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Budget 2014: there's more to science than medical research

By Jonathan Borwein

Apart from the medical research fund, almost all other news for research and education is bleak.

It’s hard to ignore the irony. The 2014 federal budget will “better target innovation and research funding to areas of national and strategic priority” but funding cuts of more than A$111 million to CSIRO – the federal government agency for scientific research – have today resulted in up to 420 jobs to go by mid-2015 and possibly a further 80 in the years following.

Federal Budget 2014: health experts react

By Stephen Duckett, Anne-marie Boxall, Mike Daube & Philip Clarke

The Abbott government has announced a A$20 billion medical research “future fund”, to help discover what Treasurer Joe Hockey calls the “cures of the future”, paid for with money generated as a result of major changes to health policy.

The fund, expected to be “biggest medical research endowment fund in the world” within six years, will be capital protected, with net interest earnings used to fund medical research. Distributions to medical research are expected to be around $1 billion by 2022-23, effectively doubling the government’s direct medical research funding. Distributions of $20 million are expected in 2015-16.

It comes as the government warns of unsustainable health-care spending, which currently costs 4.1% of GDP, expected to rise to 7% if no changes are made.

The state of Australia: science innovation and research

By Matthew Bailes

In the lead up to the federal budget, the story of crisis has been hammered home. How is Australia's science and innovation faring?

Australian higher education institutions are nervously anticipating this week’s federal budget that in the words of the Prime Minister threatens to “shift” university funding and give them “more freedom to innovate”.

But what will this mean?

How we’re doing now

Currently Australia is an excellent place to conduct fundamental research.

And now the bad news: red wine is not great for health after all

By Tim Crowe

A new study discounts the notion that a compound found in red wine has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and potential anticancer effects.

Nutrition research often loses sight of the wood for the trees by focusing on a single component of food. The latest example of this comes from a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine today that shows the much-hyped resveratrol may not be as super as previously touted.

Resveratrol is a naturally occurring plant chemical found in the skin of grapes, red wine, peanuts, cocoa powder, and certain berries and roots. There’s interest in the chemical because of its proposed antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and potential anticancer effects.

The state of Australia: our environment

By Ian Lowe

The state of Australia’s environment is a real worry – and we have the report cards to prove it.

For the past two decades, successive federal governments have received a series of independent, five-yearly State of the Environment reports. I was appointed to chair the first national assessment, which delivered its findings in May 1996. And what we concluded then – a lifetime ago for an 18-year-old reading this today – is even truer now:

Temper trap: the genetics of aggression and self-control

By Tom Denson

A new study concludes that people who are genetically predisposed toward aggression have inefficient functioning in brain regions that control emotions.

Everyone knows someone with a quick temper – it might even be you. And while scientists have known for decades that aggression is hereditary, there is another biological layer to those angry flare-ups: self-control.

In a paper published earlier this year in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, my colleagues and I found that people who are genetically predisposed toward aggression try hard to control their anger, but have inefficient functioning in brain regions that control emotions.

Getting to the Root of Enamel Evolution

Scientists have identified how natural selection may have acted to give modern human teeth their thick enamel, one gene at a time.

Along with our big brains and upright posture, thick tooth enamel is one of the features that distinguishes our genus, Homo, from our primate relatives and forebears. A new study, published in the Journal of Human Evolution, offers insight into how evolution shaped our teeth, one gene at a time.

By comparing the human genome with those of five other primate species, a team of geneticists and evolutionary anthropologists at Duke University has identified two segments of DNA where natural selection may have acted to give modern humans their thick enamel.

What about science in the Commission of Audit report?

By Rod Lamberts and Will J Grant

The federal government’s Commission of Audit treats science, research and education as expenses to be trimmed rather than investments to be nurtured.

The message from the federal government’s Commission of Audit is loud and clear: science, research and education are expenses to be trimmed rather than investments to be nurtured.

Yes, there are few big surprises for such sectors in the recommendations in the report. But not being surprised is not the same as being pleased.

Powdered alcohol, seriously? A health risk we don't need

By Nial Wheate

What are the potential dangers of the marketing of alcohol in powdered form?

Opening a bottle and pouring liquid into a glass isn’t exactly an arduous task but a US company hopes to release a powdered variety to make consuming alcohol that little bit easier – and more portable.

'Censored' IPCC summary reveals jockeying for key UN climate talks

By David Stern

Was the IPCC's latest report on climate change censored to suit the agendas of different countries?

In the wake of this month’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on ways to cut global greenhouse gas emissions, accusations began to fly in the media that the report had been censored by governments.