Kia ora koutou
I'm sending this email out to all of our members who need renew their membership.
Most of you will now be in the "lapsed" category. Please don't be offended - within the software we use this makes it easiest for you to click through to renew or change membership levels. We do value your membership and plan to keep asking you to renew!
If you haven't received an invoice, renewing is easy.
First, go to our login page. If you've forgotten your password, you can reset it via the email (the one this is sent to).
You can then pay directly (please use credit card payment if you can), or choose to get your invoice sent to you. Please renew! If we don't start getting better renewal rates, we'll this creates a big manual job to volunteer councillors or we'll need to hire a helper or service. If our membership numbers decline, this diminishes our standing as a significant player advocating for science and scientists working on behalf of our entire society.
While I have you, here are some news and reminders.
We continue to focus strongly on science careers and early career issues. Our ECR Councillors and members have drafted an Open Letter to Marsden Fund Council regarding PhD stipends falling well below minimum wage. It closes for signatures tonight has 600 signatures. I'd love to see more senior researchers who have had Marsden grants sign, and show the need to value recruitment of bright kiwis into exciting research projects. We'll keep working to create stable post-PhD career paths inside and outside the universities and CRIs.
We understand the expected major consultation on the future of research funding and institutions has been held up while the Government focusses on Covid issues. Regardless, we're still looking forward to sending more details soon for our conference, Reshaping the New Zealand Research System: Finding Solutions on Monday Nov 15. It will be combined with our AGM and Awards, with hopes still alive for an in person and hybrid event. Register interest now, and get it in your diary.
If you're interested in what we're thinking, always check out our website and twitter feed. A good demonstration of our value on twitter including recent ministerial meeting directly as a result of twitter discussion requesting more transparent reporting of MBIE Endeavour Results. We thank Hon Drs Megan Woods and Ayesha Verrall, and MBIE for followup on that.
Thanks also to everyone who participated on our NZSR survey sent to members.
Tēnā koutou katoa
I hope everyone has stayed warm on these cold nights, even as we contemplate the stark messages in the latest IPCC WG1 Assessment Report.
This is a brief membership update, with a couple key messages.
First, all individual and corporate members will now see membership subscription reminder emails. We now ask that you pay these through the automatic credit card facility if at all possible, as we've elected to keep costs down (particularly for students and ECRs) by avoiding a secretariat service. Subscriptions are nominally due 1 September, and you'll get more reminders. Many of you have already selected the most convenient option possible – auto payment. The one problem with this is that it seems to generate an unexplained error for members who don't remember this is in place, or who need to update their credit card. In the latter case, it seems to work best if you send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can cancel your old autopayment; you can then set up the new payment. Last, if you're having trouble, always check that you're accessing your membership after successfully logging by clicking on your name at the upper left corner of the website.
Second, I'm pleased to announce that we've decided to return to a one-day combined Conference, AGM and Awards event. We'll aim for Wellington this year, please save the date of Monday 15 November.
Our conference theme follows messages from ministers that there is an agenda to reform both the science and funding system.
Our working theme is "Reshaping NZ’s Research System: Finding Solutions."
Council has been busy since my last update. Two ECR Councillors, Georgia Carson and Khoon Lim, and I met with the Associate Minister Hon Ayesha Verrall to emphasise our concerns about the well-being of ECRs and system as a whole. It would be difficult to imagine a more receptive audience – indeed the Minister was until recently classed as an ECR herself.
Over on our news page, you can read more about our activities if you haven't noticed them. We've also made the most detailed response to sudden discussion of Mātauranga and Science, reinforcing the success of our double special issue on the topic. I'd like to note again the deliberation on this topic is needed but has been difficult for many.
We also released a statement supporting transgender scientists. Seeing our twitter posting attract vast traffic and over 270,000 views underscored the need for empathy and support for our colleagues. Aroha nui and big thanks to Councillor Lucy Stewart for leading both these statements.
Remember that the electronic copy of the latest NZSR is now available to paid-up members (and contains a President's column).
Last and further down the news page, you'll see the item from May on our call for renewal of the science system, likely to be hot topic this year with expected consultation and our conference. We are here to aid debate and discourse, so don't forget we host a Slack group for ECRs (with some mentors also engaged) and can promote debate in many forms including blogs on our website and NZSR submissions. Please encourage colleagues who benefit from or want to engage with our goals to join. And most perhaps importantly, please consider nominations for new Councillors – perhaps yourself!
