Science Digest: Issue 26


Professor Sir John Scott was elected President of The Royal Society of New Zealand at the Society’s Council Meeting held on Tuesday this week. Professor Scott represents the Health Sciences & Technologies electoral college on the Council and also serves as a member of the Academy Council of the Society by co-option.

Professor Scott qualified B Med Sci, MB, ChB from Otago University and took his Doctorate in Medicine at the University of Birmingham. He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of New Zealand, the Royal College of Physicians of London, and of The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (College Medallist, 1992). He was awarded a KBE in 1987 for service to medicine.

His basic research involved exploration of mechanisms linking lipid and cholesterol metabolism to arterial patho-physiology. He and his colleagues in the Department of Medicine, University of Auckland, were among the first to demonstrate cholesterol transport into arterial walls in humans via the low density lipoprotein pathway.

He has maintained major interests in clinical aspects of arterial disease and its management until his retirement in January 1997. He is continuing his involvement in some long-term clinical trials. He was appointed Emeritus Professor of Medicine by the University of Auckland in February 1997.

Professor Scott’s other major interests are in the fields of human nutrition generally, health service organisation, health professional organisation, family planning, and the integration of medical and clinical science/research into the wider arena of scientific research nationally.


It is with profound sadness that the Royal Society reports the untimely death of colleague Mike Prebble. Mike died suddenly at Piha Beach about 5:30 pm last Saturday evening. He was on holiday in Auckland with his wife. Mike’s funeral is being held in Wellington today.

Our sincere sympathy goes out to his wife Annette and the family.


New Zealand women hold less positive views about science and technology than men, and are less likely to consider scientific careers, according to recent research conducted for the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology. The qualitative study shows that there is still a widely held perception that science is dominated by men, and that people’s perceptions are reinforced by TV and movies.

The qualitative and quantitative survey probed attitudes towards science and technology in New Zealand.

‘Our study also showed us that across the board, women had a more negative attitude toward science and technology,’ said Dr James Buwalda, Chief Executive of MoRST.

The attitudes in the survey are reflected in reality in the science sphere – girls are still under-represented in science and maths classes at school, and there are fewer women working in science and technology in New Zealand than men. In 1996, 17 per cent of boys studied physics in the seventh form, but only 7.5 percent of girls took the subject. In the workforce, women make up only about 20 percent of all research scientists and engineers, and 35 percent of technicians.

As in many other sectors, women working in science tend to earn less than their male counterparts. In engineering, for instance, women with five years in the workforce only receive 86 percent of their male counterparts’ salary.

Dr Buwalda said that science and technology were too important to New Zealand’s future to be left just to one half of the population.

‘Our challenge is going to be to change these attitudes to science and technology, and show girls and women that it is an exciting and challenging career. The stereotype of old men in white coats must be counteracted,’ Dr Buwalda said.

CM Research surveyed 800 New Zealanders aged 15 and up to establish public attitudes toward science and technology and how those attitudes are formed. In addition, 32 in-depth interviews were conducted with members of science and technology professions and the general public, educators, students and business people.


The International Science and Technology (ISAT) Linkages Fund was established in 1994 with two broad goals: to support government’s multilateral and bilateral international commitments; and to enhance researcher and institutional linkages to ensure New Zealand’s science and technology activities are fully integrated with the best international Research and Development (R&D) efforts.

Applicant Guidelines and Application Forms have now been released for the 1998/99 NZ/FRG Scientific and Technological Co-operation (STC) Agreement Programme. As this Programme is subject to 1998 Budget decisions, no particular level of funding is guaranteed and all commitments made or implied in the guidelines are subject to suitable appropriations being made by the New Zealand Government.

The NZ/FRG STC Agreement Programme supports an STC Agreement signed in 1977 between the Governments of New Zealand and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) to foster closer co-operation in science and technology between the two countries. Applications for funding under this programme are sought from researchers and technologists wishing to establish or enhance collaborative projects with their German counterparts, through support for New Zealand researchers to travel to Germany or German researchers to travel to New Zealand.

The closing date for applications under the current round is 15 May 1998, for activities commencing after 1 July 1998 and concluding before 30 June 1999. Applicant Guidelines are available at and further information can be obtained by email from


The University of Otago’s new swimming flume could help pave the way for future New Zealand Olympic and Commonwealth Games success, says Team New Zealand head Sir Peter Blake, who opened the flume in Dunedin on Saturday 4 April.

The flume, which is based in the Human Performance Centre (HPC) in the University’s School of Physical Education, uses precisely controlled moving water for the study and improvement of human performance, particularly in swimming. The flume is part of the University’s Aquatic and Controlled Environment Centre, which includes an environmental heat chamber and a controlled-temperature immersion facility.

