Science and Technology Alert: Issue 35

ZONTA SCIENCE AWARD

The Royal Society of New Zealand congratulates Dr Helen Neil on having received the 1998 Zonta Science Award. This prestigious award was presented by the Governor-General at a special ceremony at Government House, Wellington, on Tuesday, 23 June 1998. Dr Neil receives $5000 and return air travel to London and onward to USA or Europe.

The Zonta Science Award is made biannually by Zonta to an outstanding all-round New Zealand Women Scientist, who will contribute to her community and help others in the wider field of science. This year, of the 63 applicants, all three national finalists were graduates or staff of the School of Science & Technology from the University of Waikato.

Dr Neil completed her secondary schooling at Fairfield College, Hamilton, and went on to gain BSc, MSc Hons, and PhD degrees through the Department of Earth Sciences, where she was also an Assistant Lecturer. Her research field is in the area of marine geology, and in particular marine paleoclimates of the New Zealand region. Her DPhil study was the first extensive assessment of the oceanographic change within the Chatham Rise region of New Zealand Seas over the last 22,000 years. She has recently taken up a position as a scientist with NIWA in Wellington. In 1995 Dr Neil was a member of the Rotary Group Study Exchange which travelled to Switzerland for 6 weeks.

The other two finalists were Dr Megan Balks and Dr Michele Prinsep. Dr Balks is a lecturer in the University of Waikato’s Department of Earth Sciences, she specialises in the Environmental Sciences, the impact of effluent disposal and human activity in diverse terrains. She also co-ordinates both the administratively demanding first year undergraduate environmental science course and the interdisciplinary graduate Environmental Evaluation course. Dr Balks develops her interests outside the academic arena by serving on the Council of the New Zealand Society of Soil Science and has been appointed to the Waikato Conservation Board. She is a life member of the Hamilton Junior Naturalists Club.

Michele Prinsep is a lecturer in the Chemistry Department at the University of Waikato. She undertook postgraduate work at the University of Hawaii on compounds from marine organisms as a source of potential anticancer and antifungal applications. She has continued to look in the New Zealand and Antarctic regions for natural medicinal products and one compound identified as a possible treatment in rheumatoid arthritis is undergoing testing. Dr Prinsep is an active member of both the Chemistry and School of Science and Technology recruitment and public relations teams. Her energies are utilised in developing and organising events to encourage secondary students into science and chemistry.

DISINCENTIVE TO R&D

The revelation in the 10 June 98 issue of ‘The Independent’ that Government is seriously considering a change in the tax treatment of R&D expenditure that would disadvantage those engaged in scientific research has been described by one expert commentator as ‘bizarre’. There has been no official response to the story but all the evidence points to the unpopular move being on the Treasury and Inland Revenue Department’s agenda for action when the time is right. Similar moves were proposed some years ago when common sense was being challenged by a form of idealogical purism.

Two main changes are proposed. First, that R&D expenditure be disallowed as a deductible expense for income tax purposes; expenditure would be capitalised and amortised over a period of years. Currently taxpayers are able to treat their legitimate R&D costs as fully tax-deductible in the year they are incurred. Second, the introduction of a capital gains tax on the sale proceeds of intangible assets arising from R&D work is suggested.

It is to be hoped that this recurring proposal will be taken off the Government’s agenda once and for all. Industry will need prompt reassurance that such a blatant disincentive to an engagement in R & D will not reach the statute books.

THE FUTURE DIRECTORS’ AWARD

Six places on the Institute of Directors’ Company Directors’ Course are being offered to scientists, technologists, or engineers who have both the capacity and interest to put science and technology in the boardroom, through directorship responsibilities.

The Future Directors’ Award recognises the importance of science and technology to New Zealand’s social, economic and environmental success, by increasing the number of science and technology decision-makers qualified to hold directorships.

The award allows individuals to develop skills that will enhance their prospects of directorship appointment.

Applications for the Future Directors’ Award close on 15 July 1998. For information on the awards contact: olga.berezovsky@morst.govt.nz

ENVIRONMENTAL AND OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH RESEARCH

The Royal Society along with the New Zealand Occupational and Environmental Health Research Centre (NEOH) held a very successful 2-day meeting in Wellington earlier this week. This meeting was for all those interested in environmental and occupational health in New Zealand – from both policy and research perspectives. A key driver and unifying factor for the two days was the need to articulate the vision for the environmental and occupational health sector and to develop a future-based sector strategy as input to the MoRST Foresight Project by October 1998. The Foresight project overlay was co-ordinated by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR).

Over 80 people including researchers, policy-makers, and different end-users of research came together to interact and provide input for sector strategy development that will lead to new Government research priorities.

The first day addressed the question ‘How can science best inform public policy?’ Speakers from Government departments and other agencies focused on outcomes and reviewed their present need for environmental and occupational health advice and then considered what their needs might be in 2010. Speakers highlighted gaps in knowledge, capability and infrastructure and made suggestions on how researchers and policy-makers could respond to best inform public policy in the future.

On the second day speakers gave their opinions on future directions for environmental and occupational health research drawing on their experience and knowledge of the science and the sector. There was an important focus on group interaction to progress the ideas for future research directions that had been canvassed from a range of research, professional and policy groups and captured in a draft report for discussion produced by NEOH. The draft report will be updated to include the suggestions that came out of the meeting.

Proceedings of the meeting will be published. For more information email sutherland.g@rsnz.govt.nz at the Royal Society or afeyer@gandalf.otago.ac.nz at NEOH

ECOSYSTEMS, ENTOMOLOGY AND PLANTS – NEWLY PUBLISHED BOOK

The Royal Society of New Zealand miscellaneous series 48 1998, 160 p., 0-908654-81-2 Price: NZ$50 incl. GST, P&P (NZ/Aust.); US$50 inc. P&P (elsewhere). Special price for members of RSNZ NZ$40 incl. GST, P&P.

