Alert Newsletter: Issue 123


Listed below are some conferences/events listed in the Royal Society conference database as taking place over the next 3 months in New Zealand.For a full list of conferences in New Zealand and overseas, access

New Zealand Society of Endocrinology Annual Meeting. A national meeting to discuss research in basic and clinical aspects of endocrinology. Queenstown, 03 – 5 May 2000. Contact email:

Scientists’ perceptions of the ethical implications of their genetics research, Royal Society Canterbury Branch Lecture by Dr Barbara Nicholas. 3 May 2000, Christchurch. Contact

14th New Zealand Fungal Foray and Australasian Mycological Society conference, Te Anau, 6-13 May 2000. Contact email:

New Zealand Archaeological Association annual conference: ‘New approaches and future directions for New Zealand archaeology’, 5 –8 May 2000, Wellington, New Zealand. Contact

The manipulation of animals by plants. Royal Society Canterbury Branch Lecture by Dr Jay Mann. 7 Jun 2000, Christchurch, New Zealand. Contact email:

Hawkes Bay Branch RSNZ AGM, 13 Jun 2000, Hastings, New Zealand Contact email:

NZ Society of Animal Production Conference, New Zealand animal production in a global context, 26 – 29 June 2000, Hamilton, New Zealand. Contact email:

NZIAS/NZSHS Convention: The Noah Paradigm! Managing the Impacts of Climatic Variability, 27 – 29 June 2000, Palmerston North New Zealand

2000 International Science Festival. A two week festival celebrating science and technology with specific emphasis on addressing the issues of Global Change. 1 – 16 Jul 2000, Dunedin, New Zealand. Contact email:

DNA Technology Workshop, 15th annual workshop, providing an introduction to the theory and practice of DNA technology. Updated for 2000 to include practical exercises on DNA sequencing and bioinformatics. 03 – 7 Jul 2000, Palmerston North, New Zealand. Contact email:

Scicon 2000. Biennial New Zealand conference for science educators. 03 – 7 Jul 2000, Palmerston North, New Zealand


Eureka! this week:–Protein structure and folding –A new guide for the treatment of heart failure –Geology Museum in Otago

National Radio, Sunday 2pm and **New Monday time of 7.30pm**


The following publications have been received across the desk this week:*Australian Academy of Science Newsletter January-April 2000 No.46 *Australian Science Teachers’ Journal Vol 46/No.1/March 2000 *DFG German Research 1999 *Education Review April 14 2000 *EECA Energywise News, issue 65, Mar 2000 *EECA Energywise Quarterly, Issue 14, Dec 99 *Investigating Australian Primary and Junior Science Journal Issue No.1/Vol 16/March 2000 (Australian Science Teachers Association) *Meteorological Society of NZ Newsletter, No. 80, Mar 2000 *Ministry for the Environment ‘Iwi & local government interaction under the resource management Act 1991: Examples of good practice’ *National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) newsletter, Mar 2000 *New Zealand Principal Vol 15/No.1/March 2000 (NZ’s Principals’ Federation) *NIWA Water & Atmosphere, Vol. 8, No. 1, Mar 2000 *NZ Dietetic Assn & Nutrition Society of NZ Joint Proceedings, Auckland Conference, Sept 1999 *Science Scope February 2000 Volume 23 (National Science Teachers Association) *Spotlight April 2000 #3 (Newsletter of the Public Affairs Section of the US Mission in NZ) *Teaching Earth Sciences Vol 25 No.1 2000 (Journal of Earth Science Teachers’ Association) *University of Auckland News, Vol. 30, Issue 3, Apr 2000 *Academy of Social Sciences of Australia, Dialogue, Vol. 19, 1/2000


SIR GUSTAV NOSSAL, a former President of the Australian Academy of Science, was named Australian of the Year in a ceremony on 25 January.Sir Gustav emigrated to Australia from Austria as a seven year old in 1939 and eventually became a world-renowned immunologist. He was Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne from 1965 to 1996. He was knighted for his ground-breaking work in 1977 and was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1989. As well as presiding over the Academy of Science, Sir Gustav has had direct involvement with the World Health Organisation, has advised governments on policy issues and is a much-admired public commentator on scientific and medical matters.

