The Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC) is an independent, not-for-profit service for the news media, giving journalists direct access to evidence-based science and expertise.

We aim to better inform public debate on the major issues of the day by improving links between the media and the scientific community.

BACKGROUND BRIEFING: I, Drive – On the road to driverless cars


BACKGROUND BRIEFING – Monday 2 November 2015 at 11:00 AEDTClick here to follow a recording of the entire briefing

Autonomous vehicles are starting to gain traction around the world as advances in data technology and computing allow the vehicles to keep both passengers and others on the road safe. There are numerous driverless car tests beginning across the world, and in Australia, including some of the biggest automotive players such as Volvo and Toyota, and firms not traditionally associated with cars, such as Google. With the International Driverless Cars Conference taking place in Adelaide on the 5- 6  November, followed by a test of Volvo’s offering on the city’s Southern Expressway, one question being asked is what Australia is doing to get our cars moving (by themselves). Join us for this online media briefing, when four experts in the field will discuss existing projects in Australia, and what this means for the field of artificial intelligence. read more

EXPERT REACTION: Low fat diets no magic bullet…but still better than nothing (Lancet Diabetes &Endocrinology*)


Low-fat diets don’t work any better than other diets of similar intensity, according to a large meta-analysis involving more than 68,000 adults. However the low fat diet was still better than no diet at all. Health and nutrition guidelines must be reviewed and amended to stop recommending low-fat diets for weight loss, say the authors. read more

EXPERT REACTION: Dr Alan Finkel officially announced as Australia’s Chief Scientist


Dr Alan Finkel AO has been officially announced as Australia’s next Chief Scientist. Alan is the patron of the Australian Science Media Centre and has a long history in science media as co-founder of the multi award winning science magazine, COSMOS. Dr Finkel was previously Chancellor of Monash University and is President of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. read more

EXPERT REACTION: Red meat linked to cancer – WHO report


The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, has evaluated the links between the consumption of red and processed meat, and cancer.

The group, led by Prof Bernard Stewart from UNSW and the Cancer Council have classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A). This association was observed mainly for colorectal cancer, but associations were also seen for pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.

The group classified processed meat as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer. read more

NEWS BRIEFING: Industrial waste and orange peel can safely scrub the oceans of mercury


NEWS BRIEFING – Monday 19 October at 11:00 AEDT OnlineClick here to follow a recording of the entire briefing

Mercury contamination plagues many areas of the world, affecting both food and water supplies, and now researchers at Flinders University have successfully created a new material made of industrial waste and unwanted orange peel that can literally suck mercury out of water. The plastic-like substance is made entirely from sulfur and limonene, industrial waste products that are widely available and lying unused around the world. In the petroleum industry alone there are more than 70 million tonnes of sulfur produced each year, while the citrus industry produces 70 thousand tonnes of limonene, found mainly in orange peel. The new material, known as a sulfur-limonene polysulfide, bonds to mercury and changes colour, making it helpful in removing the toxic pollutant, and as a mercury sensor.

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NEWS BRIEFING: The highs and lows of Aussie drug use: ice splits drug-taking community, while deaths and treatment rates rise


EMBARGO LIFTED 00.01 AEDT Wed Oct  14 2015Click here to follow a recording of the entire briefing

NEWS BRIEFING – Tue Oct 13 at 10:30 AEDT Online

UNSW’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) is releasing two annual reports on drug use among Australians at its National Drug Trends Conference on Wednesday October 14th. The first report covers users people who inject drugs, while the second surveyed people who regularly use ecstasy and related drugs.

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BACKGROUND BRIEFING: Chronic pain – the hidden health crisis


Click here to follow a recording of the entire briefingLow back pain is now the leading cause of disability in Australia. It is the second biggest cause of total disease burden, outstripping asthma, stroke and even lung cancer. And if you live in rural and regional Australia, the stats are even worse.  Chronic pain is a major burden on Australia’s health system, but despite the fact that it affects one in five Australians and costs us $34.3 billion, there are no celebrity-fronted campaigns for pain, no national health strategy. It remains one of the least recognised, hidden health problems in Australia.

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EXPERT REACTION: Victoria set to legalise medical marijuana


In an Australian first, the Victorian Government announced yesterday it would legalise marijuana for the treatment of medical conditions including cancer, chronic pain and epilepsy. The decision is based upon a report by the Victorian Law Reform Commission which recommended licensing cultivators and manufacturers to develop a range of products, including oils and sprays, to be sold in pharmacies. However the trial hinges on support from the Federal Government who are signatory to an international convention on narcotic drugs.

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EXPERT REACTION: High Court rules breast cancer genes can’t be patented


The High Court of Australia has handed down its decision in the D’arcy V Myriad Genetics Inc & Anor case, ruling that the breast cancer gene BRCA-1 was not a “patentable invention”. The ruling overturns last year’s decision by the Federal Court, who said that the act of isolating the gene was an invention and therefore patentable. read more

EXPERT REACTION: Bushfire season begins early


For immediate release

Bushfires have already been reported in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland, and experts are speculating that this will be a long and dangerous bushfire season. But what is it about conditions this year that has meant such an early start to the season, and what can we expect to see going forward? Below, experts give their views. read more