‘I know science played a big part in Team New Zealand’s victory in the America’s Cup and I believe the flume and its associated facilities and expertise at the University of Otago can do the same for New Zealand swimming and other aquatic sports.’

Olympic gold medallist Danyon Loader’s coach, Duncan Laing , says the flume is unique in the Southern Hemisphere and is the equal of a similar facility at Colorado Springs which has helped keep the Americans at the top of world swimming for more than a decade.

‘The only way for New Zealand to reach the standards of the world’s leading swimming nations is to have our own top-class facilities,’ says Mr Laing, who plans to test 10 of his squad in the flume over the next 12 months.

University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Dr Graeme Fogelberg says the flume will provide valuable research and teaching opportunities for School of Physical Education students and staff, as well as benefiting the wider community.

‘The flume is part of the University’s commitment towards maintaining the School of Physical Education’s lead in sports science teaching and research in New Zealand. The University has invested more than $11 million for this purpose in the past 12 years, including the Human Performance Centre, which began in 1992.’


The International Centre for Antarctic Information and Research (ICAIR) has been offered a berth on the United States of America, National Science Foundation (NSF) research vessel the Nathaniel B Palmer (NBP) during May/June 1998. This programme will pilot a more substantial collaborative educational programme involving the NBP in 1999.

Dr Andy Dennis of Nelson, a freelance photographer/author with wide experience in polar regions and a PhD in Icelandic Law, will lead an exciting, virtual, learning adventure for New Zealand school students. Leaving on 1 May, the cruise will follow the 180 parallel until it reaches thick sea ice or the Ross Ice Shelf. It will spend about 35 days in the sea ice while research is carried out on the ice.

Sea Ice Voyage ’98 has been accepted by the New Zealand organisers (NIWA) of the United Nations Year of the Oceans (Oceans98) campaign as one of the New Zealand OCEANZ98 activities, see

Other OCEANZ98 events include ‘Voyage 98’: a programme involving a teacher aboard the NIWA research vessel (MV Tangaroa) in July.

Information about the Sea Ice Voyage ’98, its science projects and background information including images, will be regularly up- loaded to the website at with reference to key Achievement Objectives within Science and Social Studies Curriculum documents. Students will be able to email Andy directly: questions and answers will be circulated through a dedicated email listserver.

For further information email

Sea Ice Voyage ’98 is supported by the New Zealand Ministry of Education, Antarctica New Zealand, Visitor Centre, International Antarctic Centre and the Royal Society of New Zealand.


As the Ministry of Education analysis of the submissions to this Green paper is not yet complete, the existing contracts for teacher education will be continued for the next year rather than rushed decisions being made, according to Tim McMahon, Senior Manager: Policy.

The Royal Society’s submission expressed serious concern about the effect on equity if the proposal to devolve the majority of funding for post-service teacher education to schools was implemented. It is felt that it would be easy for a school to focus on areas affecting the whole school whereas those areas represented by smaller groups such as individual departments, syndicates or subject teams would have to fight hard for equitable allocation of resources. The issues needed addressing as did the issue of quality control of the services provided by a potential host of new providers.


In the continuing debate in the United States on the teaching of evolution, the National Academy of Sciences has publicly stated that evolution must be taught if children are to understand biology at all.


Six teachers throughout New Zealand have recently been awarded the National Excellence in Teaching award. Kath Fletcher, HoD Science at Central Hawke’s Bay College, was one of these six. Kath has contributed greatly to science education, with her most recent contribution being the convening of ChemEd97, the biennial conference of chemistry educators. She firmly believes that science should be interesting and fun for students and encourages her students to work towards becoming responsible self-motivated citizens. The Society congratulates Kath and brings this award to the attention of its members. Nominations can be made by parents and school trustees.

Further information is available from NEiTA Foundation, phone 09 373 5218, fax 09 373 2030


The first capping for two new degree groups, Social Science and Māori Studies, the conferring of the country’s first doctorates in Landscape Architecture and Wine Science, and the award of honorary doctorates to Christchurch’s Mayor Vicki Buck (Doctor of Commerce, honoris causa) and Canterbury conservationist Lady Isaac (Doctor of Natural Resources, honoris causa) are highlights of Lincoln University’s 1998 Graduation Ceremony in Christchurch Town Hall today.

Also being presented is the University’s prestigious Bledisloe Gold Medal for outstanding contributions advancing New Zealand’s interests. The recipient is Dr Bill Kain, Foundation CEO of the country’s largest Crown Research Institute, AgResearch, and now Divisional Director of Postgraduate Studies and Research at Lincoln University.


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