Bias, Agenda & Opinion- How to spot it.

Wednesday, April 10th, 2024 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

In earlier posts we have highlighted how to look for ‘trusted sources’.
In this post we will focus a little more on bias, agenda and opinion and how it might influence the information provided and how it is provided by a source.
Check out these short clips from:

CTRL-F Digital Media Literacy-Verification skills course
Skill: Advanced Wikipedia: Bias and Agenda
Check the Claim with Jane Lytvynenko

You may also find the links below from University of Wisconsin and American Public University Library interesting and useful. They have lots of useful tips and hints for you to employ when doing your research

Identifying Bias

No post on bias, agenda and opinion should be without specific mention of what’s known as ‘Cognitive Bias’

In the words of famous physicist Richard Feynman

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

(As well as being a theoretical physicist Feynman was known for his engaging and entertaining lectures and he had a unique ability to communicate complex scientific ideas to a general audience making him one of the most popular and beloved science communicators of his time.)


                                    So, what is ‘Cognitive Bias’?

Psychologist Kia-Rai Prewitt, PhD, describes it thus
“If we have a cognitive bias, we may interpret information based off of our own beliefs and experiences. And sometimes, the ways that we interpret that information may or may not be accurate.”

Check out her article Cognitive Bias 101: What It Is and How To Overcome It where she also gives examples of each.

See also

In our search for what may be ‘true’ knowledge an awareness of bias and how it may manifest itself is key to effective research.

2023 Student Short Science Films

Wednesday, April 10th, 2024 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Science Academy 2023 Science Film students were tasked with making a short 3–4-minute film on an aspect of science close to their heart using only their cell phones and i-movie software.  They were introduced to science filmmaking techniques over four 90-minute workshops at our January Science camp. They then planned and developed their ideas between January and July camps and shot the footage they needed in their home area, completing final editing during a further four 90-minute workshops during our July Science camp. The project was tutored by Max Balloch, Otago University Science Communication and Philosophy  student and an alumnus of the Science Academy. Max is also an award winning podcaster.

Check out our 2023 student  films by clicking on the titles below

Adventures and the Magic Rocket Ship

Science Film Tutor’s Top Film


Alysssa Burt
Motueka High School

Erylle Del Mundo
Maniototo Area School,




 The Resilience of Time

Science Academy Director’s Top Film


Gian Hall
TKKM o te ngati kahungunu ki te wairoa



The Great Ocean Garbage Patch

Nathan Elliot
Murchison Area School

Amber Fissenden
Kaikoura High School



Algae Just Want to Have Fun

Jess Quinlan
Te Aho o te Kura Pounamu

Phoebe Mulry-Climpson
Golden Bay High school



Just Science Facts (Nothing Else, Pinky Promise!)

Annalise McDonnell
Queens High School

Kate Hayward
Queens High School




Psych Show

Maia Rakete-Gray
Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ōtepoti

Ella Watts
Queen Charlotte College



Caffeine- How it keeps Us Going.

Cian O’Brien
Stratford High School

Sandee Barroga
Maniototo Area School



Trips over Trappist

Ashton Hasler
Ellesmere College

Caspar Denyer
Kaikati College




Science Writing Competition-Dear Nature Podcast

Monday, June 20th, 2022 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Science Academy 2020 alumni and creator of Dear Nature Podcast series is running a science writing competition for Year 9-13 students across Otago  and Southland.

So if you live in those areas why not have a go and  you could win over $500 worth of prizes AND have your wining entry turned into a ‘Dear Nature Podcast‘ episode by Max.

For more info just look for the Dear Nature Podcast on Instagram or Facebook   or email

2021 Science Films

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Science Academy 2021  Science Film students were tasked with exploring their favourite aspect of science and communicating their ideas through the medium of  a short 3-4 minute film. They attended four 90 minute workshops at our January Science camp- planned and developed their ideas between January and July camps and shot the footage they needed in their home area- and completed final editing  during a further four 90 minute workshops during our July Science camp. The project  was tutored by Karthic Sanjiva Sivanandham from NHNZ Productions and an alumni of the Otago University Center for Science Communication.

Links to this year’s 8 films can be found by clicking on the titles below

 Running Free – A look at the science of prosthetic limbs 


by Angelina Gosse (Wentworth College)




The Plastic  Issue 

by Finn Goodman (Geraldine High)





Auckland’s Secret Bird Sanctuary 

by Aziza Shawudun (Zayed College for Girls)

Fili Fono (Wesley College)





 Restoration of Wetlands

by Te Mote Marsh (Te Puke High School)





Operation Nest Egg- Kiwi conservation at West Coast Wildlife Center

by Champagne Dela Cruz (South Westland Area School)

Rhyanna Pich (Waitara High School)




Project Drawdown- School Planting for the Climate

by Shion Ko (Whangarei Boys High School)





Hoiho: The Rarest penguin in the World

by Hamish Mills (South Otago High School)





Tracking Kiwi with an Airplane

by Liam Finer – (Hawera High School)





Student Podcasts 2021

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Science Academy 2021 Podcast students were tasked with exploring their favourite aspect of science and communicating  their ideas through the medium of Radio and Podcasting. They attended four 90 minute workshops at OAR FM studios  during our January Science camp- researched, planned and developed their ideas between January and July camps- and  completed final  editing and recording during  a further  four 90 minute workshops during our July Science camp  facilitated by Domi Angelo-Laloli & Taylor Davies-Colley  at OAR FM Dunedin.


Mangere College

Horowhenua College

Opotiki College

Tokomairiro High School

Tokomairiro High School

Te Wharekura o Manaia

Tararua College

Check them out  here  Science Academy 2021 Podcasts




Science Can Be Funny But………………..

Friday, October 30th, 2020 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

……..can science comedy also be an effective tool  for  enhancing  understanding and support for science?

Science and comedy may seem like an odd pairing.  Science is a serious business, right?  And everyone’s sense of humour is different. Does science comedy work as a tool for communicating science effectively to a public audience.

In this short blog I make no claims or draw any conclusions.
Rather we are just going to dip our toes into the world of science comedy by looking at a few examples of `comedic science’ and let you come to your own conclusions as to whether you think comedy can be a tool to enhancing understanding  of science in a public audience.

Do science comedians rely on a pre-knowledge of science and/or a specific topic?

How does/could/ comedy enhance the understanding & support for science in a non-scientific public audience?

