Our early career researchers Lucy Stewart, Khoon Lim, Georgia Carson and Ben Dickson have prepared an open letter to Marsden Fund Council, and obtained over 700 signatures.
Shouldn't our nation's leading research fund attract the best and brightest by paying the equivalent of a living wage?
Science New Zealand, the consortium of Crown Research Institutes (CRIs), has released two major discussion documents.
They're slightly messy to download from issu.com, here they are (as PDF):
Pathways to the Future
What do you think of their recommendations for the future? Do they make sense? Can you see the science? Does CRI leadership provide a clear and compelling view?
Recommendations from Pathways to the Future:
NZAS has no overall comment on these documents, but our Council has identified that:
As a reminder: NZAS has a recent discussion document, developed over the past year, out on the future of the research system. It considers many of these issues.
A statement prepared by NZAS Council on Science and Mātauranga is now available (linked here).
Our statement makes an effort to respond to requests from Māori colleagues to reaffirm the value of mātauranga and also address specific concerns.
I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge that the sudden focus on this discourse has been between upsetting and hurtful for many Māori scientists, and for tau iwi. It has also been unsettling for many scientists – the discourse asks us each to reconsider the values and assumptions underlying the ways we use science to understand our world.
Finally, I'd like to acknowledge the commitment and energy of authors and contributors on our Council who have debated the difficult points within this statement.
NZAS Council is working on a new statement following new debate on the topic of Mātauranga and Science, following on the Double Special Issues in our New Zealand Science Review last year.
Those special issues are available at the link above. To further support their use, the following around now available as separate pdf documents links.
Foreword – Juliet Gerrard and Tahu Kukutai (pdf)
Mātauranga and Science – Introduction – Ocean Mercier and Anne-Marie Jackson (pdf)
Juliet Gerrard and Tahu Kukutai write:
"To turn the tide on anti-science sentiment we need to reframe our science as ‘here to serve’, and ‘here to listen’. Science in Aotearoa New Zealand, and indeed the world, has much to learn from Māori ways of doing, as well as ways of knowing, to bridge these divides."
As an organisation, the New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) recognises the importance of inclusiveness and kindness in science. Transgender, intersex, and gender diverse Kiwis experience significant discrimination within our society. This is partially due to our science system’s inability to even engage with them as part of our population - only this year has Stats NZ offered guidance for collecting sex and gender data which addresses the full scope of gender diversity in Aotearoa.
Additionally, misinformed claims of ‘science’ are often used as a tool of oppression against these groups. It concerns us to see incorrect claims being made that ‘science’ supports the definition of all humans into one of two categories based on assignment of sex at birth. We see science as one of the most important ways we have of learning and talking about ourselves, our world, and everyone within it (we are, after all, scientists). The NZAS recognises that the scientific consensus tells us that gender cannot be reduced down to any simple combination of an individual’s chromosomes, hormones, genitalia, or any other characteristic: it is not a simple binary. The principles of inclusiveness and kindness in science tell us to engage with people as who they are, recognising the world around us, and within us, as it is rather than as we think it should be.
Despite the challenges they face, we already work with trans, gender diverse, and intersex scientists of all genders. They are working and leading in science in Aotearoa as scientists and equals. We support them and all efforts to make science and society in Aotearoa safer for everybody, by taking the stance that this is not only the moral thing to do, nor only the scientifically most valid perspective: supporting trans, gender diverse, and intersex scientists of all genders produces better science for all of society.
The winners of the NZAS 2020 Awards have been announced:
Marsden Medal: Prof. Martha Savage
Shorland Medal: Prof. Mark Costello
Hill Tinsley Medal: Assoc. Prof. Frédérique Vanholsbeeck
Cranwell Medal: Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu
Congratulations to all of the medal winners!
For full details of these outstanding scientists and their achievements, see the 2020 Awards Recipients page.
The Environmental Protection Agency is calling for information on the use of the weed killer glyphosate in New Zealand. See Glyphosate: Call for information | EPA
This request is the first step in deciding whether to change the rules around its use. Glyphosate is used in weed killers, such as Roundup, by gardeners, farmers and councils, but the possible environmental and health effects have been subject to public debate.
If there are grounds to reassess glyphosate and a formal reassessment application is made, the public will have an opportunity to make submissions on the application once it has been publicly notified.
The EPA's current position, similar to Australia, Canada, the US and the EU, is that glyphosate products are safe as long as all the rules for use are followed. Its use is currently being reviewed in Europe.
Meantime you may read an extensive review of glyphosate’s discovery, use of Roundup® in New Zealand and its impacts on human health, livestock, and ecosystems by Ian Shaw Professor of Toxicology at Canterbury University.
Is it time to round up Roundup®? The changing science of glyphosate - Prof. Ian C Shaw - NZSR article advance publication
We all talk about building back better after COVID, and its time to talk about what this can look like for science.
