Science and Technology Alert: Issue 43

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

The Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand has organised a conference which aims 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 conference will look 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.

There will be papers from distinguished presenters, local and international, who will address six broad themes:

  • Priority setting and leadership in science and technology. Keynote speaker: Professor Ken Packer FRS, Department of Chemistry, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
  • The role of pure science. Keynote speaker: Sir Ian Axford, Chairman, Marsden Fund Committee
  • Applied research and an evidence base for policy. Keynote speaker: Professor John Swales, Director of Research and Development, Department of Health, United Kingdom
  • Research infrastructure for a small country. Keynote speaker: Dr Keith Steele, Chief Executive, New Zealand Pastoral Agriculture Research Institute
  • The role and contribution of science and technology for development. Keynote speaker: Dr Ellis Rubinstein, Editor, Science
  • Contribution of science and technology to policy/industrial end-users. Keynote speaker: Professor Roberta Farrell, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Waikato.

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

On behalf of the Academy Council, you are invited to participate in strengthening and taking forward the Foresight exercise. Through it we can ensure that the role and contribution of science and technology to our national life will be enhanced.

For further information or to register your interest in the conference, please email


The September issue of ‘North & South’ magazine released last Monday has a 9-page article on the state of science in New Zealand and profiles some young scientists and their struggles with funding.


Crop & Food Research Institute Chief Executive, Dr Michael Dunbier, stated yesterday that the allegations made by MP Phillida Bunkle in Wednesday night’s debate on her private member’s bill are incorrect. ‘I have written to the Speaker of the House to point out that the allegations are wrong’, he said.

Ms Bunkle claimed that a Crop & Food Research comment that herbicide-resistant crops could reduce herbicide use, was untrue, an error and a lie.

Dr Dunbier said that survey information from two years’ experience with Roundup Ready Soybean in the USA shows a 10% to 30% reduction in total herbicide active ingredient under USA practice. Surveys in the USA by agricultural market research firms Sparks Companies Inc. (Memphis) and Marketing Horizons (St. Louis) in 1996 and 1997 from surveys of 8158 growers (1996) and 7669 growers (1997) showed a reduction in in-season herbicide use ranging from 9 to 39% (1996) and from 11 to 30% (1997).

Crop and Food Research scientists’ calculations based on current New Zealand soybean growing herbicide recommendations could result in up to 88% reduction in herbicide active ingredient use if Roundup Ready Soybeans were grown in New Zealand.

Dr Dunbier says herbicide and pest-resistant crops have potential to reduce risk to the environment and human health, to reduce energy consumption and improve farm efficiency. It is the first of several useful, potential steps towards more sustainable food production systems through biotechnology.

Ms Bunkle’s private member’s bill, which would have required the labelling of genetically modified foodstuffs, will not now be referred to a Select Committee or proceed through the House, having been subject to a tied vote (60:60).


The Ross Sea Region State of the Environment Report was announced as a New Zealand initiative at ATCM XXI in Christchurch in May 1997. The report aims to benchmark the state of our knowledge about the Ross Sea Region, to document current and potential threats to its values, and to identify appropriate responses to protect these values.

Antarctica New Zealand and the Royal Society have been given the task of compiling the report over the next two-and-a-half years.

The report will assist in New Zealand’s implementation of the Environmental Protocol and serve to demonstrate and enhance New Zealand’s stewardship of the Ross Dependency.

The report will focus on the terrestrial, marine, and air environments of the Ross Sea Region. Contributions are planned from the New Zealand and international science communities and other relevant experts.

Expressions of interest in contributing chapters in the report and supplying names of potential editors were invited in April but the response was poor. Next week’s Alert will contain another reminder – in the meantime if interested, please contact Emma Waterhouse who is the Project Manager at Antarctica New Zealand, email:


The Ministry for the Environment is developing environmental indicators collaboratively with a range of individuals and organisations under the EPI Programme. The purpose of the programme is to develop and use indicators to measure and report on how well we are looking after our environment.

The following two publications are now available:

‘Urban Amenity Indicators Workshop Report’ – prepared by the Royal Society of New Zealand and David Hill and Graham Spargo of Hill Young Cooper Limited; and

‘Case Study: City and District Council State of the Environment Monitoring and Indicators’ – prepared by Peter Glasson of Glasson Potts Group Limited.

Both publications are available from the Ministry for the Environment, PO Box 10-362, Wellington. Email address:


The Auckland Regional Council (ARC) is funding a three-year Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (PDF) in the School of Environmental and Marine Sciences (SEMS) at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

The PDF will contribute to collaborative investigations designed to enable resource managers to anticipate, measure and respond to subtle environmental changes, in advance of the more substantial environmental degradation normally associated with subdivision of rural land for urban development.

Further information is available at or email


Prospective applicants are reminded that applications for financial assistance to support travel-related costs (direct research costs are not supported) from the above fund in respect of the Bilateral Research Activities Programme (BRAP); NZ/USA Cooperative Science Programme (CSP); and NZ/Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Programme, close with the Manager, ISAT Linkages Fund, Royal Society of New Zealand, P O Box 598, Wellington on Tuesday 1 September 1998.

Guidelines and application forms are available on the Royal Society of New Zealand’s website at


A number of staffing changes will take place at the Royal Society on Monday. These have been precipitated by the need for a new position of Executive Officer-Communications which will involve the development of strategies for the promotion of Royal Society programmes.

This will be a half-time position and will be filled by Richard Meylan who presently works in the education and promotion area of the Society. The other half of Richard’s time is to be as Executive Officer for the Government’s Science and Technology Promotion Programme which was recently initiated by MoRST, FRST, Health Research Council, and the Royal Society. Given the communications’ orientation of both positions Richard will be based at the Wellington office of public relations company, Logos Porter Novelli.

In taking up these new positions Richard will no longer be managing the Science and Technology Fairs. This role is to go to Debbie Chan who has been working with Peter Spratt in the education area over the last seven months. Alison Taranchokov, who has been working at reception, will now work with Peter and Debbie.


ACOLS, The Australasian Conference on Optics, Lasers and Spectroscopy is being held in New Zealand for the first time this year. It will be held at the the University of Canterbury from 14 to 17 December 1998.

An impressive group of speakers from New Zealand, Australia and further afield is headed by Professor Carl Wieman of JILA who will deliver the Frew Lecture. The complete list of keynote speakers is given on the conference website.

The ACOLS programme areas are listed below:

  1. Atomic and Molecular Spectroscopy (including ultrafast phenomena)
  2. Quantum and Atom Optics (including BEC and Quantum Computing)
  3. Chemical and Biomedical Applications of Spectroscopy
  4. Nonlinear Optics and Laser Development
  5. Generalised Optics, Applications of Optics and Lasers

ACOLS 98 will also feature a symposium to honour the achievements of Professor Dan Walls of the University of Auckland, on Wednesday 16 December.

Contributed papers in all programme areas are invited, with full details on the abstract format and the submission process being available on the conference website. The due date for submissions was 21 August; however this may be extended by a few days by emailing the organisers at:

Full, up-to-date details about the conference are available at the conference website



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