This book, newly published, contains contributions from a 1995 symposium to mark the retirement of four notable New Zealand ecological researchers – Bryony Macmillan, John Dugdale, Peter Wardle and Brian Molloy.

The book contains papers written by these former Landcare Research staff, presenting what they see as significant aspects of their own scientific interests, supported by contributions from invited colleagues describing parallel studies of relevant issues.

Papers include:

  • Early years at Botany Division, DSIR (Macmillan)
  • Biosystematics, biodiversity, climate change (Nelson)
  • The world of herbaria (Wright)
  • Lepidoptera herbivore-host plant associations (Dugdale)
  • Size and shape of the New Zealand insect fauna (Emberson)
  • Te Waahipounamu: South-west New Zealand World Heritage Area (Mark)
  • Comparison of alpine timberlines in New Zealand and the Southern Andes (Wardle)
  • Vegetation of New Zealand-functional, spatial, and temporal gaps (Lee)
  • Speciation in Thelymitra (Orchidaceae) by natural hybridism and amphidiploidy (Molloy & Dawson)
  • Isozyme evidence for the amphidiploid origin of Thelymitra decora (Orchidaceae) (Peakall)
  • The artificialreconstruction of the natural New Zealand hybrid Thelymitra dentata (Orchidaceae) (McCrae & Molloy)
  • The natural populations of Fuchsia procumbens (Godley & Reynolds)
  • Revisiting rarity: a botanical perspective on the meanings of rarity and the classification of New Zealand’s uncommon plants (de Lange & Norton)

Orders for the book can be made by email to sales@rsnz.govt.nz

For a complete list of publications of the Royal Society of New Zealand check out the SIR Publishing on-line catalogue through the Royal Society’s Gateway to New Zealand Science at: http://www.rsnz.govt.nz/publ/

SCIENCE ADVISERS’ CONFERENCE

Science advisers are employed by Colleges of Education or Universities throughout the country to work in the post-service education of teachers in science. The 24 of them met this week for the first time in five years to review their work and look at future directions.

The very successful conference was run in Hamilton by School Support Services, School of Education, University of Waikato, and convened by science advisers Mary Loveless and Kathy Saunders.

With the results of submissions to the Green Paper on Teacher Education still unknown, there was a great deal of uncertainty and concern for the impact of this on the work of the advisers. As expressed by the Society in its submission on the Green Paper, particular concern is held for the effect on isolated rural schools, on the majority of primary schools that have little or no scientific expertise amongst their staff, and on the quality of possible future professional development.

One area of concern was the lack of role models in science for our present students, and the current lack of awareness of the work of scientists by students. This is also of concern for the Royal Society. The Government’s ‘WOW – it’s Science’ programme will undoubtedly provide an impetus in this direction, but at the grass-roots level, it is up to each scientist to contribute, even if it is only offering to give a little time talking about your work with a group of students at primary or secondary level. The Royal Society and the NZ Association of Science Educators are only too willing to assist in any way they can to ensure valuable links like this are made.

PROFESSOR DAVID PHILLIPS – KEYNOTE SPEAKER AT SCICON98

Professor David Phillips BSc, PhD, FRSC, C.Chem will be a keynote speaker at Scicon98, the biennial conference of the NZ Association of Science Educators. Professor Phillips has a long involvement in the promotion of science, having given BBC TV Christmas lectures ‘Crystals and Lasers’, the RSC Nyholm lectures, lecture series in Singapore and Malaysia. He also received the Michael Faraday Award from The Royal Society, London.

Professor Phillip’s main current research areas are supersonic jet spectroscopy and dynamics, electron and charge transfer phenomena, and photodynamic therapy.

Professor Phillips will be talking on the public image and promotion of science at Science House at 4.30pm on Tuesday, 7 July. We are grateful to the British Council and NZ Association of Science Educators for bringing the distinguished professor to New Zealand and enabling him to make this presentation in Wellington.

The Royal Society invites you to this address. RSVP to Debbie Chan: chan.d@rsnz.govt.nz

THE SCIENCE OF GARDENING

If you are in or near Nelson on Tuesday 7 July 98 we suggest you consider attending an entertaining and instructive evening with Ruud Kleinpaste (Star of Maggie’s Garden Show and Gardening Show on Newstalk ZB) on ‘The Science of Gardening’.

Ruud discusses the fascinating mix of art, design, physical labour and knowledge that is gardening. He reflects on this mix, how much of the knowledge is based on science, and where gardening may go in the future. The venue is the Rutherford Hotel, Nelson.

‘WETLANDS: A VANISHING ECOSYSTEM’ – SCHOOL RESOURCE

‘Wetlands: a vanishing ecosystem’, a picture pack for senior biology students, has just been released by Learning Media on behalf of the Ministry of Education. Containing 24 picture cards, teacher notes, and student worksheets, the resource was developed as a result of a NZ Science and Technology Teacher Fellowship held by Peter Fergusson of Whakatane High School and hosted by the Department of Conservation. Peter’s Fellowship focussed on an ecological investigation of local wetlands.

This is yet another example of the benefits of the government-funded Teacher Fellowship scheme which gives valuable professional development to the teacher, promotes science to the wider community and generates links between different agencies involved.

Applications are now being called for the 1999 NZ Science and Technology Teacher Fellowships; for further information email: teachers.fellowships@rsnz.govt.nz

FUTURE EVENTS – see http://www.rsnz.govt.nz/forms/conferences.html

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