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Speaking with...


Ideas and analysis from the sharpest minds in the academic and research world.


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Ideas and analysis from the sharpest minds in the academic and research world.




Speaking with: Chris Ho and Edgar Liu about diversity and high density in our cities

We can make conscious decisions about how we live together in closer proximity that allow for both cultural diversity and a shared sense of community. Ján Jakub Naništa/Unsplash This is a podcast discussing topics raised in our series, Australian Cities in the Asian Century. These articles draw on research, just published in a special issue of Geographical Research, into how Australian cities are being influenced by the rise of China and associated flows of people, ideas and capital between...


Speaking with: 'Everybody Lies' author Seth Stephens-Davidowitz on why we tell the (sometimes disturbing) truth online

According to Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, everybody lies to preserve social relations. www.shutterstock.com, CC BYHow much do you really know about your friends? Your co-workers? Your community and your country? The fact is that much of what we think we know about the people around us is likely to be skewed, because people tend to lie. We lie in conversation, on social media, and in surveys. But there exists an online trove of data that allows us to paint a much more accurate picture of who we...


Speaking with: Author Anita Heiss on Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia

Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia is a compilation of 52 essays from First Nations authors, some of whom have never been published before.Rounak Amini/AAPAnita Heiss is one of the most prolific writers documenting Aboriginal experiences in Australia today through non-fiction, historical fiction, poetry and children’s literature. Her memoir, Am I Black Enough for You?, was a finalist in the 2012 Human Rights Awards. Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia.Black Inc. Books For her latest book,...


Speaking with: law professor Cass Sunstein, on why behavioural science is always nudging us

Governments can use nudges to influence our choicesShutterstockWhat can governments do to stop increasing obesity rates, help people save or get them to file their tax returns on time? The default answer used to be some kind of tax or penalty. Just make people pay more and they’ll do the right thing, right? But what if you could encourage certain behaviour without forcing the issue? That’s where nudges come in. These are small changes in design or presentation, like putting healthy food...


Speaking with: journalist David Neiwert on the rise of the alt-right in Trump's America

A white supremacist holding a US flag over his face during a Unite the Right rally in Washington in August.Michael Reynolds/EPAThe rise of the radical right-wing movement in the US has become closely linked to Donald Trump’s presidency and the mainstreaming of ideas about race that were not so long ago found only on the furthest fringes of society. David Neiwert’s new book, Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump, charts the key political and social moments that have...


Speaking with: Cameron McAuliffe on NIMBYs, urban planning and making community consultation work

We're used to hearing cries of "NIMBYism" and "money-hungry developers" on both sides of planning debates, but there's actually more subtlety to interactions around urban planning that are worth exploring and understanding.Joel Carrett/AAPOne of the most common complaints about community involvement in the urban planning process is “NIMBYism” – the “not in my backyard” cry from local residents, which developers and potential residents of medium-to-high-density apartments see as an impediment...


Speaking with: satirist Armando Iannucci on The Death of Stalin

The Death of Stalin is about the chaotic political drama that followed the Russian leader's demise in 1953.Madman FilmsWe’re living in something of a golden age for political satire. Politics and satire can even feel, at times, almost indistinguishable. But politics and comedy have never been that far apart. Charlie Chaplin’s 1941 film The Great Dictator ridiculed Adolf Hitler. More recently The Thick of It mocked the UK political class and Veep satirised US politics with very funny and...


Speaking with: Andrew Leigh on why we need more randomised trials in policy and law

AndrewLeigh.com, Author providedRandomised controlled trials are the gold standard in medical research. Researchers divide participants into two groups using the equivalent of flipping a coin, with one group getting a new treatment and a control group getting either the standard treatment or a placebo. It’s the best way to prove that a new treatment works. But the benefits of randomised trials aren’t limited to medical applications. Big businesses – like Amazon, Google, Facebook and even...


Speaking with: David Field about unusual crimes that have changed the law

Is sleepwalking a legitimate defence for murder? Are victims of family violence protected against the premeditated killing of their abuser? Professor David Field has worked as a public prosecutor, a criminal defence lawyer and as the solicitor for prosecutions in Queensland, a post he occupied for nine years. He spoke to William Isdale about some extraordinary crimes that have resulted in changes to the criminal law, and the precedents these cases have then established. Subscribe to The...


Speaking with: social researcher and author Hugh Mackay on 2017, 'a really disturbing year'

Social researcher Hugh Mackay and The Conversation's FactCheck Editor Lucinda Beaman.“I’ve found 2017 a really disturbing year.” That’s the summary from writer, thinker and social researcher Hugh Mackay. Mackay spoke in December with The Conversation’s FactCheck Editor Lucinda Beaman at the Sydney launch of The Conversation 2017 Year Book: 50 standout articles from Australia’s top thinkers. Among the essays featured in the book is Mackay’s enormously popular and thought-provoking article...