Check out some of these science comedians and more and you decide

Science Laughs :Brian Malow
‘A Virus Walks Into a Bar…’ and Other Science Jokes

Scientist Turned Comedian: Tim Lee

Science Comedian Vince Ebert | Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017  

Science doesn’t know everything: Dara O’Briain

All of the above a background in science- Dara O’Briain  for example has a degree in mathematics and theoretical physics from University College Dublin and besides stand-up comedy has presented a number of science shows for BBC including School of Hard Sums, Dara Ó Briain’s Science Club)

Sneaking Science into Stand-Up: Kasha Patel
NASA Science Writer, stand-up comedian and founder of ‘DC Science Comedy’ Kasha Patel actually researches the effectiveness of her own science comedy by analysing over 500 of her science jokes as she explains in her 2019 TEDx talk.

Closer to home Andrew Scott from  Otago University School of Science Communication looked at Science comedy  for his Master’s degree  entitled Funnily Serious: Using Comedy  to communicate Science”  part of which included a   comedic science film entitled Tangled Waters  looking at the use of ant-shark nets along the Dunedin coastline. (Maybe I shouldn’t have put this in ahead of possible beach visit at upcoming December Camp!)

Want to dive further in the world of Science comedy?
Check out  Crastina’s International List of Science Comedians

Finally, if you come across an example of science comedy that you think does a really good job of enhancing understanding and/or support for science let me know in the comments.

Enjoy and good luck with your upcoming NCEA external exams.



Science Academy 2019 Student Podcasts

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Exploring  effective techniques for communicating science to a public audience is a key component of Science Academy (OUASSA). Every year our students undertake a project under one of four science communication streams:- Interpretive Science Talks, Science Film Making with your cell phone or Ipad, Museum Science Communication, Science Radio Podcasting.

This year Shannon Colbert and Domi Angelo-Laloli from Community Access Radio’s OAR  105.4FM Dunedin mentored eight of our students  through the process of constructing a short science podcast by means of interactive workshops in the studio and on-line  support throughout the year.

Below is a list  of the topics they covered

Physicists on the Pitch
by Abdul Ahmadi from Mangere College

Discover the science behind Soccer! From Newton’s Laws of Physics, to the Magnus Effect and the use of `Cleats’.

Operation: Space-cial Exploration
by Jessica Marshall from Opihi College

Billions of stars, hundreds of planets, a black hole or two, but how do we know this? What feats of engineering were needed to bring us this knowledge and what will be needed to further understand the world around us?

The Periodic Podcast
by Niamh Frizzell from Awaptapu College

This podcast is about history of the periodic table, the `International Year of the Periodic Table’ and the celebrations that surround it.

Error 1387 Gene Unavoidable
by Seruwaia Matairavula from Wesley College

In this podcast I discuss Genetics at Otago University and how the study can benefit humanity. I am accompanied by Sean, a Masters student studying genetics, and Science Academy attendee, Cameron Bergin from John Paul II High School in Greymouth.

The Extra-terrestrial Podcast
by Corban Taylor from Opotiki College

If you want to listen in to a good friend and I talk about aliens and all that jazz then listen in, as we discuss our views on alien beliefs.

Are We Living in a Simulation?
by Maddison Ridder from Verdon College & Cameron Bergin from John Paul II High

Have you ever felt like you have no control, like your whole life is set out for you? Have you ever thought that maybe you’re living in a simulation? Well, it’s more possible than you’d think. This podcast is going to investigate the reasons why we could be part of a simulation.

Lost in Translation
by Gemma Marnane from Central Southland College

If you are willing to deny convention, it becomes more worthy of attention. For all the knowledge, all the fear, we forget to speak of the meaning, which is hidden. Take this, imagine a world in words. It forms languages and societies, stipulates mutations, natural selection and forms gene pools and populations. It’s the world. We are all just a little lost in translation.

Becoming a Midwife
by Tamel Robertson from Aurora College

My podcast is based on the life of a midwife and the duties in her role. I will be interviewing midwife Margaret Gardner to gather information for the listener as well as myself as I plan on beginning my study to become a midwife next year, in 2020.

Have a listen here at

Happy Listening!

Engaging the audience…

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Engaging a museum audience learning about centre of mass by making them strike a pose for science 🙂

Anyone who has ever done any public speaking knows that 5 minutes can go by in a heartbeat, or feel like it takes a lifetime to pass.

As we rocket towards our Science Academy student presentations at the New Zealand International Science Festival, we have been thinking about audience engagement and what our students can do to maximise this. Engaging the audience and knowing they are “along for the ride” can help that 5 minutes fly by in a pleasurable rush.

There are two groups of students presenting “on stage” in July – the ones who have elected to do an interpretive talk, and those who have elected to do a Science show. Though there are big and not so big differences between the two delivery methods, getting the audience on board will be key for both groups.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, there are really four groups that the public can be divided into when it comes to Science Communication:

  1. The Science Fans – the lovers of Science who can’t get enough and invest their free time in reading, attending talks, museums and other science related activities
  2. The Cautiously Keen – they aren’t the fanboys or fangirls but they have a genuine interest in science and are keen to know more.
  3. The risk averse – not engaged
  4. The concerned – not engaged

The Science Academy students are presenting their work to the public as part of the New Zealand International Science Festival. I think it is safe to assume that their audience will be from the first two groups as it is unlikely that someone who is not engaged in learning about Science would take the time to attend a Science Festival.

So that means that we are at least starting with a friendly audience. This is a big plus. It is much easier to engage the audience if they are in the audience because they are interested in what is being presented and genuinely want to learn more. The audience is already on the students’ side.

Building another idea from another blog I wrote last year, to engage an audience, you need to:

  1. Validate the audience’s thinking
  2. Take them on a journey
  3. Be framed within their values
  4. Fall within social norms
  5. Involve pictures and graphs and/or audience participation

There are a few more ideas that need to be touched on for successful audience engagement. Firstly, language – everyday vs for experts. The audience wants to learn but they don’t want a PhD thesis on the topic. The audience needs to understand what you are saying. In a five minute presentation to a public audience, the jargon should be at a minimum needed to make your point.

Accuracy can also sometimes lose you the point – keep it simple! It is better to be a bit less accurate but have the audience understand what you are saying than be super accurate and have them lost. If you engage them and get them interested in their topic, they will go away and try to learn more, if you give them a lot of details right at the start, they won’t understand enough of what you are saying to appreciate what you are saying. This is especially true with such a short amount of time to engage with the audience.

Tell a great story. Good story telling is emotional connection – why does the audience care about your message? Think about the trolley problem – some variations of this problem have shown that we tend to save the people we know and care about and sacrifice strangers. Make the audience care about what you have to say by building an emotional connection.

Frame your audience questions for maximum response rate. It is much easier for your audience to think of something general rather than specific. For example, asking them to think of a good experience they have had with Science rather than asking them to think of the best experience they had with Science. Linked to questioning, make sure you leave enough time for response – sometimes the audience needs to warm up or think about what you have said. Don’t let a lack of response cause you to panic and rush on before the audience has had a chance to respond! Equally, think about what you will do if you do NOT get the response you were expecting – have a back-up plan! The audience can still be engaged depending on how YOU respond to their unexpected, or lack of response.

