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.

EXPERT REACTION: Southern Australian drying likely our fault (Nature Geosciences*)

Fri11Jul
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EMBARGO LIFTED 03:00 AEST MONDAY 14th JULY, 2014

US scientists devised a new and improved computer model of the climate and say it confirms that southern Australia is drying out because we’ve changed the concentrations of greenhouse gases and ozone in the atmosphere. The model predicts that we could lose 40 per cent of our rainfall by the end of the twenty-first century. In an accompanying News and Views article, an Australian researcher says the new model adds to existing evidence suggesting future reductions in winter rainfall across southern Australia.

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EXPERT REACTION: Fireball over Australia as piece of Russian rocket re-enters atmosphere

Fri11Jul
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Last night parts of Eastern Australia witnessed a fireball shooting through the sky. Reports indicate it was a piece of a Russian Soyuz rocket stage that launched a satellite earlier in the week. read more

EXPERT REACTION: No blood clot risk with HPV vaccine (JAMA*)

Tue8Jul
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EMBARGO LIFTED 06:00 AEST Wednesday 9th July, 2014

A study of over half a million Danish women has found there is no increased risk of blood clots after completing a course of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, contradicting previous theories.

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EXPERT REACTION: Nature retracts papers claiming to make stem cells with acid

Thu3Jul
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You may remember back in January that Nature published a paper by Japanese and US scientists claiming that exposing ordinary body cells from mice to acidic conditions was enough to return them to the state from which they can go on to become any type of cell. A second paper claimed that stem cells created in this way could go on to become healthy, functioning organs in mice. It all sounded a bit too good to be true, and it turns out it was. After months of flaws in the papers becoming more and more apparent, the journal has retracted both of them. read more

EXPERT REACTION: Potential breast cancer blood test (Genome Medicine*)

Fri27Jun
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EMBARGO LIFTED 10:00 AEST Friday 27th JUNE 2014

A simple blood test could potentially be developed that could help predict the likelihood of a woman developing breast cancer, even in the absence of a high-risk BRCA1 gene mutation. The researchers in this study identified specific signatures in the blood cells of women predisposed to breast cancer, owing to a BRCA1 mutation, and discovered the same signature in the blood of women without a BRCA1 mutation but who went on to develop breast cancer – making it a potential early marker of women’s cancer in the general population.

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EXPERT REACTION: Republication of Séralini GM maize study (Environmental Sciences Europe*)

Tue24Jun
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EMBARGOED UNTIL 19:00 AEST Tuesday 24thJune, 2014

In 2012, a study was published in Food and Chemical Toxicology by Séralini et al. titled “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize.” The authors said their study showed GM maize causes tumours in rats. The paper’s design, methodology and use of statistical tools attracted a great deal of criticism from the scientific community and the paper was eventually retracted by the journal.

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EXPERT REACTION: Schizophrenics’ genes mean they’re more likely to smoke pot (Molecular Psychiatry*)

Tue24Jun
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EMBARGO LIFTED 18:00 AEST Tuesday 24th June, 2014

The same genes that predispose people to developing schizophrenia also make them more likely to be cannabis users, say European and Australian scientists. The results suggest that cannabis-use may not cause schizophrenia, they say, but that people who are likely to develop the condition are also more likely to be smokers. read more

EXPERT REACTION: Great Barrier Reef and its resilience to climate change (Nature Communications*)

Wed18Jun
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EMBARGO LIFTED 01.00 AEST Wednesday 18 June, 2014 

Analysing fossilised corals suggests the Great Barrier Reef was more resilient to past climate change than we thought, say international scientists, including Australians. However, the researchers caution that temperature changes expected as a result of modern climate change will occur much more rapidly, and could kill off the reef. Below, an independent expert responds. read more

EXPERT REACTION: Beating breast cancer: the harms and benefits of screening (BMJ*)

Tue17Jun
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EMBARGO LIFTED 08:30 AEST Wednesday 18 June, 2014

 A Norwegian and US study has looked at the effectiveness of modern mammography screening by measuring breast cancer mortality among screened and unscreened women. The authors found that an invitation to mammography screening was associated with a 28 per cent reduced risk of death from breast cancer compared with not being invited to screening. The media release from the BMJ suggests initially that “this study largely confirms what is already known – that the benefits of breast screening “are modest at best”.” However, later in the same release, the authors of the study are quoted as saying the results ‘indicate a substantial effect” of screening. read more