Media bulletins

Science in Public’s occasional bulletins to journalists with an interest in science.


Chemical-free is a myth says Chief Scientist; Dow CEO says business can save the world

Today at the Centenary Chemistry Congress

Chemical-free is a myth, says Chief Scientist

It’s a sad era for chemistry when you can buy chemical-free water, in a chemical-free plastic bottle, to wash down your chemical-free pills, from your chemical-free pharmacist,” says Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel.

More below.


  • Eliminating chemical weapons, His Excellency Mr Ahmet ÜzümcüDirector-General, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (2013 Nobel Peace Prize winner)
  • Using carbs to fight superbugs—Wisconsin chemist Laura Kiessling on how we can use the carbohydrates that coat every living cell in the fight against antibiotic resistant superbugs
  • Sir Martyn Poliakoff (University of Nottingham) is in the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s smallest periodic table (carved into a hair from his head). He’s a star of the YouTube series The Periodic Table of Videos. And in his day job he’s working to use CO2, water and other supercritical fluids to replace toxic solvents in applications such as dry cleaning.

And from last night

Business can solve today’s intractable challenges says Dow CEO Andrew Liveris, but Australia is falling behind..

More below. [click to continue…]

The ignorant versus the arrogant; growing bones; frog venom to TV screens; wood waste to solvents

Monday, 24 July at Melbourne Convention Centre
RACI Centennial Chemistry Congress: 3,500 chemists, three Nobel Prize winners, Trump and Obama insiders

The ignorant versus the arrogant – inside US politics

That’s how Obama insider and chemist Paul Anastas describes the US election result. He was appointed to the EPA by President Obama and now sees decades of environmental protection being rolled back. He’s angry. At the Congress, he’s talking about solving global challenges without creating new ones. For example, we need non-toxic solar cells, and biofuels that don’t compete with food production. He’s a pioneer of green chemistry, designing chemicals that are sustainable, non-hazardous and environmentally benign.

How seaweed and frog venom led to today’s OLED phone and TV screens

Andrew Holmes is President of the Australian Academy of Science and a chemistry pioneer whose discoveries led to plastic screens. Now he and his colleagues are working on plastic solar cells. He’ll discuss the impact of chemistry on Australia, and what’s next for plastic electronics.

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Stopping superbugs with ‘tyre tracks’; from chemical weapons to saving the planet; media award

Today: fighting superbugs with ‘tyre tracks’

Cynthia Whitchurch discovered that dangerous bacteria follow each other like ants, or 4WD drivers following tracks in the sand. She plans to stop them in their tracks and new catheters are being developed using her ideas. She’s won the David Syme Prize and is at UTS in Sydney.

More details below, and call Cynthia on 0408 408 443 or Marea Martlew, Media & PR Advisor (Science) on 0424735255

Starting 23 July: Chemistry: from chemical weapons to saving the planet

Trump’s ‘Aussie mate’, three Nobel Prize winners, and 2,500+ chemists converge in Melbourne.

Topics and speakers include:

  • CEO Dow Chemical Company and ‘Trump’s Aussie mate’ Andrew Liveris
  • Caltech scientist Frances Arnold, pioneer of ‘directed evolution’
  • Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
  • 100 years of Australian chemistry: what have we achieved and what’s next?

More below.

And coming up in August…

International geeks and gurus

  • Interstellar visual effects wizard Oliver James
  • Dava Sobel, author of Longitude and The Glass Universe
  • Physicist, astrobiologist, author and broadcaster Paul Davies
  • Canadian astronaut and ‘Space Oddity’ Chris Hadfield

[click to continue…]

Keeping the lights on in Ecocities, and a global voice for Indigenous public health equity

This evening: Ecocity World Summit launch in Melbourne 

Population growth, transport and congestion, keeping cities healthy, increasing density without the loss of green space, and energy security (aka ‘keeping the lights on’)—a reminder that the program of July’s Ecocity World Summit will be launched at 5.30pm tonight at The University of Melbourne.

It will provide an overview of the speakers and topics we can put you in touch with for stories in the lead up to and during the Summit.