Finally, make sure you acknowledge the audience contribution, thank the audience for coming along on the journey with you and participating. The audience will leave feeling appreciated and valued for coming to your show.


A sense of style…

Friday, April 27th, 2018 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

I was browsing the internet the other day, as you do and ran across this video. I’m not a natural history film person in general and I don’t watch natural history documentaries very often because to be honest I find the traditional documentary style a bit boring. I did like this though and it made me think about different approaches with the same message or aim.

I typed “frogfish documentary” into the search bar of google and was rewarded with many short films about frogfish.  Here are a few examples which I have divided based on my own interpretation of the type of presentation style:

All of these examples have pictures and videos of frogfish and all have very similar content in terms of facts about frogfish. The difference is in the style of presentation. The kids one is very clearly aimed at kids but we could argue that the other two are both aimed at similar audiences, adults. The styles they are made in though are very different.

Looking a bit further, documentary films in general can be divided into 6 categories or modes according to American documentary theorist Bill Nichols.

  • Poetic modethis is an early form of documentary that tends to be more subjective and evoke a feeling, mood or tone
  • Expository mode- as time moved on, documentary makers started looking more at the social problems of the word and expositional images paired with narrative. This is more like a David Attenborough type nature film in that it is meant to transfer information
  • Participatory mode – in this type of documentary, the filmmaker interacts with the subjects by asking questions for example. The participation of the filmmaker is known to the audience (by hearing the interviewer’s voice off camera for example)
  • Observational mode – In contrast to the participatory mode, the observational mode is like a fly on the wall style documentary – simply watching animals in their natural habitat
  • Performative mode – This is similar to the participatory mode because the filmmaker interacts with the subjects but unlike that mode, in performative mode, the filmmaker is also trying to convey a message or particular story. The performative mode is less objective and more subjective.

Our OUASSA students are producing shows, talks, films and written works for public presentation at the New Zealand International Science Festival in July. Thinking about the audience that will be at the presentations and how best to reach them will be key to getting their messages across. The style of show, talk, film or writing will be just as important as the medium and information.

Why `Knowledge Forum’ & Some Tips on Use of the `Scaffolds’

Thursday, February 15th, 2018 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

It’s great to see some of you getting in and using Knowledge Forum!

While acknowledging that the front end of the KF software is not the most eye-catching compared to other software you may be used to using, the concept of a community mind map and that of applying scaffolds to the posts you make is important in encouraging you to go beyond simply stating opinions and start to build knowledge as a community.
Knowledge Forum is part of a long term study that Wing has been running since OUASSA began in 2011. To date Wing has published a number of research papers demonstrating the efficacy of developing the knowledge building approach to knowledge creation in High School students. So by participating you are not only developing your knowledge building skills but also contributing to a growing body of evidence on efficacy of this approach to learning.
Science is an evidence based process. Theories are based on evidence. New information/research provides evidence that lends weight to or casts doubt on a theory, from which may come a new theory.
As Wing explained at the January camp KF is a knowledge building tool. You are all part of a Knowledge Building community and as such you build knowledge by seeking out and presenting evidence. Evidence discovered through research.
The critical evaluation of information is an essential skill when conducting quality research. Assessing and evaluating information involves common sense, knowledge, scepticism, and verification.
At the end of this post is a link that will help you develop your research skills.
For now here are some tips for using the scaffolding tabs in KF

Tips for using the Scaffold Tabs in Knowledge Forum

My Theory:
A theory without evidence is an opinion. So don’t be afraid to cite the evidence that leads you to that theory
My theoryWhy was film originally created? Are we still using film in the way it was intended or has that change? If so for good or bad and why/how do we know this?
While there are some really interesting questions in there, this is more of an
“I need to understand” scaffold. Michaela is seeking information to answer a question (…or two…or three!)

My theory ” I think Film was originally used for entertainment, but over time I think, as people started to realise the large audience that film acquired as it became more popular, it started being used for other things such as education.”

This is an interesting theory that now needs backed up with a “New Information” scaffold that cites some reference/ research that the original use for moving pictures when first invented was for entertainment. By doing so you lift your statement from an opinion to a theory backed by evidence.

The “New information” scaffold should be one of the most used in the scaffolds tool box. Use it to cite references, link to articles, Youtube clips etc. that build on a theory or a “Need to understand” post.

As a particular stream of posts grows and the amount of new information and new theories grows, there comes a time when you might feel the need to pull the various threads together under a “Putting our knowledge together” scaffold. Look on this scaffold as a kind of “So this where I think we have got to…” with this theory, our collective knowledge so far etc.

If you have a better theory that one that is proposed click the “A Better theory” scaffold but don’t just state another theory of your own and leave it at that. Try and state why your theory is better backed up by evidence in form of information/references etc. under, “New Information”

Using Knowledge Forum, like everything else that’s new, takes a little time to master, but the techniques are not difficult and the rewards will come in your school work later this year and when you go on to Tertiary studies. So don’t be afraid to give it a go.

Another advantage of KF is that all your OUASSA colleagues have the opportunity to help by contributing to each growing discussion, the development of which is so much easier to see in the mind-map interconnected post layout than a linear discussion on other social media platforms. Many hands make light work so use each other’s expertise to help you build your knowledge, you don’t have to be in the same group to help out someone else.

So get into KF and try using the scaffolds to build on a theory, to build on and idea, to build knowledge!

Finally, as promised here is a link to a module on on-line research literacy that you might find useful:
Evaluating Information Sources

Putting pen to paper…

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

For this week’s blog, I thought I would look at an area that many OUASSA 2017 teams seem to be struggling with, breaking up the work for the team presentation. I have put myself into the roll of the team leader. I wrote up the presentation outline (which I did alone but really the team leader should be doing this with input from their group) and then I thought about how I would break up the work of the presentation to a hypothetical group of 6 team members. I picked 6 because that 7-9 is the group size for our OUASSA 2017 students.It didn’t actually take me very long to think about the outline and write it out. The most important thing to remember at this stage is that it is a work in progress. As we research and craft the presentation, some of the things I have written on my outline may change, and that is ok. It is a guide to myself and my team for where we are generally heading with our presentation. Having a good outline will ensure that my team is on task and not wasting time on research we won’t be using for our presentation. It also helps everyone in my group have a clear idea of what the big picture will look like, and where their piece fits in.

So on to the mechanics of it. I wrote what I was thinking each step so hopefully my handwriting is legible to all 🙂

The final step was filling in the rest of the form. I thought about what I needed people to understand to convey my message. I need people to understand what is fission, fusion and the difference between them. I have a really broad idea of how I want the introduction and conclusion to look but it’s not finished yet. For a first draft, this is totally fine, we’ll come back and tweak this while developing the presentation.

