This week at Science in Public

This Week
  • Do you live or work in the ACT? Nominations for Fresh Science 2018 in the ACT are still open. The program will be kicking off with NSW on June 5-6, followed by: SA, VIC, WA, the ACT, & QLD.
  • Do you need help to find the story in your science that works for media, funders, and other stakeholders? Join one of our communication training days.
  • Stories of Australian Science is now open for submissions year-round. We’ll give you the case studies to use as you wish, and publish/share them online as part of the AusSciStories collection. Then we’ll publish a collection of highlights in an October print edition, which will be shared with journalists, politicians, and science leaders in Australia and overseas.

Brainwave to let Parkinson’s patients sleep through surgery

Media releases

Melbourne scientists have discovered a unique brain signal that will act as a homing device, making deep brain stimulation surgery for Parkinson’s disease and other conditions more accurate, more effective, and less confronting for the patient.

Deep brain stimulation has transformed the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease by reducing their tremors and other symptoms. Surgeons insert electrodes to stimulate a tiny part of the brain—the size of a grain of rice. To get the best results the patient has to be awake. And that’s scary for many patients. Now they can sleep through the surgery.

Bionics Institute clinicians and researchers have recorded and studied the brainwaves of 19 patients during surgery—14 with Parkinson’s disease and five with a condition called essential tremor. They discovered that the part that they’re targeting produces a unique brain signal that can be used to guide the surgeon.

This discovery will enable the surgery to be performed without the need for the patient to be awake.

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Are damselflies in distress?

Macquarie University, Media releases

How are insects responding to rapid climate change?

Molecular Ecology paper Monday, 30 April 2018

Damselflies mating

The blue-tailed damselfly (Ischnura elegans) in mating formation. Photo: Rachael Dudaniec

Damselflies are evolving rapidly as they expand their range in response to a warming climate, according to new research led by Macquarie University researchers in Sydney.

“Genes that influence heat tolerance, physiology, and even vision are giving them evolutionary options to help them cope with climate change. Other insects may not be so lucky,” says Dr Rachael Dudaniec, lead author of the paper.

The study, published in Molecular Ecology today, investigated the genetics of an insect’s capacity to adapt and survive in a changing world by looking at the blue-tailed damselfly (Ischnura elegans) in Sweden.

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Nominations for Fresh Science now open

Fresh Science

Do you know any early-career researchers who have peer-reviewed results, a discovery, or an invention that has received little or no media attention?

Please nominate them for Fresh Science, our national competition that helps early-career researchers find, and then share, their stories of discovery. Scientists get a day of media training and the chance to share their work with the media, general public and school students.

Fresh Science is looking for:

  • early-career researchers (from honours students to no more than five years post-PhD)
  • a peer-reviewed discovery that has had little or no media coverage
  • some ability to present ideas in everyday English.

Fresh Science 2018 will run in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria and NSW. We’ll also run it in other states and territories where we can secure local support.

I’d appreciate it if you could circulate this to early-career researchers in your organisation.

If you’d like to share our flyer calling for nominations, you can download it as a PDF or a jpeg or share the call on social media using #FreshSci

How to nominate [click to continue…]

Announcing the $200 million Digital Health CRC

Digital Health CRC, Media releases

A $200+ million opportunity to transform health delivery: improving health outcomes; reducing waste in the health system; building businesses and jobs.

Announced on Friday 13 April with:

  • Senator Zed Seselja, Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation
  • Professor Christine Bennett, Interim-Chair of the Digital Health CRC
  • Dr Bronwyn Evans, Chair of MTP Connect
  • Dr Zoran Bolevich, Chief Executive, eHealth NSW
  • David Jonas – CEO Designate of the Digital Health CRC

Australia’s health system has contributed to a transformation in the human condition. We’re living longer – a child born today will on average live to 83 and see in the 22nd Century. We’ve largely defeated infectious diseases and our roads and workplaces are safer than they’ve ever been.

But

Our longer lives bring with them a greater risk of chronic and degenerative diseases which are difficult and expensive to manage and treat.

Obesity and Type 2 diabetes are on the rise. The health system can’t keep up. Australia’s annual health expenditure has passed $170 billion which is more than 10 per cent of GDP.

