Science Digest: Issue 27


New Zealanders strongly agree that science and technology are important to the future of New Zealand, but they are unable to articulate what they contribute to the country, according to research undertaken for the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology.

‘It’s interesting that so many people – 80 percent – think science and technology are important – yet as a whole, they don’t seem to have a clear idea of what it is or how it fits into their lives,’ said Dr James Buwalda, Chief Executive of the Ministry.

‘People have vague associations with science of medical breakthroughs, plant and animal studies and ‘finding out how things work’. Science also invokes a nebulous world of formulas, laboratories, and men with messy hair. Technology, on the other hand, has an unbreakable association with computers.

‘Of course, science and technology comprise so much more than this. Science is an inseparable part of everything we do, in our everyday lives.’

The research also shows that there is a ‘blank’ in the public mind as to the type of careers that science and technology careers can lead to.

‘This blank means that people are unable to point to tangible examples of people putting science and technology to work in the world around them. It also means that parents are reluctant to encourage their children into science and technology careers.’

Dr Buwalda said it was no longer good enough for New Zealanders to relegate science as the province of a geeky few.

‘New Zealand has a proud history of scientific and technological excellence. But if we are to continue to excel and to prosper in the future, we must maintain our investment – both financial and human – in science and technology.

‘That means improving New Zealanders’ understanding and appreciation of what science and technology are, and the role they play in our success as a nation.’

The findings come through in two separate research projects. The first, carried out by CM Research, comprises quantitative and qualitative components, and surveyed New Zealanders’ attitudes to science and technology in New Zealand. The second is an Indicator of Levels of Science and Technology literacy in the New Zealand Community. Carried out by Web Research, it was designed to conform to a standard survey, developed and used internationally.


Representatives of eleven Polytechnics and Institutes of Technology met on 23 April at the Royal Society to discuss the further development of the Auckland Institute of Technology’s Bachelor of Applied Science degree onto a national basis. During the day the meeting had the benefit of contributions from the NZQA (David Lythe and Lesley Edgely), the Association of Polytechnics in New Zealand (Peter Coolbear), the British Council (Andi Hargreaves and Michelle McCormack), the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology (James Buwalda) and the Royal Society (Ross Moore).

There was strong support for a collaborative approach to the offering of the Bachelor of Applied Science degree nationally. Methods of utilising videoconferencing, the world wide web and email tutoring, to present parts of the degree in remote centres, were explored and will be developed for use in 1999. New majors (for example, Plant Physiology from Manawatu Polytechnic) were considered.

The NZQA is giving positive support to the Consortium’s initiative and the British Council has funded a study trip to the United Kingdom by selected members. The role of the Polytechnics and Institutes of Technology within the framework of the Royal Society was discussed informally.


Dr Ellen Forch is giving a presentation on ‘Women in the Reformed Science Environment’ at 2 pm on Friday, 15 May, in the Level 1 Boardroom of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, 48 Mulgrave Street, Thorndon, Wellington.

Dr Forch was New Zealand’s representative under MoRST’s Technical Participation Programme at a recent APEC Experts Meeting on Gender Science and Technology held in Manila. Dr Forch is currently Environmental Manager at the Hawkes Bay Regional Council. She will also discuss initiatives in other APEC countries, especially Canada, as well as issues raised by other speakers at the Meeting. The presentation will be followed by refreshments.

Please RSVP to Ministry of Women’s Affairs, email


For some time now, teachers have been calling for better assessment tools to help them identify student learning outcomes and evaluate teaching and learning programme effectiveness. A Green Paper on ‘Assessment in the Primary School Sector’ which will propose a package of assessment tools for teachers to assist with enhancing student learning will be released in May. Submissions on this paper will be due in August.


The Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences has a history of publishing resources suitable for use in schools. The latest publication ‘Hot Stuff to Cold Stone’ follows ‘Plate Tectonics for Curious Kiwis’ and both are extremely valuable support material for the earth science strand of the curriculum.


The Geological Society’s Hochstetter Lecture tour will take place over the next 3 weeks. This year’s lecturer is Dr Shane Cronin from Massey University who will talk on the effects of volcanic hazards. His talk is entitled ‘What happens when the volcano erupts’.

Dates of lectures in all the main centres are given on


The United States National Science Foundation (NSF) research ice breaker the Nathaniel B Palmer leaves Lyttleton today (Friday, 1 May) with writer/photographer Andy Dennis of Nelson aboard. This educational programme – free to schools – with daily updates from Andy and support materials can be accessed from

This programme is funded by the Ministry of Education and NSF and supported by the Royal Society, ICAIR, and the Antarctic Visitors’ Centre. Details were included in last week’s S&T Alert.