Here's our discussion document (link) on renewal of the science and innovation system, also featured in the New Zealand Science Review.
Below is our press release on the subject at the time of release.
14 May 2021
Advances or Austerity: What Will Budget 2021 Bring For Science?
“Many New Zealanders credit science and scientists with the successful strategies that saved us from the worst of the pandemic.” said NZAS President Prof Troy Baisden. “Yet most if not all the nation’s scientists got the message this week that their institutions fall into the broad areas of the public service expecting a pay ‘freeze’. Now is the time to read the signal: will we invest in advances and build back better?”
“Other nations, notably the United States, appear poised to invest massively in science and technology to stimulate their economies. They’re building off wide public support for the biotech that built vaccines.”
“If Aotearoa wants advances and excellent use of science like we’ve seen during COVID, we have to invest like other nations. Instead, our scientists are coping with 30 years of austerity. Scientists are wondering if the current Government’s pledge to double R&D investment is real.”
“If the budget signals no new path for New Zealand’s science funding, this means that smart Kiwis going into science face many difficult years of low pay. Top PhD scholarships were once close to a living wage, but have now crossed under the minimum wage and even under training wages for apprentices. They risk no pay if their work stretches into a fourth year, and then years of gruelling applications for grants and fellowships while juggling short contracts.”
“Next Thursday, the Government’s Budget will let our scientists know if they get their wish for a society that supports them, and the advances they create across issues ranging from health, to climate change, agriculture, and technology. Government investment spills over into society and the private sector in nations with higher well being.
“Australia’s Budget delivered austerity for their scientists this week. If our Budget copies our neighbour’s, we failed to understand that New Zealand science’s emergency response to COVID was a special case. Do we need a renewed and reformed science system that looks and feels like the COVID response? What would this look like?"
The New Zealand Association of Scientists has developed a vision for rebuilding the science system Aotearoa deserves. Here are two starting points that deserve highlighting as we look ahead to the Budget and beyond:
“Scientists are asking whether the budget will bring advances or austerity? Will they finally see the end to 30 years underneath a sinking lid of austerity that has weighed on them and left our international competitiveness on the back foot? What’s needed to build back better? How can we all work together to build the science system New Zealand deserves?”
The reach of online events was a highlight from 2020 that brought science communities together. For 2021, NZAS will bring you webinar panels in an interactive 'town hall' format.
Mark the first in your diaries for lunchtime Friday 5 February (start at 12:15):
Shaun Hendy hosts a panel of young scientists:
Kannan Ridings, University of Auckland
Audrey Lustig, Manaaki Whenua
Anastasiya Kiddle, University of Auckland
Nicholas Steyn, University of Canterbury/Auckland
"How did early career scientists contribute to NZ's COVID-19 response?"
Please look for more information, and registration (which will email you the zoom link) on our event page. Or post our flyer (pdf).
The announcement of charges laid against a science institution involved in advising emergency response in relation to the 2019 Whakaari White Island eruption has shaken many in the New Zealand science community, yet scientists have also felt reassured by the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor's (PMCSA’s) blog post released on the day charges were announced. The PMCSA provides a timely reminder of the paramount importance in emergencies of free and frank scientific advice to decision makers, and one can note that the advice provided must also be fast and unfiltered yet expert and careful.
Increasingly, our science community and wider public look to the PMCSA for steering on difficult issues that go beyond her central role of coordinating science advice to government, which is the focus of the blog post. Many are surprised that the PMSCA isn’t able to comment further in this case, but in a small nation it is inevitable that any important person or office will sometimes have conflicts of interest or confidential involvement that prevents public engagement. It is important for others with relevant expertise to fill the void.
I do that here, and point out that there are two additional issues that need consideration in this case. First, the success of advice to government also depends on public trust in science and government institutions, and this requires an adequate level of public and media access to scientists as events unfold.
In addition, a unique and unusual second factor has now appeared. Prolonged and possibly expansive silencing associated with the as yet undefined scope of Worksafe's prosecution of a science institution could create a cone of silence and confusion around the same areas of scientific expertise that need to be called on in an emergency. So far, the apparent silence is worrying with only one university academic, Prof Shane Cronin, commenting and appearing widely in the media. Comments available from Prof Tom Wilson help on key issues, but many other voices are missing.
To help keep New Zealand as safe as possible, we can ensure a public conversation is occurring about the free flow of scientific information and advice in emergencies ranging from pandemics to earthquakes and eruptions. It should consider how science can best provide advice and public information, but can usefully extend to whether scientific expertise is sufficiently involved in the funding, management and governance of our science institutions. Such a conversation will have to be separate and hypothetical to avoid the cone of silence around the Whakaari White Island investigations.
In this case, we need to keep in mind that hypothetical does not mean irrelevant. New Zealand remains at high risk of natural hazard emergencies that can occur at any time.
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