And the system is splitting at the seams. It’s too complex: for patients and their families, for health professionals, for industry, and for government. For example, adverse drug reactions in Australia are responsible for over 400,000 GP visits a year, and for 30 per cent of elderly emergency admissions. The cost is over $1.2 billion. We believe that half the cost is avoidable.

The Digital Health CRC will

  • Improve the health and wellness of hundreds of thousands of Australians
  • Improve the value of care and reduce adverse drug events
  • Join up data in the health system creating an improved system benefiting all Australians
  • Save the Australian health system $1.8 billion
  • Create at least 1000 new jobs in the digital health and related industry sectors
  • Create new companies and products for Australian and global markets
  • Create a new digital workforce and build the capacity of clinicians and consumers to become digital health ‘natives’

The Digital Health CRC’s 80-member organisations represent every segment of the health system from patient to community, hospital to insurer, start-up to big government. Our researchers, from 16 universities, will work with our health partners to develop and test solutions that work for real patients in real hospitals and other settings of care. And our business partners will work alongside them to ensure that the solutions are scalable and implementable. We’ll develop them in Australia, then take them to the world.  To catalyse the latter, we are partnering with US-based company, HMS, that provides solutions and services to health insurers and their customers across 48 US states.

Media release from the CRC: www.scienceinpublic.com.au/media-releases/digitalhealth

Backgrounder: www.scienceinpublic.com.au/media-releases/digitalhealth-backgrounder

For interviews and further information visit www.digitalhealthcrc.com

Or contact:

Senator the Hon. Zed Seselja, Liberal Senator for the ACT, Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation (centre) attending the press call with the Digital Health CRC team

Senator the Hon. Zed Seselja, Liberal Senator for the ACT, Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation and others attending the press call

Digital Health CRC announcement – media release

Digital Health CRC, Media releases

Government backs $200 million Digital Health R&D initiative

A $200+ million opportunity to transform health delivery:
improving health outcomes; reducing waste in the health system; building businesses and jobs.

Launch with Senator Zed Seselja at 10 am, ‘Fountain Courtyard’, Sydney Hospital, Macquarie Street, Sydney.

The new Digital Health CRC (Cooperative Research Centre) will invest over $200 million to develop and test digital health solutions that work for real patients in real hospitals and health services, while equipping Australians to better manage their own health and wellness.

Senator the Hon. Zed Seselja, Liberal Senator for the ACT, Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation announced today that the Government will invest $55 million through its CRC program to further develop Australia’s growing Digital Health technology and services industry.  The Centre was one of only four CRC’s funded in this round. [click to continue…]

Digital health backgrounder

Digital Health CRC, Media releases

The challenges

Australia’s health system has contributed to a transformation in the human condition.

We’re living longer – a child born today will on average live to 83 and see in the 22nd Century.

We’ve largely defeated infectious diseases and our roads and workplaces are safer than they’ve ever been.

But

Our longer lives bring with them a greater risk of chronic and degenerative diseases which are difficult and expensive to manage and treat. Half of us have one or more chronic conditions. If we’re over 65 then 30 per cent of us have three or more chronic conditions.

Obesity is on the rise and Type 2 diabetes is reaching almost epidemic levels across the developed and developing world.

The health system can’t keep up. Annual health expenditure has passed $170 billion which is more than 10 per cent of GDP.

And the system is splitting at the seams. It’s too complex: for patients and their families, for health professionals, for industry, and for government.

Digital transformation is part of the solution.

Digital technologies have transformed how we work, travel, shop and socialise. We can buy almost anything we want in a moment using a smartphone. Why can’t we manage our health – our appointments, our medications, our records using our smartphones?

Digital Health could improve health outcomes AND reduce costs by

  • giving care providers all the information they need
  • providing transparency and access for consumers empowering them to manage their own health
  • saving 20 to 30 per cent of the health budget by reducing low value care, adverse events and other problems
  • enabling every Australian to manage their own health with their smartphone
  • offering new national and international opportunities for smart health companies.

However, around the world government and the private sector have struggled with the complexity of digital transformation. In Australia the system still depends too heavily on physical records, faxes and the post, and even where information is available in digital form, it is often difficult to access and join-up with related health information.

The Digital Health CRC’s 80-member organisations represent every segment of the health system from patient to community, hospital to insurer, start-up to big government.