Finally, how will my group divide the labour so that we do the work that needs to be done but don’t waste time on anything else? This is what I came up with:

  • 1 person will write a brief introduction to the talk as a story with an ordinary kiwi family. This should only be a minute or so long so emphasis on BRIEF.
  • 1 person will research fusion and come up with a brief explanation to report to the team
  • 1 person will research fission and come up with a brief explanation to report to the team
  • Once that is done, 1 person will do a 1 minute compare and contrast summary
  • 1 person will use the research to do our visualisations of each concept
  • 1 person will write the conclusion

We will manage everyone’s ideas and contributions in a google doc that we can all contribute to. I know that some of my team are really busy with winter sports in June so they will do the research so that their part is finished early on. Those of us not as busy closer to camp will do the parts that depend on the research.

At camp we will rehearse our visualisations together and tweak our presentation before we show our presentation to the panel for feedback. This shouldn’t take long if everyone has done their part.

I have attached my full outline form: ScienceShowOutline.

Hopefully this will give you guys a bit more guidance on how to distribute the labour and what we expect you to be doing. Remember, we are only an email or phone call away if you need any help.



Tell me what I want to hear…

Friday, May 12th, 2017 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

OUASSA 2017 students have been working towards a presentation to the public at the Otago Museum which will take place on July 14th. The research for their presentations are in full swing and things should be starting to come together for their presentations. Some recent experiences have reminded me of the importance not only of researching your topic, but of evaluating the information that you find.

Evaluating the information you find is especially important when researching topics that are emotional or controversial, where people are inclined to have opinions based on anecdotal evidence from the world around them. Many of the topics that are being researched for presentations in July fall into this category. People feel very strongly about topics like Climate Change, Genetic Modification and Medicine in the Third World. It is important in a presentation to the public that you are presenting the science behind the issue and relying on provable facts rather than popular (or unpopular) opinion.

The internet is a great place for research because you can very quickly find a lot of information. The downside though is that unlike a book or a research publication, anyone can put information on the internet without any verification that it is actually true, and present it as fact.

For that reason, it is very important when you are researching to make sure that you evaluate the sources that you are using. Although after researching, you may have formed a personal opinion on the issue, it is important that when researching, you are looking at unbiased information based on fact (or at least that you are conscious of the bias and are looking at the information with that in mind).

The library have produced a nice little reference for evaluating internet sources using the acronym BAD URL. You can find a copy here. How_to_Evaluate_Websites

If you want to really dig deeply into how to evaluate sources, this is an e-learning module produced by the University library designed to help you learn about different types of information sources and how to evaluate them.

In July, the students will be having a presentation on “What your brain does when you’re not looking.” Unconsciously, we all are influenced by our bias and frame the world through our own experiences. It is important to make sure we are aware of this and do as much as possible to limit bias in our work and promote impartiality.

“Welcome Everybody……” Some musings on “Introductions”

Friday, April 21st, 2017 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

In this week’s Science Communication post I thought I would focus on Introductions.
Your introduction establishes not only the topic your show is about but also who you are and the theme or key message you plan to deliver about that topic.
It’s your opportunity to let the audience know the nature of the journey you are going to take them on and engage them right from the start.
There are variety of ways to engage your audience in your introduction
I’m going to focus on just three today
The first is from a Royal Society lecture on antimatter by Tara Shears. Note the strong eye contact with the audience, the structured outline of what is to follow and the emphasis on the fact she will be explaining the relevance of what she will cover.

The second is by climate scientist James Hansen. Here he uses a strong question as an attention grabbing tool and goes on to introduce the science via anecdotes from his own personal journey.
This speaker relies heavily on reading his script. Do you find this style more or less engaging than that of Tara Spears? Imagine how much more engaging he would be if he were to abandon reading every single word of his script as written, step out and face the audience with strong eye contact as he relates his own personal story. He knows his own story. Does he really need a script for that? Would it not be that much stronger adopting a more conversational tone along the lines of what you would use when relating a story from your past to a friend or colleague?

The 3rd is Dr. Jenny Germano a dear colleague from my days as Volunteer co-ordinator at Department of Conservation.  Jenny went on to study urinary frog hormones here at University of Otago. On the day she submitted her PhD thesis she entered the ` 3min Thesis’ speech competition with a talk entitled “Taking the Piss out of Endangered Frogs” …..and won the competition!
A number of things to note with Jen’s introduction. Her passion for her subject hits you from the word go, her use of hand gestures builds on that engaging passion and is even used to good effect in clarifying a couple of semi-technical terms- cardiac puncture and orbital sinus – simply by pointing to her heart and eye in mid-stream without having to pause. Note, no notes or script. She knows the stuff so she can talk from the heart and focus on the audience and not on trying to remember what comes next.
(Note that the graphic in the body of her talk is targeted at an audience of entirely academics as opposed to  the general public audience you will be presenting to in July. So bear that in mind when composing your own graphic support material. The less technical the better for our audience in July)

Have a look at some other science communicators in action and if you find one with an  introductory style you find engaging send me the link and I’ll post it for others to view.

Dancing about Science…

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Fun, interactive, and engaging Science?

I was looking at some research into Science shows and came across some key findings on how to engage children from Science Museum (UK) focus group research undertaken in 2010:
• Audience participation is regarded as crucial – if children aren’t involved, they may lose interest.
• Parents like young, casually-dressed presenters, rather than the stereotypical white-coated ‘nerd’; they feel an informal approach is important in removing barriers to children’s appreciation of shows.
• The three words they felt would most attract their attention in descriptions of the show were Fun, Exciting and Interactive

For this week’s blog post, I tried to look for some novel ideas on how to present Science to an audience. Keeping in mind those ideas from the focus group on keeping it fun, exciting, and interactive.

One really amazing thing I found was Biology for the blind and partially sighted. Using 3D printing to bring the microscopic world to people who otherwise wouldn’t have any experience of it. Definitely worth watching, especially the audience reactions to being able to interact with the microscopic world for the first time in their lives!

For another novel presentation method, check out this TED talk about dancing scientific concepts which includes, among other cool things, a great example of the difference between ordinary light and lasers using dancers. The 2016 winners of the contest that he mentions “Dance your PhD” are also worth a look. I particularly liked the people’s choice award winner.

I have already shared with you what I think of as some good examples of story telling in Science Communication in a recent blog post on storytelling.

I also emailed the students some examples of one person’s use of music as Science Communication.

Videos are a very popular way to get the message across and the students had a tiny taste of this in the January camp Science Communication sessions. Videos don’t have to be hugely costly high technical productions to be effective, some of the best videos are really simple, for example, Minute Physics.