The Royal Society hosted a very successful meeting last week of members of the professional organisations representing teachers of mathematics, home economics, horticulture and agriculture, history, geography, social sciences, technology and science. Information and views were shared on the role of the professional associations, their relationships with external organisations, and aims for the future. Valuable contributions were made by Steve Benson of the Ministry of Education and Olga Berezovsky of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, both of whom provided ideas for future developments. Robyn Baker, the elected member of the Council of the Royal Society representing science and technology education attended together with Professor Gary Burns and members of the Royal Society’s Education Committee. Peter Spratt, the Royal Society’s Education Officer organised the meeting.

The group resolved to continue with such dialogue in the future, and the Royal Society intends to host a similar gathering later this year.


You can now keep in touch with what’s happening in the MoRST Foresight Project via the web.

The first step is to register on the Foresight Contacts Database. You can register as an individual or as a lead representative for a group or sector with an interest in Foresight Project. You can also register as a consultant able to provide foresight-related services.

Already the database is proving to be a useful reference point and networking tool for those that are involved in the Foresight Project. It is searchable and, with your permission, your details are available to others with an interest in Foresight.

You can also register any forthcoming (or past) foresight-related events, such as workshops or seminars that you are hosting. This information is stored in the Events Database and useful for publicising your event and also for finding out what other groups and sectors are doing. You can also record any outcomes and action points from past foresight-related events through this database.

By registering you will also receive the Foresight Flash – a fortnightly bulletin of Foresight Project events. The first issue of this bulletin went out on Monday 27 April. If you want to see a copy look on the Website in the What’s New section.

Register in the Get Involved section of the Foresight Project Website:


(1) 1996/97 Annual Report

The NSSC for Sustainable Land Management has recently released its 1996/97 Annual Report.

The report provides a review of the activities of the Committee for the 1996/97 year and looks at future activity, including plans for the national seminar to be held on 12 May (see following item). Appended to the Annual Report itself are the reports of the three Regional Committees. These reports identify sustainable land management issues of relevance to their geographical areas and those of significant strategic importance. These reports assisted the National Committee in completing a statement of sustainable land management science priorities. The resulting Priorities Statement released by the National Committee in September 1997 has also been included as an Annex to the report.

In addition, copies of the Committee’s 1997 Priorities Statement report have been printed in a new spiral-bound format. Please contact, if you would like a copy of the Annual Report or the newly bound Priorities Statement.

(2) National Seminar – 12 May 1998

The NSSC for Sustainable Land Management is holding its first one- day seminar on 12 May 1998.

This 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 NSSC’s 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.

The intended outcome of this seminar is to generate a critique of the NSSC’s Priorities Statement, and to produce a schedule of more detailed research priorities and projects under the research areas identified. It is envisaged that these outcomes will provide a guide to future funding priorities and allocations within the SLM area.

Registrations are now being accepted and can be made electronically either from a link from the Royal Society homepage or direct through the NSSC SLM homepage at the following address:
For further enquires contact


A ‘wrap-up’ round to allocate remaining funding under the International Science and Technology (ISAT) Linkages Fund for 1997/98 was held on Thursday 19 March 1998.

The names and details of successful applications have now been added to the ISAT home page at the following address:

For further details regarding the International Science and Technology Linkages Fund please contact:


Applications have now been sought for an initial round under the NZ/FRG Scientific and Technological Co-operation (STC) Agreement Programme of the 1998/99 International Science and Technology Linkages Fund.

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.

Guidelines and Application Forms are available for viewing on the Royal Society web site at the following address: or can be obtained by contacting

The closing date for applications is 15 May 1998. Please contact if you have further queries.


The following publications, recently published, can be purchased from The Royal Society. All prices include GST, postage and packaging.

‘Next steps’. This is the Proceedings of a conference on the human dimension of science and technology, held at the Royal Society in August 1997. Cost: $25. This publication can be purchased as a set with ‘Profiles – a survey of New Zealand scientists and technologists’ for $30 for the two in the set.

‘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.


Royal Society publications ‘Genetically engineered crops – environmental and food safety issues’ and ‘Gene technology: benefits and risks’ have proved extremely popular with schools which are using them as a resource for senior Science and Biology courses and enabling students access to current research in New Zealand.


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. Don’t include any other messages in the subscription message because they won’t get read.



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