On this page:
- Major shift in science research proposed
- More funds to environmental, social research
- How the research dollars would be divided *
- Top funding scenario urged
- Hamburger air pollution
- NZ could be cut from Internet
- Medals and awards
- UK educator’s programme
- Genetic technology resource
- Environment committee
- Electricity by mimicking plants
- Asian network
- Social science events
- Let us know about your coming event
- 21 post-doc fellowships awarded
- Neil Waters to chair Foundation
- Marsden Fund process underway
- Molecule of year ‘mends’ DNA
- Evolutionary biologist on NZ tour
- Environment education group formed
- International Union representation
- Antarctic map resource
- Assistance to young scientists
- Apple genebank bearing fruit
- 685 foundation members
- Science Digest Supplement
- An urgent case for investing $370 million
- Royal Society comment on SPiR report
- Other points from the SPiR report
- 12 Key Science Areas proposed
- Parallel Māori process
- Submissions next step in priorities process
- Copy submissions to the Society
A 24% rise in total Public Good Science Fund spending over the next five years and a shift in research funding away from strictly economic priorities towards environmental and social research is suggested in a major discussion paper on Government science priorities. The discussion paper, prepared by the Science Priorities Review Panel (known as SPiR), is likely to set the tone and the approximate proportion of $1.4-$1.8 billion research budget that the Government will spend through the PGSF from next year to 2000-2001. In their report the panel suggests three total funding scenarios to be achieved by 2000-2001: a ‘high scenario’ of $370 million a year (consistent with the Government’s commitment to achieve total science funding of 0.8% of GDP by the year 2010), a ‘low scenario’ of $290 million a year (little changed from approved 1996-97 PGSF funding of $273 million), and an ‘intermediate scenario’ of $330 million a year. The panel says it will consult primarily on the $330 million intermediate scenario.
The SPiR panel proposes a shift in research priorities that will see the primary industries and manufacturing research proportion of the ‘intermediate’ $330 million PGSF pool cut back from its present 73% share of the funding pool to 67% by 2000-2001. Funding of biophysical environment research grouping would rise from 25% in 1995-96 to 30% in 2000-2001. Funding on research into society would also rise from the present 2% to 3% in 2000-2001. The panel says the strong focus on economic growth reflected in the 1992 STEP panel still continued under the SPiR deliberations. But it was now complemented by a concern for a wider range of issues with an environmental and social content. Many outputs receive a major financial increase from the shift in direction including Fisheries, Dairy, Tourism, Information Technology, Manufacturing, Earth Resources, Marine and Atmosphere, and Land and Freshwater outputs.
Present $330m Scenario $370m Scenario 95-96 funds 2000-2001 % change 2000-2001 % change Output Titles (est. $m) (est. $m) in funding (est. $m) in funding Animal 37.4 37.4 0 40.1 +7 industries Dairy 12.7 15.7 +24 18.1 +42 industries Forage 21.2 22.9 +8 25.0 +18 Horticult., 51.9 49.1 -5 52.5 +1 arable, food Forestry 22.8 26.0 +14 29.1 +28 Fisheries, 6.6 9.7 +47 11.8 +79 aquaculture Manufacturing 27.8 34.1 +23 38.5 +38 Tourism, 0.5 3.7 +640 4.7 +840 services Information, 3.3 6.4 +94 7.8 +136 communic. Construction 3.7 5.1 +38 6.0 +62 Energy 5.0 7.6 +52 9.0 +80 Transport, 1.3 2.8 +115 3.2 +146 distribution Society & 4.2 10.0 +138 11.8 +181 culture Earth 14.5 23.0 +59 26.0 +79 resources Land & 30.8 41.8 +36 46.1 +50 freshwater Marine, 20.5 31.8 +55 36.9 +80 climate, atmos. Antarctic 1.9 2.9 +53 3.5 +84 TOTAL $266m $330m +24% $370m +39%
*A third option to hold funding at the 1996-97 level for the next five years is excluded here.
The Royal Society believes the science community needs to press urgently for the Public Good Science Fund to be raised by 39% over the next five years – the highest option proposed by the SPiR report. This will enable research spending to be on track for a return to 1981 levels by the year 2010. (SEE SUPPLEMENT BELOW.)
Hamburger restaurants, rather than factories or cars, may be the biggest cause of air pollution in Los Angeles. At least that’s what an experiment in Los Angeles is trying to determine, the magazine New Scientist reports.
University of California engineer Bill Welch and his kitchen crew are spending a year cooking 20,000 burgers to find out how much pollution is caused by LA’s 3000 fast-food outlets.