Speaking with: Emrys Westacott on the virtue of frugal living

Simple living in a complex time – is a return to frugality the key to happiness?Xurxo Martínez/flickr, CC BY-NC-SAThey say the best things in life are free – or at least, Emrys Westacott seems to think so. For those who have the choice, the rejection of extravagance is deemed highly virtuous. Many of the great thinkers of history have advocated the moral value of frugal living, but in our culture of excess the temptation to indulge can be difficult to overcome. William Isdale spoke with...


Speaking with: Bates Gill on Australia's changing relationship with China

Flickr: Pedro Szekely, CC BY-SADuring Xi Jinping’s opening address at the Communist Party’s 19th National Party Congress last week, the Chinese president outlined his vision of a “new era” for China – one that will see “China moving closer to centre stage”. China’s economic and foreign policies have significant implications for Australia. More than 30% of our exports go to China, more than 1 million Chinese tourists visit Australia every year, and about 30% of international students in...


Speaking with: Emma Power and Jennifer Kent about why Australian cities and homes aren't built for pets

A canine commuter catches up on some sleep on the Paris Metro.Kevin O'Mara/Flickr, CC BY-NC-NDWe’re a nation of pet lovers: 60% of Australian households have some kind of pet. And with dogs in 39% of those homes, it’s only natural that we’re starting to see dogs sitting happily alongside human diners at places like cafes and pubs. But while we have one of the highest levels of pet ownership in the world, our rights and infrastructure planning don’t seem to be built around this reality. No...


Speaking with: John Gerrard on preventing infectious diseases

John Gerrard says a developed city like Sydney could not cope with an epidemic of the scale of the recent Ebola outbreak.UNMEER/Martine Perret/Flickr, CC BY-NDThe Spanish Flu of 1918 is estimated to have infected around 500 million, and killed between 20 and 40 million, people around the world - all within the space of a year. It is perhaps the deadliest pandemic in human history. We have seen nothing as devastating since, but outbreaks such as influenza, HIV/AIDS, Zika and Ebola highlight...


Speaking with: Nicole Gurran on Airbnb and its impact on cities

New York residents protest against AirBnB at a City Hall hearing into the impact of short-term rentals in 2015.Shannon Stapleton/ReutersAirbnb has turned sharing our homes and living spaces with strangers from a fringe idea into a multi-million dollar business. It’s changed the way many of us travel. But its growth has turned many suburbs and apartment buildings that are zoned for residential use into hotels, with temporary residents who have no long-term investment in the neighbourhoods...


Speaking with: Nancy Pachana on planning for an active and engaged ageing population

The Danish Choir “Gangstativerne”, singing at a conference launching the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity Between Generations in 2012.DG EMPL/ flickr, CC BY-NCDue to advances in medicine, hygiene and nutrition we are now living longer than ever before. In our region, the percentage of people over the age of 60 doubled in just 20 years - something that took 120 years in Europe and the United States. And while there are definitely losses as we age – fine motor skills and a...


Speaking with: Cameron Murray on grey corruption and the 'Game of Mates'

Land rezoning, sales, and planning approvals are just a few of the ways 'grey gifts' can decide who benefits from government decisions.Dean Lewins/AAPThe role of declared gifts and donations has driven a lot of discussion around government corruption in recent years. But what about the clique of developers, banks and superannuation companies who reap the benefits of policies and approvals that preserve monopolies? How do we decide who the winners and losers are in society, without even...


Speaking with: Dr Mark Blaskovich on antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the threat of superbugs

Antibiotics Staphylex, used to treat the infection Golden Staph. TONY PHILLIPS/ AAPSince the discovery of antibiotics in the mid-20th century, millions of lives have been saved from bacterial infections. But the over-prescription of these drugs has led to some types of bacteria becoming resistant to treatment. It’s estimated at least two million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the United States each year. These “superbugs” can spread rapidly and stopping them is...


Speaking with: Julian Savulescu on the ethics of genetic modification in humans

Could genetic engineering one day allow parents to have designer babies?Tatiana Vdb/flickr, CC BYWhat if humans are genetically unfit to overcome challenges like climate change and the growing inequality that looks set to define our future? Julian Savulescu, visiting professor at Monash University and Uehiro professor of Practical Ethics at Oxford University, argues that modifying the biological traits of humans should be part of the solution to secure a safe and desirable future. The...


Speaking with: Professor Peter Koopman on CRISPR and the power of genome editing

Editing DNA has the potential to treat disease by repairing or removing defective genes. Kyle Lawson/flickr, CC BY-NC-NDCRISPR, or clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, is a technology that is able to alter DNA. While this sounds like the realms of science fiction, right now scientists are investigating its potential to eliminate genetic diseases in humans by repairing or replacing defective genes. The University of Melbourne’s William Isdale spoke with Professor Peter...