August 2020 President's Update

23 Aug 2020 17:00 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Tēnā koutou katoa

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

Troy Baisden

President - New Zealand Association of Scientists

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