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Calculating Carbon

By Pep Canadell

Research supports a new approach to counting net CO2 emissions.

The world’s ecosystems, mainly forests and oceans, remove around 54% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by deforestation and fossil fuel combustion each year. The concentration of atmospheric CO2 would be increasing more than twice as fast as observed if it were not for these natural sinks. Yet the conservation and management of these ecosystems are rarely part of any domestic and international climate change policies, beyond penalising forest destruction.

Best Practice Science Is Open and Transparent

By Clinton Foster

Geoscience Australia’s Chief Scientist outlines the philosophy behind the organisation’s newly stated science principles.

We take for granted science outcomes like the GPS navigation functions in our smart phones, although few of us understand the science behind it. Science underpins everything we do in our modern society and yet the numbers studying science in schools, and in some disciplines at universities, are continuing to fall in Australia.

Science information is literally available on tap via the internet, but provides answers that are often many and sometimes contradictory. These may be without supporting evidence and untested, and are what I call “assertive science”.

Dr Foster is Chief Scientist of Geoscience Australia. The “Science Principles” document is available at http://www.ga.gov.au/about-us/corporate-documents/science-principles.html as a free download.

Serendipity, Your Number Is Up

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One-third of Australian children do not meet the international minimum numeracy benchmark.

By Roslyn Prinsley

Science, technology, engineering and maths skills are needed to build the nation, but student and teacher numbers are in decline.

Our quality of life is increasingly dependent on generating knowledge and applying it. Only nations able to do this will succeed in an intensely competitive global economy.

Science and maths foster critical thinking, reasoning and creativity – skills important for people to take advantage of opportunity – and confidence to face challenges and manage risk.

Roslyn Prinsley is National Adviser, Mathematics and Science Education and Industry for the Office of the Chief Scientist for Australia.

Bee Teams in the Food Bowl

By Jane Dixon

Apiarists and conservationists are at loggerheads, with implications for food security and the fate of indigenous species.

With more than one-third of the world’s crops dependent on animal pollination, widespread declines in bee colonies over the past 30 years – attributed to diseases, industrial agriculture and urbanisation – are causing alarm among food security experts. In Australia another threat is posed by conservationists who consider the most common pollinator, the European honeybee, to be a pest.

Jane Dixon is a Senior Fellow at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University.

A Fishery Called Murray

By Colin Creighton

Improved water flows have reopened the Murray River’s flow to the sea, but much more needs to be done to restore the fisheries in Australia’s largest estuary.

Juvenile barramundi, mangrove jack and banana and tiger prawns face at least 1500 barriers as they try to move upstream to their preferred habitat on the Burdekin floodplain. In the rivers between Ingham and Port Douglas the last count was over 5500 barriers. The recent flood events in Queensland and NSW saw fish kills as anoxic and acidic water was purged from barraged floodplain wetlands.

Currently chair of the National Climate Change Adaptation – Marine Biodiversity and Fisheries initiative, Colin Creighton is developing an Australia-wide business case for estuary repair.

View from the Top

By Aidan Byrne

The new head of the ARC looks ahead at changes to funding programs and an open access regime.

Since I started at the Australian Research Council (ARC) in July 2012, I have been fortunate to be given an integrated view of the research sector, and have spoken with a very large number of those that actively take part in it, each with their own view of where things are going and how the sector could be improved. It is exciting to witness such a volume of good ideas and enthusiasm for a future that we are building together.

Take a Summer Time Trip

iStockphoto / mstay

iStockphoto / mstay

By Guy Micklethwait

Backwards time travel, parallel universes and temporal paradoxes – take a ride with the best time travel movies.

Filmmakers have been using ideas about time travel as plot devices for many years. These films speculate about the physics and philosophy of time travel, including parallel worlds and the consequences of temporal paradoxes. Here are five highly recommended time-bending movies to while away those long hot summer days and nights when time slows down.

*****

Guy Micklethwait recently completed his PhD thesis, Models of Time Travel: A Comparative Study, using films at the Australian National University.

Super-Seeded Science

By Anna-Maria Arabia

The increase in compulsory superannuation contributions provides an opportunity to commercialise our research efforts.

You wouldn’t be blamed for being cynical when the science sector sought the support of the growing $1.4 trillion superannuation industry to turn good ideas into national wealth. It turns out that a dialogue between the science and superannuation sectors was smart and forward-looking.

The Ethics of Modelling Costs

By Eric Crampton

Methodological tricks can deliver headline-grabbing numbers for a good cause, but at the risk of subverting public policy and compromising professional integrity.

There’s an old joke about economists. A mathematician, an accountant and an economist are bidding for a bit of consulting work. The sponsor wants to know what two plus two yields. The mathematician says it’s four. The accountant says it’s four, give-or-take 10%. The economist closes the door and whispers to the sponsor: “What do you want it to be?”

A Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of Canterbury, Dr Eric Crampton blogs at http://offsettingbehaviour.blogspot.com.au/

A Critical Juncture for Intellectual Property

By Christoph Antons

Efforts to establish a global IP authority have provoked debate over where intellectual property becomes theft and piracy becomes community action.

In early July, the European Parliament voted against the ratification of the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which had triggered demonstrations in various countries. The treaty intensified a debate in the media about the reform of intellectual property in general and copyright in particular. This reform has also become a primary agenda of the Pirate Parties that recently entered several parliaments at local, state and European level.

Professor Antons is a Chief Investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation at Deakin University’s School of Law.