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Shifting the Watermarks

By Tim Stubbs

The draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan is confused at best and deceptive at worst.

The latest draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan is part of a reform process that will cost taxpayers an estimated $8.9 billion to establish environmentally sustainable levels of take (ESLT) for the rivers of the Basin.

Science Is Sinking in the Murray–Darling Basin

By Tom Chesson

Applied research suffers cuts while science loses farmers’ trust.

Recommendation 14 is one of the most important yet largely ignored recommendations from the Windsor Parliamentary Inquiry into the Murray–Darling Basin water reforms: “that the Commonwealth Government focus greater investment into research and development to improve irrigation efficiency”.

If we do not substantially increase funding for agriculture research, development and extension services the nation’s food security will be severely compromised. We cannot keep doing more with less.

Cargo Cult Communication

By Roger Beckmann

Science communication necessarily focuses on outcomes, but what about the process?

It’s 2012, and it’s respectable to be a science communicator! Those of us who want to promulgate science don’t seem odd anymore. But while welcoming our escape from the closet, we need to be mindful of a pitfall.

Carbon and Forests: The Big Picture

By Jerry Vanclay

Energy generated by burning forestry waste and other biomass sources should be recognised as renewable.

As Australia prepares to pay for its carbon emissions, the challenge is to ensure wise behavioural change rather than “game-playing”. There is a danger that advocates for forests will over-emphasise their capacity for carbon farming, to the detriment of the overall carbon balance.

The two major pools of carbon – in the biosphere and the geosphere – have very different characteristics in terms of cycle time, natural ebb and flow, and reversibility.

Learning by Drawing

By Russell Tytler and Peter Hubber

Teachers need to encourage science students to develop their representational skills.

Scientists use a range of visual forms to imagine new relations, test ideas and elaborate knowledge, with digital technologies increasingly used to construct elaborate maps, 3D simulations, graphs or enhanced photographs. These visual tools are not simply passive communication devices but actively shape how we build knowledge in science.

The Progressive Education Fallacy

By Gerard Guthrie

The failure of curriculum reforms in Papua New Guinea prove that formal teaching practices are best for developing nations.

The primary and secondary schools of developing countries are littered with the remnants of attempts to change formalistic teaching. Half a century of conventional educational wisdom has generated progressive teacher education and curriculum reforms that are wrong in principle and widespread failures in practice. Professional educators, especially in aid projects, frequently attempt to introduce inappropriate discovery-oriented teaching styles despite widespread warnings from previous failures.

A New Approach to Research Evaluation

By Vaughan Beck

The system used to assess the quality of Australian research needs refinement to recognise the value of applied research.

Despite considerable progress in developing the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) scheme, it still runs counter to the Australian government’s innovation policies because of its focus on “pure” research that advances knowledge – to the detriment of “applied” research that targets problem-solving and opportunity creation.

Death in the Hive

By Andrew Barron

Almost 5 years since colony collapse was identified, the science tells us there is neither a single cause nor a single solution.

Andrew Barron is a senior lecturer with the Department of Biology at Macquarie University.

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Invest in Science for a Stronger Australia

By Suzanne Cory

An economic crisis is looming because Australia is not investing in science for its future.

An economic crisis is looming for Australia, and it has nothing to do with carbon trading, food shortages, a global economic crisis or devastating floods. But it has everything to do with our citizens’ ability to understand and tackle those issues. If we do not act strongly, and act soon, Australia’s economy is sure to become less productive, less resilient and less competitive.

Invest in Science for a Stronger Australia

By Suzanne Cory

An economic crisis is looming because Australia is not investing in science for its future.

Professor Suzanne Cory is President of the Australian Academy of Science.

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