Alert Newsletter: Issue 119

ACROSS THE DESK

The following publications have been received by the Royal Society this weekNZ Society of Animal Production newsletter, Mar 2000 NZ Statistical Association newsletter, Mar 2000

RADIO PROGRAMMES

Eureka!, Discovery, One PlanetEureka! National Radio Sunday 2pm; repeated Monday at 7pm. Contact Eureka! science@ihug.co.nz

*Discovery programme Scientific development and research (BBC) This features on National Radio at 9.06 pm on Friday nights and 12.06 am on Wednesday mornings.

*One Planet: Listen to this on National Radio at 9.06 pm on Wednesday nights.

PEOPLE

University of Otago Glassblower John Wells has won a Queen Elizabeth II Study Fellowship.John Wells is based in the University of Otago Chemistry Department glass workshop. He is involved in innovative glass engineering, developing unique laboratory apparatus that enables chemistry researchers to progress their research work in directions which would otherwise not be possible. The fellowship will enable John to study in the United Kingdom.

IN BRIEF

Palestinians have won their independence in cyberspace before they get a country of their own. A separate Internet domain name for Palestinian web sites won approval last week.The Internet designation means Palestinian sites could begin using their own suffix, ‘ps,’ the same way Israelis use ‘il’. The U.S. Commerce Department approved the new suffix following a recommendation from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a newly established private group overseeing the world’s Internet address system.

The genetic code of the common fruit fly, an insect frequently used for research on the human genome, has been completely mapped, and the entire sequence will be published tomorrow in the journal ‘Science’, the University of California at Berkeley said this week. Researchers say they have sequenced between 97 to 99 percent of some 13,600 genes of the fruit fly, whose scientific name is drosophila melanogaster. The fruit fly is among the species most studied by geneticists worldwide, because its genetic code is considered parallel to that of humans.

Retired scientist Peter Toynbee, imports, as a hobby, two American publications – the quarterly ’21st Century Science and Technology’ (concerned with historical scientific matters and with current controversial issues) and the monthly newsletter ‘Access to Energy’ (which cocks a critical snook at all these doubtful tales of doom and gloom, and at the bureaucratic developments that are tending to strangle the ‘good old’ American way of life). He is seeking to expand this non-profit-making operation and is offering, without obligation, complimentary copies of one or both of these publications.

Anyone interested should e-mail: petertoynbee@paradise.net.nz if they wish to receive one or both of these – to permit their better assessment of them.

The diffusionists have landed

Diffusionism – the claim that most New World cultures were inflenced by early European travellers – falls into the ‘wacky science’ category for many archaeologists. However, it’s hard to keep down, as there is an article in the Atlantic Monthly (Jan 2000) by Marc Steigel that looks at how some archaeologists are changing their minds. It focuses on the work of Barry Fell, who was a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, and his modern adherents.

SIR DOUGLAS ROBB LECTURE SERIES

The speaker for the 2000 Sir Douglas Robb Lecture series at the University of Auckland is Dr Steven Weinberg, from the University of Texas at Austin and Nobel prize winner for Physics.He will be delivering three evening lectures. Dr Weinberg is willing to meet informally with scientists outside the formal series.

The organisers are still negotiating over the week Dr Wienberg will be in New Zealand. It will be either the last week in July or the first week in August. A final date will be notified soon

SIR DOUGLAS ROBB LECTURE SERIES

The speaker for the 2000 Sir Douglas Robb Lecture series at the University of Auckland is Dr Steven Weinberg, from the University of Texas at Austin and Nobel prize winner for Physics.He will be delivering three evening lectures. Dr Weinberg is willing to meet informally with scientists outside the formal series.

The organisers are still negotiating over the week Dr Wienberg will be in New Zealand. It will be either the last week in July or the first week in August. A final date will be notified soon

LEARNZ2K

INNOVATIVE TEACHING ABOUT VOLCANOES, KIWI AND CONSERVATIONRegistrations are being taken now for this award winning online programme called ‘Nga Taonga o Tongariro: The Treasures of Tongariro’. The Tongariro National Park World Heritage Area is the focus for this year’s virtual field trip which targets science, social studies and technology for years 4 to 10. Teacher Resource Kits are due to be posted this week and include the 45 page Teacher Manual, overheads, posters, maps, activity books and other resources. Registration costs NZ$45 and enables full participation in two virtual field trips.

LEARNZ2K follows three themes: 1. Tongariro National Park World Heritage Area – exploring the physical and cultural landscapes of the central volcanic plateau 2. Operation Nest Egg – the kiwi recovery programme 3. Karioi Rahui investigating a special forest area and its co-operative management

The climax of the LEARNZ2K year are the two, 3 week virtual field trips in May and October. During these events students participate as far as technology will allow, in conservation activities. The LEARNZ2K teacher, Jeff Gunn will be working closely with Department of Conservation staff during these periods and sharing his experiences in audioconferences, via email and the website http://www.learnz.org.nz/2k.

