Science and Technology Alert: Issue 39


The New Zealand Science & Technology Medals are awarded annually by the Royal Society of New Zealand for the recognition of excellence in science and technology, and nominations for the 1998 medals are now requested.

These medals were instituted by The Royal Society at the request of the Government to recognise and honour those who have made exceptional contributions to New Zealand society and culture through activities in the broad fields of science and technology.

A Science & Technology Gold Medal will be awarded to recognise eminent research by a person or group in any field of science or technology. To qualify, the research will need to be recognised internationally as significantly advancing understanding of the field. In addition, the medallist will have made a substantial contribution to public awareness, knowledge and understanding of the field concerned. This requires more than purely scientific achievement.

Science & Technology Medals will be awarded to persons or groups for conspicuous, continuing contributions to science and technology over an extended period, or for an outstanding specific contribution to the advancement of science and technology.

Nominations close on 31 August for 1998 medal awards. Nominations may be made via the Royal Society website

Recognised scientific, educational and research institutions, and any member of The Royal Society of New Zealand, are eligible to submit a nomination.

Further information may be obtained from the Awards Officer, The Royal Society of New Zealand, P. O. Box 598, Wellington. Telephone 04-472 7421; Fax 04-473 1841. E-mail


(1) Increased funding for 1998/99 year

Increased funding on a contestable basis has been made available by the Government for programmes and activities that promote science, mathematics, technology and social sciences in interesting, exciting, and innovative ways.

The fund has been increased from $200,000 to $300,000 (GST incl.) for the 1998/99 financial year. The fund welcomes applications which actively promote a culture supportive of science, mathematics, technology and social sciences, particularly from those areas or groups which have not received support in the past.

Of the increased funding, it is expected that a single application up to a value of $80,000 (GST incl.) could be supported for an activity that has high impact and national reach, and is supported by equivalent funding from non-Government sources.

Applications for the Government’s 1998/99 Science and Technology Promotion Fund are now being received by the Society. Application forms and guidelines are available by emailing

(2) Fund takes maths and science to Māori students

A project managed by Te Ao Hou ki Tamaki Makaurau and funded by the S & T Promotion Fund in 1997/98 has seen a number of Auckland Māori students engaging in activities based around Technic Lego and electronics equipment. The project was designed to recognise application of mathematics and science and their importance in career choices as well as to expose students to a variety of career options within science and technology. Feedback received indicates that this has been a very successful project in which the students gained knowledge, skill and more positive attitudes.


Can’t make it to the Foresight Project MidSight Conference? Then tune in through Virtual MidSight!

Virtual MidSight will provide an interactive link to the MidSight conference via the Foresight Project Web site over the period of the conference (28-29 July). Through Virtual MidSight you can listen to live or archived (Real Audio) presentations, read summaries of the workshops, and participate in two of the workshop sessions via e-mail.

Virtual MidSight is accessed through the front page of the Foresight Project Website at Background information is available on the site from today:

During the two days of the conference, we will be sending twice-daily e-mail updates to those registered with the Foresight Project, letting you know that new material has been posted onto the site, or that an address is about to commence. If you’re not already registered with Foresight, you can do this at


After years of lagging behind the rest of the world in technology investment, the British government has announced additional funding of more than 1 billion pounds to improve Britain’s scientific base through a new university infrastructure project.

The step will boost total noncommercial funding for British science, including the groundbreaking human genome project at Cambridge University, which is now sequencing the entire human gene structure, by as much as 20% over the next three years. It will also help buy a state-of-the-art high-intensity ‘Synchrotron’ X-ray machine for advancing diagnostic techniques in biomedics, and fund an array of other projects.

The additional funding was announced last week by Britain’s Department of Trade and Industry and the Wellcome Trust, the world’s biggest charity, which disperses more than 250 million pounds to technological research projects annually and finances dozens of projects across Asia.

The money, 1.1 billion pounds in total, includes 600 million pounds for building new and refurbishing existing university laboratories and 400 million pounds for scientific research councils to spend on life science projects.


1998/99 New Zealand/Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Programme in terms of the Memorandum of Understanding with DFG.

