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What we need more of is science

Written By: - Date published: 6:42 pm, December 15th, 2011 - 22 comments
Categories: climate change, radio, science - Tags: , ,

There was a very good science piece on Nine-to-Noon this morning, covering some of Kathryn Ryan’s trip to Antarctica.

Some of the subject matter was disturbing – they’ve recorded a drop in the pH of the ocean from 8.2 to 8.1 due to human CO2 output.  Even if we stop polluting now, the oceans will continue to get more acidic for the next 500 years, dropping to pH7.8 – they certainly have no recent (tens of millions of years) example to compare with for how badly that will affect the planet.

The acidity starts at the poles and heads toward the equator.  Land creatures can head away from the equator with climate change; but in the sea, there’s no escaping the increasing acidity.  The outlook is dire for anything with a calcium carbonate shell – oysters, shellfish, lobsters, coral etc.  And also it affects the juvenile stage of many creatures – including krill, the founding food for a lot of the ocean.

It’s all pretty depressing, but I’m looking forward to hearing more of the Antarctic reports Kathryn will be filing.

But it got me thinking: we don’t have much science in our media, and certainly not in prime times and places – despite how vital it is to our lives.

Some months back I went to Fabians lecture by Jim Stanford, author of Economics for Everyone, and he was deriding how we get the market reports in all our news bulletins.  What difference does it make to our lives the current value of Telecom shares?  (Although the blatantly made up reasons for why the market is up or down today are always amusing…)  Far more useful would be to have work reports, where people could share useful information of productivity gains they’ve made, better and easier ways of doing things (indeed he liked our farming reports, with advice on harvesting etc, which is essentially what he was talking about – you don’t get that in most of the West).

I was thinking that the same would be true for science. Instead of yet more reality TV shows and Shelley Bridgeman columns, a little more science in our media would be very good for the country.

That extra knowledge that could help us, the new discoveries that will affect our lives.  It would also hopefully mean a better informed population – climate change wouldn’t be in dispute if people were regularly hearing from those whose daily job was investigating its very real current effects.  And it would hopefully increase interest in science.  The future for New Zealand is green and clever, and innovative science skills are what will mean we can sustain our standard of living.  Those are the jobs we can’t fill currently while we have high unemployment – if we could get a bit more interest and glamour to science, we’d end up channelling more students towards that needed training.

So as roastbeef from Achewood would say: what we need more of is science.

22 comments on “What we need more of is science ”

  1. Jimmy 1

    The future for New Zealand is green and clever, and innovative science skills are what will mean we can sustain our standard of living. Those are the jobs we can’t fill currently while we have high unemployment – if we could get a bit more interest and glamour to science, we’d end up channelling more students towards that needed training.

    Please elaborate on the plethora of science jobs in New Zealand. New Zealand companies are notoriously bad at investing in R&D. As a result highly trained scientists I have very few employment options here. I could count the number of potential employers who would utilise my skills to their fullest on one hand. Of those over half would be government funded.

    Not that I’m opposed increasing science focus, but it’s not as simple as train them and they will better the country. Scientists leave New Zealand in droves because they have few other choices. Thankfully both sides of the coin indicated an intention of increased science funding prior to the election. Hopefully the current leadership not only follow through with that, but do so in a way that actually leads to benefit to the science community and New Zealand as a whole.

    As for more science in the media, this is a double edged sword. Science isn’t sexy. Attempts to make it appealing result in abominations that mislead the public. If you try and lure bright young minds to science with media hype they will turn tail and bolt.

    Scientist are drawn to science in the pursuit of knowledge. The lack of real information in the media is the biggest advertisement science could ever have.

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      Yep bring back a massively funded DSIR, Ministry of Works, DoC, and other science capable bodies.

      Add to that generous R&D tax credits as well as the picking of winners.

      NZ private sector cannot be trusted to do research without a strong Government framework.

      • sean 1.1.1

        You don’t need tax credits for R and D – any company that survives on technical innovation and and/or scientific excellence do R and D as a matter of fact, and do it no matter what the tax implications are.

        I have worked in technical R and D for the last 15 years, and every company I’ve worked with funds its own R and D.

        Having tax credits for it is simply abused, as per the last scheme – I know of a company who managed to get R and D tax credits for working out a system that would allow them to pay less tax.

        • Draco T Bastard

          ou don’t need tax credits for R and D – any company that survives on technical innovation and and/or scientific excellence do R and D as a matter of fact…

          That’d be nice – if it was true. NZ R&D is lower than pretty much everywhere else and falling. Of course, that might have something to do with NZ companies that do R&D getting bought up and shifted offshore.

          I know of a company who managed to get R and D tax credits for working out a system that would allow them to pay less tax.


        • Colonial Viper

          Sure you might say that, but highly technologically advanced countries like Germany, US, Japan and Taiwan have governments which all structurally favour R&D activity.

