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  • 4 Apr 2024 10:00 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Friday April 5 will see what organisers intend to the be largest School Strike For Climate #SS4C since 2019. We have a press release embargoed until Marches begin at noon.

    This occurs at a time when government support for research including much of the climate and environmental research in the $97m per year National Science is falling off a fiscal cliff. Many additional research programmes will end within 18 months. No clear replacements mean an end to many careers in vital areas of climate science when we need more work. Read more in a group statement from climate scientists.

    To signal support for science in signs, pins and banners at #SS4C:

    • Please use #SOS #SaveOurScience
    • Also your areas of science relevant to climate change, and design simple messages.
    • Encourage groups of scientists to attend together to support the rangitahi youth – we will get separate message out to media about science.

    Find out more about events around the country. https://www.ss4cnz.com/locations 

    Stay safe for science: keep your message and yourself safe. Remember that protests can attract radical elements, as well as counter protesters. Either may be looking to cause tension, conflict or even violence.

    • Always be ready to escape safely, including meeting points and contact details for friends, family or colleagues you've come with. 
    • Check with organisers for stay safe guidelines and contacts.  
    • Diffuse or avoid tension. Stick to simple messages.
    • Take up concerns afterward, and be visible on social media or commenting on mainstream media blogs if there is confusion.

    Below, we're sharing some signs you could print and bring along: 

  • 19 Mar 2024 18:30 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    More news is starting to cover cuts hitting science and research in New Zealand. At first the cuts seem unbelievable and unthinkable.

    First off, the 11 National Science Challenges are coming to an end. Although they're initially a process that might replace them, it stalled and came to nothing. That means that 11 areas deemed to be the most important areas of research 10-12 years ago will fall off a funding cliff in just over 3 months.

    Second, over $400m of funding for infrastructure in institutions around Wellington was mooted by the last government and cancelled by the new government. Can aging and unsafe buildings be replaced just off of overheads and operating when most government budgets are being slashed by 7.5%? That's leading to painful cuts across a range of institutions, including the 'strategic reset' in Callaghan Innovation, which seems to lack any visible strategy.

    This weekend Lucy Stewart appeared on NewsHub explaining the wider consequences of Callaghan's 'reset'.

    RNZ had pieces including me and a good, long interview with a National Science Challenge director on Monday Morning. 

    Today I did a good 5 minute Q&A explainer for Wired show and podcast on 95b FM. 

    I've run that one through a transcription so the interview appears below.

    "You're listening to a 95 b FM podcast.

    National Science challenges were established in 2014. With the aim to tackle New Zealand's biggest science based issues and opportunities. They are funded through the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment. The challengers have invested over $680 million of funding over 10 years. However they are due to expire at the end of June. This year, I speak to co president of the New Zealand association of scientists and honorary professor at the University of Auckland School of Environment Professor Troy Baisden about the impending expiry the significance of this loss and the future of science research funding in Aotearoa. 

    For those who don't know, could you please explain the national science challenges and what they intended to do? 

    The National Science challenges were a group of 11 different topics are challenges that were to attract scientists and stakeholders to work together to solve some of the biggest problems New Zealand could identify back around 2012. They included areas like the impacts of climate change uniquely coming from the Southern Ocean across us making the seas around a sustainable, as well as areas like high value nutrition, and keeping people healthy, if slightly touched on this a little already. But what sort of science does this cover? Do you have some examples of current research projects that are funded under these schemes? Well, I mean, it's hard to pin down any single area of science. But one of the ones that we're most worried about losing is the climate modeling and associated observations that cover large areas of the Southern Ocean. There's also a lot of research that covers seismic hazards and how, and also other natural hazards like storms and floods in volcanoes and how they may play out in New Zealand, and how stakeholders can engage to help protect us from those hazards. Those are the types of things that we worry most about losing. If indeed anything happens that we suddenly need that research or the information from it. 

    So the challenges are set to expire at the end of June this year. What is the significance of this loss for not only the science sector, but also for the research and contributions for the wider society.