So hopefully that has given you a bit of inspiration to think outside the box for your presentations. Whether you present your information in the form of a song, a story, a video, a show, a play or something else, using a novel presentation method is one way to keep it fun, exciting and interactive.

Once Upon a Time…

Monday, March 27th, 2017 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”
100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.”
The Stranger by Albert Camus

“The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.”
The Gunslinger by Stephen King

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect.”
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

These are the first lines from some random, well known stories. You can find lists of best first lines or exciting first lines all over the internet. No matter what story they come from though, they all have one thing in common, the first line needs to set the scene but also leave you wanting more.

There’s no doubt that a good story has the power to hook us, reel us in, and capture our imagination until the tale is through. Everyone, young and old loves a great story. A good story can be a powerful vehicle to impart information.

Building on the idea from two weeks ago that to engage an audience, you need to:

  1. Validate the audience’s thinking
  2. Take them on a journey
  3. Be framed within their values
  4. Fall within social norms
  5. Involve pictures and graphs (and I would add audience participation!)

Think about the stories that you have enjoyed, did they do these things? Did they validate your thinking? Take you on a journey? Were they framed within your values?

The point is – storytelling is a powerful tool. It may be the most powerful tool that you have to engage with your audience. When you are developing your presentation, think about the story behind it. Take the audience on a journey with you through the story you tell.

Here are a couple of examples for you to look at:

Example 1: Fergus McAuliffe speaking at the TEDX in Dublin tells a story about frogs. I particularly like this example because he has no slides, and only a few simple props, but at the end the audience is absolutely silent and spellbound.

Example 2: Tyler DeWitt speaking to high school science teachers. This one I chose because in contrast to the previous example, he uses visual aids behind him to tell the story. The story was part of a talk to teachers about the differences he found when presenting the material in a traditional way and using the story format (in the video clip) again, an engaging story that makes the science relatable to the audience.

Example 3: This is a LONG story but it is a good one. Jay O’Callaghan was commissioned to make a story as part of NASA’s 50th Anniversary. He tells a love story between two young NASA interns in modern times but interwoven is a lot of science and history of NASA. He tells it with no props, no visual aids, just a story. Engaging the audience with nothing more (or less) than a story.

Forged in the Stars – Jay O’Callaghan


July Science Talks: Knowing your Material

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Developing a Research Plan

No-one expects you to be an expert on your topic and there is only so much you can cover in a 10 minute presentation. However, you should research your topic thoroughly.  A good research plan will help ensure accuracy, establish credibility and achieve your objective of enhancing understanding.  When you have decided on the key areas of your topic you want to focus on divide up the research duties amongst your team.

Your key research areas will come out of   Step 2 of your Topic to Theme Recipe.
Step 1.  Select a general topic
“Generally my presentation is about………………
Step 2.  State your topic in more specific terms
“Specifically, however, I want to tell my audience about………………”
Step 3.  Now, express your theme.
“After my presentation, I want my audience to understand that……………”
Remember to complete each line as one complete sentence. This will help focus your research on the key aspects of your topic that are relevant.

                                          (From Sam H. Ham, 1992)

Beware of Bias!
Good research materials should be objective, presenting a balanced view of the topic. If you deliver biased information, your credibility with the audience will suffer.
As you embark on your research take a minute to reflect on the following sources and their potential for bias.
You may find this link designed for first year Otago University students useful also
Evaluating Information Sources:

Credit Where Credit is Due
If you use someone else’s ideas, words or pictures in your presentation, you should acknowledge the original source if known. You can do this by:

  • Attributing the source as you speak (As Marie Curie once said “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”)
  • Indicating the source after a direct quote , graphic, image on Powerpoint slide
  • Showing a list of source material after  the final slide of your show as part of your conclusion/thank-you

Failure to give credit where credit is due may damage your own credibility and violate copyright law.

What’s Hot and What’s Not.
As you do your research, remember:
People love to hear:

  • Good stories
  • Inspirational thoughts and quotes
  • Unusual facts (Catfish have over 100,000 taste buds over the surface of their body)
  • Facts involving huge numbers in terms they can understand..
    (Each nerve cell  or neuron is about 10 microns wide. If you were able to line up all 100 billion neurons in your brain in a straight line that line would be about 1000 km long. That’s like from Dunedin to Auckland!)

             (Adapted from `Neuroscience for kids’ by Eric H. Chudler)
  • Things that evoke emotional or physiological responses (scary things, beautiful things, amazing things, happy things) – the `intangibles’ around the `thing’ you are talking about.
  • Things that are important to them

They don’t really care much about….

  • Ordinary scientific data (Around 1.5 billion litres of domestic wastewater is discharged into the environment on a daily basis in New Zealand).
  • Being `told what they must do’.
  • How much you think you  know about your topic.

Good luck with your research and remember we are here to help so don’t hesitate to get in touch if need clarification and/or help with anything.


Keep it simple…

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Venue for the ASC 2017 conference – the Science Exchange in Adelaide, Australia

Last night I returned home to Dunedin from Adelaide. I was attending the 9th annual Australian Science Communicators conference where I had a presentation to give and also a poster in the gallery. The conference was amazing and I learned a lot which will be shared over the coming weeks.

On the weekend after the conference I stayed in Adelaide and visited a number of the city’s attractions. It may have been the conference leaving Science Communication in the forefront of my mind but I found myself analysing each one in terms of good communication and engagement. There is still a LOT of static displays and writing to explain displayed artefacts in museums. In one of the conference presentations, a panel tried to address this – but by far the most effective presentations were the ones that were interactive.

Activity at the Migration Museum in Adelaide

One very simple example of this was the crosswalk activity that I encountered at the Migration Museum. The exhibit was meant to show how immigration policies in the first half of the 1900s favoured a certain type of migrant (white and British). Instead of screeds of writing and examples or even just a small statement, there was a large crosswalk on the wall. You read a description of someone who wanted to come to Australia at the time and then pushed the crosswalk button. The walk man lit up if they could immigrate, the don’t walk sign lit up if they couldn’t and a yellow traffic light was a maybe. A small lit up explanation of why that particular person could or couldn’t migrate was also displayed.

I think this was a brilliant example of how a simple metaphor (the crosswalk) was used to make information very relevant. Everyone crosses the street, imagine not being able to cross the street because of your race or circumstances. It certainly made me think about immigration and the effect of policy on people at that time. The setup was also engaging. I probably would have walked past a panel of the same information if it had just been written up on the wall.

So over the coming weeks I’ll share more of what I learned in Adelaide but my learning for today is the power of the simple metaphor. Finding something your audience relates to and use it to convey your message.

