Science Digest: Issue 25

Because last Friday was a public holiday, we did not publish an issue of S&T Alert.


Two one-day workshops back-to-back will be held at The Royal Society of New Zealand on 22 and 23 June 1998.

These two workshops are timely for all those interested in environmental and occupational health in New Zealand – from both policy and research perspectives. It is an opportunity for researchers, policy-makers, and different end-users of research to interact and influence the future by providing input for sector strategy development that will lead to new Government research priorities for the year 2000. It is intended that there be a strong futures focus.

The first day has been organised by the Royal Society of New Zealand and the second day by the New Zealand Occupational and Environmental Health Research Centre (NZOEHRC). The Foresight project overlay has been co-ordinated by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR). The meetings are open to all and anyone is welcome to attend either or both days.

The aim of the first day is to answer the question ‘How can science best inform public policy?’ Speakers from Government departments and other agencies will focus on outcomes and review their present need for environmental and occupational health advice and then consider what their needs might be in 2010. An outcome of the day will be to highlight gaps in knowledge, capability and infrastructure and how researchers and policy-makers can respond to best inform public policy in the future.

The aim of the second day is to answer the question ‘What are the future directions for research?’ Speakers will give their opinions on future directions for environmental and occupational health research drawing on their experience and knowledge of the science and the sector. There will be an important focus on group interaction to progress the ideas for future research directions that have been canvassed from a range of research, professional and policy groups and captured in a draft report for discussion (produced by the NZOEHRC). This draft report will be sent to registrants before the meeting. An outcome of the day will be to refine the report and develop a view of the types of research needed to fill gaps in knowledge, what new research skills are involved and what new research technology is required.

A key driver and unifying factor for these two days is the need to articulate the vision for the environmental and occupational health sector and develop a future-based sector strategy as input to the Foresight Project by October 1998.

For registration forms and further information about these workshops, please email


The Royal Society is hosting a one-day forum of teacher associations involved in science, technology, mathematics, and social sciences on 24 April to explore the role of the teacher association in the 21st century. Those attending include the NZ Association of Mathematics Teachers, Technology Education NZ, Board of Geography Teachers, Home Economics Teachers Association of NZ, Graphics and Design Technology Teachers Association, Horticulture and Agriculture Teachers’ Association, History Teachers’ Association, and NZ Association of Science Educators.

The aims of the forum are:

  • to initiate communication and liaison between Associations;
  • to develop an outline of what Teacher Associations currently do and what their role could/should be in the 21st century in terms of professional activity for the well-being of the profession and for delivery of the curriculum; and
  • to raise the profile of these groups.

Results of this forum will be outlined in a future S&T Alert.


The NZ Association of Science Educators has been commissioned by the Ministry of Education to prepare a science resource for primary teachers. Known as the Science Toolbox, this resource results from the recommendations of the Minister’s Task Group on Mathematics and Science and will provide lists of equipment and materials which would be useful for teaching science in primary schools. Sources of supply, approximate costs, suggestions for use, and special notes (e.g., hazard notification) about any item will also be included. It is planned that this resource will be available later this year.


Science and Technology Education and Ethnicity: an Aotearoa/New Zealand perspective; the proceedings of a forum held in 1996 was released recently. With papers from practising New Zealand educators at secondary and tertiary levels such as Mere Roberts of Auckland University, Toby Rikihana of Manukau Institute of Technology, and Liz McKinley, University of Waikato, as well as contributions from international speakers such as Ulegbemiro Jegede of the University of Southern Queensland , Peter Fensham of Monash University, and Derek Hodson of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, this publication provides some thought-provoking contributions to the debate about science and technology education for non-European groups. The proceedings are available from the Society at a cost of $25 (pp and GST incl.)


BP Oil New Zealand Ltd and the Royal Society of New Zealand have successfully concluded negotiations for the Society to administer the BP Technology Challenge Programme with immediate effect. In terms of the agreement, BP will be the exclusive principal sponsor of the BPTC programme in partnership with the Society. Details of the programme will be available on the web shortly. The partnership with BP is a natural progression for the programme as the Society has been associated with the BP Technology Challenge since its inception in 1988 as has the Executive Officer-Education and Promotion. He has acted as the co-ordinator of the Wellington region events since 1990.

The BP Technology Challenge involves activities to encourage lateral thinking skills, creativity and innovation, co-operative team work, and utilisation of individual skills. This event, sponsored throughout New Zealand by BP New Zealand Ltd, involves thousands of children in such activities in individual classrooms, schools, and in regional inter-school events through the year.