     This is a huge sort of disaster in planning processes around science. There was a process designed to replace these big Challenges with something else that would work better than they've worked. One of the problems is possibly that they were underfunded for what they needed to do. And now we're going to cut them away entirely. That doesn't make any sense if in fact, they were working on the most important areas of research for New Zealand. The other logical thing that comes from that is what are the people going to do? And there, we're really looking at a situation where a number of scientists and particularly the leadership level are often leaving New Zealand as quickly as possible or have already arranged new positions elsewhere. People are retiring and there are real questions about what happens to the information and relationships that have been generated while these Challenges were running. 

    How if anything, as the government replacing contestable, funding for science research, what do you hope will be done? 

    The ideal situation would be two things. One is lifeboats for the areas of critical national capability that would allow the researchers to maintain and continue important research areas that matter both for New Zealand and internationally. The second thing would be to reinvigorate a new process that resembles but doesn't have to be like the process the last government ran, called Te Ara Paerangi, which was trying to find pathways forward for our national research system, which has been through multiple reorganizations over the last 30 years. Each one has been worse than the last. 

    So do we know what the government is doing? If anything? 

    No, there's essentially budget confidentiality around every level of discussion. And that's not doing us any good in the next two months, while researchers are leaving and institutions are planning their budgets, redundancies and cuts for the coming year. Most research organizations are planning difficult road shows, or have already announced major programs to cut researchers like the Callaghan Innovation strategic reset, no one has any clear strategies from the minister on down the only strategy seemed to be to cut red tape. But what that often means that only minor changes happen at the management and governance level. And it's the researchers that suffer and that quality of research and its ability to actually be the frontline when New Zealanders need research is what could be lost here. The biggest question is do we actually need National Science Challenge is to do what's required and the answer is no. What we do need is a funding level that's commensurate with our with peer nations and New Zealand has lowest levels of funding for government and university research of any peer nation. And that's really the issue here. It's getting some research in place that is stable supports researchers and their careers and can deliver for New Zealand. 

    That was co-President of the New Zealand association of scientists Professor Troy Baisden speaking about the impending expiry of National Science Challenges and the future of science research funding.

    That was a 95b FM podcast to hear more head to 95bfm.com/b casts"

    You can also find this post (and comment) on LinkedIn
  • 14 Nov 2023 11:30 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Our annual awards are happening today as part of our conference. Announcements begin at approximate noon. A livestream will be available with link on our awards page.

  • 2 Nov 2023 13:00 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) is releasing a Briefing for the Incoming Minister of Research, Science and Innovation (RSI).

    NZAS Co-President Troy Baisden says “Crucial decisions will be needed quickly to rebuild our RSI system to lift our nation’s performance and standing among peer nations.

    With our universities in crisis and the National Science Challenges due to end with no clear replacements, urgency is required.

    Our recommendations should be of use to the new Minister of RSI, and may also inform coalition negotiations to recognise the importance of this portfolio.

    Our nation’s ability to innovate and respond effectively to the largest challenges, most notably climate change, hangs in the balance.

    We define the need for focus in two areas. The first focus is rebuilding careers and capability as a priority. Secondly, we must reforge an outward looking system, more able to connect internationally, with business, with te ao Māori, and across our research institutions to achieve results.”

    We are providing these recommendations because we are the main independent body of scientists able to comment on entire system, with a focus on science policy and the history of science.”

    Access Briefing for Incoming Minister as PDF

    Access Press Release as PDF

  • 2 Oct 2023 08:00 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    From our election panel, the Science Media Centre's Q&A with parties, and other events, we've gotten a sense of where the parties stand in this election. None has earned an endorsement from the perspective of science. All have positive points, but ultimately none are committed to both of the things that are most needed to create a research sector that delivers and can attract and retain the talent needed to address the challenges we face in the 21st century. These two things are to provide the funding required to do the job and the institutional and career arrangements to provide stability.