DR MERE ROBERTS of the School of Environmental and Marine Sciences at the University of Auckland has been awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship for 2000. She will be studying how cultural perceptions of risk, especially those posed by genetic engineering, can be assessed. As a biological scientist with Māori ancestry Dr Roberts has had a long-standing interest in traditional knowledge and its interface with modern science.

DR HELEN BEAUMONT has joined the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment as Assistant Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. Helen is a South Island chemistry graduate who drifted north to begin a long career with DSIR/ESR, her most recent role being General Manager, Environmental Analytical Laboratories.

PROFESSOR JOHN LOY, Dean of the School of Physical Education and Professor of Sport and Leisure Studies at the University of Otago, has been awarded an honorary doctorate in sport science by the Finnish University of Jyvaskyla for his influential role in the development of sport sociology over the past 40 years. Professor Loy said in a statement he was privileged to receive the doctorate from the leading European faculty of sport and health sciences. It was especially meaningful to him as he had worked closely with a number of the university’s students when he taught in America before coming to Otago University. The American-born professor came to New Zealand in 1993. He will receive his honorary doctorate at the University of Jyvaskyla in June.

The New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee has appointed PROFESSOR WILF MALCOLM to chair the Board of the NZ Universities Academic Audit Unit (AAU) for a 3-year term. Professor Malcolm takes over the chair from Dr Norman Kingsbury, the new Chief Executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. A former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Waikato, Dr Malcolm’s academic background is in pure mathematics, having served as a professor in that discipline at Victoria University of Wellington. He has just returned to New Zealand having spent 3 years as visiting professor to the Universiti Brunei Darussalam.


A new website, , shows how many of the technologies economically important to New Zealand during the 20th Century were anticipated by 1918.These predictions were made by a small group of technologists with a grounding in mathematics and a belief in applying science to technology. The site traces the progress of these technologies and discusses the relationship between technological innovation and economic growth.


The Auckland War Memorial Museum seeks a biologist for the position of Natural History Technician, Marine Biology Collections.Supporting the Curator – Marine Biology, the successful applicant will be responsible for:

* maintenance of the Marine Biology collections; * preparation of specimens and chemical preservatives; * registration of accessions and loans on an electronic database; and * co-ordination of public enquiries.

Participation in field and research projects will be required.

Applicants should be graduates with an understanding of conservation of Natural History specimens, and their taxonomic organisation. Specialisation in Marine Biology, and/or experience in the preparation and maintenance of’wet’ collection material, would be a great advantage.

Previous applicants need not reapply.

Please apply in writing, by Wednesday 3 May 2000, to: Helen Leadley, Human Resources Manager, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Private Bag 92018, Auckland.


Nutrient over-enrichment in coastal waters: global patterns of cause and effect 11-13 October 2000This symposium will be hosted by the Ocean Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences and held in Washington, DC. Topics to be covered include recent understanding of the sources of nutrients; fate and effects of excess nutrients in coastal environments; patterns of temporal response to enrichment and abatement; and political and social aspects of nutrient control. The results of national and international efforts to assess, understand and mitigate this growing problem will be presented in an effort to facilitate the exchange of understanding and experience between scientists and managers working in coastal areas around the world. The SCOR (Oceanic Research) General Assembly will run in parallel with the symposium. For further information about this event, please email Dr Dan Walker (


Dr John Campbell’s biography ‘Rutherford – Scientist Supreme’ was released in mid November 1999.Three-quarters of the first print run sold out in 2 months. It has just been reprinted and will now be released overseas.

The Canterbury Branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand was one of the first sponsors of the two decades of research for which this book is the culmination. If your local bookshop doesn’t stock it, it may be obtained directly from the publisher, AAS Publications, PO Box 31-035, Christchurch. $50 including postage within New Zealand.


Online service for agricultural biotechnologyCAB International has compiled an AgBiotechNet ‘hot topic’ on biotech and developing countries, which pulls together the arguments put by those critical of and supporting the application of biotechnology in the developing world, through news, reviews, book chapters, reports, links and abstracts.