Our researchers, from 16 universities, will work with our health partners to develop and test solutions that work for real patients in real hospitals and other settings of care. And our business partners will work alongside them to ensure that the solutions are scalable and implementable. We’ll develop them in Australia, then take them to the world. [click to continue…]

Smart socks help physiotherapists treat patients remotely

Fresh Science, Media releases

‘Smart socks’ are helping physiotherapists better assess and treat patients during video consultations, by providing information on weight distribution and range of movement during exercises like steps, squats or jumps.

The wearable technology, developed by PhD candidate Deepti Aggarwal at The University of Melbourne, was trialled with three patients and a physiotherapist at the Royal Children’s Hospital, from February to June 2017.

Background images and video below.

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AIP member benefits; call for Congress abstracts; behind the scenes at Parliament; and more physics in April

AIP President’s blog, Australian Institute of Physics

Preparations for the 2018 AIP Congress—in Perth, December 9 to

Professor Andrew Peele Interim Director, Australian Synchrotron

Professor Andrew Peele
Interim Director, Australian Synchrotron

13—are now well underway, with most of the plenary speakers announced. And the call for abstracts has just opened. More on both of those below.

This year we are really trying to attract a larger industry presence at the Congress, so please pass on the call for abstracts to those you know who are working in physics outside academia. It would also be great to see a large representation of science teachers at the conference.

Get your abstracts in today to help make this the biggest and best Congress yet.

As you probably know, AIP members receive discounted rates to attend the AIP Congress, but there are many other member benefits too.

This month our Vice President Jodie Bradby shared her thoughts on why all physicists should be members of the AIP. She highlights the great work undertaken by our members, and the events they work tirelessly to make happen.

Also in this bulletin, we hear from an AIP member who represented the AIP at Science meets Parliament earlier this year. Claire Edmunds, a PhD candidate from the University of Sydney and Professor Andre Luiten from the Institute for Photonics & Advanced Sensing (IPAS) were given the chance to network with the most brilliant minds in Australian science and members of parliament—while learning about the value those relationships provide.

I was pleased to hear that the experience was not only beneficial for our representatives and their careers, but was also a whole lot of fun. You can read Claire’s report below and Andre’s in the next edition of Australian Physics.

Finally, a lot of great Australian physics research made its way into the news this month, so be sure to check out some of the great media coverage below.

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Stargazing in science week and prizes galore: Physics in March

AIP President’s blog, Australian Institute of Physics

One of the year’s highlights for me as AIP President is our Annual

Professor Andrew Peele Director, Australian Synchrotron

Professor Andrew Peele
Director, Australian Synchrotron

Council Meeting, which gives us the chance to meet in person, hear about what our interstate colleagues are up to, and share our vision for the coming year for the AIP.

For me it’s exciting to see the volume of activity being managed through the state branches of the AIP. Not just in the traditional talk formats—where we continue to share some of the newest and best research from around the country—but also events such as physics in the pub, careers nights and debates, which encourage interaction and sharing of ideas.

One of the reasons that physics is able to feature at the highest levels of international science, and at the highest levels of public recognition, is because of the quality of grass-roots activities like these. The Council Meeting is a great way to bring to light some of this work, which can otherwise get overlooked, and to recognise its value.

Reflecting on another grass-roots activity—our first Summer Meeting—I think we can be pleased with the outcome for this first-time event. The low-cost event featured many opportunities for our early-career researchers and students, whilst also providing a collaborative and informative space for productive discussions. I want to thank those who put time and effort into bringing this event to fruition, and I am sure there will be more discussions about how we make the most of this event in the future. Meanwhile, it’s an AIP Congress year this year, so save the dates of 9-14 December, and keep your eyes on this bulletin for calls for content.

It was also my absolute pleasure to present an award for Outstanding Service to Physics at our AGM to Brian James. Brian’s most recent contribution to physics has been editing our member-only magazine Australian Physics for the past five years. Brian deserves to be recognised wholeheartedly for the time, effort and passion he has put into the magazine during his tenure. He will be stepping away from the role in coming months. Peter Kappen and David Hoxley will be taking over the reins and I look forward to a full introduction from them in the magazine pages once they do. Read more about Brian’s award below.

And on the topic of awards, included in this bulletin are the details of a number of science prizes. I’d encourage each state branch to consider who you’ve awarded prizes to over the past 12-18 months, and to put those people forward for some of these awards. We on the National Exec will do the same. If you are working on a nomination, please let us know so we don’t double up.

