Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Expert Opinion

Experts pick apart the veracity of claims made in research papers and the media.

Gene Editing for Conservation Needs In-Built Protection

By Australian Science Media Centre

Researchers have been considering using gene drives to rid New Zealand of invasive pests, but have they adequately estimated the issues and addressed indigenous rights?

Gene drive technology in any implementation is powerful and risky, and thus a precautionary approach to all stages of its development and release is critical. New Zealand already has the most advanced risk management systems in the world for bio­security and the release of new organisms, including genetically modified ones. Gene editing is only an extension of existing genetic modification which, once established in the wild, usually becomes irreversible.

How Science Fared in the 2019 Federal Budget

By AusSMC

Experts comment on how the 2019-20 Federal Budget will impact research, health and science.

"A failure to keep pace with inflation for most national research agencies is a stark concern for the science and technology sector.

This has been coupled with cuts to the Research Support Program, which compound the cuts this program suffered in December - severely limiting our universities’ ability to conduct world-leading research.

Labor's 2019 Climate Policy

By AusSMC

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has unveiled Labor's climate change policy — the plan it will use to reach its target of cutting emissions by 45% by 2030, and ensure half of Australia's energy comes from renewable sources by 2050.

"Labor’s push for electric cars is great so long as they’ll be run on renewable energy, not fossil fuels. Otherwise, what’s the point? Coal, in particular, is the dirtiest of all fuels in terms of carbon emissions -- and almost 60 percent of Australia’s electricity currently comes from burning coal. And to be clear, there’s no such thing as ‘clean coal’—it’s a total oxymoron. Every time an Australian politician advocates ‘clean coal’, a giant fist should come flying out of the blue and knock them straight off our TV screens."

Smoking Dope Just Once as a Teen Could Change Your Brain

By AusSMC

Teenagers who say they have only smoked cannabis once or twice have both structural and cognitive changes to their brains.

“The results of this study (Journal of Neuroscience, https://goo.gl/CtMzvL) suggest that even in small doses, cannabis use can result in structural brain changes, most notably increased grey matter volume.

Given that adolescence is a time of rapid brain maturation/reorganisation, any changes which are induced by external forces, such as cannabis or alcohol use, rather than normal developmental factors must be viewed with some concern.

Australia's Space Agency to Land in Adelaide

By AusSMC

Australia’s Space Agency will touch down in Adelaide by mid-2019. It is hoped that it will help triple Australia’s space economy to $12 billion by 2030.


Mr Warwick Holmes is the Executive Director of Space Engineering at the University of Sydney
"I welcome the decision for the Australian Space Agency to be based in South Australia. The state has a long and successful history of previous space engineering endeavours, including the Europa 1 to 10 launches at Woomera by ELDO, the precursor to the European Space Agency.

Autism Link to Traffic Pollution Exposure During Pregnancy

By Australian Science Media Centre

Exposure to traffic pollution during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of autism.

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NASA has Mars InSight

By AusSMC

NASA's InSight lander has touched down on Mars after spending almost 7 months travelling through space. Its mission is to measure the temperature of the red planet and listen out for any earthquakes to help scientists understand more about the interior of the planet.


Ms Kim Ellis, Director International Earth & Space Technology Pty Ltd

"As our global civilisation moves closer to developing technology which can both transport and provide life support for humans across the vast distances required to get to Mars, missions such as Insight provide us with data and insights critical to understanding challenges.

The Persistent Killer of Killer Whales

By AusSMC

Killer whales are at risk due to PCB contamination despite a near-global ban more than 30 years ago. The threat affects more than half of the world’s orcas, and whale populations near industrialised regions and at the top of the food-chain are at a high risk of population collapse over the next 100 years.


This valuable study in Science (https://goo.gl/KuEN9u) extends previous work within the author team, which found alarming levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in North Atlantic killer whales, and further, found these levels to have an immunotoxicological impact. The author team showed that PCB-mediated effects on reproduction and immune function threaten the long-term viability of more than 50% of the world’s killer whale populations. Indeed, in a number of populations today there is strong evidence of reduced fertility and even complete cessation of reproduction.

Mozzies Knocked out with Gene Drive

By AusSMC

Researchers say they've successfully used a CRISPR-based gene drive to cause the collapse of a population of caged malaria-carrying mosquitoes by targeting a gene that determines whether an individual mosquito develops as a male or a female.

Research article: A CRISPR–Cas9 gene drive targeting doublesex causes complete population suppression in caged Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes. Nature Biotechnology https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt.4245


Dr Gordana Rasic is a senior research officer in the Mosquito Control Group, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

"In this study, scientists created a new gene drive that disrupts development of female malarial mosquitoes (Anopheles gambiae) and causes their caged populations to crash.

The Biodiversity Benefits of Limiting Warming to 1.5°C

By Australian Science Media Centre

Global temperatures are on track to rise by 3.2°C by 2100. A new study estimates that if this occurs, 26% of vertebrates, 49% of insects and 44% of plants would be unable to survive in about half of the areas they currently inhabit, compared with just 4% of vertebrates, 6% of insects and 8% of plants if warming is limited to 1.5°C.

A paper just published in Science by a UK and Australian collaboration … is a mighty effort as a piece of research, but it’s also a mighty effort in trying to paint a silver lining on a thundercloud. Habitat loss of species is a good proxy for pressures towards extinction, and this paper simultaneously tells us how many species we could “save”’ by delivering on the Paris agreement. The problem is that the subtext outlines our actual effects on the demise of the world’s species and adds another 150,000 species or so on top of past and vast efforts to measure it.