Can sunshine help prevent pneumonia; how many dimensions and Universes do we need; a first taste of Science Week 2016

Bulletins, Media bulletins

Today in Melbourne and Indonesia

Can sunshine help prevent pneumonia?

The possibility of a link between vitamin D deficiency and pneumonia is being investigated in two studies by Indonesian and Australian scientists in Indonesia.

Pneumonia is the number one killer of children under five in Indonesia, and the researchers have already begun recruiting patients for both community-based and hospital-based studies in the country.

Margie Danchin of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute is available to talk about the work today. To set up a time, call Lydia on 0457 854 515.

The research has grown from 40 years of collaborative research between the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, into Rotavirus – discovered by the Murdoch’s Professor Ruth Bishop.

More below and at

Today in Adelaide (and around Australia in August)

Minister Christopher Pyne has unveiled the recipients of the National Science Week grants. It’s a first taste of the events which will be happening around the country in August.

Funded events include: examining pests in Perth’s pantries, a HealthLAB touring the Northern Territory, citizen scientists saving Nemo, celebrating Indigenous science in Redfern, and much more.

I’ve included the Minister’s release below, and you can find a full list of grant recipients at:

If you’re interested in any of these stories, or want to follow up on them in National Science Week (August 13 to 21), contact Tanya Ha at

Mid-March – from the Late Show to Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide: Brian Greene, media tickets available

Yesterday Steve Colbert was discovering gravitational waves on the Late Show, with the help of physicist Brian Greene. Next month Brian is in Australia discussing gravitational waves, string theory, and more at public events in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth for Think Inc, the team who brought Neil deGrasse Tyson to Australia for last year’s Science Week.

More at He’s also appearing at the World Science Festival in Brisbane.

I have a few tickets for working journalists in Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth.

Kind regards,

Can sunshine help prevent pneumonia?

Scientists available for interview in Bahasa Indonesia and English.

Photos and background information available at

The possibility of a link between vitamin D deficiency and pneumonia is being investigated in two studies by Indonesian and Australian scientists in Indonesia.

They’re tracking the incidence and severity in early childhood of respiratory tract infections, including the common cold, asthma, pneumonia, and bronchiolitis, in hospitals and the community, in the hope of providing more information for treatment and management for respiratory diseases.

Pneumonia is the number one killer of children under five in the country, and around six million young Indonesians suffer from it each year, according to a 2008 study. This collaboration is going to update those 2008 figures, and hopefully lower them – while trying to find the causes of it and other respiratory tract infections.

For the hospital-based project, financed by the Australia Indonesia Centre, they’re recruiting children under five years old who have been hospitalised with acute respiratory conditions. They’ll collect data on the rates of vitamin D deficiency, and whether there’s a link between deficiency and the severity of their illness.

The community-based project, which has been running for almost two months, has recruited more than 60 couples of mothers and infants. Researchers will follow the respiratory health of newborn babies for the first 12 months of their life, measuring their vitamin D levels at birth and at six months. Their mothers, recruited at the antenatal clinics of 11 community health centres, will be asked to report any episodes of respiratory illness, from a cough to pneumonia.

“We hope to gather enough solid data to make a case for a trial of vitamin D as a supplement from birth,” says co-leader of the collaborative research team, Dr Margie Danchin of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.

“The work should also help to improve the case management of respiratory disease generally in Indonesia.”

It’s easy to assume people living in such a sunny country would have adequate levels of vitamin D, which forms naturally when the skin is exposed to sunlight, or is obtained in the diet.

“There are several lifestyle reasons why this may not happen,” says University of Melbourne PhD student and physician, Dr Vicka Oktaria of Gadjah Mada University, who is coordinating the work.

“Foods high in vitamin D don’t tend to be part of the daily diet in Indonesia. And, although the benefits of breast feeding children for the first six months are huge, breast milk is a poor resource for vitamin D. So we may need to consider some form of supplementation.”

The recruitment and management protocols are based on 40 years of collaborative research between the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, into Rotavirus –the organism discovered by the Murdoch’s Professor Ruth Bishop as a major cause of diarrhoea.

The team also includes Professor Steve Graham; Professor Yati Soenarto, Dr Rina Triasih, and Professor Julie Bines (co-leaders); and research assistants Rizka Dinari, Dr Sekarlangit, Dr Mike Lauda, Haris Meysitha Sari, and Dr Monika Putri Adiningsih.

Media contacts:

For interviews:

Indigenous science, a ‘rock’ musical and pests in the pantry

Science Week celebrates science diversity

Citizen science projects, art-science collaborations, and a singing palaeontologist are among the recipients of 41 grants totalling $500,000 to help bring National Science Week 2016 to life this August.

The Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, today announced the recipients in electorate, joined by Professor Flint, the singing palaeontologist and students at Magill Primary School in Adelaide.

National Science Week would give people from all walks of life opportunities to meet scientists, do science, discuss hot topics and celebrate the contribution of Australian science to society, culture and economy.

From examining pests in Perth’s pantries; to a HealthLAB touring the Territory; from citizen scientists saving Nemo; to celebrating Indigenous science in Redfern – Science Week activities would help to inspire Australia’s next generation of innovators and increase community awareness of science in everyday life.

“Science is critical to Australia’s wellbeing, prosperity and international competitiveness, so it’s vital to engage the community and equip young people with future-focused knowledge and skills,” Mr Pyne said.

“The Australian Government has committed $1.1 billion through the National Innovation and Science Agenda to incentivise innovation and entrepreneurship, and promote science, maths and computing in schools.

“The diversity of topics covered by the grants just shows the breadth of Australia’s strength in science, from exploring the medical potential of Top End tropical parasites, down to our expertise in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.”

First held in 1997, National Science Week has become one of Australia’s largest festivals. Last year a staggering 1.3 million people participated in over 1700 events and activities, including local science festivals, music and comedy shows, expert panel discussions, interactive hands-on displays, open days and online activities.

National Science Week will run from 13-21 August with more details available at

Minister Pyne’s media contacts:

The full list of grant recipients is available here:

More about Science in Public

We’re always happy to help put you in contact with scientists. Our work is funded by the science world – from the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes to Nature. We’re keen to suggest interesting people and stories – and not just those of our clients’.

If you’re looking for ideas or people for features we know hundreds of science prize winners past, present, and future and are always happy to chew the fat about the developing themes in Australian science.

Feel free to pass these stories along to colleagues. And between bulletins, you can follow me on Twitter (@scienceinpublic) for more science news and story tips.
Kind regards,

Niall Byrne

Creative Director
Science in Public

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