Kind Regards,

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics
aip_president@aip.org.au

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Robots: 22 international teams, 51 Aussie teams competing at Sydney Olympic Park from Sunday

Macquarie University, Media releases

FIRST Robotics Competition Australian Regionals kick off in Sydney from 11-18 March.

Move over Olympians! It’s athletes of a different kind that will be pitting their skills against each other at Sydney Olympic Park from 11 March-18 March.

High school teams from across the Asia Pacific are descending upon the Quaycentre to battle it out at the FIRST Robotics Competition Australian Regionals.

“It’s a competition, but it also teaches students design and engineering skills when they’re building their robots,” explains FIRST Australia director Luan Heimlich.

“They benefit from learning how to work together in teams, and cooperate and solve problems with tangible outcomes.”

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Michaelia Cash at FIRST

Beatrix Potter, pioneering scientist; using whales and fish to trace emerging viruses; travelling back in time; and uniting women in earth and environmental sciences

Macquarie University, Media releases

Female scientists have played a critical role in many scientific discoveries throughout history, but their contributions have often been overlooked.

Ahead of International Women’s Day this Thursday, Macquarie University scientists are celebrating the work of forgotten women of science through history; explaining how their work today is changing the world; and making the case for why women in earth and environmental sciences need to stand together.

  • Lesley Hughes researches the impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems. Now she’s celebrating the work of Beatrix Potter and other pioneering but forgotten women of science, through the exhibition Hidden Figures of STEMM.
  • Evolutionary biologist Jemma Geoghegan is using whales and fish to better understand how new viruses emerge.
  • Kira Westaway uses glowing grains of sand to travel back in time. Her work has transformed our understanding of human evolution.
  • Volcanologist Heather Handley’s research into volcanoes in the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ is improving our understanding of volcanic hazards. She’s also the co-founder and chair of new network Women in Earth and Environmental Sciences Australasia (WOMESSA).

More on each of these stories  below.

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Nominations for 2018 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science are open

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Can you help us recognise the best in Australian science, innovation and science teaching?

Each year the Australian Government honours Australia’s best scientists, innovators and science teachers through the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, and they need your help to find potential winners.

The prizes recognise:

  • Leading Australian scientists who have made a significant contribution to the advancement of knowledge through science—for the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.
  • Exceptional innovators from both industry and research who have translated scientific knowledge into substantial commercial impact—for the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation.
  • Early to mid-career scientists whose research is already making, and will continue to have, an impact on our lives—for the $50,000 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year and $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year.
  • Promising early to mid-career innovators from industry and research whose work has the potential to enhance our economy through the translation of scientific knowledge into a substantial commercial impact—for the $50,000 Prize for New Innovators.
  • Inspiring science, mathematics and technology teachers who are dedicated to innovative teaching and inspiring the next generation—for the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching (Primary and Secondary).

Note that the guidelines for the prizes have been updated for 2018 so make sure you review the latest information, including nomination forms, at: business.gov.au/scienceprizes or contact 13 28 46.

Read about past winners below, or at science.gov.au/pmscienceprizes.

Nominations are open until 5.00pm (AEDT) 26 March 2018.

New rotavirus vaccine could benefit millions of children

Media releases

22 February 2018: 

A rotavirus vaccine that can be given days after birth has been developed by Australian and Indonesian researchers.

Rotavirus is the common cause  of severe diarrhoea and a killer of approximately 215,000 children under five globally each year.

The oral vaccine, called RV3-BB, was given in three single doses, the first within five days of birth. Until now, the vaccine against rotavirus was available in Australia and only on the private market in Indonesia, and could only be administered from six weeks of age.

After three doses of RV3-BB administered from birth:

  • 94 per cent of infants were protected in their first year of life against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis
  • 75 per cent of infants were protected to 18 months of age.

The success of the RV3-BB vaccine is the culmination of more than four decades of work, which started with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s Professor Ruth Bishop and the discovery of rotavirus in 1973.

The trial was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and PT BioFarma.

Read the full media release on the MCRI website.

Read an earlier story on the work in our Stories of Indonesia-Australia Innovation collection from 2016.