The Minister of Research, Science and Technology, through the International Science and Technology (ISAT) Linkages Fund which is administered by the Royal Society, has allocated a small sum for disbursement under the Memorandum of Understanding with the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Programme for 1998/99.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding, forms of scientific contact may include, but are not limited to research visits; exploratory missions; joint seminars and workshops. Applications are now invited from researchers who wish to collaborate with their German counterparts. The closing date for applications is 1 September 1998, for activities which are to be completed before 30 June 1999.

Application forms and guidelines are available on the Royal Society of New Zealand’s website


Professor Neville Gregory, who presently holds the AGMARDT Chair in Animal Welfare Science at Massey University has been appointed Science Director at the Meat Research Institute in Hamilton. His appointment takes effect in September.

Before coming to New Zealand in 1994 to take up the position at Massey, Neville was Deputy Head of the Division of Food Animal Science at the University of Bristol School of Veterinary Science.

Neville’s research/professional specialities are animal welfare, animal physiology, and meat science. He is a member of the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, and he regularly provides commentaries for the Ministry of Agriculture, the New Zealand Veterinary Association, the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee and the SPCA on a wide range of animal welfare issues.


The 1998 International Science Festival ended with a hiss and a roar on Saturday 18 July, as the flames of the Firewalking Finale were doused by Caroline Cook with the able assistance of the Dunedin Fire Brigade.

Over 1000 people watched as Dr John Campbell, from the Physics Department at Canterbury University explained then graphically demonstrated that physics can be applied to everything including what happens when the soles of your feet come in contact with red hot embers. What followed was incredible as more than 100 people ranging in age from 8 years to 70 braved the hot coals. The paddling pool filled with iced water at the end of the hot run was welcomed by most, though more as a comfort than a necessity.

During the two weeks of festival activity, the festival used a wide range of similar events to demonstrate the relevance of science in our lives.

The Festival certainly achieved its aim of creating greater public awareness of science and its contributions to society.

Over 35,000 attended events during the festival, with as many as 30% of visitors coming from out of Dunedin. 130 events were run by 60 event contributors, and over 20 speakers came from around New Zealand and overseas.

Professor Sir Ian Axford and Dr Peter Pockley were the Festival’s keynote speakers and both attracted near-capacity audiences.

The biggest attraction of the Festival was developed by Edinburgh International Science Festival Science Communicator Adam Selinger. Selinger has been working for the New Zealand Festival for the past three months to develop events, and train his Science Communication Team. During the Festival they turned the Otago Museum’s Science Centre Discovery World into Discovery World PLUS; the PLUS factor involved holding four Live Science Shows a day, organising MadLab – a hands-on electronics workshop, and having trained explainers on the floor encouraging learning and participation on the interactive displays. Discovery World Plus attracted between 400 and 600 people per day.

Other successful events included the Magic of Chemistry by Professor Ross Grimmett, and University Open Days at the Chemistry, Physiology, Physics, Anatomy, and Human Performance Centre. Each event attracted about 200 visitors. The Waipori Power Expo proved a popular attraction with 2000 visitors over the three days of the event.

The Festival was a novel event for New Zealand. It certainly was succesful in attracting support and contributions from the Science Community. It provided a platform where scientists could promote their research, raise issues as diverse as science research funding to Māori Claims under the Waitangi Treaty, represent the views of special interest groups, develop scientists’ communication skills, and enhance the profile of participating organisations.

A decision on when the next festival will be held will be made within the next week.


We apologise to Birkenhead College for inadvertently transferring their HoD Science, Dr Jan Giffney, to Northcote College in last week’s Alert. Jan, the recipient of the British Council Science Teacher Award, is HoD Science at Birkenhead College where she has been teaching for the past 18 months.


Results from the National Education Monitoring Project surveying 8- and 9-year-old and 12- and 13-year-old primary school children highlight the following:

  • Primary school children rate maths as their third favourite subject after art and physical education.
  • Māori students are noticeably more positive about maths than non-Māori students.
  • Most pupils in the two age groups know basic addition facts well but are not so competent at multiplication.
  • Pupils in both age groups did much better when using calculators than when calculating mentally or with pencil and paper.


The 1998 Royal Society of Chemistry Australasian Lecture will be presented by Professor Michael Paddon-Row, Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of New South Wales, on ‘An overview of recent insights gained into the most fundamental and ubiquitous of all chemical reactions, electron transfer’. This lecture will include discussion of the controversial debate on electron transfer in DNA.