More details on the event below. For more information about the Summit, contact Tanya Ha on 0404 083 863 or

A global voice for Indigenous public health equity

An new Indigenous Working Group will be established within the World Federation of Public Health Associations, aiming to create a platform for change to address the health inequities experienced by Indigenous peoples worldwide.

Media release below.

Kind regards,

Niall  [click to continue…]

From Public Health to Al Gore and EcoCities

congressThe World Congress on Public Health wraps up in Melbourne today with resolutions and demands for action on public health and on chemical weapons. More below.

But wait there’s more…EcoCities. In July Al Gore will be one of dozens of international speakers at the Ecocity World Summit.

What’s an EcoCity? Why do we want to be one? Can I speak with Al? These and other questions will be answered…

This Monday evening at a briefing on the Summit at 5.30 pm Monday 10 April at the Dulux Gallery, Melbourne School of Design, University of Melbourne.

More details below.  [click to continue…]

Three cheers for the nanny state: World Congress on Public Health kicks off in Melbourne, Monday morning

Two and a half thousand public health leaders are discussing how to transform lives by the million for the next 50 years.

And they want to talk to you.

  • Celebrating billions of lives transformed by public health.
  • Australians are living more than twenty years longer.
  • China’s life expectancy has doubled since 1949.
  • The roads are much safer, and we’re less likely to die from smoking.
  • Childbirth is 10x safer for the baby and 100x safer for mum.
  • And we’re not dying of TB, dirty water, deadly workplaces.


  • Globally, why are 4,000 people still dying from TB every day?
  • We defeated SARS in style, but Ebola and Zika were harder; what’s next?
  • Tobacco will kill six million people this year.
  • We have new plagues—sugary drinks and over consumption.
  • Chronic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, are now responsible for 85 per cent of deaths worldwide.
  • Violence against women and children continues.
  • Indigenous peoples from Nunavut to Alice Springs are dying too young.
  • And people with mental illnesses are losing even more years.
  • Climate change.
  • Trump.

[click to continue…]

Fighting TB’s daily death toll of 4,000 lives; scientists in Poliwood; and how’s that weather!

Today: 200+ scientists meet parliamentarians in Canberra

Today, science leaders and early career researchers are meeting politicians at Parliament House—a clash of cultures or a meeting of minds? The researchers are available to talk about the experience.

Read more via Science & Technology Australia.

Today: Minister Sinodinos releases National Science Statement

Recognition of basic research, acknowledgement of the need for long-term thinking, and of the need for further internationalisation of Australian science are some of the highlights.

Our friends at the Australian Academy of Science have issued a release—details at and the AusSMC has reactions at   [click to continue…]

What is saving and taking women’s lives?


Globally women are living longer, healthier lives—what are the success stories and new challenges?

Girls born today—International Women’s Day—can expect to live 20 years longer than women born in 1960, the same birth year as Nigella Lawson, Bono and Erin Brockovich.

In Nepal and China, the life expectancy for women has doubled over the past 50 to 60 years.

Child birth is much safer for babies and mums, more women are surviving cancer, universal education is giving girls the opportunity to achieve their goals, and infectious scourges of the past are no more.

But domestic violence and chronic diseases remain huge challenges in Australia, and the world’s poorest women are likely to bear the brunt of climate change.

Public health experts are available for interviews about the diseases, discoveries, substances and social policies changing women’s health—past, present, and future.

Media release below[click to continue…]

The world’s largest 3D metal printer/giant jet door hinge at the Airshow; saving lives by the millions; and making plastic fantastic

Today at the Airshow:

The Monash team that brought you the world’s first 3D printed jet engine…

Now has the world’s largest 3D metal printer, and have just used it to print a giant aircraft door hinge—the largest powder bed 3D printed metal aerospace component. It’s 11kg and 40 by 80 by 39cm in size.

Media call today at 11am on the Victorian Government display at the International Airshow in Avalon.

More information below.

Tomorrow in Sydney: polymer science making plastic fantastic

Smarter bank notes, health-protecting wearable electronics, and bendy solar cells are just some of the ways that polymer science is making plastic fantastic.

This week, three Australian researchers will tell audiences in Sydney and Melbourne how they are putting polymers to work.