Sensational sensing…

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

I was listening to thblind sighted athletes emotional expressions innatee radio this morning and heard the fact stated that blind people use the same facial expressions as sighted people because facial expressions are innate rather than learned. This means that blind people don’t have to have seen a facial expression for
sadness or joy or anything really to know what it looks like, because it is something we all do automatically. Facial expressions are passed down just like hair colour or hitchhiker’s thumb.I looked up the original study this information was based on – you can read the press release on the American Psychological Association website here (or get a hold of the journal article referenced within if you’re super keen 🙂 )

When I looked up this article about facial expressions, a sidebar also caught my eye. It was about blind people and dreaming. Everyone dreams, even though many times we can’t remember what we dreamed. Most of my dreams are in pictures, so what would dreaming be like for someone who has never seen? Interestingly, if a person has lost their sight post approximately age 7, they still dream in pictures. If they lose their sight earlier though, they dream in the way the experience the world, not in pictures but in smells, sounds, touch and spatial awareness of the situation.

This reminded me of the series on Discovery Channel a few years ago about senses. The Human Body – Pushing the Limits, was about the amazing power of our bodies, including the senses. (You can watch some excerpts here) At one point in the first episode, they explore surgery that restores sight to blind people. The person who lost their sight in a car accident at age 19 does very well and seems happy. The person who lost their sight at age 3 though really struggled. It seemed that by losing his sight so early, he hadn’t developed many of the skills involving judging distances and timings that sighted adults have. He found it easier, even after regaining his sight, to use his cane when out and about to judge surfaces, kerbing etc.

In the July OUASSA camp, we are going to be participating in a New Zealand International Science Festival event called “Dining in the Dark”. At this event, we will dine blindfolded in the dark to experience what it is like to be non-sighted. We will also have guest speakers, a blind member of the community to talk about the challenges of living with blindness, and a researcher from Otago who will talk to us about why she teaches in the dark. (see more here)

The idea of dining in the dark is not new, restaurants like Unsicht Bar in Germany have been running for years in the dark. Guests have noted that eating in the dark means they experience their meals in a completely different way, becoming more aware of texture, smells and temperature. “The slices of lamb felt delicious, they smelt even better and the salt grass seemed to spread out before me as I chewed. Each sip of Italian Sauvignon was preceded by what can only be described as a nasal feast of its own.” (from The Independent, you can read the full review here)

The idea of our other senses compensating for a lack of sight has been around for a long time. To actually experience it though is quite amazing. Losing sight, even temporarily, causes us to rely on the rest of our senses for all of our information about the world around us. This experience allows us to reflect on the world that blind people experience every day and discover how amazing our brains are at interpreting information and adapting to circumstances.



Let there be light – part II!

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 | EMILY HALL | No Comments


The photography competition mentioned in the last post (see poster below) has been extended to Wednesday the 8th of July – perhaps something to work on those first few days of the school holiday??

Additionally there are some cool public lectures coming up as part of Luminescence: The Spectrum of Science – a schedule can be found here: Luminescence Lectures

photo comp poster - X


“A frightening and potentially dangerous technology”

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

That was how Otago University Prof Peter Dearden  from Genetics OtagoChinese genome scientist(1) described  a recent paper by a groups of chinese scientists describing the first genetically modified human embryos and opening a route to germ-line modification of our own species.

Check it out  and add your own views to the Sciblogs  comments  page.

Soup in a can – a lesson in exothermic reactions.

Monday, April 13th, 2015 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

A while ago, a friend gave me this can that she had been given as a novelty prize somewhere somehow.


Anyway, because it was “science-y” she thought I might enjoy it.

I must admit it’s been sitting on the shelf for a wee while. Mostly because every time I look at it and think I should try it out, something else comes along to distract me. Also due to being vegetarian for most of my life, the contents of the can have never really screamed my name. Recently though, I have heard advertisements on the radio for a similar or possibly the same product. I decided to pull out the can and give it a try. I don’t eat meat so I decided to use my carnivorous children as taste testers.




The can itself feels squishier than a regular can, like it is covered in foam under the label. I think the indicators on ours were not working because, as you can see, although the instructions said they would turn from black to green, both indicators were white initially.

Before we started, I went to the hotcan website to find out what was in there to produce the heat (water and calcium oxide) mostly because I wanted to cut the can apart after the experiment and didn’t want any chemical burn surprises

Pushing in the bottom of the can made a popping noise immediately.






Shake it like a polaroid picture. We shook the can the required amount of time and then set it on the bench as specified in the instructions. Almost immediately, the can began to dance on the kitchen bench and steam was billowing out the bottom. (I told the kids to get back because I actually thought it was going to blow, thankfully this stopped fairly quickly)

After waiting the required time and using the ultra scientific method of feeling the can with our hands (broken indicator, remember?) we decided it was done and had a look/taste.

Reviews of the soup were favourable. The temperature was hotter than expected (said the tasters) there were no chunks, just a smooth soup. Taste was what you would expect from tinned soup. The boys did mention that there was less soup in the can than they had expected. The reason for this became clear when we opened up the can.

IMG_2364Inside the can you can see there is a cylinder coming up through the centre of the can – presumably this is so the soup heats from the middle to the outer layer. The foamy consistency of the can is a layer of insulating foam between the label and the can which would help with the soup heating, staying hot, and not burning your mitts off when you hold the can.

When we took the bottom off we saw this:


Slightly hard to see from the image but it is like a bladder of what I assumed was water originally surrounded by a chunky white powder.




I asked the children (12 and 11) as I was writing today (2 days later) what if anything they had learned/remembered from this whole experience.

  • Water and calcium oxide produce heat which is transferred to heat the soup. You have to shake it to make it work better
  • When you burst the water packet, the water seeps into the calcium oxide, they must have measured the water and the calcium oxide so it produces only a certain amount of heat

An interesting and easy little experiment!

I found this Limestone Lesson Plan on the Royal Society of Chemistry website and thought it could be paired with the hot can for a great Chemistry lesson. Look at the Chemistry of Limestone lesson (which includes heating the limestone to make calcium oxide and then testing it with water to see the exothermic reaction) and then apply the knowledge to how the hot can product works.




It’s Eureka Time again !

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Eureka Science Communication Awards 2015

Eureka header_2013Hot off the Press  from Eureka HQ:

2015 EUREKA! Workshops and timetable

After a bit of a hiatus we can now advise the dates and venues for our free regional workshops which will help students prepare for the 2015 Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Awards competitions.
This year the Awards have been increased so that the Premier Award winner will take home a prize of $10,000.  Other prizes have also been adjusted.
We will also offer scholarships on the basis of the relevance of presentations to the 11 Science Challenges identified by the Government.

Entries for the Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Awards must be in by 5 p.m. on Friday 19 June – students should go to the EUREKA! website to register their entries.

