Science and Technology Alert: Issue 40


Midsight Conference

What a week this has been for the 250 participants in the two-day Midsight Conference held in Wellington 28/29 July. In addition to those attending, many others were ‘virtually’ involved through the sophisticated internet linkages that provided for live transmission of conference highlights, on-line participation in the workshop sessions, and regular reports on progress as delegates worked through the conference agenda. The Royal Society Council and the Academy Council were well represented at Midsight, together with a number of conveners of specialist committees and officers of constituent organisations.

Academy Council President, Professor George Petersen, attended the conference and has given us his impressions in the following statement: ‘The Foresight Project comes at a critical juncture in the history of science and knowledge. By undertaking an exercise of this sort New Zealand could be well placed to take advantage of these developing trends.

‘The New Zealand Government has recognised that research, science and technology must be closely involved in its attempt to meet its objectives of social and economic development. The Foresight Project, and particularly the Midsight Conference held in Wellington earlier this week, responded to that by attempting to gain a broad consensus about what those outcomes might comprise, and by defining them more precisely than has been the case in the past.

‘The question also arises of how to translate these into the activities that research, science and technology might be expected to carry out. The gap between the desired outcome, largely phrased in social and economic terms and the process and outputs of many science sectors is not insignificant. The bridging of the gap was a major and particularly strategic function of the Midsight Conference which broke participants into 29 computer-networked groups, and attempted, with a considerable degree of success, to go through a stepwise process that refined the broad objectives into achievable aims and identified both strategies and substantive themes that would go towards meeting those aims.

‘The process was further realised by developing it for ‘sectors’ which were defined in terms of broad affinity of interest in scientific problems rather than the traditional disciplinary approach. This gave explicit recognition to another shift in the research, science and technology process: towards trans-disciplinary approaches, bringing a diversity of tools to the solving of increasingly complex issues.

‘The conference was both timely and a success. I wish to assure scientists and technologists that there is indeed an opportunity to influence the process. If we want the process to be a success then the opportunity can be taken through accessing the Ministry’s web page and through making a contribution through appropriate sector groups.’

A formal report on the conference conclusions will be available shortly but meantime those interested are invited to keep in touch with the MoRST Foresight website

Royal Society of New Zealand Conference, 5-6 November 1998

At the recent Midsight Conference of Foresight there was consensus that the momentum gained by this conference must be maintained.

The Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand has organised a conference which has that very aim-to help consolidate and move forward the Foresight exercise and to act as a bridge between Midsight and the MoRST conference in late November which will end the first phase of Foresight.

The Academy Council will meet this aim by holding a conference which looks at the broad themes, the generic issues facing research, science and technology and its different stakeholders: the purchasers, the providers, the end-users, the researchers, scientists, and technologists, and the Government, business and society.

We will have papers from distinguished presenters, local and international, who will address six broad themes:

  • Priority setting and leadership in science and technology;
  • The role of pure science;
  • Applied research and an evidence base for policy;
  • Research infrastructure for a small country;
  • The role and contribution of science and technology for development; and
  • Contribution of science and technology to policy/industrial end users

Each session will have a keynote speaker who will present for 40 minutes; three support speakers who will discuss the same theme (15 minutes each); and then there will be the opportunity for about half an hour’s discussion from the floor.

The President of the Academy Council, Professor George Petersen, will present a synthesis of the Midsight meeting covering both its cross-cutting themes and major sectoral issues. Professors Paul Callaghan and Ian Pool, both Academy Councillors, also attended the Midsight conference; they prepared a written report which is to be made available to participants at the Academy Council’s conference, or on request for those who cannot attend.

The Academy sees its role in this as two-fold:

First, fulfilling the terms of our Act which give us the obligation to promote and encourage science and technology; in this case to further the aims of the Foresight exercise and thus to strengthen the contribution of science to New Zealand’s development and national life.

Second, with other similar bodies internationally, we are engaged in the Inter-Academy Millennium Programme which has as an objective the committing of the international science community to attempt to provide research which can be applied to major global problems of sustainable development.

The Academy Council cordially invites you to join with us in strengthening and taking forward the Foresight exercise. Through it we can all ensure that the role and contribution of science and technology to our national life will be enhanced.

