Science Digest: Issue 22


The results of the postal ballot to elect the Council of The Royal Society of New Zealand were announced today. Seven Electoral Colleges were contested, three Colleges had candidates elected unopposed, and the Academy Council has notified the Society of its three appointees.

The President of the Society will be chosen by the Council at its meeting to be held on 21 April 1998. Up to three additional Councillors may be co-opted in terms of Section 24 of the Royal Society of New Zealand Act 1997 to cater for under-representation in specific areas.

The Society Council elected to office for a two-year term is listed below in alphabetical order.

  • Robyn Baker, Science & Technology Education
  • Mr Howard Bezar, Primary Production Sciences & Technologies
  • Dr Ian Boothroyd, Biological Sciences & Technologies
  • Professor Paul Callaghan, Academy Council of the Royal Society
  • Professor Jeff Hunter, Mathematical & Information Sciences & Technologies
  • Mr George Jones, Regional Constituent Organisations (Branches)
  • Mr Stuart Kinnear, Technological & Engineering Sciences
  • Dr John Martin, Social Sciences
  • Dr Neil Milestone, Physical Sciences & Technologies
  • Professor Charmian O’Connor, Academy Council of the Royal Society
  • Professor George Petersen, Academy Council of the Royal Society
  • Dr Jim Salinger, Earth Sciences & Technologies
  • Sir John Scott, Health Sciences & Technologies


The Public Information Programme (PIP) has as one of its objectives to increase the number of stories about New Zealand science and scientists which appear in the media. One of the impediments to this is that there has been little media training for scientists which is oriented specifically to their needs.

This has been addressed in Australia by a successful programme run by Toss Gascoigne and Jenni Metcalfe. They have been invited to run courses in Christchurch on 18 and 19 May, in Wellington on 21 and 22 May, and in Hamilton on 25 and 26 May.

Jenni and Toss have backgrounds in journalism and science communication. They have run courses in Australia for the last six years and recently set them up in South Africa.

The two-day course will cover all the media and include sessions by local journalists. The cost is $560 for the two days.

For further information contact


Congress 99 is an opportunity to debate the impact of new technologies and developments on New Zealand communities now and into the future. Organised by the Institute of Professional Engineers (IPENZ), the Congress will take place in February 1999 and will address the issue of ‘Democracy, technology and progress – engineering the responsible profession’.

The Congress is to be a public forum where speakers will include engineers, scientists, environmentalists, industrial leaders, politicians, and members of the public.

The Royal Society is working closely with IPENZ on the arrangements for the Congress and will be taking a particular interest in the science and S&T education aspects of the event. A session of interest to our members is one where case studies will be used to examine the impact of decisions related to genetically modified foods, and artificial intelligence.

Keep in touch by emailing:


Advance notice is given of a two-day workshop to be held in Wellington on 22 and 23 June 1998 on ‘Environmental and occupational health research, science and technology’.

On the first day participants will address the topic ‘How can science best inform public policy?’ The second day will consider ‘What are the future directions for research?’

To register your interest and for more information, email


Over 250 people were guests of the Governor-General, Sir Michael Hardie Boys and Lady Hardie Boys at Government house last evening.

The occasion was the annual presentation of Royal Society awards by the Governor-General who is Patron of the Society. Details of award recipients are on our web at

In introducing the Gold Medallist for 1997, Professor Thomas William Walker of Lincoln University (better known as John Walker), the President of the Royal Society Sir John Scott, said:

‘It is appropriate that we ponder for a moment and look at the science so dear to ‘Prof’ Walker’s heart. As we debate the relative merits of pure and applied research, the role of technology and its transfer, how we achieve better wealth creation through science and technology, we have only to look to the soil sciences to get some of the answers. ‘The answer lies in the soil’ so to speak.

‘A healthy respect for basic research, as fundamental to a knowledge of the soil medium and its use, is freely admitted by everyone with an interest in the subject. The soil science and gardening themes that Professor Walker brings to this occasion permit us to demonstrate the dynamics of a truly remarkable process that relies on many branches of science and related technologies. Where else do you get such a mixture of basic research, taxonomy, zoology, microbiology, pedology, hydrology, chemistry and biochemistry, physics and biophysics, entomology, radiation, plant physiology, parasitology plus planting, nurturing and harvesting technologies — all resulting in ‘produce’ with many applications — from the provision of a beautiful object to food for human and animal consumption, from raw materials for industry to life sustaining oxygen production. Even the health sciences often have their roots in the soil!

‘Deliberation on soil sciences allows us to stress the interdependence and equal importance of the several components of the science/technology equation. As a Society, we welcome this opportunity to declare our interest in the whole spectrum of science and technology.

‘We will remain a strong advocate to the maintenance of basic research but be equally attentive to any identified shortcomings in catering for the needs of the applied sciences and technologies and the social sciences. Our nation needs strong recognition and emphasis on all necessary components. Our economy and our culture deserve it.’

The citation for Professor Walker reads:

‘for his internationally recognised and pioneering research in soil science, and for his substantial contribution to public awareness, knowledge and understanding of the behaviour of soils.’

Other speakers were Professor George Petersen, President of the Society’s Academy Council, Professor Walker, Mr Ruud Kleinpaste (an entomologist who works with Professor Walker on Maggie’s Garden Show) and the Governor-General.