It is advisable for students to visit the site and bone up on the entry criteria before submitting their entry to avoid the risk of disappointment if they fail to complete the entry requirements.
In addition they can attend one of the six regional workshops where they get all the information they need, including advice on presentation, research and analysis techniques, which will help them put forward the best entry they can.
Details of the dates and venues of the 6 regional workshops are available from the EUREKA! website
Please note that the Wellington and Hamilton workshops will be held on 18 April so its important that students are advised as soon as possible.
Ministry of Education distributed collateral will be in schools in short order.

If teachers wish to attend the workshops they are very welcome and will be provided with the course materials so they can help their students through the entry process.
A special teachers workshop has been organised by the Canterbury organising committee for 23 April – details on the Eureka website.

The regional competitions will be held in late July (dates and venues still to be finalised).
The National Finals Symposium will be held on 3 September in Wellington and will be followed by the Awards Dinner at Government House hosted by the Governor General, His Excellency the Right Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae.

Plans are afoot to extend the Eureka! programme into intermediate and primary schools so we can build a pathway for children from Year 4 (8 year olds) to become champions for the value of science, technology engineering and mathematics education for the future of New Zealand’s economy, society and environment.

Any questions or comments?  Don’t hesitate to contact

Francis Wevers
National Convenor
Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Awards Programme

For more details go to:

For details of the Otago Regional Workshop contact:


Chemistry detour…

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 | EMILY HALL | No Comments



My next post was going to be on the chemistry behind the hot-can and I am part way through what I think is a neat little experiment/lesson involving this cool (or hot rather) invention. Today though, I was derailed by another Chemistry resource!

I’ve been a fan of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) open courseware for a while and I used snippets of it with classes and the OUASSA tutorials last year. I especially recommend their Highlights for High School where you can pick a topic and subtopic and be directed to a specific resource that may help you. Meaning for example, you don’t have to watch the whole lecture series on Classical Mechanics to help you in your struggles with Projectile Motion, the folks at MIT have pulled the relevant bits out of their screeds of material and collated it all for you. I must admit though to being so focussed on the Physics resources available, I was missing this little gem.

Chemistry Boot Camp is a multi episode show that follows 14 students as they go through a three week intensive lab course at MIT. The show is compelling for two reasons, first, it offers a glimpse into what life is like as a student at MIT and second, there is some really cool Chemistry going on. What I liked most about the show was that instead of just glossing over what the students were doing, there was an effort made to explain the Chemistry behind what they were doing and why.

The episodes are short – only 5 minutes ish in length and not counting the bonus episodes there are 11 in total, I managed to binge watch the entire series in a lunch break. A nice light Science meal to set up your afternoon.



The future of airline travel??

Monday, March 16th, 2015 | EMILY HALL | No Comments


Air travel and the continuous increase of numbers of passengers and planes in the sky has long been cited as one of the contributing factors to global warming. Airplanes fly high in the sky meaning that any greenhouse gases they are producing are immediately sent into the upper layers of the atmosphere, potentially increasing their harmful effects.

Emissions from aircrafts are not only harmful for our planet but also have some in your face side effects that impact us more directly. A report published in the science journal Nature Climate Change forecasts that increasing CO2 levels will result in a significant increase in in-flight turbulence experienced by trans-Atlantic airline flights the middle of the 21st century. A 50% increase in fact. Now that is a very real and scary prospect indeed.

Enter Solar Impulse II – at this very moment, the world’s first ever Earth circumnavigation by a solar plane is taking place. The Solar Impulse II, a fully solar powered aircraft took off from Abu Dhabi on March 9th. Solar Impulse II has the wingspan of a 747 to support the 17,000 solar cells that it uses for energy. Despite this, it weighs only the size of an average car. The plane can fly night or day as, during the day, the solar panels charge rechargeable lithium batteries. Not a single drop of fossil fuel is required.

It is making several stops on its journey around the world and is currently in Ahmedabad, India. You can keep up with the progress of Solar Impulse II here:

This website allows anyone around the world to read updates from the crew, watch live take off and landings and check out where the plane is in real time. In addition, the crew post updates and information about other solar projects happening in the countries that they visit. For example, when I looked today, there was a post about solar wells in India. Another amazing idea!

Of course, at the moment, the Solar Impulse II is one of a kind, and a fair way from being a production ready commercial airliner. The concept though, that we could potentially use solar power to travel in the future, is an exciting one.

The quest for the perfect pop leads to kitchen science…

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 | EMILY HALL | No Comments


Popcorn in the pan – first pop!

Popcorn is a great snack – I’m not talking about movie popcorn, yummy as it is, I’m talking about the high fibre, low calorie nutrient fest that is naked popcorn. The easiness of popcorn just amps up the appeal, chuck some kernels in a lightly greased pan on the stove and a delicious hot snack appears in a matter of minutes.

But what is popcorn really? Despite my enthusiasm for popcorn eating, I never thought much about what makes popcorn, well, pop! Enter this news article:

A quick google search revealed similar interpretations of the same research on many news sites, including this one: which has the video footage from the research showing (mesmerising) slow motion kernels popping one at a time.

I couldn’t let this one go – I looked up the names of the authors of the papers. Super helpfully, one of them has a website and has not only included links to the originally published papers that all these news articles were based on, but added lots more video and content around the popping of popcorn.

Another cool thing I learned from all this popcorn reading and watching was that you can pop other grains, not just popcorn. Time for some kitchen science!

I tried popping wild rice, white quinoa, red quinoa and black quinoa – without a doubt, the wild rice and the red quinoa made the best pop (although not as spectacular as popcorn)


Wild Rice before and after


White Quinoa before and after


Red Quinoa before and after








I also couldn’t believe the sound of the popping grains – just like popcorn!  Here is a video of wild rice popping and also at the end I mixed all the quinoa I had leftover and popped it all together. Wild Rice PoppingQuinoa Pop.  Apologies for the poor video quality – it was filmed on my phone 🙂  Finally – the big question – how did they taste???  Well, interestingly quite similar to popcorn really although the wild rice husk made it slightly more unpleasant to eat than the quinoa. I don’t think popped quinoa is going to take the world by storm yet though, it would take an awful lot of quinoa to make a satisfying snack quantity!

Stepping Up and Out for Climate Change

Monday, November 3rd, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Anthropogenic Climate Change has once again hit the headlines ” It’s all so overwhelming! What can I do?  I got my finals coming up and  all my energies are focused on  them”  (And so they should be!) But what when they are over?  When you do come up for air  and/or need some inspiration as to what one individual can do check out this 18 year old from the US who impressed me not only with her commitment to the cause  but with  how articulate she is able to argue her case and the case of people her own age.kelsey Juliana-2crop “As world leaders converge for the UN’s global summit on climate and thousands gather in New York for the People’s Climate March, an 18-year-old Oregonian student, Kelsey Juliana, is walking across America to draw attention to global warming and taking her case to the US supreme court. Now just out of high school, she’s co-plaintiff in a major lawsuit being spearheaded by Our Children’s Trust that could force the state of Oregon to take a more aggressive stance against the carbon emissions warming the earth and destroying the environment. She’s walking across America as part of the Great March for Climate Action, due to arrive in Washington, DC, on November 1.” Video interview link:

The blog post… of SCIENCE!!!

