[ASC-list] Science, or Persuasion? (was: [ASC-media] New research project to produce salinity tolerant crops)

Nancy Longnecker nancy.longnecker at uwa.edu.au
Thu Nov 14 01:46:05 UTC 2013

Well put, Niall.

If we took away all Australian science that was supported by 'industry'
(all RDC-funded research, all ARC-linkage projects, all directly funded
research, etc), there wouldn't be much left for ASC to work with.

In fact I thought a reasonably well accepted aim of modern research was to
involve end users (frequently 'industry') in early stages of research in
order to improve relevance and uptake. Transparent disclaimers are
appropriate, as were included in Amanda's media release.

ASC used to have a separate list for media releases and this one is meant
more for discussion. I've lost track whether that's still the case.

Cheers, Nancy

Professor Nancy Longnecker
Science Communication
School of Animal Biology, M092
The University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley, WA   6009

ph: 61 8 6488 3926
nancy.longnecker at uwa.edu.au

skype: nancylongnecker

CRICOS Provider No. 00126G

On 14/11/13 9:32 AM, "Niall Byrne" <niall at scienceinpublic.com.au> wrote:

>I don't see any problem with Amanda's media release.
>She says in the first line that the work is funded by the Grains Research
>and Development Corporation. That means roughly 50% government money and
>50% grain farmer funding through their levy funds.
>And the Centre itself is co-funded by the ARC, the GRDC with support from
>the South Australian government.
>She describes this as a project to identify how bread wheat and barley
>can tolerate saline soils. The results of that could be applied via
>conventional breeding, modification of wheat genes or insertion of genes
>from elsewhere, or in all sorts of other ways.
>The release is clear and transparent.
>I do have a problem with Charles' idea that as soon as business is
>involved it's not science. I don't think I'd want to be part of an ASC
>that worked the way he's suggesting.
>Niall Byrne
>Science in Public 
>0417 131 977, niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
>Twitter scienceinpublic
>Full contact details at www.scienceinpublic.com.au
>-----Original Message-----
>From: ASC-list [mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of
>Charles Willock
>Sent: Thursday, 14 November 2013 3:09 AM
>To: Amanda Hudswell
>Cc: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au; Charles Willock
>Subject: [ASC-list] Science, or Persuasion? (was: [ASC-media] New
>research project to produce salinity tolerant crops)
>Hi Amanda/All,
>Amanda:  This isn't an attack on your integrity nor your writing style
>but your media release yesterday gives yet another example of what seems
>to be an unresolved problem for the ASC - that of "corporate" rather than
>science communication.
>All:  I guess the obvious question is:
>  Is this a GM project, or a non-GM project?  (Afterall, The GRDC/
>  Monsanto seem to be putting a substantial amount of money into it.)
>From the point of view of communication of science there seems to be a
>difference between research into the science of plants (for example
>understanding their genetic make-up - and using that understanding to
>grow better crops) and "corporate" science in which the knowledge is used
>to genetically modify crops and market them as fast as you can.
>So to the issue of ASC communication:
>The language used in each case is different.  Normally, if one is looking
>at "corporate science" media releases, the name of the corporation
>features prominently - as does the name of the technology.
>However, where the name of the corporation is problematic (eg Monsanto)
>that needs to be elided.  Likewise if the techology (GM) is somewhat
>controversial, then best to conceal that too ... and talk in terms of
>opportunities and product attributes rather than techologies.  This is
>one means of shifting that particular Overton window for the public
>- but it is not necessarily about science - often it is about persuasion
>and sometimes about manipulation.  Is it really appropriate for the ASC
>to host that sort of communication?
>We have seen with the recent Catalyst issue the problems that can arise
>when money driven opinions seem to decide policy - or for that matter
>when they question it.
>Is it more appropriate that Australian Science Communicators continue to
>communicate science in an open scientific way or, if there is a demand
>for it, would it be more appropriate for ASC to create another, separate,
>organisation which deals with PR?  (Some kind of self-selected accuracy
>in labelling I guess.)
>On Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 01:41:02PM +0000, Amanda Hudswell wrote:
>> Media Release
>> Adelaide, Australia, 14 November 2013
>> New research project to produce salinity tolerant crops
>> A new research project announced today will identify how bread wheat
>>and barley can tolerate saline soils. The project, being funded by the
>>Grains Research and Development Corporation will deliver resources to
>>breeders for novel salinity tolerance traits for incorporation into
>>their breeding programs. Salinity is estimated to affect approximately
>>two thirds of Australian agricultural land.
>> The project utilises knowledge gained through past research projects
>>and will identify the next generation of salinity tolerance traits to
>>help farmers.
>> 'Importantly, experiments will not only take place in the greenhouse
>>but also in the field to validate the effects of these salinity
>>tolerance traits on grain yield,' said Dr Stuart Roy, Program Leader at
>>the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG), based at
>>the University of Adelaide's Waite Campus. 'The researchers will develop
>>markers for novel salinity tolerance traits and then test the effect of
>>these traits in field trials in SA, WA and ACT.'
>> The project, worth $2.5million over three years, is a collaboration
>>between the ACPFG, the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine at the
>>University of Adelaide, CSIRO Plant Industry (Canberra) and the
>>University of Western Australia (Perth).
>> 'Introducing salinity tolerance in cereals is not straightforward as
>>salinity causes multiple problems for the plant,' said Dr Matthew
>>Gilliham, project investigator from the University of Adelaide. 'When
>>salts build up in the soil they reduce plant growth and make it harder
>>for plants to take up water. Salts can also accumulate in the leaves and
>>damage the ability to plants to harvest sunlight. Our project is about
>>discovering the best of what nature offers so we can offer that to our
>> The collaboration between researchers across Australia provides a
>>significant opportunity to make the optimal use of resources and
>>available expertise to accelerate the development of salinity-tolerant
>> For media contact, interviews and images:
>> Dr Stuart Roy
>> Program Leader
>> Ph: +61 83 13 71 59
>> stuart.roy at acpfg.com.au<mailto:stuart.roy at acpfg.com.au>
>> Dr Matthew Gilliham
>> School of Agriculture, Food and Wine
>> University of Adelaide
>> Mob: + 61 431 663 614
>> matthew.gilliham at adelaide.edu.au<mailto:matthew.gilliham at adelaide.edu.
>> au>
>> About ACPFG:
>> The Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG), focuses on
>>improving the resistance of crops to stresses that impact agriculture in
>>Australia, including drought, salinity, high or low temperatures and
>>mineral deficiencies or toxicities. These stresses, known as abiotic
>>stresses, are a major cause of cereal crop yield and quality loss
>>throughout the world. ACPFG's head office is at the University of
>>Adelaide's Waite Campus. Visit www.acpfg.com.au<http://www.acpfg.com.au>
>>for more information.
>> About University of Adelaide:
>> The University of Adelaide is one of Australia's leading
>>research-intensive universities and is consistently ranked among the top
>>1% of universities in the world.
>> ______________________________________________________________________
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>      "Creativity and innovation are measured not by what is done,
>           but by what could have been done ... but wasn't"
>Disclaimer: http://www.eng.unsw.edu.au/emaildis.htm
>Charles Willock                                 charlesw at cse.unsw.edu.au
>c/- School of Computer Science and Engineering
>University of New South Wales,
>New South Wales  Australia  2052    http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~charlesw
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