Members' Discussion

Posts and discussion by NZAS members. The NZAS aims to provide a forum for discussion on issues relevant to the New Zealand science. The views expressed in this forum are not necessarily the views of NZAS.

2012 NZAS conference: Do Emerging Scientists have a Future in New Zealand? Register by Thursday 5 April

The large number of people already registered for the upcoming NZAS conference highlights the importance of this issue to the NZ science community. The registration deadline is looming - please register by Thursday April 5 if you have not already done so.

The programme of the 2012  NZAS conference "Do Emerging Scientists have a Future in New Zealand?" has been finalized. Confirmed speakers include the Hon. Steven Joyce (Minister of Science + Innovation), David Shearer (Labour spokesperson for Science + Innovation), Phil O’Reilly (Chief Executive, Business NZ), as well as emerging scientists  Dr. Melanie Massaro (Post-doc, University of Canterbury), Cosmin Laslau (PhD student, University of Auckland), and Laura Green (PhD student, Victoria University of Wellington).

Click to Register Here

Agile science in a small country

I began to wonder: how much of the research being done in New Zealand, and which is so desperately required by New Zealand, could be done by small (<10 people) nimble companies that are highly sensitive and responsive to the needs of their clients?

2011 Research Honours

New Zealands top researchers were recognized with prestigious awards at the 2011 Research Honours event in Wellington on November 16.

University of Otago biochemist Professor Christine Winterbourn became the first woman to be awarded the countries highest science honour, the Rutherford medal, for her discoveries in free radical biology.

Details about all of the awards and citations can be found here.

Interesting science-policy comments from new Australian Nobel-laureate

A recent piece on new Australian Nobel Prize-winner Professor Brian Schmidt contains some interesting remarks on science and science policy development. He calls the relationship between science and policy as “a little messy" and goes on to say that “I think that science should inform public policy. Public policy needs to take it as an input. It doesn’t mean it’s the only input.”

DOC science cuts and NZ biodiversity loss

It concerns us greatly that the Department of Conservation is about to axe many important established science positions (both scientists and science support staff) in its Auckland, Nelson and Dunedin offices, in a move to help “better direct resources to its conservation work in the field”, as such changes were earlier justified.
- David Galloway and Sir Alan Mark

Where are the female scientists?

The recent AWIS report is more depressing reading about female representation in the sciences in New Zealand. Shaun Hendy has written an interesting commentary on this over on Sciblogs - worth a read if you haven't see it already.


What really are the barriers to women staying/progressing in science?

The Association of Women in Science have  just relesed their "2011 Snapshot of Women in Science". The statistics are pretty sobering, and I wondering what makes them so?  What are the fundamental underliers of these statistics?  Where I work in the Science Faculty there are 7 female professors, in my School alone there are 9 male professors.

New Zealand Science Review from 1952

The New Zealand Science Review has been published since the 1940's, but only the recent volumes (since 2003) are available digitally. I was poking around on the internt and came across a scanned copy of NZSR from 1952. This issue reported on a conference that marked the founding of the New Zealand Ecological Society. It would be great to get the full set of New Zealand Science Review scanned and made available, as they contribute a unique perspective on the development of science in New Zealand.


Making the boat go faster

Sometimes research really is about making the boat go faster. Team New Zealand trialled two of their new catamarans yesterday, small models of the real thing. The boats were built in Seaview, Wellington, and rely on some serious computational design effort to get them flying along. Many of the smaller boats are being built, so they can be raced and tested against each other while the design is honed. Peter Blake's question "will it make the boat go faster?"  is often asked about efforts to improve the economy. WIth real yachts, making them go faster needs research, development, and collaboration between people with a wide range of specialised skills. Just need to get the same approach across the economy ...

Philosophy of science and CRI life

I recently came across a very interesting article on how scientists handle working in a CRI. It's by Lesley Hunt and was published in Kotuitui in 2009. It puts in context (for me at least) why the culture and the tearoom discussion is as it is in my workplace (NIWA Wellington). The basic idea is that scientists resist the CRI corporate ethos and play various mind games to help them cope. Typical results include a high level of cynicism, a distrust of management, and an "us vs them" attitude. It doesn't offer any easy solutions, but it paints a compelling picture of how we tend to operate as individuals in the CRI workplace. The findings of this work suggest that while the CRI Taskforce made some progress, there are more fundamental issues that still need to be dealt with, if New Zealand is going to get the most out of the science workforce (the CRI sector, at least). The article certainly resonated with me, and is definitely worth a read.

As I read the article, I was reminded of an editorial published in The Economist in 2002 (and still accessible, for free, at, which talks about the point of doing science, and how financial returns and short-term accountability are not the full story. How a creative endeavour like scientific research is best "managed" is something we have yet to fully understand.