Thanks for your continued support of NZAS.
Ngā mihi nui
Save the date:
Monday 15 November Conference, AGM & Awards in Wellington:
"Reshaping NZ’s Research System: Finding Solutions"
This is the latest update from NZAS.
If you haven't seen it, the latest NZSR is available online to paid-up members. (Many of you will have received the hard copy.)
The NZSR includes a President's column that serves also as my AGM address.
The current issue also contains our ideas for a major renewal of the New Zealand Science system.
To highlight that, we've just released the document publicly with an updated version. I'd like to thank Past President Craig Stevens for taking the lead on the development of the Call for Renewal, and for seeking and incorporating feedback. What is perhaps most important, is a role for public discourse, debate and transparency during a time when recent reviews suggest there may be an opportunity to give Aotearoa New Zealand the science system it deserves.
We encourage you to check on what we're thinking and doing via our news page and twitter feed (which is a public microblog, even if you're not on twitter). With the Government's Budget Day this Thursday, there's sure to be more to say soon – we'll a glimpse of the post-COVID science funding trajectory.
Enjoy the weekend reading!
Last, just as a reminder - log in to the website by clicking the button at the top (you can reset your password via email if needed) and manage your membership information by clicking on your name at the top of the page once you're logged in.
Kia pai tō rā whakatā
I'll keep this update short because it has two main purposes, both of which also include updates from me as President of NZAS.
The first is to announce that the electronic version of the latest NZSR is now available to paid-up members (and contains a President's column). Members who have elected to receive the print copy should now have theirs - feel free to contact us if it is missing.
If you click on the latest issue, you may find that your membership needs renewal via what should be an easy online payment process. Just to note, the previous year's Mātuaranga and Science special issues were sponsored to allow open access. We've now resumed access only to paying members and libraries. Just click the log in link and if you need to access or pay your membership information, click on your name at the top to access your membership profile. It's usually a quick fix if if you are unable to pay – please get in touch.
The second big announcement is a reminder that the AGM is tomorrow – 5:30 pm 17 November 2020 via zoom.
The details of the AGM, including links to the financial reports and minutes from the previous AGM can be found on our website. The zoom details are as provided by email to members – contact us if you need them. Please support NZAS by attending – we'll keep it short and effective. Anyone interested in informal discussion is welcome to stay on at the end.
And what is there to discuss? Well here's just some of what NZAS has been up to since the last President's Update:
I hope this update finds you well. I’d like to acknowledge the enormous effort scientists continue to make in responding to Covid-19, in considering the role of science in the world, and in keeping their research, teaching, teams, families and communities going.
We have two major announcements.
First, the Public Service Association (PSA) and NZAS will again be hosting an election panel for all the major parties. This year we’re delighted to add the Centre for Science in Society as a host, and Associate Professor Rebecca Priestley will be the moderator. We’ve now worked through the challenges caused by the return of Covid-19, and are announcing the event for this coming Friday afternoon:
Government as the funder of science and employer of scientists
3:30–4:30 pm Friday, 28 August
Online and if possible at Rutherford House, Wellington.
Please register to receive the Zoom Seminars link and updates about registration for the onsite event: we’ll decide if a limited or full on-site audience will be possible following Monday’s Covid-19 announcements. We expect free registration for on-site seats to open Tuesday afternoon, if possible.
Our second big announcement is the release of the second Mātauranga and Science Special Issue of the New Zealand Science Review. Those of you who subscribe to the print version will hopefully have just received your copy. Due to special sponsorship from Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga CoRE, the online version is freely available (and therefore not initially available on our members-only site).
You’ll find a wonderful stack of reading in the special issue: be sure to budget time for it! The weight of the contributions, discussion they will raise, and the number of other New Zealand journals with mātauranga special issues in the last year highlight the importance and achievement of occupying two double issues of NZSR (a full Volume) with this topic. Congratulations and thank you to the guest editors Anne-Marie Jackson and Ocean Mercier, as well as our managing and production editors, Allan Petrey and Geoff Gregory.