Air quality officials estimate the restaurants spew out 19 tonnes of organic compounds a day, as much as all the region’s major oil refineries.
Of greater concern is the 13.7 tonnes of smoke particles a day, nine times as much as produced by the region’s buses. These tiny particles reflect sunlight, causing LA’s notorious haze which contributes to respiratory problems and cancer.
Waikato University has threatened to sever New Zealand’s primary link to the global computer network, the Internet, if the Technology and Crimes Reform Bill is passed in its present form. John Houlker, manager of New Zealand’s Internet gateway at Waikato University, says implementing the requirements of the Bill was impossible as it stood. The Bill proposes hefty fines and confiscation of equipment for anyone who broadcasts, transmits or receives ‘objectionable material’ over their network for pecuniary gain. Howick MP Trevor Rogers, who sponsored the Bill, says the intent of the Bill is to prevent harmful pornographic material ending up in the hands of minors. He says it was never his intention to restrict information flows, and he was prepared to ‘substantially change and clarify’ the Bill to make it work.
NZ Science and Technology Medals have recently been awarded by The Royal Society of New Zealand to: Vicki Hyde, editor of Science Monthly, Christchurch, ‘for her innovative and effective promotion of a higher level of public awareness and understanding of science and technology in NZ’; Albert Parton, Christchurch, former president of the Science Technicians Association, ‘for his tireless efforts in seeking improved status for science technicians in NZ and for his contributions to the development of formal training and the recognition of qualifications for science technicians’; Angela Snowball, scientist at HortResearch Auckland, ‘for the major contribution she has made to kiwifruit research and for service to her professional society’; Brian Taylor, director of Science Alive!, Christchurch, ‘for his enthusiastic contribution to the advancement of science and technology education in NZ’; and Lesley D Swindale, Adjunct Professor of Soil Sciences, University of Hawaii, ‘for distinguished contributions to tropical soil and agricultural research and the application of this research internationally.’
A Prince and Princess of Wales Science Award has been awarded to Juliet Gerard, research scientist at HortResearch, to visit the University of Reading, UK, to learn new techniques to increase the ability of the NZ food processing industry to manufacture internationally competitive complex high value foods. This award is given under an agreement between the Royal Society London and The Royal Society of New Zealand.
Details of addresses by British science educator David Jones’ two-week tour of NZ organised by the Royal Society and the NZ School Trustees Assn (mentioned in last month’s Digest) are: Christchurch, Tuesday 23 May, 7.30-9.30pm at Canterbury Science Teachers Assn. at Science Alive!; Wellington, Thursday 25 May, 4.30-6pm Science House; Hamilton, Monday 29 May, 7.30-9pm, Waikato Science Teachers Assn at Education Advisory Services, Higgins Road; Auckland, Thursday 1 June, 4.30-6.30pm seminar at Auckland University, Rm 202 Fisher Building, Waterloo Quadrant.
A new resource to introduce secondary school students to genetic engineering has been produced by Crop and Food Research. Called Gene Technology 1, the resource was developed by Sue Jarvis of Lincoln High School while on a Science and Technology Teacher Fellowship at Crop and Food, Lincoln. She was assisted by Jon Hickford of Lincoln College. Other resource kits planned include bioethics, barley plant, and essential oils. Further information: Heather Norton, Crop & Food Research, Private Bag 4704, Christchurch. Price $15 each, or $10 each for 10 copies or more.
Dr Margaret Mutu, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Māori Studies at the University of Auckland, has become a member of the Royal Society’s Science of the New Zealand Environment Committee. Dr Mutu, a linguist, mathematician and board member of NIWA, is well known to many. She will be making a contribution to the Society’s awareness of Māori issues and, in particular, where Māori values, issues and concerns have an effect on environmental and science concerns.
A Massey University biochemistry team says it is on the verge of finding a way of producing power by imitating the process of photosynthesis process in plants.
The process has the potential of producing cheap, clean power from the sun at a fraction of the cost of solar cells.
Massey researcher Tony Burrell says the team’s secret lay in mimicking the first vital step of photosynthesis, in which light was absorbed and the first of a series of chemical reactions known as charge separation began.
‘We have the technology which allows us to do something no one else has done — to create structures which might mimic photosynthesis,’ he says.
‘While there is a great deal of international research being done in this area, our process lets us move much faster.’
The team had found a cheaper way of producing porphyrins –synthetic copies of chlorophyll. To draw off electricity, arrays of porphyrin could be efficiently arranged and attached to a titanium dioxide film.
