SciBlogs contributor Steve Pointing.
“I wanted to create something without the jargon and that looked to the future, to give people of all ages a more visionary take on science and to make learning about science fun,” he says.
The short talks tackle serious science questions in a light-hearted, entertaining style, and are for anyone curious about how science will impact their life in the future. 
The project builds on the success of Professor Pointing’s 2014 video, The Science of Christmas, which was released last December and drew praise from adults and children around the world.

Sci21 launches with the release of its first video on astrobiology today. In it, Professor Pointing gives a glimpse into the emerging discipline of astrobiology, and addresses the thought-provoking question of whether life exists on other planets.
It will be followed soon by videos from Dr Michelle Dickinson on nanotechnology, AUT Associate Professor Duncan Babbage on eHealth, and a wave of international speakers on topics ranging from beating antibiotic resistance to the potential of photonic laser and sensor technology.
Find out more by visiting www.sci21.co.nz

Bowel cancer screening

The release of a major report on bowel cancer this week has re-ignited debate over nationwide screening for the disease.

Bowel cancer is the most common cancer in New Zealand and the country has the highest rate of both bowel cancer and related deaths in the developed world. Around 1200 New Zealanders die each year from the disease, with stigma and late diagnosis contributing to increased fatalities.

This month the PIPER (Presentation, Investigation, Pathways, Evaluation and Treatment) project released a comprehensive review of patient notes and relevant regional databases for all patients diagnosed with bowel cancers in 2007 and 2008.

The report highlighted that early detection and increasing the use of chemotherapy could improve outcomes.

The findings have placed pressure on the government to act on implementing a national screening program, a version of which is being piloted at Waitemata District Health Board.  A decision will be made once the pilot is completed this year and all monitoring and evaluation data has been analysed.

PIPER Project clinical leader Christopher Jackson, an oncologist, told Radio New Zealand: “I think everyone who looks after people with bowel cancer is hoping that the national screening programme is rolled out nationally.”

The PIPER study has also sparked debate over the use of at-home bowel cancer screening tests. Mhairi Porteous, the Ministry of Health’s, bowel and prostate cancer programme manager told The Southland Times that the kits do not take a systematic approach to the screen test, diagnosis and treatment, or offer consistent support for people who purchase the kits.
Dr John Pickering, author of the Kidney Punch blog on SciBlogs, outlined the statistics and reasoning behind the authorities hesitancy regarding the kits, writing:
"My concern with false negatives and a “home kit” is that some people may feel falsely reassured with a negative test.  On the other hand, a test administered by a medical doctor is not simply the test, but exposure to the doctor who may see other signs or symptoms that the test doesn’t pick up."
You can read a full round up of the week's coverage of the issue on the Science Media Web site

Quoted: The Independent

"Do we want the global homogenisation of flora? Do we want to go to New Zealand and see the same plants that grow in our back gardens?"
  German researcher Mark van Kleunen comments on a new Nature article - co-authored by New Zealanders -  examining the global spread of alien plants species

Carbon trading stats released

The latest data from the New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme, now in its eighth year of operation, is now out from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

According to the report, NZ ETS 2014 – Facts and figures, nearly all of the emission units handed in by companies in the scheme were purchased from offshore projects — so-called ‘hot-air’ credits.

Five sectors are currently included in the emissions trading scheme: forestry, ‘stationary energy‘, industrial processes, liquid fossil fuels and waste. The agricultural sector has reporting obligations, but is not currently required to participate in trading.

Commenting on the new data, Prof Euan Mason from the University of Canterbury was critical of New Zealand’s "creative accounting" with international credits

“New Zealand’s climate change policy failure is the main feature of the 2014 report on New Zealand’s emissions trading scheme," he said.
“More than 95% of surrendered credits were imports, and the cost to emitters was approximately 10 cents per imported ‘hot air’ credit during most of 2014, compared to an average of approximately $4 for New Zealand Units (NZUs), our domestic carbon credits, during that year."
“Since imported credits were outlawed earlier this year our NZU price has gradually risen to around $7/credit. This price is much too low to encourage the level of tree planting we need in order to avoid a blowout in our carbon accounts during the 2020s as trees planted during the 1990s are harvested."
Read more expert commentary on the Science Media Centre website.

Eureka! finalists announced

Twelve secondary school and university undergraduate students will vie for the Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Premier Award, in Wellington on Thursday 3 September.
The Award, which recognises excellence of communication about science, technology, engineering and innovation, was created in honour of the late Sir Paul Callaghan, one of New Zealand’s foremost scientists and science communicators.
Read more about the award, including a list of finalists on the Eureka! Trust website.

Policy news & developments

Māori and Pacific labour: The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has released 2015  Labour Market Factsheets for Māori and Pacific peoples.
Fungicide approved: An Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Decision-making Committee has approved the fungicide Prolectus, which contains the active ingredient fenpyrazamine.
Quake damage report: The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has released a report into the Building Code compliance of earthquake repairs to Canterbury homes.

New from Sciblogs

Some of the highlights from this week's Sciblogs posts:
Coal, climate change, and the NZ economy - In the wake of recent coal-related news, Cindy Baxter looks at winners, losers, and long-term users.
Hot Topic
New Zealand’s amazing glowing ‘maggot’ - Siouxsie Wiles introduces Arachnocampa luminosa, the subject of her latest animation video.
Infectious Thoughts

Upcoming events

Please see the SMC Events Calendar for more events and details. 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.
Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Australasia Conference - 25-28 August, Nelson. Theme: 'Systems Approach to Environmental Management.'
  The Age of Resilience - Panel discussion. 26 August, Auckland; 27 August, Wellington..As momentum builds towards an international climate change agreement at the UN COP 21 conference in Paris, New Zealand and French experts discuss humanity’s capacity to adapt, become resilient and address the greatest challenge posed to human existence.   

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