We would be pleased if you would circulate the preliminary programme for the Academy conference to colleagues within your organisation who may be interested. Further information is to be available on the Society’s website at, including the programme and registration form; updated information will also be available in Science Alert.


A social sector group with strong representation from the ‘not-for-profit’ sector, government departments, and social scientists met in Wellington on Monday, 20 July to discuss foresight as part of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology’s overall Foresight Process.

The meeting, initiated by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, focused on a draft document which had been widely circulated, and the feedback that had been received on the document. The draft contained proposed outcomes for New Zealand in 2010 and identified ways in which social science could contribute to achieving those outcomes.

Discussion at the meeting also focused on the competencies that would be required to enable social science to operate effectively, and identified linkages and core principles that would need to underpin a social vision.

This output was summarised to form the basis of a contribution to the Midsight conference and the following process. The organisers are hoping that after Midsight, it will be possible to develop a joint approach along with parallel processes being undertaken in the social sector by the Royal Society and government departments.

Those wishing to be put on the mailing list for the social sector process should send their details to


The objectives and activities of the Science and Technology Promotion Programme will be outlined in a series of presentations to scientists at research institutes and universities over the next few weeks.

Dr Alan Hull, who chairs the programme’s advisory committee will be giving the first of the presentations at AgResearch Invermay on Tuesday, 4 August. Alan chairs the MoRST Science and Technology Advisory Committee which includes representation from the Royal Society of New Zealand, the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, and the Health Research Council.

The programme will include a 7-minute video made at the programme announcement at Te Papa, a short oral presentation by Dr Hull, and the opportunity for feedback and ideas on how scientists may wish to contribute to the programme with their own activities. A number of resources will be available at the meeting, with more becoming available over the next six months.

Dates for the presentations are:

  • Tuesday, 4 August, Dunedin/Invermay
  • Wednesday, 5 August, Waikato University
  • Thursday, 6 August, Rotorua
  • Friday, 7 August, Lincoln/Christchurch
  • Wednesday, 12 August, Palmerston North

Arrangements are currently underway for a range of presentations in Auckland and Wellington in the last week of August.



New Zealand resident researchers who want to collaborate or work on projects in France can submit project proposals under the France/New Zealand Cultural Agreement. The deadline is 30 September 1998.

Proposals must demonstrate benefits to both countries, and New Zealand proposals must be presented with a French counterpart. The local partner must also contribute half the project funding.

There are no priority areas. Previous funding has been granted for projects on environment, agriculture, forestry, chemistry, physics, modeling and marketing.

For further information, email


Five 2-year post-doctoral fellowships in Japan are available for New Zealand researchers. They must have been awarded their doctorate or equivalent qualification in the past 5 years, and be able to take up the Fellowship from April 1999. The application deadline is 31 December 1998.

The fellowships are offered by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) through the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology.

Applications likely to contribute to long-term collaborations between the applicant’s organisation and the host organisation, and which will enhance technology transfer between New Zealand and Japan, will be given priority.

For further information email


A new piece of legislation came into effect on Wednesday, 29 July-and the New Zealand environment will never look the same.

After nearly 10 years in the making, the long awaited Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996 has come into effect for new organisms. A further section of the Act, relating to hazardous substances is due to come into effect on 1 April 1999.

From now on if you want to import a new plant or animal species into New Zealand you will need approval from the Environmental Risk Management Authority – ERMA New Zealand. The Act also covers genetically modified organisms (GMOs), including development in containment, field trial or release.

A ‘new organism’ is a new species of plant or animal coming into New Zealand for the first time. Historically New Zealand has seen a variety of introduced species, from rabbits, possums, and goats to catfish, ostriches, and camels-and more recently RCD, the rabbit calici virus. In the plants area, a number of species have been introduced only to become weeds, such as old man’s beard, ginger and gorse. A ‘new organism’ could also be a plant or animal developed in New Zealand through genetic engineering, for example, genetically modified potatoes, pine trees or sheep.

Information about applications received by ERMA New Zealand will be available on public registers and via the Authority’s website at Applications will also be publicly notified and key groups will be kept up to date through the ERMA New Zealand database. Anyone can make a submission on a notified application. Anyone who makes a submission also has the right to call for a public hearing.

