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Roads to Ruin

Credit: Google Earth

Some 95% of all deforestation in the Amazon occurs within 5.5 km of a road, while for every kilometre of legal road there are nearly 3 km of illegal roads. Credit: Google Earth

By Mason Campbell, Mohammed Alamgir & William Laurance

Can we build roads that benefit people while not destroying nature?

We are living in the most aggressive era of road-building in human history. The International Energy Agency projects that by 2050 we will have another 25 million kilometres of paved roads on Earth – enough to encircle the globe more than 600 times. Nine-tenths of these roads will be built in developing nations, mostly in the tropics and subtropics, which sustain the planet’s most biologically rich and environmentally important ecosystems.

Timber Certification Can’t See the Wood for the Trees

By Eleanor Dormontt

There are many laws that govern the harvesting and trading of timber yet illegal logging is rife and prosecution rates are low. It’s time for science to modernise timber certification schemes.

Despite concerted global efforts to combat illegal logging, rates remain high and detections and prosecutions remain low. Illegal logging contributes to deforestation, increased CO2 emissions and the marginalisation of communities that traditionally rely on forests for their cultural and economic survival. Embedding scientific testing into the routine operations of timber supply chains could help to detect and deter illegal activities, providing much-needed tools for law enforcement and industry compliance.

Career Concerns Could Bust the Ideas Boom

By Chris Walton

A survey of professional scientists has uncovered worker fatigue and broad dissatisfaction with remuneration and reduced scientific capability as a result of cost-cutting.

With the launch of the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) at the end of 2015, the Australian government reiterated its commitment to innovation and science. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says that the NISA recognises that the “talent and skills of our people is the engine behind Australia’s innovative capacity”.

However, the latest Professional Scientists Employment and Remuneration Report ( suggests that recognition and reward issues underpin a range of serious systemic issues in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Science Needs a Central Place in the New Urban Agenda

By Xuemei Bai

More of the global population is becoming concentrated in cities yet science has been largely excluded from global urbanisation planning.

Global urbanisation is one of the biggest social transformations in human history, particularly in China, India and Africa. Australia is already highly urbanised, but it’s one of the few developed countries that is still experiencing rapid urban expansion.

With more than half of the world’s population already living in cities, and 90% of population growth by 2050 projected to be added to them, cities are at the forefront of the battle for sustainability. They pose major challenges for city planners and policymakers, such as land use, resource demand, and air and water pollution.

The Unintended Consequences of Reducing Food Waste

By Iain Gordon

With the global human population continuing to outpace agricultural production, we may need to reduce the amount of food that we waste. But what will be the unintended consequences for wildlife that depend on food waste?

Feeding the growing global population is a significant challenge. Indeed, it is expected that we’ll need to produce 70% more food than we do today to feed the estimated 10 billion people who will inhabit our planet in 2050.

The Miner’s Myth

By Mark Patrick Taylor & Louise Kristensen

Several myths have been propagated to counter compelling evidence for community health issues arising from mining and smelting operations in Mount Isa and Broken Hill.

Australia’s Iconic Top Predator Must Be Protected

By Michael Kennedy

Lethal control programs treat dingoes like pests, yet the evidence is mounting that this damages ecosystems by enabling foxes and feral cats to thrive.

It seems we’ll never learn that the dingo is a great friend of the Australian environment. In recent months we have seen proposals to dump and then kill dingoes on an offshore island to control feral goats; a suggestion that we should be selling dingo meat to Asian markets; and calls to bring back a dingo bounty in Victoria.

How to Get the Most out of Scientific Data

By Allen Greer

Researchers act as if they own their data, but this is counterproductive to the pursuit of science.

Most people would assume that any data produced and published by publicly funded research would be available to anyone interested in it, either through a public repository or upon reasonable request. This is not the case.

Primate Research Issues Migrate from West to East

Credit: awizard1982/adobe

Credit: awizard1982/adobe

By Alison Behie and Colin Groves

Primate research is shifting to China where animal welfare protocols are less rigid.

Recent decisions in the USA and the European Union have limited the use of non-human primates in laboratory-based research. The US National Institutes of Health, for example, has already stopped using chimpanzees in research in its facilities, and is currently revising protocols for the use of all non-human primates.

Can Journal Publishing Be Democratised?

By Abdulrahman Al Lily

An experiment in academic publishing has tested journal practices and questioned whether the autocratic power of editorial boards needs to be returned to researchers.

Academic intelligence is socially distributed, spread throughout the minds of academics of all nations, races and ages. Yet the dissemination of knowledge generated by academics is entrusted to a powerful few – the editors and editorial boards of academic journals.