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We Will Never Cure Cancer, So Should We Even Try?

Credit: dcleomiu/Adobe

Credit: dcleomiu/Adobe

By Nial Wheate

Billions of dollars are spent on cancer research each year for minimal gains. Would that money be better invested elsewhere?

In 2014, cancer overtook cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death in the world. While the incidence of cancer has continued to rise, the long-term survival rate has increased from 47% during the mid-1980s to more than 65% by 2010.

Despite this promising improvement in survival, the unique nature of the disease means it is unlikely that it will ever be declared cured. This is because there will never be a single drug that is capable of curing all forms of cancer, and the success of treatment is highly dependent on how early it is detected.

Our Human Right not to Be Poisoned


Credit: CSA-Printstock/iStock

By Julian Cribb

Thousands of new chemicals are released each year, and the toxic effects are mounting. What can we do about it?

Earth, and all life on it, are being saturated with anthropogenic chemicals and wastes in an event unlike anything in the previous four billion years of our planet’s story. Each moment of our lives, from conception to death, we are exposed to thousands of substances, some lethal, many toxic, and most of them unknown in their effects on our health or on the natural world.

Engineering Australia’s New Wealth

By Marlene Kanga

It’s time to connect the dots between invention, innovation and the role of engineering.

The decline of traditional manufacturing and the waning resources boom require Australia to develop new sources of wealth generation. As a developed nation with high wage costs and high standards of living, Australia needs to develop new industries that use advanced technologies, require high levels of education and have high barriers to entry. There is no alternative.

Maths Teaching Faces a Crisis

Credit: tiero/Adobe

Credit: tiero/Adobe

By Michael O’Connor

With student numbers swelling, new graduate teachers alone cannot make up for the impending retirement of many mathematically qualified teachers.

If your child’s team needed a new coach, would you choose an enthusiastic volunteer who has never played the game, or someone who had played and been coached themselves by professionals?

Science at the Ballot Box

By Emma Johnston

When you find yourself at the ballot box on 18 May, ask yourself about each party’s science and technology credentials. Here’s a guide.

Last month I was proud to host more than 70 leaders from 58 science and technology organisations in Sydney to craft a unified platform for science policy ahead of the Federal election on 18 May. Together we compared priorities and came away with four shared positions that we would like to see adopted by each of the major parties:

  • a whole-of-government plan for science and technology;
  • a strategy to equip the future Australian workforce with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills;

Whales and Sharks Must Be Protected from Global Shipping

By Vanessa Pirotta

Road ecology is being applied to shipping routes to stop marine giants from becoming “roadkill”.

More than 80% of the world’s merchandise is transported by sea, but this comes at a cost to marine wildlife. Ships introduce oil and chemical pollution into the marine environment, emit greenhouse gases and other wastes, as well as noise pollution from ship engines.

Big Tobacco’s Innovative Smokescreen

By Janet Hoak and Philip Gendall

While tobacco companies claim to be cooperating with health authorities to reduce smoking, new tobacco products are squarely aimed at recruiting new smokers.

The major tobacco companies have presented a vision of a smoke-free world in which the prevalence of smoking has fallen to minimal levels. This goal has much in common with national tobacco end-game ambitions, and appears to create opportunities for health researchers and smoke-free advocates to work together with a well resourced industry to achieve a common objective. Yet, despite their public statements, tobacco companies continue to develop new products, such as flavour capsule cigarettes that enhance smoking’s appeal.

Diversity Values Must Be Backed By Actions

By Catherine Lockley

A disabled student’s story reveals the huge systemic barriers faced by minority groups seeking a science education.

Research tells us that diversity fosters better science. Most Australian universities have a list of policies available to all staff and students promoting diversity, and many develop initiatives to specifically target and enrol these students.

On paper, diversity is encouraged and supported by both government and institutional policy and infrastructure, but how do these initiatives translate into experience for the students?

Your Nitrogen Footprint Has Far-Reaching Consequences

By Xia Liang

Australia’s reliance on coal and taste for beef is contributing to nitrogen pollution as far away from our population centres as the Great Barrier Reef.

Nitrogen is an essential component of the nucleic acids and enzyme proteins found in the living cells of plants, animals and humans. Life can only exist because of the availability of reactive nitrogen, which encompasses all forms of nitrogen other than the inert nitrogen gas that makes up 80% of the air we breathe.

However, only a tiny fraction of the reactive nitrogen we produce goes into building up our muscles. Instead, most of it gets released into the environment, costing of billions of dollars worldwide in human health and ecosystem damages.

The Good News You Missed About Ocean Acidification

Sean Connell taking notes at a vent that is emitting CO2 bubbles.  Note the pres

Sean Connell taking notes at a vent that is emitting CO2 bubbles. Note the presence of weed-like plants or turfs, which occur instead of the normally extensive kelp forests or urchin barrens.

By Sean Connell

Carbon may be acidifying the oceans, but the species it’s supposed to harm are fighting back.

We face an ever-growing number of stories about species pushed to extinction and ecosystem collapse, but few about species adjusting to environmental change and their ecosystems persisting. I contend that recognising how nature copes with environmental change is as important as understanding how nature fails to cope.

My research focuses on carbon emissions. Carbon released from fossil fuel combustion is absorbed by the oceans, causing them to acidify. Can nature adjust to these conditions?