ERMA New Zealand is urging anyone with plans to introduce new animal or plant species to New Zealand to contact them to check if they are covered by the Act, and if so, to find out how to apply.

For more information email


The first 1998 Carter Memorial Lecture is to be held at 7.30 pm on Thursday, 6 August at the Maclaurin Lecture Theatre 3, Victoria University of Wellington. The guest speaker is Associate Professor Peter Cottrell of the University of Canterbury who will be asking ‘What’s happening in the world of large astronomical telescopes?’ with the subplot ‘How New Zealand can participate in a 10-m class telescope’.


The report on the submissions on the review of teacher education has been released by the Ministry of Education.

Key points made were:

  • the definition of quality teachers in the Green Paper was too narrow;
  • a set of professional standards should be developed for teachers and principals at different stages in their careers;
  • a professional body should be established for the teaching profession;
  • support for Māori-medium teacher education should be given higher priority;
  • incentives should be provided to attract high-quality applicants into teaching; and
  • adequate in-service teacher education must be available to all.

The lack of support for the proposals on in-service teacher education was noted. A survey by the NZ Principals’ Federation found that 90% of respondents wanted a national system or the present system of support services. Many respondents to the Green Paper reflected this by expressing satisfaction with the current arrangement of centrally funded support service.

The exclusion of the early childhood sector from the review was criticised in a number of submissions. Copies of the report can be obtained from the Ministry of Education or viewed at


A series of posters featuring teachers of science is currently being produced by the NZ Association of Science Educators with funding provided by the Government’s Science and Technology Promotion Fund.

The posters aim to portray the variety of experiences available to teachers of science and to promote the rewards of teaching as a career. The set will be provided to all secondary and tertiary institutions as well as to intermediate schools, but, in the meantime, individual posters will appear in the July to October issues of the student newspaper ‘Tearaway’.


This book, recently published by The Auckland University Press, considers the topic ‘Māori education: to mainstream or not to mainstream?’ One of the hottest current debates, ‘Nga Kura Māori’ outlines the history of education for Māori from the advent of the European missionaries, and illuminates a neglected and often misunderstood area of Māori history.

The New Zealand Native Schools system affected many families, both Māori and Pakeha, for over 100 years. It was intended to provide schooling for Māori; however, the agendas of the Pakeha administration and the predominantly Māori families of the pupils were very different. ‘Nga Kura Māori’ draws extensively from oral histories and letters, from the memories and experiences of the pupils and teachers. These testimonies are set beside official documents and illustrated with contemporary photographs to bring to life the true story of the Native Schools.

‘Nga Kura Māori’ is drawn from a larger research project partly supported by the Marsden Fund. It is designed to return something to the communities which gave so generously of their time and memories to that research. Research findings will appear in later publications.

The authorial team is made up of educationists within the International Research Institute for Māori and Indigenous Education at The University of Auckland. It includes Dr Judith Simon (editor), Professor Graham Hingangaroa Smith, Associate Professor Linda Smith, Associate Professor Stuart McNaughton, and Associate Professor Kay Morris Matthews. Most members of the team are also connected with the Native Schools in other ways-as past pupils, teachers, or children of teachers.

Nga Kura Māori was launched by Professor Hirini Moko Mead on 10 July 1998 during an international History of Education Conference at The University of Auckland.

This book can be purchased from The Auckland University Press for $34.95. For further information email:


There are many Science Fairs taking place in the next month or so around New Zealand. Why not check out our conference database to see if there is a fair in your area. Support New Zealand’s up and coming scientists! For a full listing see

For general information on science fairs access the website:


A joint nutrition and dietetic conference, the 2nd South-West Pacific Nutrition & Dietetic Conference, is to be held in Auckland from 21 to 24 September 1999. Entitled ‘Pacific partners in nutrition’, this meeting follows the successful inaugural Brisbane conference in 1995. It is the chance to share information on current nutrition concerns and explore emerging issues in the South-West Pacific.

The participating groups are: New Zealand Dietetic Assn; Dietitians of Australia Assn; Pacific Islands Nutrition & Dietetics Assn; Nutrition Society of New Zealand; Australasian Clinical Nutrition Society; and Nutrition Society of Australia.

For more information about this event, email: or access the website:



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