    Here are our main points:

    • We are disappointed no party is going into the election talking about the 2% Research and Development (R&D) target set by Labour in 2017 as something that will be achieved. Worse, most of the new spending is Business R&D though a tax credit. This boost of Business R&D can’t be lauded as a success when we have no idea what’s that is doing or is even real. We know it isn’t hiring many PhDs and isn’t improving connectivity between business and CRIs or universities in an obvious way.  This need review.
    • Labour continues to promote Te Ara Paerangi. We agree the initial stages of this reform did a great job of listening inclusively to the sector's concerns, but that was well over a year ago now. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that Te Ara Paerangi is generating policies or reform agendas that will meet the concerns scientists expressed so clearly. Those that have followed the process are losing hope, and seeing lip service matched neither with funding nor actual change.
    • Labour’s defence and promotion of Te Ara Paerangi is missing in action on urgent topics like climate change research, which was the only specific science area prioritised in audience feedback. Having described them as intractable in the cabinet paper and as wicked problems in more recent times, the Minister seems to be saying she supports researchers working on these topics but not enough to convince Cabinet, government departments and Treasury to fund them. Unfortunately, the Greens – despite their strengths on climate action – are missing in action on this important ingredient in long-term success.
    • There’s no coherent narrative around how the murky National Research Priorities (NRPs) will work, despite an urgent timeline to create and fund them by mid-2024. Verrall has been caught promising that NRPs will deliver impacts that simply cannot be promised. Clustering and targeting work to priorities would deserve support, but that’s not what is proposed. Discussion of the NRPs at first sounds like an effort return to 2015 and repair what National Science Challenges could have been, yet the claims being made create alarming flashbacks of the 2005 funding experiments that still haunt our conservation and environmental research communities.
    • An interesting gap in discussion is the formal commitment to joint the European Horizons funding framework. While good for collaboration, it is concerning that we are joining only Pillar II, which is committed to specific European research priorities, rather our own.
    • An area where the Minister deserves substantial credit is elevating the stated importance of early careers as a foundation of the research system. They’ve been neglected for over a decade. The intent of the policies to support careers is excellent but it is baffling that the funding is half or less of what is required to rebuild the early career support system in place until 2010. This funding gap also makes a mockery of Labour saying their budgets are fully costed.
    • Biotech regulation was not a priority expressed by the audience, yet parties like National and TOP may be onto something suggesting reform of biotech regulations is more achievable than the NRPs.
    • The Wellington Science Hubs have become a point of discussion rather than an easy win.
    • At least 3/4 of Te Ara Paerangi reform agenda remains good but, unfortunately, is not being discussed or supported for implementation by the four largest parties. That said, the TOP candidate, Dr Ben Wylie-van Eerd, show us that minor parties can demonstrate competence on details and contribute to valuable policy discourse during elections. The NZ First candidate wasn’t far behind.
    • Our audience’s upvoting of questions may have made the strongest statement. Given the challenges faced and the lack of fundable progress on solutions, isn’t it time to stop being pragmatic and recreate an independent and visible ministry for research science and innovation capable of thinking through these challenges?

    This year's statements from the parties give us pieces to choose from, and we will soon arrive at uncertain hope that will come from assembling the pieces supported by a new governing coalition. 

    I'll close with the compelling opinion piece just out and ask voters to ponder its central point. The problem runs deeper than universities alone, but why is our politics unable to stabilise and support the people, institutions and knowledge we need to support our future as a nation? 

    Troy Baisden, co-president NZAS

  • 8 Sep 2023 14:00 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Since the 2016 US Presidential election, it has been apparent elections can play a pivotal role in the deterioration of the information space where our societies consider the most important issue. In Aotearoa, the election matters for two reasons. The first is that elections may focus risks on issues such as climate change and aftermath of the suite of issues raised by the protests on Parliament's lawn. The second is that you, as a scientist or researcher, might want to consider removing your name and address from the published electoral role if having this information easily available to the public may put you at risk. (If so, read on and do this now!)

