Hello Ben

Sarah and Niall have a new baby boy, Ben, born 1 December 2016. He’s 3.6 kg and in a hurry to grow up.


Our international science journalists’ dinner

On Sunday 14 February for journalists at the 2016 AAAS, Washington DC

Forty of the world’s leading science journalists will join me for a good dinner, Australian shiraz, and a briefing on some of the best of Australian science on Sunday 14 February 2016 during the AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington DC.

Science in Public’s Australian Dinner has become a minor tradition during the AAAS. It enables Australia to build on the links with international science reporters which were created when Melbourne hosted the World Conference of Science Journalists back in 2007.

Our guests in 2015 included:

  • The science editors of the Economist, BBC TV News, Financial Times, Asahi Shimbun, The Sun, and reporters from the BBC, Daily Mail, the London Times and others.
  • The executive producer of PBS Nova, the ABC’s Robyn Williams and David Fisher.
  • Freelancers filing for dozens of publications and websites including Science, Nature, Discovery, National Geographic.
  • The heads of Research America and Research Sweden, the director of the World Federation of Science Journalists, representatives of the UK and Australian Science Media Centres, of the EuroScience Open Forum, RIKEN, and the IgNobels.
  • Australian scientists speaking at AAAS including representatives of CSIRO and ANU.

Our partners in past dinners have included the Australian Government’s industry department, Australia’s SKA team, Inspiring Australia, COSMOS and the Australian Science Media Centre. We welcome partners who share our interest in sharing the best Australian science achievements with the world.

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Brain training to give tendon pain the boot

Footy player, netballer and ballet dancer available for interview

Re-training the brain with painless exercises may be the key to stopping recurring tendon pain, according to Melbourne researchers.

Dr Ebonie Rio

Dr Ebonie Rio

AFL, basketball and netball players are the major sufferers, with tendon pain in the knee debilitating and long-lasting. The injury can sideline a player or cause them to give up the sport entirely.

“More than 50 per cent of people who stop sport because of tendon pain still suffer from that pain 15 years later,” says Dr Ebonie Rio of the Monash University Tendon Research group.

“Our simple exercise is revolutionising how we treat tendinopathy.”

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Geoff Carr, The Economist’s Science Editor, in conversation this Thursday at University of Melbourne

Geoff Carr, Science Editor, Economist. Credit: Edge.org

Geoff Carr, Science Editor, Economist. Credit: Edge.org

Join us for a conversation with Geoff Carr, The Economist’s Science Editor, hosted by the University of Melbourne on behalf of the Parkville Precinct Communications Group, at a special viewing of the exhibition TRANSMISSIONS | Archiving HIV/AIDS | Melbourne 1979-2014. The exhibition showcases artworks, manuscripts, and other material from private collections and public archives explores the history of AIDS as seen in Melbourne.

Geoff Carr is in Melbourne for AIDS 2014. We have asked him if he could join us for a conversation about science, science journalism, The Economist, and his impressions from AIDS 2014.

12.30 – 2pm Thursday 24 July 

Light lunch is provided followed by discussion in the George Paton Gallery – Level 2, Student Union Building, University of Melbourne, Parkville Campus

M/C: Niall Byrne, Creative Director, Science in Public

After training as a zoologist, Geoff Carr joined The Economist in 1991 as Science Correspondent. He then became Tokyo Correspondent in 1994 and in 1995 moved to his current job as Science Editor.

When he isn’t editing he has particular interests in evolution, genomics, biotech, AIDS and malaria, and renewable-energy technologies.

This is a free forum aimed at journalists, science communicators and researchers. 

Places are limited, RSVP essential to niall@scienceinpublic.com.au

For more information about the exhibition contact or if you’re lost on the day contact Rebecca Scott | Acting Director Media and PR| University Communications Mobile +61 417 164 791, rebeccas@unimelb.edu.au

Life-changing bionics start with Dalek voices and flashes of light

The first 30 years of bionics in Melbourne; transforming lives, creating jobs

  • A Dalek talking inside your head proves the worth of the bionic ear
  • And a little flash at first, then cloud-like images are just the start of the potential of the bionic eye.

Two people whose lives have been changed by the work of Melbourne’s Bionics Institute are available for interview ahead of the Bionics Institute lecture on 17 June. The lecture marks the beginning of celebrations of 30 years of the Bionics Institute and of the development of the Institute’s 30/30 vision.

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Stem cells repairing brains; cell identify theft; and laser mirrors

Hobart’s Kaylene Young believes she can persuade lazy stem cells in our brain to repair brain injuries and even treat diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s.

Melbourne’s Jose Polo is unveiling the details of how stem cells can be produced from adult cells through a process of identity theft and reprogramming.

Today both receive inaugural $50,000 Metcalf Prizes from the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia in recognition of their leadership in stem cell research.

And tomorrow, we release the next of our FameLab stories.

Dr Francis Torres, a physicist at the University of Western Australia, has developed a mirror device which could help find signs of life on Mars, and identify minerals and water deposits here on Earth.

“Our idea is to connect the sensors in existing space exploration tools to our amplifier so they can look deeper underground and find smaller and hard-to-find targets such as hidden mineral deposits, water or other bacterial life,” says Francis, who developed the resonator mirror as part of his PhD.

According to Francis, the amplifier technology could also enhance the detection sensitivity of Earth exploration tools and medical sensors.