Friday, August 1st, 2014 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Bill-Nye-640x350I am outting myself here as a huge nerd from childhood. When I was growing up I used to LOVE watching Bill Nye the Science Guy on TV. I actually think at one stage I even wrote him a fan letter because I wanted to do exactly what he did when I grew up. He made Science look so fun and cool.

Flash forward to the other day when I was watching Epic Rap Battles: Sir Isaac Newton vs Bill Nye and my Year 13 girls actually asked me who is Bill Nye the Science Guy (insert startled look and gasp here). After I recovered from the shock I set about looking for some old episodes and found this:

Bill Nye Archive for Education on YouTube. Full episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy! These are suitable definitely for junior school but my seniors enjoy them as a treat for times like when we are about to start a new topic and I want them to just think about the bigger picture rather than the maths and details.

Update on Eureka! Awards & New Scholarships

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Eureka header_2013

Date change for Eureka! entries.

After the success of the regional workshops, and taking into account the fact that students entering the Eureka! Sir Paul Callaghan Awards do not have to submit a video this year, it has been decided that the deadline for the entries into the competition will be extended. Students will now be allowed to submit entries until 5pm on Sunday the 15th of June.

Students must still submit their entry on the Eureka! website,  and email the synopsis of their idea and how they plan to present it. They have already received a number of entries and the regional competitions are shaping up to be great events.

Another addition to the Eureka! Sir Paul Callaghan Awards in 2014 is the introduction of scholarships. These scholarships will be awarded to any of the students in the top 28 who are eligible for selection for the national finals. More details on these scholarships will be released soon.

Eureka mailing address is:
Rotary Club of Wellington
PO Box 10243
Wellington, Wellington 6043
New Zealand

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More on `Bad Science’

Monday, April 28th, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Ben Goldacre is a doctor, academic, campaigner and writer whose work focuses on uses and misuses of science and statistics by journalists, politicians, drug companies and alternative therapists.Ben Goldacre

His first book Bad Science reached #1 in the UK non-fiction charts and has sold over half a million copies worldwide. His second book Bad Pharma discusses problems in medicine, focusing on missing trials, badly designed research, and biased dissemination of evidence. He wrote the Bad Science column for a decade in the UK Guardian newspaper, and has written for the Times, the Telegraph, the Mail, the New York Times, the BMJ, and more, alongside presenting documentaries for the BBC.


Check out his  TED talk from 2011- Battling Bad Science.

His topic aside note how by simply  talking about what he knows, driven by the passion and enthusiasm he has for his topic,  he has  no need for speech notes and rote learning of his speech

Spotting Bad Science

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

I came across  this the other day  in a post  from a friend who works in the health sector  in Scotland and thought it might be useful in honing your analytical and critical thinking skills

List of 10 things to look out for when deciding  whether reported science in valid or not

The vast majority of people will get their science news from online news site articles, and rarely delve into the research that the article is based on. It is  therefore important that people are capable of spotting bad scientific methods, or realising when articles are being economical with the conclusions drawn from research, and that’s what this graphic aims to do. Note that this is not a comprehensive overview, nor is it implied that the presence of one of the points noted automatically means that the research should be disregarded. This is merely intended to provide a rough guide to things to be alert to when either reading science articles or evaluating research.

Spotting-Bad-Science  Poster PDF

PS Teachers:  Check out the their infographics page for some interesting and informative posters you can download:


Spotted a fin in the water? Maybe it’s the Shark Competition coming your way!!

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 | EMILY HALL | Comments Off on Spotted a fin in the water? Maybe it’s the Shark Competition coming your way!!

sharkSharklab ’14: Why Sharks Matter

What’s happening?

Scientists study many things, from the smallest cell to the farthest galaxies. And somewhere in between is the study of one of our greatest predators – the shark. Many scientists, like marine explorer and Science Festival guest Ryan Johnson, study great white sharks in an effort to understand them better. He also spends a lot of time talking to people and making documentaries about sharks and to teach us how important they are.

We want the next generation of science story tellers: the challenge is to show people why it’s important to learn about sharks, and to tell that story in an exciting and creative new way.

You are in charge, so how you tell the story is up to you.

What’s up for grabs

We’ll get you geared up for more outdoor fun: The winners of each category will take home a brand new GoPro outdoor camera kit valued at $800!

How much time do I have?

The competition runs from April 7th until midnight on June 22nd, 2014.

Now get started!

Eureka – Sir Paul Callaghan Science Communication Awards 2014

Friday, March 14th, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Calling all budding Science Communicators!

Eureka header_2013

The purpose of the EUREKA Awards & Symposium  is to identify and foster young leaders who, through their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, their entrepreneurial vision, and their persuasive communication skills, will bring about the New Zealand foreseen by Sir Paul Callaghan: “the most beautiful,stimulating and exciting place in the world in which to live.”

A student will give a 12 minute presentation in which s/he will demonstrate:

  • Substantive knowledge about a specific science, technology, engineering, mathematics  innovation idea;
  • the application of it for the social, and/or economic, and/or environmental benefit of New Zealand;
  • and persuasive communication skills in “selling” the idea.

Each student will have submitted a written synopsis of their presentation prior to the regional competition.

The winner of the Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Premier Award will win:

  • The Premier Award Trophy
  • A $5000 grant towards future studies

Three Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Highly Commended Awards valued at $2500 each will be presented to the three runners up.

Each of the remaining 8 finalists will receive a $1000 Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Merit Award.

Special Prizes

Special Prizes will also be awarded for students who deliver best category presentations.

In 2014 it is anticipated there may be as many as 10 additional awards in this prize list which will be available to all students whose presentations are submitted by Regional Organising Committees for participation in the National Finals.

For more details go to:


Science vs Anti-science: Is it that simple?

Friday, October 4th, 2013 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

When discussing  science communication the crusade is often seen as scientists or science believers  striving to convince/convert  anti-scientists  of/to the `truth’ of  their science. 


An all too prevalent approach is embodied in  a maxim along the lines of  if you meet resistance to science, throw facts at those who resist. If that doesn’t work, throw more facts at them, and throw them harder.


From a  look around the world at current controversial scientific issues it is evident that this approach is not working. 

In this  article  To change anti-science activists’ minds, go beyond science, Rod Lamberts from Australian Center for Public Awareness of Science at ANU gives four suggestions for  scientists to ponder on. 

Food for thought ?