Posts filed under ‘innovation’

Public involvement in science policy?

National Science Week in August brought the usual onslaught of work for ACPFG’s communication and education team, including a mammoth effort from Education Manager Monica Ogierman and some invalu­able ACPFG volunteers at Science Alive at the Adelaide showgrounds.

This year we also ran some experimental public participation events for my research through Australian National University’s Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS). I’m investigating whether public in­volvement in research funding decisions would impact public ownership and approval of research outcomes.

Three ACPFG scientists courageously vol­unteered their time and energy to pitch their research to the public, and be judged ac­cordingly. All three are exceptional science communicators and we went through their presentations together before the events; the order of the presenting scientists was changed for each of the three events to eliminate some potential problems with the voting process. Nonetheless, recent PhD graduate Darren Plett was the clear winner, much to the horror of established doctors Rachel Burton and Trevor Garnett.

The model for my research came from an event I was involved with while working in the UK in 2007. Based in Cambridge as a science journalist, I was asked to write a magazine story about an event hosted by the Institute for Food Research in the nearby city of Norwich. The results from that event are the subject of an upcoming paper in the journal Public Understanding of Science. It was a resounding success and I thought the method could be adapted well to Australia.

Running the 70-participant event at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide, including distributing and collecting two lots of surveys, was a massive effort. So I enlisted the help of several volunteers, including ACPFG’s Melissa Pickering and visitor Sandra Schmoeckel, who sacrificed the start of dinner to take care of latecomers.

The two smaller events in Canberra were at The Front Cafe and Gallery, in Lyneham, supported by CPAS and part of the Australian Science Festival. The audience was a mix of federal public servants and sceptical students, who had some curly questions for the present­ing scientists.

I have yet to analyse the quantitative and qualitative survey data collected at the events, but the voting patterns at events in both coun­tries have been consistent. In all cases the least experienced male researchers took first prize, with the most established female researchers coming last. It appears the idea that the public would make fair decisions about science fund­ing needs to be met with some scepticism!

This article appears in Vector magazine – you can also read articles by two of the scientists who presented at these events in it.

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October 6, 2008 at 7:44 am Leave a comment

Science: You Decide

I’m currently doing a research degree through Australian National University’s Centre for the Public Awareness of Science.

I’m looking at how deliberative democracy could play a role in science policy in Australia.

I’m holding some events to gather data for my research. If you’re in Adelaide or Canberra you might like to attend.

August 1, 2008 at 10:20 pm 1 comment

Sustainability and Environment

In many ways, ‘sustainability’ is the buzz word for a new millennium. As finite resources run low, levels of production and consumption increase. And while trends show that we are making the effort to live greener lives, the problem of pollution has not gone away, with the UK dumping more household waste into landfill than any other EU country. This books defines sustainability, outlines sustainability challenges and explores some possible solutions.

The information in this book comes from a wide range of sources and includes government reports and statistics, newspaper reports, features, magazine articles and surveys, literature from lobby groups and charitable organisations.

You can read more about this book on the publisher’s website; you can buy it there, or on Amazon.

Editor: Cobi Smith and Lisa Firth
Publisher: Independence Educational Publishers
ISBN: 978 1 86168 419 6
Published: January 2008

March 12, 2008 at 4:44 am Leave a comment

Media Issues

Today’s media is a growing and changing industry. Technology is developing and becoming more interactive, key players in the media have to make changes to keep up. Our taste for entertainment gives rise to debates about the quality of broadcasts and publications. Meanwhile discussions about freedom of the press continue, sparked by issues like celebrity privacy and freedom of information.

The information in this book comes from a wide range of sources including government reports and statistics, newspaper features, magazine articles, surveys and literature from lobby groups and charitable organisations.

You can read more about this book on the publisher’s website; you can buy it there, or on Amazon.

Editors: Cobi Smith and Sophie Crewdson
Publisher: Independence Educational Publishers
ISBN: 978 1 86168 408 0
Published: September 2007

December 21, 2007 at 1:06 pm Leave a comment

Antimalarials ‘give children an edge’ at school

Preventative malaria treatment could improve schoolchildren’s performance in endemic areas, a study suggests.

The research was presented at the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine’s conference in London, United Kingdom, last week (14 September).

Benson Estambale, director of the Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, investigated whether giving preventative antimalarial drugs to primary schoolchildren improved their educational performance.

More than 6000 students from 30 schools in the Bondo district of West Kenya were administered antimalarial drugs three times in 2005–2006.

“[Preventative treatment] is very much recommended for pregnant women and has been tried in infants and young children, but nothing had been done in children over five years of age,” Estambale said.

“We found that quite a number of people wanted to have their children treated for malaria, because they said that malaria was causing a lot of absenteeism in school and the children were coming home when they had fever.”

Treatment cut the students’ risk of malaria parasite infection by more than a third, as well as reducing anaemia. Researchers found that treated children performed better in cognitive tests and also did slightly better in school exams.

Previous studies of malaria-infected regions indicate that up to 50 per cent of all preventable absenteeism in schools is due to malaria, and the research team found that a number of people wanted to have their children treated for malaria because of absenteeism, Estambale told delegates.

Estembale said the Kenyan Ministry of Education had expressed interest in the study and the researchers hope it could lead to the introduction of routine preventative therapy for schoolchildren, as the government has done with de-worming.

“De-worming has become official policy in the country and school health programs are now de-worming the children twice in a year to remove all the intestinal worms that could impact negatively on children’s performance in schools,” Estambale said.

Nick White, head of tropical medicine at Mahidol University in Thailand and a WHO advisor, said the results were exciting but future research should further examine the exact relationship between drug efficacy and educational performance, and whether the findings applied in other malaria-affected regions.

Nick White, head of tropical medicine at Mahidol University in Thailand and a WHO advisor, said the results were exciting but future research should further examine the exact relationship between drug efficacy and educational performance, and whether the findings applied in other malaria-affected regions.

Further studies are planned for Kenya and Senegal, but Estambale also hopes to hear from other potential partners.

“We would like to get partnerships even in Asia as well as South America, because children are children, and we know that in malaria-endemic areas, although quite a number of them are semi-immune, they continue having malaria impacting negatively on educational performance,” he said.

Read this story on the Science and Development Network.

October 5, 2007 at 1:09 pm Leave a comment

How to get more women in science, engineering and technology

Entrepreneurial women in science, engineering and technology in the East of England talk about what they think needs to happen to get more women in these industries.

This podcast is part of a series. You can listen to this episode, or read the transcript.

October 5, 2007 at 12:59 pm Leave a comment

Careers in technology enterprise

Entrepreneurial women in technology in the East of England talk about their experiences.

This podcast is part of a series. You can listen to this episode, or read the transcript.

October 5, 2007 at 12:44 pm Leave a comment

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