Emerging Issues in Science and Society in Melbourne, 6th July 2017


To meet the great challenges of this century we need the best science, but also the best social and humanities research.

The answers that science provides are often not enough to make the changes we need to see in the world. Only when researchers work together across disciplinary divides can we be sure we are asking the right questions.

Emerging Issues in Science and Society is a unique event, consisting of four sessions covering pressing topics that affect Australian society.

To consider these topics from many angles, this event will combine a scientist with a researcher from the humanities and social sciences.

Each session will cover the basic science behind the issues, implications for policy and society, and the challenges of science communication and public misconceptions.

Emerging Issues in Science and Society is held in partnership between the Australian Academy of Science, the newly formed Deakin University Science and Society Network, a network of the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, and the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S).

The event will be opened by the Academy’s President, Professor Andrew Holmesand the Master of Ceremonies will be ABC science broadcaster Paul Willis.

Morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea will be provided, in addition to tea and coffee.

Peter Hobbins & Ronelle Welton

Are Australia’s snakes the deadliest in the world?

For over a century Australia’s venomous snakes have been counted amongst the world’s deadliest, yet human fatalities remain strikingly rare.

When and how did our snakes develop such a fearsome reputation? Is it all just perception? From the colonial era to the present day, this article explores why these snakes are venomous, how scientific understanding of them has changed, and the impact of medical care on death rates.

Timothy Neale & Jason Sharples

Can we predict bushfires?

In fire-prone countries such as Australia, the prediction of bushfire behaviour and appropriate assessment of the associated risk has increasingly become a crucial part of how we prepare for, and respond to, bushfire events.

We will explain how effective prediction is complicated by bushfire’s dynamic processes, and how little we know about them, as well as examine some of the political and social implications of how we currently predict this tenacious and worsening natural hazard.

Jessica Loyer & Emma Beckett

Does nutrition science (mis)inform our diets?

We are constantly receiving information on nutrition and food from scientists, government, media, marketers, and our friends and family. But still many of us make poor dietary decisions and fall for diet trends like Paleo, gluten free, superfoods.

This piece will explore the disconnect between nutrition science and our food habits, focusing on key issues of interpretation, communication, commodification, and policy.

Tarsh Bates & Amy Loughman

How does the microbiome change what it is to be human?

Tarsh and Amy discuss how the microbial communities living in our bodies influence human evolution. How did our microbes help us to become who we are? How will our children and grandchildren be affected by what we do to our microbes now? What are the effects of manipulating the microbiome on the future of human health and wellbeing? They speculate about the pasts and futures of micro-human entanglements.

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