More below or email[click to continue…]

The physics of kangaroo’s knees; no more exploding smartphones; cracking fusion power; and a zero carbon future

In this bulletin:

It’s the second day of the Physics Congress in Brisbane and we’ve got stories on an “atomic MRI machine” even smaller than the cells in your body from Melbourne University researchers; how ANU researchers are developing a diamond-based quantum computer; University of South Australia researchers working out if plasma jets can replace lasers in cancer therapy; and more.

We’re also looking at diversity in science, with speakers covering where we are at for ‘women in science,’ what it means for women’s leadership in Asia and Australia, for LGBTIQ scientists, and diversity in general.

Researchers available for interview, contact:

More at[click to continue…]

Fusion; gravitational waves; fighting dengue; and solving Indonesia’s and Australia’s development challenges

This week:

Blue carbon, climate change, coral reefs, biofuels, breeding mosquitos to fight dengue, disease resistant crops, what data is good data—and how do we use it? Speakers from the Australia-Indonesia Science Symposium available for interview. More below.

And from Sunday:

A Nobel Prize winner, a Nobel Prize hopeful, Australia’s role in the world’s largest science experiment, plus plenty of quirky physics stories—the biennial Physics Congress starts on Sunday 4 December. More below.

For more information or to arrange interviews email me, or contact Toni Stevens on +61 401 763 130, (03) 9398 1416, or

Kind regards,

Niall [click to continue…]

Golden bananas for vitamin deficiencies; harvesting social media to inform policy; breeding mozzies to fight dengue – Ministers open the Australia-Indonesia Science Symposium

Transforming Indonesia and Australia with science and innovation: Australian and Indonesian ministers open international science symposium

Opening ceremony 8:30 am / Press call with ministers 9:20 am
Monday 28 November at the Shine Dome, Canberra.
Scientists available all week.

Today in Canberra:

  • A new drought-tolerant sugar cane for Indonesian farmers; and golden bananas and other crops to reduce vitamin deficiencies (Professor Bambang Sugiharto, Universitas Jember, and Professor James Dale, Queensland University of Technology)
  • What do the people want? Harvesting social media to inform policy (Diastika Rahwidiati, Pulse Lab Jakarta)
  • The future of mangroves—and why they’re essential for fisheries and coastal health (Professor Catherine Lovelock, University of Queensland)
  • Breeding mosquitoes to fight dengue; and why is it hard to acquire immunity to malaria (Professor Adi Utarini, Universitas Gadjah Mada, and Dr Diana Hansen, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research)

The first Australia-Indonesia Science Symposium has brought together over 100 leading researchers from the two nations to discuss how science and innovation can meet shared challenges. [click to continue…]

Australia’s printed technology flies to Paris deal; what’s happening to our men; releasing cane toads to save Australia’s snakes; and more

From time to time I write to the journalists we’ve met around the world with some Australian science stories.

This week we’ve got:

Tuesday, on embargo until 7 am CET / 5 pm AEDT: Melbourne’s 3D-printed jet engine technology flies into production in France—reception and announcement at the Australian Embassy in Paris.

More below and if you’re in Paris we’ll have some nice Australian sparkling wine.

Wednesday, on embargo to 7 am CET / 5 pm AEDT: after 160 years can we replace the needle and syringe? Australia’s Nanopatch technology in human trials and heading to Cuba. Now the rocket scientist who created it wins a national medical research prize. More below.

All month: what’s happening to our men—as men around the world grow moustaches for Movember it’s time to ask why men die early and what we can do about it.  [click to continue…]

Melbourne, number one in research says Nature Index

Followed by Sydney, with Brisbane the fastest growing. Also, a heads-up on coming stories: Melbourne’s printed jet engine ‘flies to Paris,’ epilepsy genes at the Press Club, and get your head around 11 dimensions.

Melbourne is Australia’s research capital. According to the Nature Index, published overnight in Nature, Melbourne was Australia’s leading city in terms of high-quality science output in 2015, followed by Sydney.

The index also shows that Brisbane saw the fastest growth in output between 2012 and 2015, and is home to the highest-placed institution in Australia, the University of Queensland.

There are some funky visualisations of the strengths and connections of Sydney and Melbourne’s research institutes that reveal connections down to Bacchus Marsh (leaders in genetics, but why?).