The lecture will be held at 7 pm in the University of Auckland Chemistry Department on 10 August, with refreshments being served from 6.15 pm.

These RSC Australasian lectureships are organised by the local branches of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry (NZIC), and Professor Padden-Row will be delivering the lecture in Hamilton on 11 August, in Palmerston North on 13 August, in Wellington on 14 August, in Christchurch on 17 August, and in Dunedin on 21 August at times to be announced by the individual NZIC branch committees.

The 1999 Royal Society of Chemistry Australasian Lecturer will be Professor W. A. Denny, FRSNZ, Director of the Auckland Cancer Research Centre. A New Zealander is chosen every fourth year, and Professor Denny is the second New Zealander, following Dr Ted Baker.


The organising committee for the 1998 National Agriculture/Horticulture Science Convention is working hard finalising arrangements for the event to be held in Napier from 24 to 26 August.

The focus for the convention is dimensions of quality in food and fibre production. The four speakers at the plenary session (on the morning of 24 August) are set and will make interesting listening. They are:

  • Dr David Lundahl from Oregon State University
  • Jeanette FitzSimmons, the Leader of the Green Party
  • Derek Snowball, an independent cool-storage consultant from Auckland; and
  • Simon Domper, who runs a small goat cheese factory at Norsewood in southern Hawkes Bay.

The Field trips on the afternoon offer the chance to explore a little bit more of the Bay and the Monday evening function promises to be entertaining with wine tasting from four Hawkes Bay vineyards.

Various awards will be presented during the convention dinner on the Tuesday evening and the convention will end with a Foresight session run by MoRST on Wednesday afternoon.


(1) Landlink

The winter edition of Landlink (Landcare Group Newsletter) has just been published. It contains articles on Landcare Research and biological weed control, clover flea and clover root weevil, Landcare group activities, the Otago Peninsula Landcare Groups directory, and several other articles. To be put on the mailing list for this newsletter, email:

(2) Surveillance

The June issue of Surveillance, a newsletter by MAF Regulatory Authority reporting New Zealand’s Animal health status covers articles on perennial ryegrass staggers, suspected scrapie investigation, infectious diseases of possums in New Zealand, and transgenesis and animals in research- an overview of animal welfare considerations.

Surveillance is published quarterly. Distribution of the magazine within New Zealand is free of charge, on request, to registered veterinarians, libraries, and certain organisations. Requests should be emailed to:

(3) He Korero Paihama Possum Research News

The June edition of He Korero Paihama Possum Research News covers articles on animal ethics in possum research; an ‘iwi’ perspective on possum control; the Māori relationship with the natural world: what does it mean for possum control priorities? and possum Tb infection in the Hohonu Range, and other articles. Copies of this newsletter can be obtained from Landcare Research Ltd, PO Box 69, Lincoln.


A selection of local news from our daily news service for the last week. To subscribe, send an email to

New drug boon to cancer sufferers
Auckland University’s Cancer Society Research Centre has developed a chemical to fight breast and ovarian cancer with almost no side-effects. Successful trials means it could be available in two years

Report on genetic food just props up Delamere’s decision
Alliance MP Phillida Bunkle says she is shocked by the poor quality of a Government report on the labelling of genetically modified foods

Professor Frederick appointed Chair of Communications at Victoria University Also to be director of the newly created New Zealand Internet Institute

Price of cloning too expensive for farmers
Massey University animal breeding specialist says the potential benefits to farmers will be lost if the price doesn’t come down considerably

Food safety issue avoided as farmers adopt genetic crops
Followed a long presentation to Federated Farmers’ annual conference by a senior scientist who told the farmers it was up to society to decide how gene technology was used in agriculture

Women needed in NZ science (Otago Daily Times, 18 July)
So says Ministry of Women’s Affairs’ CEO

Call for government to address decline in science (Infotech Weekly, 20 July)
Select committee wants study on human resources in science

Research cuts mean reshuffle (NZ Farmer, 16 July)
AgResearch scales back staff cuts to 20

Science funding shortfall growing (Education Review, 15 July)
Analysis of Peter Pockley’s claim

Audit Office fingers troubled institute in review of CRIs (NBR, 17 July)
ESR gets fingers slapped



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