Working with common materials such as string, newspaper, and cellotape, teams of four are required to design and create solutions to problems posed within constraints of time and materials provided.

The Calendar of Regional events is growing rapidly and can be seen on the Society’s calendar of events.

It would be exceedingly difficult to run these events without the support of local BPTC Coordinators. BP and the Royal Society acknowledge that it is the enthusiasm and expertise of these volunteers that make the BP Technology Challenge so successful.

A BP Technology Challenge File is available free to schools upon request. If you would like to participate in a BP Technology Challenge in 1998, email Debbie Chan:


The Government’s decision to promote the split of the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand into three separate entities has obvious implications on the national Science and Technology Fair and the 16 regional fairs that currently enjoy ECNZ sponsorship. For the past seven years, since taking over the role from ICI New Zealand, science fairs have been ECNZ’s largest sponsorship under an agreement with the Royal Society of New Zealand entered into in 1991. Other ECNZ sponsorships are rowing and ballet.

The Society is confident that ECNZ will continue to fund all forward commitments for 1998 and facilitate the transfer of the sponsorship to any successor willing to support this worthy activity in succeeding years. Whether or not one of the emerging ‘baby’ ECNZ’s, or a sponsor from a new field, will be willing to take over the sponsorship is now the half million dollar question.


The Otago 150th Celebrations commemorating the arrival of the first European settlers are well under way.

An important feature of the celebrations is the 1998 International Science Festival which runs from 4 to 19 July 1998. An interesting and instructive programme of activity has been arranged and the organisers expect the science component to be well-attended by New Zealanders from other parts of New Zealand and visitors from overseas.

One of the major events of the 1998 International Science Festival is an exclusive opportunity for New Zealand scientists, researchers, and managers to gain the knowledge and the skills they need to communicate, through the media, to people outside their specialist field. A course and two workshops will run during the festival under the guidance of Dr Peter Pockley, Australia’s most experienced communicator to the public of science and technology. Dr Peter Pockley will conduct two one-day workshops for senior academics and top research management, and one two-day course for ‘up and coming scientists’. The workshops and course are being held in real-life situations at National History Limited Professional TV studios and state of the art sound booths.

For registration and other information contact


On 2 April the Marsden Fund Committee invited 135 finalists from the 757 preliminary proposals to submit Full Proposals for 1998/99 basic research funding. Results of Full Proposal Applications will be announced early September 1998. Marsden Newsletter Number 5 will be published shortly. This will include information from panel conveners on the preliminary proposal assessment process.


Today is ‘indicative funding’ day, the day when research institutions that have been selected as recipients of PGSF funding in the coming financial year are informed of the result by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST). The information is indicative as it is subject to the completion of purchasing contracts and sometimes involves further negotiation. On this occasion the results are to be kept strictly confidential to the parties as they effectively anticipate the 14 May Budget announcement . Until then, results are subject to Budget secrecy.


The Royal Society is offering a summary of science and technology news each week day for a trial period. Initially open to members and non-members, this service will be reviewed after three months.

If you wish to subscribe to it send an email to (no subject or message required)

We aim to keep the summary short and to the point. Remember – you have to subscribe to the daily news to receive it. When you subscribe your email address is automatically installed and the message is not read i.e. don’t send any other messages in the subscription message because they won’t get read.


Three weeks ago (S&T Alert 23) we referred to a paper published in ‘Nature’ (Vol 392, pp.402-405) by Dr Parry Guilford and his research team at Otago University. It is gratifying to see the fruits of another New Zealander’s research included in this prestigious international journal.

The last issue of Nature (Vol. 392, pp. 549-551) includes the paper ‘Parallel Thinking’ by C. S. Calude and J. L. Casti, reporting on the First International Conference ‘Unconventional Models of Computation’, organised earlier this year by the Centre for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science of the University of Auckland.

The paper critically examines the latest results in the areas of DNA computing (proved to be universal computers by virtue of base-pair complementarity), quantum computation (nonlinearity and coherence made possible several realistic schemes), and reversible computation (a thermodynamically reversible computer was demonstrated for the first time).

Professor Cristian S. Calude holds a personal chair in computer science at the University of Auckland; he is director of the Centre for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science.

As well as being the author of 138 technical papers and 11 books, and the editor of 11 books. Dr Calude is Journal editor of the Journal of Universal Computer Science (editor-in-chief), Journal of Computing and Information, Grammars, and Fundamenta Informaticae. he is also editor-in-chief of Springer-Verlag Series ‘Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science’.