 

Physics in footy and Indigenous astronomy activities amongst National Science Week Grant recipients

National Science Week

Media release from Senator the Hon Zed Seselja, Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation

Hospitals, art galleries and sports stadiums are amongst the more unusual locations set to come alive with science during this year’s National Science Week, thanks to over $600,000 in Australian Government grants announced today.

The 2018 National Science Week Grants will provide funding for science engagement activities, events, and competitions to take place during Australia’s largest celebration of science this August.

Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation Zed Seselja today congratulated the 45 grant recipients, welcoming the diversity of projects to be funded.

“This year’s grants recipients have exhibited tremendous creativity in developing such an exciting range of activities to engage people of all walks of life and in all corners of Australia with science,” Senator Seselja said.

“NASA scientists are headed to Australia to celebrate the end of Kepler and Cassini, in a series of events where audiences can hear about what we learnt from the Cassini spacecraft’s 13 years with Saturn and the hundreds of planets discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope.

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Physics in the limelight, let’s keep it there; AIP AGM; LIGO lecture and more

AIP President’s blog, Australian Institute of Physics
Professor Andrew Peele Interim Director, Australian Synchrotron

Professor Andrew Peele
Interim Director, Australian Synchrotron

I am very excited about starting 2018 with Michelle Simmons awarded Australian of the Year – what better way is there to bring physics into the limelight than having people discussing the benefits of quantum physics.

Michelle is a great advocate for our discipline, women in science and physics education – her 2017 Australia Day Address was a great example.  We offer our sincere congratulations to Michelle on this honour, and you can share your messages with her too via our Facebook post.

I’d also like to offer congratulations to those physicists awarded in the Australia Day honours roll – see list below.

These accolades are a timely reminder that the only reason physicists win these awards is because someone nominates them.

Nominations are now open for Australian of the Year 2019 and the honours roll. You can also nominate for FameLab, the Eureka Prizes, Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science and many other awards will open in the coming months.

So let’s make sure we keep the momentum going, think about who you can nominate to keep physics in the spotlight.

Last but not least, this month we also recognise Professor David McClelland – who has been awarded the Walter Boas Medal for key contributions to LIGO, and “one of the greatest achievements in the history of physics”, the discovery of gravitational waves. You can read more about David’s achievements below.

You can hear more from David at a Public Lecture at Melbourne’s RMIT on 15 February, immediately after the AIP’s AGM.

I hope to see you there.

Regards,

Andrew Peele
President, Australian Institute of Physics
aip_president@aip.org.au

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World’s largest-ever ape; more efficient aircraft; and why having more women in science matters

Macquarie University, Media releases

Science needs more women and four Macquarie scientists can tell you why ahead of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science this Sunday.

  • Professor Barbara Messerle is a research chemist and leads a team of 360 academic staff and 6,400 students as the Executive Dean of Macquarie University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering.
  • Dr Shari Gallop was surprised by the level of gender inequality she encountered at the start of her academic career, so she co-founded the network to do something about it.
  • Associate Professor Kira Westaway is leading a team to hunt in China for fossils from Gigantopithecus blacki, the largest ever ape to walk the planet.
  • Dr Sophie Calabretto is developing the maths that will help designers build more efficient aircraft and climate scientists develop the next generation of global climate models – and she’s worried about the declining number of girls studying maths.

More on each of these scientists below.

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Fighting the rise of non-communicable diseases starts with children and adolescents

The Australia-Indonesia Centre

Indonesia and Australia’s rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is being tackled with a suite of projects designed to bring attention to risk factors early in life and improve overall health.

The work, which is supported by The Australia-Indonesia Centre, focuses on three areas: tobacco use, mental health and improving communication between healthcare providers and young people.

Funding for nine projects in Indonesia comes from The Australia-Indonesia Centre’s Health Cluster, with the aim of building healthier, more empowered communities for generations to come.

NCDs such as diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular disease and mental disorders are the world’s leading cause of morbidity and mortality in adults. Prevention is a critical part of reducing this burden.

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Science Communicator position – now closed

Other

We’re looking for a science communicator to join our team at Science in Public. We need someone who is organised, loves science and wants to help scientists get their work into the public space.

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Media kit: 2017 CSL Florey Medal

CSL Florey Medal, Media releases

Using viruses to restore sight

 

Researcher restoring sight Elizabeth Rakoczy (UWA) wins $50,000 CSL Florey Medal for lifetime achievement


Press materials available

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