LEARNZ2K has been modelled on the successful LEARNZ99 programme which remains online at http://www.learnz.org.nz/99

TEACHER FELLOWS REVEL IN THEIR WORK

The following comments received by the Royal Society from one of this year’s New Zealand Science, Mathematics and Technology Teacher Fellows clearly demonstrate the value of this scheme.‘My new experiences so far have included: * Smelling the native woodrose (Dactylanthus)- unique; * Seeing 6 grown botanists amused for hours on hands and knees in a large sandpit; * Finding katipo/redbacks; * Being in cars that do emergency braking procedures for unusual roadside weeds; * Tracking the Sth Taranaki coast for a giant -leaved weed escapee from Chile.

I am also gaining in areas from computer skills to First Aid. The only thing that has brought me back to reality (besides my own teenagers at home) was sending a mail-out to regional teachers with a reply section and getting a 5% response. A reminder of the workloads that we are getting away from this year?!- Not that my hours are lower, just more exciting I guess.

I will be at SCICON doing a joint presentation with a DOC scientist on Aquatic Biodiversity which is a new alternative for Bursary Bio essay topic. We have plenty of information available for any of you who are interested in that topic. May the Fellowship prosper!’

Applications are now being called for the year 2001. If you are interested in applying or in acting as a host for a fellowship. contact Allison Taranchokov at taranchokov.a@rsnz.govt.nz

FREE SCIENCE FESTIVAL PREVIEW

Organisers of the International Science Festival are offering schools in the lower South Island a free 20-minute travelling science show.The promotional tour will be staged during May and June to give schools a sample of the events at the festival in Dunedin in July.

Projects co-ordinator Nikki Waghorn says the tour will include science theatre, exciting experiments and competitions. She says the festival will host over 200 events and is expected to attract more than 40,000 visitors.

2000 GENESIS SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FAIR

Discussions held this week with Genesis Energy Ltd, sponsor of the National Science and Technology Fair and principal sponsor of most of the regional fairs, give security to the sponsorship for the immediate future.The national fair this year will be held in Auckland in the first week of December.

Regional fairs start in July this year with the last being held in October. A full calendar of regional fairs will be published in the Alert as soon as dates have been finalised.

PESTICIDES BOARD TO LOOK INTO 2,4-D

The Pesticides Board’s Registrar is welcoming submissions from the public on the agricultural herbicide, 2,4-D.The Board is happy to receive submissions from the public before early May when the registration status of 2,4-D in New Zealand will be discussed.

‘We are interested in gathering any new information on 2,4-D and the current issues surrounding it. The Board is contacting the Ministry of Health, OSH, and ERMA NZ in hope of convening an expert group to consider any new information. It is intended that the expert group will make recommendations on the registration status of 2,4-D, or its conditions of use, to the Board,’ said Dr John Reeve, the Board’s Registrar.

‘We are interested in any sound scientific and technical developments regarding the products the Board has registered, and if need be, will adjust the registration status accordingly,’ he said.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, on behalf of the Pesticides Board, maintains watch on issues regarding pesticide use and its registration status overseas. Relevant scientific and technical information is used, along with advice from other New Zealand government agencies as a basis for future registration, or reviews of currently registered products.

It is expected that the expert group will report back to the Pesticides Board by the end of April. The Board will then evaluate the information and make its own decision on the need for any change to the registration status of current 2,4-D products.

For further information contact Debbie Morris, Director, Agricultural Chemicals and Veterinary Medicines Group, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Ph 04 4744141

ANIMAL WELFARE ACT IN NEW ZEALAND

A new Act was introduced on 1 January 2000For a very interesting article on the new Animal Welfare Act see http://www.rsnz.govt.nz/news/current/animal_welfare_act.php

RUTHERFORD LECTURE

Dunedin – 14 July, 5:30 pm, Hutton Theatre, Otago MuseumProfessor Michael Kelly, FRS, FREng, Head of the Department of Electronic Engineering, Information Technology and Mathematics, University of Surrey, will present his lecture ‘The Information Technology Revolution: What will alter its progress?’

Professor Kelly is a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington, received his PhD from Cambridge University, and then worked in both industry and academia before taking up his current position. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (London) in 1993 and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1998 and has made an outstanding contribution to physics and engineering of solid state devices as well as providing industrial and academic leadership in UK science and technology.

For further information please email: usher.s@rsnz.govt.nz.

RSNZ INVOLVEMENT IN SCIENCE FESTIVAL

The Royal Society, through its IGBP (Global Change) and Climate Committees will be holding an evening symposium ‘Climate change in Otago: Why is climate changing and what are the implications for us?’ on Tuesday, 4 July at the University of Otago.Leading climate, environmental and social scientists will review the evidence for climate change and the implications for New Zealand and the Otago Region.

