SMC Science Deadline: Top 10 science stories, alcohol pricing, xmas update

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 356, 18 Dec 2015

In this issue:

Merry Christmas!
Top 10 Sci Stories
Alcohol pricing
Policy updates
New from the SMC

Quick Links

SMC Alerts
Media Registration
About us
Contact the SMC
Top news from scimex.org  the Science Media Centre's news sharing platform.

Christmas spirit found in the brain

NZ needs to shape up on tackling preventable diseases

‘Hunger hormone’ may treat severe peripheral artery disease

A sneeze in time saves nine

Australian and NZ little penguins are distinct species

New from the SMC

In the News: Minimum alcohol price impact on drinkers – In the News   Expert Reaction: Drinker survey and minimum alcohol price   Reflections: Top Ten Science Stories of 2015   In the News: Climate deal reached in Paris   Expert Reaction: Climate deal agreed in Paris

  Applications still open for Wellington two-day workshop in Feb 2016
Apply Here

New from the SMC global network

Top 10 weird science stories of 2015
Top 10 science stories for 2015
Expert Reaction: Human stem cell pluripotency using human-mouse chimerism   Briefing: Government Chief Scientific Adviser Annual Review   Expert Reaction to ovarian cancer screening trial   Expert Reaction: Select Committee report on GM insects   Briefing: Genetically modified insects – what is their potential?

Season's Greetings from the SMC team!

It has has been another big year for science and the media and we want to thank you all for working with the us during 2015.


From the Science Media SAVVY participants to the Scibloggers, the hundreds of experts we've quoted in our releases to the comms managers we've collaborated with, none of what we do would be possible without your enthusiastic support. 
We have worked especially hard on launching our news portal Scimex: the Science Media Exchange, which brings journalists, scientists and media officers closer together to work on the big science stories. Thank you to everyone who helped us get this amazing resource off the ground.


The SMC will be shut from December 25 to January 11 however SMC Manager Peter Griffin will be on call to handle urgent queries (021 859 365).


Have a great break and we look forward to working with you in 2016.


Best wishes and have a safe and relaxing holiday!


Peter, Dacia, John and Laura

2015: Top Ten Science Stories

The SMC takes a look over its shoulder at some of the big science news stories making headlines in 2015.
We have seen water on Mars and a heart on Pluto, battled with fruit fly invaders and grappled with new gene editing technologies.
Here then are some of the biggest and most interesting stories from New Zealand and overseas that kept us busy over the last 12 months.


Check out our top ten science stories of 2015

Feel free to republish or re-purpose our top ten lists. Anything you think we missed? Let us know via twitter or email.

Survey stirs alcohol price debate

A minimum price on alcohol can change heavy drinkers' consumption but is unlikely to drive them to criminal or dangerous behaviour, say the authors of a new study.

Previous studies have suggested that imposing a minimum price per standard drink of alcohol could reduce harmful alcohol consumption. Options explored by the Government last year included introducing a minimum price of $1 to a $1.20 per standard drink in New Zealand.

Anew study, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today, offers fresh insights into the effects of minimum alcohol prices. The researchers report on a survey of 115 dependent drinkers at an Auckland clinic, investigating how they would respond to changes in the affordability of alcohol.

Noting that the heaviest drinkers also bought the cheapest alcohol, the authors conclude that “it seems likely that a minimum pricing regime would result in an overall reduction in alcohol consumption in this group”.

They also reported there was minimal evidence drinkers would turn to non-beverage alcohol – such as methylated spirits – or criminal activity to access alcohol when it becomes unaffordable.
“Fears of such behaviours are not valid reasons for rejecting a minimum pricing regime,” write the authors.
Hypothetical effects

Prof Jennie Connor, from the Otago University Dunedin School of Medicine, offered some context on the findings. 
“Some opposition to minimum unit pricing as a policy cites hypothetical effects on dependent drinkers," she told the SMC. 
"This often involves vilifying dependent drinkers and asserting that they will lie, cheat and steal to get alcohol when their drinking becomes unaffordable rather than reduce drinking or seek treatment, even though many addicted smokers do reduce or stop when prices of cigarettes go up."
“The importance of this paper is  that it consults the very people who will be most affected by minimum pricing and is reasonably reassuring that they will not be unduly harmed or turned into criminals if such a policy was introduced."

You can read more expert reaction and a round-up of media coverage on the Science Media Centre website. A copy of the full NZMJ study is available here, subscription required.

Policy news & developments

Fever evaluation: An evaluation of this year’s national rheumatic fever awareness campaign shows positive results, says Health Minister Jonathan Coleman.
1080 report: The EPA has released its eighth annual report on the aerial use of 1080, detailing all operations, incidents, species monitoring.
Climate reports: The Ministry for the Environment has published a series of reports detailing New Zealand's current and projected performance under the Kyoto protocol.
Food regulations: New food safety regulations introduced under the Food Act 2014 include changes to how often businesses are checked by inspectors.
HRC Chair: Dr Lester Levy has been appointed chair of the Health Research Council, replacing outgoing chair Sir Robert Stewart. 

Quoted: Newstalk ZB

"I wouldn’t want people to sit there thinking ‘I’ve got cancer therefore its my fault’ – that’s not what this study is saying – it’s saying there are environmental exposures that we can do something about.
  University of Otago medical oncologist Christopher Jackson commenting on the Nature study refuting the 'bad luck' cancer hypothesis.

Science Media SAVVY 

Our next Science Media SAVVY course will be in Wellington 18-19 February 2016.



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:
Bone of contention - Sciblogs News writer Erica Mather looks at the growing controversy surrounding calcium and vitamin D supplements, which are often recommended as a treatment to prevent osteoporosis. The problem is that clinical evidence increasingly suggests such supplements are ineffective. Mather talks to the New Zealand experts whose research has found that supplements “do not reduce the risk of fracture and may result in harm”.
Science removes doubt about Christmas - Steve Pointing draws on science to show that Santa could easily circumnavigate the globe unseen and squeeze into chimneys.
Pointing at Science
Climate of conflict - Is global warming related to conflict? Guest blogger Dr David Hall outlines the case for a link between climate shifts and civil unrest and warfare.
Guest Work
Busting sexism in science -  Science is sexist, but Siouxsie Wiles has a plan to do something about it - and she needs your help.
Infectious Thoughts

Upcoming events

Please see the SMC Events Calendar for more events and details.
  Christmas! 25 December, Everywhere.

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