    Our 2022 Conference featured a session* where we compared the experience within research institutions versus journalism in keeping people safe when speaking out about important issues, as well as the mis- and dis-information that has increasingly become a threat. 

    We came away determined to implement key steps journalists have taken more successfully than research institutions to protect personal safety for those who may be speaking or writing publicly and attracting attention that can shift from mis- and dis-information to personal threats and attacks.

    The most universal step those concerned can take is removing their name and address from the published electoral role. The process is explained here, and we have become aware that employers and other authorities may be confused by the requirement for a letter of support. 

    This is explained here, and we are able to provide a letter for members who meet the criteria. (We've been advised you can email us your application for us to submit with an our letter for expedited processing.)  We also provide our template here for employers and other institutions to use.

    We have recently become aware of a deadline of Sunday 10 September for the provisional processing of applications.

    Please note that going on the unpublished role means your voting process will be akin to filing a special vote, since your name and address won't appear to be crossed off.

    The application must be accompanied by or followed by a letter of support like the one above, outlining a basis for risk that is not simply a request for privacy. It can be from an employer or a body like NZAS but cannot be signed by the individual requesting their name be removed from the electoral role.

    More broadly, we aim to provide support for scientists engaged in public issues and engaged with media and social media as they do so in the era of increasing mis- and dis-information.  Let's begin by getting a better understanding of that a major change in risk has been observed since 2020, and is resulting in unprecedented levels of personal threats, including death threats, against scientists and researchers. These threats increasingly appear to be coordinated and designed to dissuade public engagement of experts in providing information of value to the public and countering mis- and dis-information. 

    Our Association plays an important, independent role in these actions. Evidence for the step change in the information environment, the magnitude of threats in general, and those directed at scientists, researchers and experts includes:

    The most important awareness arising from these sources is the need to keep experts engaged on public issues safe by proactively removing information such as their residential address from general access on sources including the Electoral Roll. Existing cases of threats to individual experts and understanding of the speed of disinformation emphasise that it is too late to do so as threats are beginning to occur or are observed to be escalating. 

    Another place where names can be matched to addresses is the companies register. This and similar risks can be ameliorated by employers allowing the use of work address for the appropriate mail that may not directly be affiliated with formal roles.

    An imporatant step we are working on is understanding how it may be possible to help navigate the many workplace policies that help to keep public facing scientists and communicators safe.

    A final step that we can suggest but can't help with in detail is considering your home and personal security.

    In closing, it is important to note that these steps may seem to you, your employer, or others as if they are overkill, until they needed. If that day comes, an ounce prevention is worth a tonne of cure.

    *The session was unadvertised to assist in protecting the safety of the in-person panellists Kate Hannah and Marc Daalder. We thank them for sharing their knowledge and experience!

  • 7 Sep 2023 09:00 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We've now hosted our election panel, held jointly with the PSA as in 2017 and 2030, for this election cycle. You can watch the video on our page or on youtube. We'll develop a summary of our thoughts. The panel has been covered in BusinessDesk and Research Professional if you have access to these paywalled sites.

    We also recommend checking out the Science Media Center's Question & Answer with political parties.

  • 30 Aug 2022 08:00 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    New Zealand Association of Scientists Council has prepared a short article providing some background and perspectives on Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) and science, from the point of view of predominantly non-Māori scientists. It is intended for people who are new to New Zealand and/or are interested in understanding why organisations such as the New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) support the recognition of mātauranga and its integration with science.  

    NZAS Council Perspectives on Mātauranga and Science.pdf

  • 17 Mar 2022 10:39 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    After a mammoth effort from everybody across the RSI sector, submissions on the Te Ara Paerangi Future Pathways green paper closed yesterday. You can find our submission here as a PDF: 

    NZAS Te Ara Paerangi Submission (1).pdf

    or on our website as an html page.

    We also encourage everybody interested in this process to join the Te Ara Paerangi Community Hub, an unofficial website by and for the research community, which has been set up to help people archive and share submissions as this process continues. A fantastic amount of work is being done to envision a better research system and we believe it is important that this remains visible. 

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