Unfortunately, further news related to this topic is not good but needs to be heard. Tara McAllister has led a team making a major effort to chase down data, which reveals no increase in Māori and Pasifika employment in the science sector over the last dozen years. When combined with the workload and expectations, this is deeply disappointing and the Science Media Centre has provided a thorough Expert Reaction.
Just as the re-emergence of Covid-19 in Auckland came to light, the Royal Society’s Early Career Researcher (ECR) group released a major paper documenting the challenges ECRs face, and how they’ve worsened dramatically as a result of Covid-19. A further Expert Reaction underscores that more must be done, particularly to support diversity. We continue to intensify our efforts to represent ECR issues, and encourage ECRs (including doctoral students) to join, and work with our Councillor Georgia Carson to set up a strong ECR group with NZAS.
Also, two very significant reports emerged containing strong comments about the need to look more deeply at the New Zealand science system, to restore the ability to deliver strategically, collaboratively and reliably for the benefit of New Zealand. The first is the Review of the Crown Research Institutes. For NZAS members, I’ll again highlight the Expert Reaction, and some may be interested in my explainer on RNZ Lately. The second report, a think piece on how the pandemic changes science by MBIE’s science advisors – is also well worth a look for anyone deeply interested in the issues our science system faces.
I’ll close by thanking you for supporting NZSR through your membership, and ask you to fill in another quick two-minute survey to help guide us into the new membership year in these changing times.
Kia kaha scientists
President - New Zealand Association of Scientists
The following went out to members on the 28th of May.
I hope you and your bubble have been healthy through the unprecedented times of the past couple months. I’d like to acknowledge the amazing work of all the scientists who helped our ‘team of five million’ get to the success we have now – five days of no new cases of COVID-19. There are obviously many to thank, and too many to name. Among our prominent members Siouxsie Wiles and Shaun Hendy have been standouts on science communication and coordination.
My last President’s update came just at the beginning of our coronavirus saga, on the day incoming passengers were first required to self-isolate for two weeks. The ‘one-minute’ survey in that update provided a sense of your thoughts that I and our council found useful. Twenty-nine filled in the survey, yielding the following.
Overall, members who took the time to answer appear broadly happy with what we’ve been doing, and issues we’ve been taking up. But they are spread across categories as to what we should be doing and split on whether we did enough to respond to the controversy over Massey Albany. There was strong agreement that equity is a matter of concern, but it scored a distant 4th among top issues to address, behind stability, funding and silencing.
Since the crisis began, we’ve been primarily engaged in trying to understand the impacts of the crisis on science institutions and scientists. We put out a statement on 9 April, detailing initial analysis and have also been involved in discussions across scientific societies on mitigating the impacts on post-graduate students. We were featured in the Herald's piece on science funding in the Government's budget, and had more analysis available via the Science Media Centre.
The timing of this update was aligned to let you know of my public webinar, hosted by the Public Service Association (PSA) on “Restoring Research for the Restoration of Well-beings.” There were great questionnow a final Q&A . The PSA is the union representing CRI, Callaghan Innovation and many government and regional council scientists. You’ll be able to watch the webinar later if you can’t tune in, and a draft chapter in the PSA’s ‘Progressive Thinking’ series is now available extending NZAS’ analysis of how the research system and its funding can best respond to the crisis. Update: a final additional Q&A has been posted on our Tēnā koutou katoa
Overall, members who took the time to answer appear broadly happy with what we’ve been doing, and issues we’ve been taking up. But they are spread across categories as to what we should be doing and split on whether we did enough to respond to the controversy over Massey Albany. There was strong agreement that equity is a matter of concern, but it scored a distant 4th among top issues to address.
The timing of this update was aligned to my public webinar today, hosted by the Public Service Association (PSA) on “Restoring Research for the Restoration of Well-beings.” The PSA is the union representing CRI, Callaghan Innovation and many government and regional council scientists. You’ll be able to watch the webinar later if you can’t tune in, and a draft chapter in the PSA’s ‘Progressive Thinking’ series is now available extending NZAS’ analysis of how the research system and its funding can best respond to the crisis. [Update: additional Q&A on our website.]
I’d like to close by thanking all those involved in the Government response, and its excellent incorporation of science, data and advice.