Feel free to take a look or link to this site:

Other hot topics cover Bt Plants: Resistance and other issues, Animal Cloning, Safety of Genetically Modified Foods and Patents.

CAB International is always interested in agricultural biotechnology news from the developed or developing world, so if you have relevant information, email:


We have just heard of a conference organised by the Australian Academy of Science will be held in Canberra on 3 and 4 May.The themes are: changes of the global environment; mind and brain; energy; molecular structure and recognition; IT; telecommunications and control in the Web era; genetic engineering of plants and animals; ageing; the universe; looking out-looking forward.

For further information or to register please access the website:


The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Hon Phil Goff, today welcomed the defeat of five proposals seeking to reduce the existing level of protection of whales at the meeting in Nairobi, Kenya of member countries of the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).‘The proposals were voted down by solid majorities, which I believe is evidence that world opinion continues to oppose a return to whaling’, Phil Goff said.

‘The international community has decisively rejected any movement that would allow for a possible resumption of international trade in whale products.

‘Clearly in taking this decision the international community has acknowledged that commercial whaling is not sustainable. Whale numbers remain severely depleted after more than two centuries of exploitation. Whales are slow to breed and even more numerous species could be threatened by the renewal of commercial whaling.

‘New Zealanders share with other nations a strong resistance to any return to the slaughter of species which are characterised by their intelligence and strong social structure.

‘New Zealand will now be working closely with Australia in the lead up to the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Adelaide in early July to promote the establishment of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary. This is required to allow for the recovery of whale populations in the region.’


Environmental lobby groups have joined in criticism of the ‘voluntary’ moratorium on genetic engineering research announced by the Government this week.Greenpeace and GE Free New Zealand have welcomed the news that an inquiry will take place into the new technology, but criticised the lack of compulsion of the moratorium. They have also criticised the decision to allow previously approved field trials to go ahead.

‘It is of genuine concern that the previously approved field trials, so vehemently opposed by us, are still going ahead,’ GE Free NZ spokeswoman Mary Anne Howard-Clarke said.

‘There are currently 35 trials in progress and there will be a voluntary moratorium only, potentially jeopardising the environment and health of New Zealand.’

Ms Howard-Clarke also questioned whether the inquiry – charged with determining legal, ethical, cultural, environmental, health, social and economic issues – would advocate overriding international trade and legal obligations.


The document ‘Knowledge underpins quality of life’ launched by the Association of Crown Research Institutes (ACRI) on 27 March contains a rallying call for New Zealand to develop an integrated suite of policy programmes supporting a deliberate shift to the knowledge economy.The document has created some discussion over whether universities should amalgamate to form world class institutions. However, the document is far more wide-ranging than just this particular issue. It looks at what kind of environment is necessary for New Zealand to become an innovative ‘knowledge-based’ economy.

For those interested, the document can be accessed from the IGNS web page at, clicking on ‘what’s new’, or


The Foundation for Research Science and Technology (FRST) has informed us of a number of new vacancies which are currently advertised on their website: www.frst.govt.nzFRST says that the vacancies have occurred as a result of the Foundation positioning itself as a more strategic and proactive investor in RS&T for the benefit of New Zealanders.

‘All roles provide an opportunity for people with a passion for RS&T and innovation to be involved with a broad range of initiatives and ideas, to see things come to fruition, and to see the end results of science. Vacancies include Strategic Investment Analysts, Investment Relationship Managers, and a Chief Policy Adviser.’

Rob Woodward from Momentum (phone 04.499 6161, email is handling the initial inquiries.

Applications for all positions close on Wednesday, 26 April 2000.


Yesterday’s announcement of the membership of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission (TEAC) marks the beginning of a period of major change for tertiary providers, according to Associate Education (Tertiary Education) Minister Hon Steve Maharey.Mr Maharey said yesterday that he had appointed Dr Jonathan Boston, Tony Hall, Dr Patricia Harris, John Ruru, Dr Linda Sissons, Dr Linda Tuhiwai Smith, and Dr Ivan Snook to the Commission which is being established to provide advice on strategic issues in tertiary education. The Commission will be chaired by Dr Norman Kingsbury. Dr Kingsbury is also appointing Sir Colin Maiden as Special Adviser to the Chair.