Christchurch is proving a popular first-term break destination for environmentally minded 6th and 7th formers. Sixty-five of them from Whangarei to Invercargill, are attending Lincoln University’s biennial EnviroSchool. EnviroSchool was set up by Dr Graeme Buchan, Reader in Soil Science, in 1992 and the course is run by scientific staff at the university. The opening session was on 14 April

Under the patronage of Sir Edmund Hillary and with principal sponsors BP New Zealand and ECNZ, EnviroSchool will give participants a concentrated week-long introduction to a wide range of environmental issues such as climate change and human health, genetically modified foods, the biological control of pests, and land use and salination.

Since its introduction in 1992 Lincoln University’s EnviroSchool has become a world-acknowledged example of environmental education and the ‘seeding’ of an environmental ethic among young people. It has received academic journal publicity in Britain and the US, and 2 years ago in New Zealand it won a special ‘Green Ribbon’ Award from the Minister for the Environment.


Currently the major activity of the National Science Strategy (NSS) Committee is the co-ordination of a one-day seminar to be held in Wellington on 12 May 1998 entitled ‘Research Requirements for Sustainable Land Management; Soil Biological and Biophysical Processes and Surface Water Issues’. The seminar aims to engage those with a stake in sustainable land management research to participate in developing improved definition of priority issues and research requirements in the areas of ‘Soil Biological and Biophysical Processes’ and ‘Surface Water Issues’, identified in the National Science Strategy Committees 1997 Priorities Statement. A major objective of the day will be to define gaps in the current knowledge base and determine where future research needs to be focused. Registration forms, including abstracts of lead authors will be available in the near future. To receive further information regarding this seminar please email:


The New Zealand Landcare Trust has recently set up a listserver to distribute ‘Landcare briefs’, information on matters related to sustainable land management in New Zealand. ‘Landcare Briefs’ is distributed at about 6-week intervals If you would like to be included in this distribution list, or to provide information for the brief, email:


The following publications have been published by The Royal Society in recent weeks and are available for purchase:

‘Ethical approaches to animal-based science’. Published by ANZCCART, this is the proceedings of the joint ANZCCART/NAEAC conference held in Auckland in September 1997 Cost: $35.

‘Biological control of possums’. This is the report of a workshop held in April 1997 sponsored by the National Science Strategy Committee for Possum & Bovine Tb Control. Cost: $35.

‘Science and technology, education and ethnicity, an Aotearoa/ New Zealand perspective. This is the Proceedings of a conference held in May 1996. Cost: $25.

‘Next steps’ the proceedings of a conference on the human dimension of science and technology, held at the Royal Society in August 1997 will be available from next week at a cost of $25. This publication will also be sold as a set with ‘Profiles – a survey of New Zealand scientists and technologists’ at a cost of $30 for the two in the series.

All prices include GST, postage and packaging.

Contact sales@rsnz.govt.n if you wish to buy any of these publications.


Dr Peter Englert, a senior manager at the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (IGNS) in Lower Hutt has been appointed the new Dean of Science at Victoria University.

Dr Englert’s background includes working for the United States’ space agency Nasa on the Mars Observer mission while he was based at San Jose State University in California between 1986 and 1995. He emigrated to New Zealand to join IGNS in 1995.

Dr Englert will succeed Professor John Wells who was returning to teaching and research in biological sciences.

Horticultural scientist Dr Ian Warrington, the chief executive of HortResearch, has been made an honorary fellow of the New Zealand Society for Horticultural Science in recognition of his outstanding contributions to horticultural science. Dr Warrington’s research has had a focus in the study of how climate affects crop production. He had made significant scientific input to the New Zealand pipfruit, kiwifruit and floriculture industries and had a long-standing association with Palmerston North through his leadership of the National Climate Laboratory, now part of the HortResearch Palmerston North Research Centre. In 1994 Dr Warrington was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

The New Zealand Veterinary Association has a new Executive Director, Murray Gibb. Murray was educated at Christchurch Boys High School and obtained an agricultural science degree at Lincoln College before transferring to Massey University where he completed his BVSc in 1972. Murray has a small animal practice in Paraparaumu. He succeeds Bob Duckworth as Executive Director of NZVA.


The New Zealand Veterinary Association is holding its 75th Jubilee Conference in Rotorua from 29 June to 2 July 1998. The conference will also serve as a ‘satellite’ conference to the XXth World Association for Buiatrics Congress (Sydney, Australia, 6-10 July 1998). For more information on the Jubilee Conference visit or email