16 March 2020: In this issue >Take our one-minute survey |COVID-19 | March 15 | Massey Albany | 'Expertise' | Pay Gap
Kia ora koutou katoa
IIn the run-up to Christmas I provided a first President’s update, and promised more. Although delayed beyond my original plans, this update is well-timed to address two big issues.
First, I’d like to acknowledge the role science and scientists are playing in responses to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. I’ll point specifically to Siouxsie Wiles, who has been working tirelessly and more visibly than ever. I also must thank many others, including some working without visibility, who have made both the government’s and media response something that I believe we will be able to look back and be deeply proud of. Responding to the volatile situation, I’m particularly impressed that our Prime Minister is communicating simply and compassionately using information that feels as well grounded in the facts and maths of infectious disease spread as we could ever hope from politicians.
As a result of the coronavirus situation, we are now left to commemorate the anniversary of the March 15 attacks in Christchurch in our own ways. From the perspective of NZAS, I would like to draw attention again to our open letter, authored by Kate Hannah and Craig Steven on behalf of our Council, expressing support for our Muslim colleagues affected by the attacks.
Via the letter, we committed to embracing those, specifically including our Muslim colleagues, who have travelled across distance and cultures, to pursue their aspirations and careers in Aotearoa New Zealand. And we further resolved to act on the relevant parts of our statement of purpose, including speaking truth and exposing lies, such as those promoted by the ‘Alt-Right.’ This and other actions are a critical component of ensuring ethnic equality as part of our commitment to improving working conditions for scientists.
A year on, we may struggle to identify individual actions of support led by NZAS, rather than by our members and supporters through their institutions. Nevertheless, I believe that our Muslim colleagues have felt meaningfully supported by our nation's science community. This anniversary provides us the reminder to remain steadfast in our efforts, ensuring that we will not allow the commitments in the open letter to wane.
I will now summarise a list of additional issues which have caused one past president to comment that it suddenly feels like science is on a bonfire. The most incendiary of these has been the proposed removal of well-established areas of science, and other disciplines, from Massey University’s Albany campus. This is a shock on a campus that was built on bringing a nationally prominent level of science excellence to the fast-growing location.
The proposal to gut the stability of top-flight research teams on the basis of what appear to be poorly considered teaching proposals is already undermining Massey’s national and international standing. We helped raise awareness, describing initial alarm about the lack of consultative understanding of the interplay of research and teaching, and failure to use conventional means such academic boards for assessment. Auckland University Physics Professors, Shaun Hendy and Richard Easther deserve kudos for their outspoken criticism of the proposals and efforts to point to the value of their Massey colleagues. While perceiving that university leaders have turned a tight budget into a risky crisis, my main message has been to support the voice of the scientists at Massey, and their colleagues in other disciplines.
With consultation ending in less than a week, I’m disappointed that senior leaders at Massey have remained silent in response to vocal and heartfelt concerns. Submissions directly to Massey therefore appear justified, particularly those representing stakeholder views. Providing some hope, NZAS contributed with many other submitters to moderating a proposal for deep and damaging cuts to the University of Otago’s Marine Science programme. Suggestions for NZAS actions specific to the Massey Albany situation are welcome.
Dancing across the bonfire, another matter of considerable concern is the University of Auckland’s policy proposal to prevent academics from communicating publicly outside their area of ‘expertise’, reopening a wound that had healed following careful discussion and removal of similar proposed wording from what is now the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Code of Conduct. Such wording can be weaponised, potentially behind closed doors, to criticise and silence the limited pool of researchers who are knowledgeable and without conflicts of interest on a topic. Policies worded in this way can also frustrate the efforts of scientists working across disciplines, reaching into new territory, or describing the application of their research in policy or business.
I also think it is worth drawing attention back to the big science news story in January: University of Canterbury research quantifying and drawing attention to the gender pay gap in academia. Now we know these figures confirm a mountain of more circumstantial evidence, and represent a liability on the books of our institutions. The results also suggest a likely need to understand pay and stability gaps related to wider measures of diversity, along with concrete actions toward fixing the problems.
In more positive news, I’d like to provide a reminder to check out our popular special issue of the New Zealand Science Review on Mātauranga and Science, before you are faced with a second fabulous issue on the same topic. I’m also pleased to report that we’re engaging on a number of fronts outlined previously, and I’ll report more soon. To help us prioritise our limited resources, mostly the time of our Council, please have a go at a one-minute survey. There’s also a long-form comment box at the end, or you can reach me by email.
