The Hendra Story: A Triumph for Australian Science

Guest post by Erin O’Neill, Visiting Fellow at The Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science


When most people think of Australia, they imagine long coastlines with beautiful beaches, magnificent deep red deserts, the Opera House and cuddly koalas and kangaroos.  The more jelly-legged will profess a concern for sharks (of any kind), snakes, crocodiles, blue ringed octopus, funnel web spiders, jelly fish and possibly cassowaries.

They don’t think of one of the deadliest viruses that humanity has had to reckon with.

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Doctor Who Zoe and Romana survey information

A debrief for participants who completed the Doctor Who Zoe and Romana survey in late 2012.

Thank you for completing this survey and for your interest. The survey is now closed.

The rationale behind it was to investigate fan perceptions of the relationships between Zoe and the Doctor and Romana and the Doctor respectively. It is my perception that both relationships are characterised by conflict, often intellectual or scientific conflict, but that the power dynamics and indeed gender dynamics between each pair are qualitatively different. I wanted to find out if other fans thought the same way.

Unfortunately, there were not enough responses to the survey to make any meaningful generalisations about that, so I will not be publishing the survey results. However, if I do publish any work on this topic I will post an update here.

Thanks again for the generous donation of your time in completing the survey.

Putting a stop to deadly diarrhoea

Guest post by Arwen Cross

“Cholera is frightened of a collar and tie” is an old saying in Mozambique, explains Jim Black. It’s not the dress-code that’s important, but the wealth it represents. Cholera, like other deadly forms of diarrhoea, is a poor man’s disease. Wealthier people have better living standards which include access to clean water and sanitation – the keys to avoiding diarrhoea. “I guess the moral of the story is to make people rich so they won’t get cholera anymore,” jokes Michael Emch. But since poverty is a difficult problem to solve, scientists are working out other ways to prevent this deadly disease. Continue reading

The outrage cycle, or why trolling works

Thanks to the world’s esteemed opinion writers, we’ve recently learned why ‘Chinese Mothers are Superior‘, how ‘bogans in shopping centres have no souls‘, and, thanks to Mark Latham, that “anyone who chooses a life without children, as [Australian Prime Minister] Gillard has, cannot have much love in them”.

Trolls the lot of them. Deliberately offensive flamebait.

Now, with a line up of Catherine Deveny, Gerard Henderson and Graham Richardson, I suspect we’re likely to be further ‘enlightened’ by QandA tonight as well.

I wrote recently about the benefits of social reading – that social media can provide a better reading experience than editorially made traditional media – but I’ve since realised that trolling is the clear and present downside downside to this. This post explores how this dynamic works. Continue reading

A Study of Social Media in Science Communication

Guest post by Kristin Alford

Kristin: In November I attended a communications stakeholders meeting comprising representatives from science and research institutions from around Australia. It struck me that again that different organsiations have different goals in undertaking science communications. And then it struck me, that while I am an avid and open user of Twitter, was it also that corporate Twitter accounts needed to have an identifiable personality, someone to connect with? What were good social media practices for science organisations?

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Why Twitter will always provide a more socially responsible reading experience than editorial media

So we hear a lot of whinging that Twitter is just about what people had for lunch. That’s fair enough! I often tell people what I had for lunch, but I don’t tell people where I get my curries from. That would ruin the secret.

Anyway, what I wanted write about here is based on this criticism, but I want to raise a directly opposite argument: Twitter will always provide a more socially responsible reading experience than editorial media.

People on Twitter know this already, what I want to flesh out is why.

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Muzzling sheep: Wikileaks bringing a new D-notice era for Australia?

Wikileaks rally

Liz Tynan and Will J Grant

Legendary British Labour foreign secretary Ernest Bevin probably didn’t say “why bother to muzzle sheep?” during a House of Commons debate in the 1940s on media censorship – there is no official record of him doing so – but the phrase still resonates with those concerned about the tensions between government and media.

Suddenly, the idea of media submission to the information controls set by government has new currency. D-notices, short for Defence Notices, are an antiquated system in which the government stakes out territory it claims as belonging exclusively to the realm of national security, and asks the media not to go there. They are voluntary agreements and are not enforceable in law. Britain has had D-notices since 1912 and still has them today (though now they are called DA-notices – the “A” stands for advisory). Australia had D-notices too, from 1952. In fact, technically we still do. Though the D-notice committee has not met since 1982, that may be about to change.

Are we on the brink of a new D-notice era in this country, as the Wikileaks juggernaut rolls on, spooking governments around the world? The system of voluntary media regulation now being proposed by Attorney-General Robert McClelland does not carry the old Cold War moniker but the name is bound to stick. Continue reading

Building an ANU Campus Map

The official ANU Campus Map is not the most helpful of maps. It is difficult to navigate, awkward to use, and painful to search.

So, we’ve decided to build a new one. Here’s our first attempt via Google Maps – it should be finished soon.

View ANU Campus Map in a larger map

Note, we’re having some technical issues with getting all buildings on to the same page, and getting the map to load in mobile devices (iPhones etc) – if you’ve got a solution, let us know!