The process allowed for ‘quantum leaps’ in replication, which was where the savings, compared with manufacturing conventional silicon-based solar cells, could be made.
New Zealand was one of 23 nations at an inaugural meeting in Singapore 13-15 February to establish an Asian Network of Biological Sciences (ANBS). Dr Murray Potter of Massey University, who is the elected representative of the biological sciences on the Society’s Interim Board, represented New Zealand. 60 delegates were at the meeting.
Two events are planned by the Royal Society’s Standing Committee on Social Sciences before mid-year. The first is a one-day seminar on ‘Social Development–the international scene and its implications for NZ.’ The other is a one-day workshop on ‘Preservation of New Zealand’s archaeological sites and information contained within them’.
An extensive calendar of science, technology and research-related events and conferences both within NZ and overseas is maintained by the Royal Society. Regrettably, we are often short of information from constituent societies about local conferences, workshops and annual meetings; secretaries and conference organisers please note. Copies of the calendar may be obtained by fax or mail from the Society.
Anyone can access the updated list of conferences and events on Internet through the Royal Society’s Gateway to NZ Science on World Wide Web through our web server: http://www.rsnz.govt.nz/
Twenty-one New Zealand Science and Technology Post-Doctoral Fellowships have recently been awarded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology on the recommendation of the Royal Society. Twelve were awarded to recipients to undertake research in New Zealand universities, five within Crown Research Institutes, three were collaborative projects between universities and CRIs and one a collaborative project between an Australian and a New Zealand university. The Society congratulates the recipients who are listed below (with their host institution in parenthesis):
Michael D Albrow (Physics and Astronomy, University of Canterbury), Tracey C Bourner (AgResearch, Lincoln), Janine M Cooney (HortResearch), Glen W Davidson (Physiology and Anatomy, Massey University), Catherine L Day (Chemistry and Biochemistry, Massey University), Cornel E de Ronde (Earth and Ocean Sciences Research, University of Otago and the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, Dunedin), Katherine A Hodgson (Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, Wairakei), Susan E Ledger (School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland), Diana C Lim (Chemistry, University of Auckland, and Industrial Research), Janice M Lord (School of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Australia and University of Otago), (Industrial Research and University of Auckland), Michael H Meylan (Mathematics and Statistics, University of Otago), Warren B Moors (Mathematics, University of Auckland), Andrew Nicol (Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, Lower Hutt), (Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington), Alexander M Remennikov (Civil Engineering, University of Canterbury), Nicholas I Sheen (Lincoln Ventures Ltd), Kuljeet Singh (AgResearch, Ruakura), Clyde A Smith (Chemistry and Biochemistry, Massey University), Adrian Turner (School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland), Brian J Young (Neuroscience Research Centre, University of Otago).
These fellowships are available for New Zealanders either locally or overseas who have recently completed doctoral degrees. For further information about the fellowships please contact the Royal Society or the Foundation.
Massey University Vice-Chancellor Neil Waters FRSNZ has been named the new presiding member of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. The appointment was announced by the Minister for Research, Science and Technology, Hon. Simon Upton. Dr Waters, who is to retire later this year as Vice-Chancellor, will succeed Dr Ian Axford FRS in chairing the Foundation from September 1995. Dr Waters was a board member of HortResearch Ltd but will not seek re-appointment when his term expires in June. Dr Axford has been appointed chairman of the newly established Marsden Fund.
The Government’s move toward greater funding of basic research has begun with many scientists putting in preliminary proposals by 31 March to the new $5.9 million Marsden Fund.
The Marsden Fund committee will assess the initial proposals and by 1 May invite full proposals from selected applicants by June 15.
The process is intended to give all researchers the opportunity to present ideas to the Marsden Fund while avoiding the time, effort and cost of preparing full proposals that may have a low chance of success. After refereeing and assessing, fund allocations will be announced about 1 September.
Many programmes are expected to start from 1 January 1996. The Marsden Fund budget will swell to about $11 million by 1996-97.
The journal Science has named as its ‘molecule of the year,’ a group of enzymes that repair DNA and could vastly improve the way experts evaluate environmental hazards or measure risks of cancer.
The DNA repair system protects the billions of pieces of information in the genetic code. When cells divide — as they do constantly — all this information is copied. When errors mount, they can lead to mutations and cancer. ‘Think of it like this: A typist, even an expert typist, is typing 9 billion letters. Inevitably, he or she will make a mistake,’ Scienceeditor-in-chief Daniel Koshland said. ‘Then a copyist goes along and picks out the mistakes and repairs them. That’s what the repair enzymes do. They are superbly accurate,’ he said. The enzymes check the DNA, clip out the mistakes, and replace them with the correct information.