‘The eight Commissioners will be putting together a series of reports for me which are going to change the way the tertiary sector looks’, Steve Maharey said.

‘Beginning with an initial wide-ranging Issues Paper, the Commission will also give the Government advice on: * setting up a funding system that promotes institutions working collaboratively with one another; * funding research in a way that encourages national and international levels of excellence, rather than duplication from campus to campus; and * obliging institutions to work out what they are good at, in order to determine their subject specialities and to promote their distinctive contribution within a whole system.

‘New Zealand is a small country. We need to make best use of our resources to ensure quality tertiary education is available throughout the country. The Government wants to build a coherent tertiary education system where each institution is encouraged to play to its strengths.

‘The Commission will give the Government advice on how tertiary institutions can meet the challenge of being ‘nation-builders’, providing the skills and innovation expertise New Zealand will need to operate as a knowledge society.

‘We have already committed $450 million to reducing the costs that students face in getting a tertiary education. The next priority must be getting the system right,’ Steve Maharey said.


The Government’s Royal Commission on Genetic Engineering will ensure extremists on both sides of the debate will not be able to impose their will on the public, Crown Research Institutes said today.‘Concerns did exist that either those for or those against might have imposed their will on the public, and the Royal Commission should ensure that this does not happen,’ Ian Warrington, Crown Research Institutes spokesman Dr Ian Warrington said today.

The association of nine institutes welcomed the commission because society needed to have all the issues considered dispassionately, he said.

He hoped the commission would give people a fuller understanding of the benefits and risks associated with the technology.

Dr Warrington, Chief Executive of the HortResearch, said Crown Research Institutes were conscious of the restrictions on some genetic engineering research during the time of the commissions.

‘Our members will be fully cooperative with government agencies in ensuring the intent of the Government is observed,’ he said. But he noted the limits imposed by the Government would stop some lines of research in which New Zealand had been leading the world, and that this in turn might cause some scientists to re-assess their prospects.


Sir John Scott FRSNZ concluded his term of office as President of the Royal Society on 31 March and Professor George Petersen of Otago will be Acting President until such time as a successor is elected.Professor Petersen is concurrently President of the Academy Council of the Royal Society.

The elections for Council are in train and members eligible to vote in contested electoral colleges are reminded that voting papers should be returned to the Returning Officer by 5 May.

The process of selecting a successor to the Chief Executive Officer, Mr V R Moore, who is retiring shortly, is well under way.

Members will regret to learn that Mrs Sue Usher has elected to retire with effect from 31 May, after 16 years’ service as an Executive Officer. Mrs Usher currently provides administrative services to the Academy Council and has responsibility for various award schemes and international relations.


The Royal Society distributed a special issue of Alert on Tuesday giving information which was then available on the decisions of Monday’s Cabinet meeting on these matters.Apart from announcing details of the Royal Commission, Government also announced that the voluntary moratorium on all applications for the release of genetically modified organisms would be negotiated between the Government and relevant industry and research groups. The negotiations would also cover field tests involving genetically modified organisms but with some exemptions. We have appended details of the Government’s proposal for the voluntary moratorium.

The Government has agreed that the following matters would also apply to the voluntary moratorium.

* The moratorium would be between the Government, and industry and research groups doing genetic modification work. No other persons would be involved. * The moratorium would apply to applications to release genetically modified organisms or conduct field tests involving genetically modified organisms. Development of genetically modified organisms in laboratory containment would not be included in the moratorium. * The moratorium would apply to future applications only. Current field tests being conducted and field test applications already lodged but not decided upon would not be subject to the moratorium. * The moratorium would be for 15 months, which covers the length of the Royal Commission (12 months) and a sufficient period beyond for the Government to consider the findings of the moratorium.