Science Wellington is arranging a public lecture on Rabbit Calicivirus Disease (RCD) with the title ‘Human Risks, Caliciviruses and Animal Plagues’.

Guest speakers are Professor Alvin W. Smith, Head, Laboratory for Calicivirus Studies, Oregon State University, USA; and Professor David O. Matson, Associate Professor and Associate Director, Center for Paediatric Research, Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia, USA.

A brief overview covering 65 years of calicivirus diseases in animals will be presented together with controversial comment relating to the possible spread of the disease to humans.

When: 7:30pm, Wednesday, 1 April 1998. Where: Maclaurin Lecture Theatre 3, Victoria University of Wellington.

For further details email: G.Williams@IRL.CRI.NZ


Last week we informed you of the OceaNZ98 programme and gave details of the Ocean Voyages component which is based on the highly successful LEARNZ programme. See

Three other components of OceaNZ98 are an essay competition, an art competition for secondary students sponsored by NIWA, and an Australasian poster competition for all school levels sponsored jointly by Orica (previously ICI) and the NZ Association of Science Educators (NZASE). The winners of each grade in the Orica/NZASE competition go on to compete against the winners from Australia. New Zealand has achieved success in the past winning overall levels. This year the winner of the senior grade may also earn a trip to the first APEC Youth Science Festival in Seoul, Korea. Details of this competition at


The NZ Association of Science Educators has just been commissioned by the Ministry of Education to produce the Science Toolbox, an aid for primary teachers. This resource, one of the initiatives from the Minister’s Taskforce on mathematics and science, aims to provide information for teachers on the basic equipment and materials that primary schools could use for teaching science. Work on this project will take place over the next few months and the resource should be available to teachers later this year.


Our readers will be aware of the release of the senior secondary school Third International Mathematics & Science Survey (TIMSS) results. They indicate that the upper quartile of New Zealand senior secondary school students are well equipped with a general knowledge of science.

Recent publicity has attempted to discredit the reported results and is critical of science teaching. Given the nature of the survey and the preliminary nature of the published report, these criticisms seem to be premature and unjustified. The published results indicate that the upper quartile of senior secondary school students are achieving well. The study does not identify why, and several explanations could explain this: the nature of the New Zealand curriculum; effective teaching to able students; the ability of top students to learn independently; or the ability of top students to cope well with the testing process.

Let us acknowledge these latest results for what they indicate and await a further report focusing on New Zealand senior secondary school students to be released later this year. Only then will it be possible to draw firm conclusions.


Professor Eckart Ehlers, Chair, International Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change Programme (IHDP) and Secretary-General of the International Geographical Union (IGU) is visiting five centres in New Zealand in April to discuss IHDP and IGU matters.

The primary aim of Professor Ehlers’s visit is to provide an international focus to New Zealand activity in the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change Programme. The visitor wishes to become aware of New Zealand strengths in the social sciences and likely input to the international programme by New Zealand social science researchers. He will also discuss the IHDP’s work programme and objectives which remain focused upon the development and integration of research on the human dimensions of global environmental change; these are high on the scientific and public policy agenda. As Secretary-General of IGU, Professor Ehlers also plans to meet New Zealand geographers involved in IGU Commissions and Working Groups and those with an interest in IGU activities.

Anyone wishing to attend one of these meetings please contact the appropriate person listed below.

Auckland: Monday 6 April, 11.30-1.00 pm. Conference Centre, Architecture, University of Auckland, Symonds St. Email contact:

Hamilton: Tuesday 7 April: 10.30-12.00 noon. International Global Change Institute, Language Institute Building, cnr Tristram and London Streets, Hamilton. Email contact:

Wellington: Tuesday 7 April: 5.00 – 6.30 pm. Lecture Theatre, Science House, the Royal Society of New Zealand, 11 Turnbull Street, Wellington. Email contact:

Christchurch: Wednesday 8 April: 10.30 – 12.00 noon. Room 242, Department of Geography, University of Canterbury. Email contact:

Lincoln: Wednesday 8 April: 2.40 – 3.30 pm. Room H4, Hilgendorf Building, Lincoln University. Email contact:

Dunedin: Thursday 9 April: 11.00 – 12.30 pm. HEDC Conference Room, University of Otago. Email contact:

Further information on IHDP can be obtained from


Over 60 applications have been received for the 1998 Zonta Science Award. The 1998 recipient will receive the Award from the Governor General on 23 June. Tickets for the presentation are available from the Zonta Club of Wellington, Zonta Science Award, PO Box 10274, Wellington. For more information on the Zonta Award see


The Proceedings of a Workshop on ‘Biological Control of Possums’ sponsored by the National Science Strategy Committee for Possum & Bovine TB Control have just been published and are available from The Royal Society for $35 incl. GST & postage. Contact


Dr Tord Kjellstrom is the new Professor of Environmental Health in the Department of Community Health at The University of Auckland.

Originally from Sweden, Dr Kjellstrom was Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology, Environmental Health and Occupational Health at the University of Auckland from 1976 to 1985 before joining the World Health Organisation (WHO) as Medical Officer/Epidemiologist in Geneva, Switzerland. He worked at WHO until coming to his present position except for a year in Australia as Professor of Occupational Health at the University of Sydney and Executive Director, Research and Scientific Division, Worksafe Australia, National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety. The work at Worksafe Australia and at WHO involved analysis, development, and implementation of policy based on scientific analysis.


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