          • aerobubble

            Nz does not want to get attention for itself, its already far too nice a place, a bloody paradise, why would we want to actually excell and be invaded. Isn’t it enough just to bend over regularly and sell out our future?

            Look it so boring, first you get these wingbags like Morgan steaming on about how we underinvest, like every generation in NZ has its Morgan. Then you get the good ideas group all coming up with saleable ideas to change matters for the best. And then nothing changes (or worse they introduce neo-liberalism).

            So who gives a damn, I mean its nice that NZ is backward and stays this way. yeah, yeah, we have a job holding cretins citizens from getting heavily in debt, and Labour did a damn good job of keeping the debt off the government books and squarely in the private sector. so when the private sector would have to eat its own to survive.

            But no! Under Key, businesses got a tax cut, higher earning cretins got a tax cut, and everyone got GST hike and loss of services. Now Key in order to pay down the debt he’s selling some assets. Key has shifted the private debt onto the government books, borrowed and now plans to sell assets, no doubt to shift more debt from the private sector onto government.

            And haven’t our highly motivated skilled citizens seens the light and brought a ticket out of auckland airport!!!

        • Jimmy

          Easy now sean, that sounds awfully like free market talk…

          I agree to a point. The governments philosophy of investing R&D into NZs largest sectors (dairy, forestry etc.) is not necessarily the best option. Focus on new ideas that are truly novel and have potential, not just buss words like bio-tec clean-tec, tec-tec-tec…

          If we are to do well we should focus on niece products that go unnoticed by the global community. We can’t out compete the big players, so play a smaller game. Don’t play soccer, play rugby.

          • aerobubble

            We keep businesses in NZ small by not taxing them for capital gain. Instead of growing larger to survive your average owner pockets the profits and lives the dream.

            Why would they as a block, the small businesses of NZ want to change that??? They have it easy.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      Not that I’m opposed increasing science focus, but it’s not as simple as train them and they will better the country.

      No, to do that we’d need to train the scientists and have a better distribution of resources so that the scientists would have the resources available to actually do the work.

      Hopefully the current leadership not only follow through with that…

      Like the way that they did last time where they cut R&D spending and then tried to say that they had actually increased that spending?

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    But it got me thinking: we don’t have much science in our media…

    No, but we do have a lot of rumour and misinformation spread by people who don’t like what the science is showing.

  3. Havnt you heard, the NACTs are back in power to mine, drill and sell. There goes the Green there goes the clever.
    Science is fiction in a neocolony of Australia and the US.
    The TPPA will drill and mine IT like it was a rare earth mineral.
    Before you can get science that is not driven out by the stock market you need to bring this govt down.
    Labour’s gone up its own back story so that means we have to organise to stop the corporates by direct action.
    Mighty River’s first up. Imagine privatising the Mighty Waikato and the Geothermal fields, the biggest renewable sources of cheap power in the North Island.
    How many Taniwhas do we need to occupy Mighty River?

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      The taniwhas will sort it dave, they don’t need us to herd them for best effect 🙂

  4. jaymam 4

    What we need more of is science. Pure water has a pH of 7, and your big scary sounding predicted pH 7.8 (which won’t happen) is still alkaline, not acidic.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      jayman its an increase in H+ ions to today’s normal case. That counts as acidifying.

      Of course its not acid yet, but to creatures which are used to pH’s of over 8, it might as well be.

    • lprent 4.2

      And the freezing tempature of water is 0 degrees Celsius – some conditions apply. For this and other meaningless statements of fact used without thinking, consult a denier.

      If you want science, then look at the reasoning. Ben said that a change in pH is a problem for anything that uses calcium carbonate exterior. A vast range of species at the lower levels of the food chain start losing their protection, and rather than wanting to look the implication – you want to argue about a definition of a word?

      Even that you got wrong. Something can have a pH of 14 and you can still talk about it’s acidity. It isn’t a noun.

  5. Campbell Larsen 5

    I can’t resist it – it’s my favorite rap battle, Stephens vocoder is dope:

    Totally agree with the post. Enuf already with the economics crystal ball gazing or commentary on the loaded dice game – let’s get educated instead – at least we will know something when the show is over.

  6. ChrisH 6

    Do we still have science reporters who actually know about science in the media generally, or is Radio New Zealand unique in that respect?

    • Ben Clark 6.1

      There’s a world wide shortage of science journalists… (among other science-skill jobs that there’s a shortage of…)

      One thing I am very impressed by that John Key has done is appoint e Science advisor – I hope all future Prime Ministers keep one. And his Science prizes (out today) are a pretty good idea too – get good coverage in the media for science, make it a bit more glam…

  7. John D 7

    What we need is more science and less political activism dressed up as science

  8. randal 8

    what we need is a NZLP micropulse radio station in every town so that people can discuss these things on the radio without being held hostage by the likes of kathryn ryan and brian krump on their corny over controlled radio shows.
    we can have more science it it becomes common currency instead of being wheeled out by the gawpers that currently inhabit the media for their own self promotion.
    time to use the media for what it is good at.

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