In this issue: Take our one-minute survey
As president, I’d like to begin providing timely monthly updates to our members and community. In the past, these updates have come as the President’s column in the New Zealand Science Review (NZSR). In this case, I’ll close by taking the rare opportunity comment on the decade just passed, and the decade ahead.
For the present, our big news is the online release of the first of two Special Issues on Mātauranga and Science, with hard copies going out in the post. We thank Ocean Mercier and Anne-Marie Jackson for leading this effort, and Juliet Gerrard and Tahu Kukutai for promoting it through the PMCSA's channels. Generous sponsorship from Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, Te Kawa a Māui, and National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, and NZAS has made these issues possible. This includes wider distribution, and open access.
Please enjoy the special issue and distribute the link, encouraging others to read NZSR’s contribution to developing the potential of mātauranga and science to work together and in unison. The NZSR issue caps a bumper crop of special issues of New Zealand science journals focussed on mātauranga, kicked off by the New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, and more recently the New Zealand Journal of Ecology. Thus, the decade ends with a rich picture of how the process of using knowledge about the world around us can be enriched with views from Te Ao Māori, diversifying the perspective of western science.
Looking across the wider world of science, we congratulate the University of Otago for engaging with its Marine Science community, and finding an improved restructuring plan for what many submitters, including NZAS, felt were sudden and confusing cuts to a department critical for addressing global change issues.
Many submitters and supporters have been thanked for leaping forward to support this department, and the university deserves credit for being open to feedback, and listening usefully. We thank our former President, Craig Stevens, for leading NZAS’s efforts. It is worth pointing out that in the case of restructuring and redundancies, we know how to positively influence proposals, and can be effective in doing so.
The NZAS also raised concern about another area, bullying, where it is much less clear how to engage usefully. When the scope of concerns raised about a New Zealander who has been the high-profile Director the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at the University of Adelaide came to light in the media, we issued a press release commending the University of Adelaide for taking action, and outlining why bullying can have such negative consequences, particularly in fields Australasia has only a limited number of laboratories.
The University of Adelaide has recently announced that the case has resulted in dismissal. That might seem to bring the matter to a conclusion, but as Nature’s news item points out, serious questions remain about why this narrative played out in the shadows since 2005, in ways that led to catastrophic rather than constructive outcomes, and what happens now.
I remain concerned bullying and associated negative consequences remain hidden in plain sight. This appears to be reinforced by a separate recent revelation that bullying accusations played some role in the surprise dismissal of AgResearch’s CEO earlier this year. Looking in parallel at the cathartic worldwide flash of painful progress on sexual harassment can serve to remind us how far we have to go making progress on bullying, to make it less painful for all involved, but especially whistleblowers. In most cases, striving to make science a better place to work through the Kindness in Science movement may be the best way forward.
Looking back across the decade, and at the isolated yet familiar issues of highlighted above, it makes sense to ask if science faces a problem of either simple underfunding, or of funding not matching our ideals for what science should achieve. Either way, we have heard long-term hype of increased science funding that seems half-true at best, leaving us with the feeling we are often forced to do too much with too little, frequently lack the stability and resources compared to our international peers, no matter whether we think of museums and collections, global change science, technological innovation, or other endeavours. The challenges we face are especially concerning when they have negative impacts on early career researchers and diversity.
As the decade ends, I’ll skip putting more details to this usual refrain, and highlight the idea of the ‘social contract’ between science and society. Prominent scientist Jane Lubchenco has refreshed a call for the renewal of this contract in which society invests more, and science engages more to deliver on environmental and social issues. Lubchenco’s proposal is even more relevant to New Zealand than the largely American audience she addresses, because our current government clearly has the political will for long-term delivery on social and environmental wellbeing.
Over the holidays, I’ll be thinking more about these challenges and ways forward. It is clear that our council or committees could use more talent and energy to advance our goals, particularly for furthering the goals of early career and Māori researchers. While you take a break over the holidays, please keep these ideas in mind. Get in touch, let me know your thoughts, or perhaps where you can help.
Meri Kirihimete me te kia pai te tau hou tauiwi
Merry Christmas and all the best for the new year
President – NZAS
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