An outstanding evolutionary biologist, Professor William Hamilton FRS, the Royal Society Rutherford Memorial Lecturer, has begun his month-long lecture tour of the country. Professor Hamilton, the London Royal Society’s Research Professor at Oxford University, has strong links with New Zealand. Both his parents were born in this country, though this is his first visit. He is giving public lectures in Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Dunedin, Christchurch, Nelson and Wellington. Dr Hamilton’s visit is a collaborative effort between the Royal Societies of London and New Zealand, universities and branches of the Royal Society in different centres. Dr Hamilton has carried forward some of the areas of social evolution that Charles Darwin first pioneered. He has proposed the concept of ‘inclusive fitness’ to explain the evolution of altruistic behaviour–such as when worker bees and worker ants do not themselves lay eggs but tend the eggs laid by the queen. The concept of evolution of co-operative or altruistic behaviour is general and applies equally well to human societies. Dr Hamilton’s work is having a revolutionary influence on the field of biological sciences, spreading beyond behavioural ecology into such fields as anthropology, genetics and embryology. Among his lecture topics are ‘Evolutionary biology and the new understanding of ourselves and our world’ and ‘The function of sexuality’.
A Working Group on Environmental Education has recently been established with the first meeting to take place on 8 May. Convener of the committee is Robyn Baker, who is President of the New Zealand Association of Science Educators. Other members are: Rosemary Marryatt, Te Puke High School; Graeme Buchan, Department of Soil Science, Lincoln University; Sue Corkill, the Correspondence School; Colin Walker, education consultant; and John Charteris, Education Advisory Service, Hamilton.
New Zealand will be represented at four general assemblies of International Scientific Unions in the northern hemisphere summer. They are: geodesy and geophysics (Professor R I Walcott FRS FRSNZ, Victoria University); Quaternary research (Dr Alan Palmer, Massey University); problems of the environment (Dr David Norton, Canterbury University); chemistry (Professor Ken Mackay, Waikato University). Scientists will also be represented at association meetings connected with the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics General Assembly.
A new map on Antarctica has been launched by the Department of Survey and Land Information, and an education resource for the Form 1-4 levels is being produced to accompany it. The production of this resource is being co-ordinated by the Royal Society and will provide teachers with activities which focus on the map and develop skills associated with map use.
The Royal Society has assisted 21 graduate students to attend their first international scientific conference overseas. The seeding grants under the Young Scientists’ Fund provide the stimulus and incentive for students to establish international contacts and assist in future career choices.
The world’s largest breeding population of apple cultivars established by HortResearch is now beginning to bear fruit with about 20% of the seedlings planted in 1991 now yielding apples.
HortResearch scientist Dominique Noiton, who is in charge of the working genebank programme, told a Riwaka Research Centre field day that 40,000 seeds collected from old primitive apple cultivars around the world–including wild cultivars gathered from the likely home of the domestic apple in Russia–have been planted in the field at three sites.
The genebank will be the basis for breeding new apple cultivars and designing breeding lines targeted at future market requirements, Dr Noiton said.
The programme hopes to avoid the big worldwide problem of inbreeding. In the past 20 years two-thirds of the apple cultivars registered worldwide were from only five parents — Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Jonathon, Cox’s Orange-Pippin and McIntosh.
At the close-off date for foundation membership of the Royal Society on 31 December 1994, 685 people qualified as foundation members. Membership application forms are available from the Society.
The Science Priorities Review Panel’s discussion document on establishing priorities for funding the Public Good Science Fund is welcomed by the Royal Society. The panel has set in place a framework for decision making on the difficult question that national science administrators always have to face: where should research dollars be allocated to ensure that science and technology is of most future help to the community?
The SPiR report has redressed many of the shortcomings of the first such exercise in research rationing, the 1992 STEP panel, which had to rebalance spending within a zero-based budget. More emphasis has been put on the ‘public good’ aspect of Government’s research, which has led to more money being put into sectors which have fewer alternatives for private funding particularly in the social and environmental areas.
Each science sector will now be arguing for a bigger share of the research pie. That is only to be expected. But the Society believes the science and technology community should not be caught up totally in arguments between sectors about who gets what. It is very important not to forget the bigger picture. We believe it is more important that the research community joins together to press the Government now for the $370 million ‘high scenario’ option presented by the SPiR panel–and not be content with the ‘intermediate scenario’ $330 million package or the even lower $290 million.