Here’s a snapshot of a bit of the Melbourne graphic. See the details at   [click to continue…]

2016 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science announced


Meet the winners of this year’s Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, worth a total of $750,000.

  • Defending Australia’s snakes and lizards: Professor Richard Shine, the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science (The University of Sydney)
  • Making stock markets fair and efficient: Professor Michael Aitken, the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation (Capital Markets CRC/ Macquarie University)
  • Creating new manufacturing jobs by replacing glass and metal with plastic: Dr Colin Hall, the inaugural $50,000 Prize for New Innovators (The University of South Australia)
  • Re-engineering nature to fight for global health: Professor Richard Payne, the $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year (The University of Sydney)
  • Conservation that works for government, ecosystems and people: Associate Professor Kerrie Wilson, the $50,000 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year (The University of Queensland/ ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions)
  • Turning students into scientists, setting them up for jobs in mining, conservation, tourism and more: Ms Suzy Urbaniak will share the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools with Kent Street Senior High School, Perth
  • Turning the next generation of primary teachers on to science: Mr Gary Tilley will share the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools with his school (Seaforth Public School, Sydney/ Macquarie University)

You can read more about them below.  [click to continue…]

Men read from their own suicide notes; a science portrait; and are women in science making progress?


Painting the man who linked addiction and thirst. The National Portrait Gallery reveals their latest science portrait – Derek Denton joins Gus Nossal, Liz Blackburn, Peter Doherty… more below.


One suicide every 40 seconds – Movember marks Suicide Prevention Day with a powerful video in which men read from their own suicide notes. More below[click to continue…]

Last call for wildlife spotters; innovative kids off to Silicon Valley; and who will win the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science?

Today: ABC’s Wildlife Spotter project and competition closes at midnight tonight. 

But the project has been so successful that the wildlife spotting will continue at Australian Museum.

“We’ve had reports of northern quolls, foxes stealing malleefowl eggs, wedge-tailed eagles, and ‘lion-like’ dogs,” says Kylie Andrews, coordinator of the project at the ABC.

Scientists are available to talk about the impact of the project, and how it will change their research on how our native wildlife are going in the wild.

Media release below, or contact Ellie Michaelides for interviews on or 0404 809 789.    [click to continue…]

Helping Aussies hear; superbug genomes; ports that work; saving children’s lives; water smart cities; and more

From today:

Ports that work; saving children’s lives; water smart cities; and more. How Australia and Indonesia are working together to help both countries – Research Summit in Surabaya Indonesia. Contact me on my mobile, it’s working in Indonesia – +61 417 131 977.

It’s Hearing Awareness Week – hearing aid pioneer and ATSE Clunies Ross Award winner Elaine Saunders is available to talk about causes of deafness, signs of hearing loss, and what people can do about it. For interviews, contact Amanda Quirk from Blamey Saunders hears on or 0417 837 083.

More on these below.

And later this week in Brisbane:

  • New drug to fight fatal but neglected tropical disease.
  • Superbug’s complete genome mapped in bid to fight antibiotic resistance.

For details on these contact Jenni Metcalfe on or 0408 551 866.

Kind regards,
Niall [click to continue…]

Science bollocks; Nobel Universe tour; saving Nemo; and the kittens of Schrödinger’s cat

30,000 people identify 800,000 animals – Australia’s online wildlife census is working!

1Scientists—many available for interviews—say thank you to the thousands of people (30,000 and growing) who have identified animals caught on camera. Media release below.

Day seven of Science Week’s nine-day week has 888 events and dozens of great stories and talent, including:



[click to continue…]

New MacDonald has a drone (e-i-e-i-o); will robots replace teachers; and the science of parenting

It’s day six of Science Week’s nine-day week with 831 events and dozens of great stories and talent, including:


Newcastle: RoboCup Junior: kid-controlled robots playing soccer, dancing, and coming to the rescue.


Renmark, SA: Future farming with agri-robots – a look at automation in farming today and in 2022.

2 SABusselton, WA: 50 years and 20,000 participants on what the Busselton Health Study has found.


Canberra: Celluloid’s secrets – the physics and chemistry of preserving our film history.
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