The Royal Society will be represented at a meeting convened by the Ministry for the Environment on Friday, 28 April, to discuss the voluntary moratorium. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the form and content of the voluntary moratorium and the process for agreeing to it. Representatives of MoRST and ERMA will also be present. The Society will be pleased to hear from any members who have particular matters they would like raised at the meeting.

Proposed Parameters for a Voluntary Moratorium

The text of the Government proposal for the voluntary moratorium arising from Monday’s Cabinet meeting is set out below in full:

“Cabinet has agreed that a voluntary moratorium on all applications for release and (with limited exemptions) field testing of genetically modified organisms be negotiated between the Government and relevant industry and research groups.

The Government proposes the following:

1. A participant in the voluntary moratorium prepares a draft application for a field test.

2. The participant in the voluntary moratorium forwards the draft application tot he Minister for the Environment.

3. The Minister checks that the draft application meets one of the following criteria: (i) involves fermentation of more than 10 litres of micro-organisms in conditions of highly secure containment (ii) field tests for medical purposes or for the development of therapeutic agents where these are necessary to continue an existing line of inquiry or to develop and test new drugs or potential therapies (iii) applications where the risk of the loss of scientific inquiry knowledge to New Zealand is substantial or where the potential health, environmental or commercial benefits to New Zealand would be lost if the application was delayed until after the Royal Commission. (iv) applications where the level of investment in an ongoing line of inquiry is substantial and the inability to make an application for a field test would prejudice the value of earlier investment.

4. If the draft application meets one or more of the above criteria, the Minister then checks that it specifies controls for the organism on which the test will be conducted, which meet the following requirements (relevant to the organism to be tested): (i) Conditions placed on any field test involving genetically modified plants will ensure that: – once any reproductive structure above the ground reaches the stage where it is capable of releasing heritable material it shall be immediately removed, and transported in secure containment if required, and destroyed – any heritable material beneath the ground is retrieved, transported in secure containment if required, and destroyed once the test is complete unless the heritable material is required for research purposes in which case it shall be retained in conditions of high security. (ii) Conditions will be placed on any trial involving genetically modified animals containing human genes to ensure that all animals forming part of the test, including their offspring, are held in secure containment and also clearly identified in case of escape.

5. The Minister then advises the party to the voluntary moratorium on whether or not the draft application will be acceptable to proceed with. If the Minister’s advice is not to proceed, an application for a field test approval under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act would not be made. If the advice is that the draft application may proceed, the application is finalised and provided to the ERMA and the normal processes under the HSNO Act follow.

6. The Minister may at any stage ask the potential applicant, or other party, for further information to clarify matters relating to the draft application.”

Royal Society Action

The Acting President of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Professor George Petersen, has written to the Minister of Research, Science & Technology, Hon Pete Hodgson, assuring the Minister that the Royal Society will take all possible steps to ensure that its members comply with the requirements of the law and the voluntary moratorium that is being developed concerning genetic modification. Professor Petersen and Professor Diana Hill, Chair of the Marsden Fund Committee, will be ensuring that science researchers under contract to the Society for Marsden funding have obtained all necessary consents from the appropriate authorities. The following communication has been sent to all research co-ordinators from the Manager of the Marsden Fund, Dr Valda McCann:

“In view of the recent news regarding the failure of some researchers to ensure that the correct consent had been obtained for their research, I would like information from you about what steps you are taking to ensure that all such consents have been obtained for research done under Marsden Fund contracts.

Please remember that our contracts with your organisation say that the contractor will apply for and obtain all consents that are required and will notify the Royal Society as soon as practicable upon it being apparent or suspected that any required consent is unavailable if the consent cannot be obtained by the date by which it is required. If this situation exists we may elect to suspend funding for the programme until negotiations are held with the view to agreeing on a Variation Schedule.

Could you please respond to this email by 19 April so that we are aware of the timetable that you will follow in ensuring compliance.”

Members are reminded of the Code of Professional Standards and Ethics that they are obliged to adhere to. The Code is made under the authority of Section 34 of the Royal Society of New Zealand Act 1997 and may be sighted on our web page (

More information on the Royal Commission is available at the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology website: and the Ministry for the Environment