Newsletter Digest: Climate science, NZ in Nature & the Nutt affair

SMC Climate science briefing

Confused by the avalanche of climate science papers that have emerged this year? Need an update on where the next IPCC report is at? All your questions will be answered at a briefing for journalists onWednesday, November 11 at Environment House in Wellington.

The briefing, held in conjunction with the Ministry for the Environment and the New Zealand Climate Change Centre, is aimed at preparing journalists for covering the COP15 climate change negotiationa in Denmark (Dec 7 – 18).

Journalists should contact the SMC for details of the briefing, which will also take place via phone and the web.

NZ research in Nature cover story

This week, the work of a team of scientists including New Zealand scientist Professor Paul Rainey was featured as the cover story for Nature.

Hedging bets against future uncertainty – developing different characteristics without first facing adaptive pressure to do so – is a characteristic common to many different forms of life, from the simple to the very complicated. Professor Rainey et al showed not only that bet-hedging is also a behaviour exhibited by bacteria, but were able to show how this strategy evolves.

The research also suggests that this strategy, which is able to evolve very quickly, may have been very important for early bacteria, which lacked the ability to sense, and so adapt to, their environments: hedging their bets would have allowed them to survive nonetheless. It would seem that bet-hedging, in addition to being a widely-used strategy, might also be one of the first adaptations to uncertainty developed by life.

Scientists rally behind Nutt

The dismissal of the UK Government’s senior adviser on drug policy, Professor David Nutt has sparked a unified call for independence in scientific advice given to government.

Senior British scientists and scientific advisers today issued a statement calling on the British Government to accept three principles for the treatment of independent scientific advice: sets academic freedom, independence of operation and proper consideration of advice.

The UK’s chief science adviser, John Beddington, has voiced his support for Nutt, who this week wrote a column for New Scientist on his dismissal for claiming in a July lecture that cannabis is safer than alcohol and tobacco.