And Michael Smout, our FameLab national champion, is now in the UK to compete in the world final talking about worm spit that heals and kills.

Also in national tours:

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Worm spit heals then kills; stem cell snapshot and other stories

Cairns scientists have discovered a wound-healing and cancer-causing hormone in the spit of a worm.

The worm lives in the livers of over nine million people and infects adventurous Australian tourists. The Southeast Asian liver fluke munches through the liver repairing the damage as it goes. But after many years of infection it can cause liver cancer and kills 20,000 people each year in Thailand alone.

Now James Cook University researcher Dr Michael Smout has found that a protein in the spit also sends wound-healing messages.

Michael has taken out the inaugural FameLab Australia competition with his discovery. This Friday he’ll pack up his props (a teddy bear, oversized worm and stuffed liver) and jet off to the UK to represent Australia at the International FameLab final.

But he’s available to do some interviews at home beforehand. More below.

Also this week, the National Stem Cell Foundation has released its who’s who of Australian stem cell research – a valuable resource for any journo in need of a stem cells expert at short notice. Next week they’ll also be announcing the winners of their inaugural Metcalf Prizes for stem cell research. Drop me a line if you want a heads up.

Next week, American theoretical physicist and best-selling author Michio Kaku will be in Australia to talk about string theory, the multiverse and how we could re-engineer the brain. And The Science of Doctor Who comes to Adelaide this week.

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We’re hiring: project manager/science publicist

We’re looking for a project manager and/or science publicist with 3 to 5 years’ experience to join our team at Science in Public.

Ideally, we’d like someone who’s got runs on the board getting science, health, or environment stories into the public domain. The more knowledge you have of the science world in Australia the better.

You must be able to write fluently and accurately, manage a number of projects at once, and work to tight deadlines. A solid grounding in tools such as WordPress, Twitter and MailChimp would also be useful.

The position is full-time or near full-time and hours are flexible. Pay will be negotiated based on experience and hours can be negotiated to be family-friendly.

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How our gut’s immune cells see invaders; what’s happening to WA’s coral reefs?

This morning Monash, Melbourne, and UQ have a cracking paper in Nature announcing the discovery of a key that wakes up a poorly understood part of our immune system.

It’s the next step for the research which last year won the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research.

Two years ago they discovered that ‘mystery’ immune cells in our gut detect invaders by reacting to components of vitamin B that are only made by certain bacteria and fungi. Now they have a molecular key to turn this off and on.
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More exciting than the law, more glamorous than accounting…

asta logo - smallAustralia’s Future: 28 creative careers for adventurous young people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics

Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb this morning launched Australia’s Future, a free magazine featuring 28 people and the very different journeys they’ve taken from their studies in science and maths, in the Mural Hall at Parliament House, Canberra.

Dr Liz New, a chemist at the University of Sydney, reckons she’s got the best job anyone could have.

“We have this idea that scientists are the ones who perform best in school or have a focused personality,” says Liz. “For me, the scientific personality is simply anyone who is curious enough to ask questions.”

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Evolution stuck in slime for a billion years

UTAS logo

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Tasmanian researchers have revealed ancient conditions that almost ended life on Earth, using a new technique they developed to hunt for mineral deposits.

The first life developed in the ancient oceans around 3.6 billion years ago, but then nothing much happened. Life remained as little more than a layer of slime for a billion years. Suddenly, 550 million years ago, evolution burst back into action – and here we are today. So what was the hold-up during those ‘boring billion’ years?

According to University of Tasmania geologist Professor Ross Large and his international team, the key was a lack of oxygen and nutrient elements, which placed evolution in a precarious position. “During that billion years, oxygen levels declined and the oceans were losing the ingredients needed for life to develop into more complex organisms.”

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Volunteers continue search for father and son pilots missing in Mozambique

South African pilots Bryan and Robert Simms have been missing since 28 October, when the light aircraft they were ferrying had to make an emergency landing in Mozambique and disappeared.

Their family have filed a missing persons report and believe that the missing pilots made an emergency landing in or near the Gorongosa National Park. A reward has also been offered to locals who can identify the location of the plane. [click to continue…]

PM’s science prizes to be announced next week

Next Wednesday evening, 31 October, the Prime Minister will announce the winners of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science at a dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament House, Canberra.

We have password-protected media kits for the five winners available online here.

There will be a media briefing in the Great Hall at noon on Wednesday 31 October, all details of the prize winners are under a strict embargo of 5pm on Wednesday 31 October.

If you need to know in advance who the winners are, call Niall Byrne on 0417 131 977 or email niall@scienceinpublic.com.au.

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PM's science prizes to be announced next week

Next Wednesday evening, 31 October, the Prime Minister will announce the winners of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science at a dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament House, Canberra.

We have password-protected media kits for the five winners available online here.

There will be a media briefing in the Great Hall at noon on Wednesday 31 October, all details of the prize winners are under a strict embargo of 5pm on Wednesday 31 October.

If you need to know in advance who the winners are, call Niall Byrne on 0417 131 977 or email niall@scienceinpublic.com.au.

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The good, the bad and chronic hepatitis

Today is World Hepatitis Day and it brings good news and bad news.
The bad news is that hepatitis is still a serious condition which affects nearly 400,000 Australians putting them on a course to serious liver disease.

“The good news is that treatment is now less invasive, of shorter duration, much more effective—and diagnosis doesn’t involve humongous needles,” says Dr Nick Shackel from the Centenary Institute.

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