April International Bulletin: Don’t recycle your specs – new is cheaper for Africa; solar light for refugees; SKA speculation and more

Media bulletins

From time to time I write to highlight Australian science stories with an international angle.

Don’t recycle your specs – new is cheaper for Africa

Westerners might feel good about sending their old reading glasses to developing countries.

But it would actually be more beneficial just to donate $10 when we buy our new glasses, according to an international study led by Sydney scientists.

The study found that only 7% of a test sample of 275 recycled glasses were useable, and that this helped push the delivery cost to more than $US20. Ready-made glasses can be supplied for half that cost.

The study was published recently in the journal Optometry and Vision Science by researchers from the International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE), Johns Hopkins University, Brien Holden Vision Institute, the University of New South Wales and Vision CRC.

Although the intention is good, recycled spectacles are not a cost-effective method of correcting eyesight, says Dr David Wilson from the International Centre for Eyecare Education, and the Sydney-based senior author on the paper.

He says the practice should be discouraged as a strategy for assisting developing countries.

For the full release, go to http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/other/recycled-glasses

Contact me for interviews with David Wilson: niall@scienceinpublic.com.au or +61(417) 131 977.

Australian inventors bring solar light to 80,000 Pakistan flood refugees

Melbourne inventors have created a solar light costing less than $10 that generates carbon credits and transforms lives. It’s being sold across Africa and Asia and now, with the support of international aid agencies, it’s being given to flood refugees.

The light is aimed at the billion people who live without electricity and survive on less than a dollar a day.

Shane Thatcher, the chairman and CEO of illumination, the company that makes the lights, says the lights are a safer, cheaper alternative to kerosene lamps, which are the main source of light to many in the developing world.

The governments of Britain, the USA, Japan and the EU have bought the new lights and supplied them to 80,000 Pakistan flood refugees via the International Organisation for Migration.

We can provide hi-res images and video from the camps on request and you can find the full release here:


For interviews contact Shane Thatcher, shane@illuminationsolar.com

Japanese science leads strong Asia-Pacific performance in Nature Publishing Index 2011 Asia-Pacific

Japan retains its scientific leadership in the Asia-Pacific in 2011, according to the recently released Nature Publishing Index 2011 Asia-Pacific. This is a strong performance, given the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which caused over US$1 billion damage to science infrastructure in Japan. Japan is the most productive of the Asia-Pacific countries, followed by China, Australia, Korea and Singapore.

Nature Publishing Group released the Nature Publishing Index 2011 Asia-Pacific as a supplement to Nature on 26 March.  The Index measures the output of research articles from nations and institutes in terms of publications in the 18 Nature-branded primary research journals in 2011.

We wrote the supplement editorial for NPG. You can read an overview media release and releases for each country here: http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/category/npi-ap

Then view the supplement in full at http://www.natureasia.com/en/publishing-index/asia-pacific/2011/

SKA speculation – South Africa, Australia or both

We’ve long suspected that the astronomers were angling for the $2 billion Square Kilometre Array telescope to be split between South Africa and Australia. Now Nature reports that it’s the ‘preferred’ solution – http://www.nature.com/news/giant-telescope-may-get-two-homes-1.10404

We’re not directly involved in either bid. But you can read more about Australian astronomy and SKA plans in our book – Stories of Australian Astronomy –http://www.scienceinpublic.com/stories/wp-content/uploads/5421-SP-Australian-Astronomy-2012.pdf

And we can put you in touch with Australia’s SKA scientists.

July: High energy physics conference in Melbourne

The 36th International Conference on High Energy Physics is on in Melbourne, Australia from 4 – 11 July 2012.

We suspect a Higgs boson announcement might be on the cards. Contact me for more on this conference or visit the ICHEP website at: http://www.ichep2012.com.au/Home.aspx

July: Coral reef conference in Cairns

The 12th International Coral Reef Symposium will be in Cairns from 9-13 July 2012. Sadly we’re not helping for media with that one – contact Seaweb on media@icrs2012.com or visit the website: http://www.icrs2012.com/

World Conference of Science Journalists, Finland 2013

The next World Conference of Science Journalists will be in Helsinki in June 2013. They’re inviting journalists to submit their ideas for sessions – details at http://wcsj2013.org/news/

TB research in Vietnam, China and Australia

In the run up to World TB Day we issued a series of stories about TB. Some 2 billion people carry TB and one in ten will get sick. But which one and how badly? Researchers in Vietnam, China and Australia are collaborating to determine if there are any genetic factors that make us more or less likely to contract TB.

More at http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/category/centenary

Why do some heavy drinkers get liver cirrhosis and some don’t?

The US government is investing $2.5 million in a Sydney-based study to determine the role of genetics in alcoholic liver disease.

The study should lead to better diagnosis and treatment of the condition – a silent epidemic that costs $3.8 billion a year in Australia alone. We first issued the release in March.

“We still do not understand why only a proportion of moderate to heavy drinkers get liver cirrhosis,” says Dr Devanshi Seth, from the Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) Hospital’s Drug Health Services and the Centenary Institute, who conceived and now leads the project.

She’s working with clinicians and researchers from the USA, UK, Germany, Switzerland and France with the support of a grant from the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

More at http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/media-releases/heavydrinkers