Coming from a period of penury in research funding it would be too easy for scientists to just be grateful for any increase–and meekly accept a 24% rise to $330 million. Some researchers may think that seeking a 39% rise in funding over the next five years is greedy or unrealistic. We do not believe this to be the case.
The Royal Society believes that there is a strong case for an urgent and large injection of funds into research and development from Government (as well as from the private sector).
For an institution like the Royal Society it is important to see the proposed funding changes in historical perspective. In the decade to 1991 science and technology research funding fell by approximately one-third in real terms while in other OECD countries it rose by half. Back in 1981 the Government was spending in real 1994 dollars $600 million in its research budget. By 1991 that had slumped to about $430 million. Only in the past year or two has spending once again begun to rise and we must be grateful to our Minister of Research, Science and Technology, Hon. Simon Upton, for this. However, even if the $370 million option were adopted, New Zealand by the year 2001 would barely be back to where it was at the beginning of the 1980s.
Hon. Simon Upton has assured us of his Government’s commitment to achieve the target of raising Government research spending to the average OECD level of 0.8% of GDP by 2010. The $370 million ‘high scenario’ was included as an option by the SPiR panel to smoothly achieve the 0.8% target in 15 years time. With the economy now growing steadily and Government finances in the black, the Society believes the $370 million pathway should be regarded as the minimum necessary. This would avoid New Zealand slipping further behind the scientific and technological advances of our trading partners.
Every year that the full allocation of funds is postponed, the harder it will be to achieve the Government’s 2010 goal. Each year should bear its share of the cost of recovery and the lost investment in research. The Government must adopt the $370 million target without equivocation or apology.
The panel has taken some hard decisions. Not all sectors are going to like what they read. But at least there is a sense of hope about the document. We are looking to a period where science in New Zealand is going forward, and not back, particularly if the $370 million scenario is implemented. Our Minister, Hon. Simon Upton, may be assured of the support of the Society and its members in making a strong bid for this higher level of funding from his colleagues in Cabinet.
A preliminary list of 12 Key Science Areas have been set out by the SPiR panel. These Key Science Areas (KSAs) are to be core capabilities of long-term importance to New Zealand which might not be created through the purely socio-economic framework of the Public Good Science Fund individual outputs. The Government’s Strategic Statement published late last year said the KSAs were likely to be strategic, cross-sectoral and multi-disciplinary in nature.
The Key Science Areas proposed by SPiR are:
*Knowledge of NZ’s biodiversity
*Evaluation of the EEZ and continental shelf
*Natural products from NZ flora, fauna and primary processing
*Māori knowledge and development
*Biological hazards management
*Natural physical hazards
*Intelligent production systems
*Improved processing technology, including food
*Sustainable production systems
The panel says in making the list it decided to focus on areas with a strong cross-output element and those with a dominant reliance on PGSF funding. Its view was that funding should not be directly associated with KSAs as this would create management difficulties for the Foundation.
The panel says it has no set number of KSAs in mind and the final list could be larger or smaller. The panel also says its interim view is that the KSA concept should be further developed over the next two years.
The SPiR panel’s interim conclusions on the parallel process of consulting with Māori on their aspirations with regard to research are:
*Research on general Māori society and culture, and interaction between mainstream science and Matauranga Māori will be enhanced by the increase in funding the Society and Culture output, under all funding scenarios.
*The proportion of the Society and Culture output set aside for Māori issues should be at least maintained.
*Research to enhance Māori development should be encouraged in all outputs, particularly where it underpins sustainable development of natural resources in which Māori have a significant ownership, such as land, forestry and fisheries.
*Retention of Māori knowledge (which could assist research into the environment) is a proposed Key Science Area, as is maintenance and use of NZ’s unique flora and fauna.
The Science Priorities Review Panel, which is currently holding public meetings around the country, will be accepting written submissions on its discussion document until 8 May before the panel prepares its final report to the Government. The final act in the whole process will be the Government’s release of research strategies about August.
Written submissions on the discussion document should be addressed to Dr D E Wright, Convener, Science Priorities Review Panel, Box 5336, Wellington. Fax: (04) 471 1284, E-mail: SPIR@morst.govt.nz
The Society welcomes copies of submissions lodged with Government by societies, branches, research institutes, university departments and individual scientists and technologists. Your co-operation will assist the Society in keeping its policies relevant and in tune with the thinking of members and the science and technology community in general. The Society is better placed to represent your views if it is fully aware of them.
This collaboration is particularly important in the priority setting process. So why not ensure we receive a copy of your contribution to the SPiR on the discussion document just released–it will be of great assistance. Fax us on (04) 473 1841, email us on email@example.com, or mail to PO Box 598, Wellington.