For further information please email: usher.s@rsnz.govt.nz

INTERNATIONAL PLANT PATHOLOGY CONGRESS

This Congress, organised by the Australasian Plant Pathology Society on behalf of the International Society for Plant Pathology and supported by the Royal Society of New Zealand, will take place in the Christchurch Convention Centre from 2 to 8 February 2003.The keynote themes are:

* plant pathology in the Asia/Pacific region; * towards integrated management of soil-borne diseases; * host-pathogen interactions; * towards integrated management of air-borne diseases; * knowledge transfer for plant pathology.

For further information please access the ICPP 2003 web site at: http://www.lincoln.ac.nz/icpp2003/

INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC UNION MEETINGS

The Royal Society has allocated funding to enable ten scientists to represent New Zealand at ISU Business Meetings later this year.They are:

* U (Astronomy): Professor John Hearnshaw FRSNZ; * UBMB (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology): Dr Tom Wheeler; * GS (Geological Sciences): Dr Ian Smith and Dr Ian Speden RSNZ, who is Vice President of IUGS; * U (Geography): Professor Richard Bedford and Professor Warren Moran FRSNZ, who is Vice President of IGU; * HS (Horticultural Science): Dr Jill Stanley; * TAM (Theoretical and Applied Mechanics): Professor Jeremy Astley FRSNZ; * AR (Antarctic Research): Dr Clive Howard-Williams FRSNZ; * OR (Oceanic Research): Dr Julie Hall.

For further information about these meetings or to contact any of these scientists, please email: usher.s@rsnz.govt.nz

STUDY LOOKS AT HUMAN ANCESTOR TRAITS

A new fossil analysis is rattling the family tree with evidence humans evolved directly from an ancestor that walked around on its knuckles like gorillas and chimpanzees.For decades, anthropologists have considered upright walking, or bipedalism, a defining characteristic of the human lineage. Knuckle-walking was thought to have evolved uniquely in apes after humans had taken a separate evolutionary path. But in an article in last week’s issue of the journal Nature, researchers said they found fossil evidence that two species of early humans descended from knuckle-walkers. ‘Instead of coming down out of the trees and walking upright, the ancestors of early upright walkers were already adapted to a life on the ground,’ said Brian G. Richmond, an anthropologist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and a co-author of the study.

ASTRONOMERS FIND GAMMA RAY SOURCES

Astronomers have narrowed down the location of about half of the mysterious sources of gamma rays that radiate from the Milky Way galaxy, the celestial home of the solar system, according to a study released in the US last week.Gamma rays are invisible to the eye, but are the most powerful form of light, far exceeding visible light, ultraviolet radiation and X-rays. Gamma rays are about 100 million times more powerful than visible light. Astronomers have found 170 sources of gamma rays in the Milky Way, but have been unable to link the sources with objects, such as stars, that emit other forms of light. In a new study appearing this week in the journal Nature, astronomers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said they have found that half of the l70 gamma ray sources lie in a narrow band along the central plane of the Milky Way and may originate from known objects that shine too faintly to be otherwise identified.

BIOETHICS WORLD CONFERENCE

The Bioethics World Conference being held in Gijon from 20 to 24 June 2000 will speak out against clinical assays in man with organs from animals.Dr Rafael Najera, Head of the Area of Research of retrovirus of the Institute of Health Carlos III of Madrid who will present the lecture on ‘Tissue and cell transplants’ has described as ‘very interesting the experiments with pigs from the reproduction and the cellular biology point of view, but with regard to xenotransplants there are still many problems to be solved, from the rejection to the problems with the pig endogenous retrovirus (PERV)’.

Dr Najera considers it very difficult to develop successfully the transplant of animal organs to human beings mainly because nowadays there are still problems with regard to the hyperacute and the tardive rejection. Also with regard to infectious agents, especially the ones that are latent and also unknown viruses that can have a long period of latency.

In the Bioethics World Conference an appeal will be made for caution and for maximising the experimental studies before starting clinical assays in human beings that can originate latent infections that could be transmitted before being diagnosed.

THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE VARIABILITY

The agricultural and horticultural sectors can prepare for the next of nature’s climatic surprises, according to organisers of a national science convention ‘Managing the Impacts of Climatic Variability: The Noah Paradigm’.The convention, to be held in June, will be hosted at Massey University by four societies representing scientists in agriculture, agronomy, horticulture and meteorology.

A key speaker, Dr Roger Stone, Principle Research Scientist at the Queensland Centre for Climate Applications, has wide experience in agricultural climate analysis and forecasting systems for production and resource management for primary industry.

‘Climate forecasting for rural industry only has real value if it can be targeted towards a key decision point in an agricultural system’ Dr Stone said. ‘The real challenge is to show just where and how climate forecasting will change management decisions in agriculture’, he said.

Speakers covering areas such as climatic variability, production system responses, as well as policy and management strategies will support Dr Stone. Other speakers will include: * Dr Jim Salinger, Senior Climatologist, NIWA * Mr Dean Witters, Managing Director, CEDENCO Foods * Dr Bruce Campbell, Science Leader, AgResearch * Mr George Pottinger, Rural Manager, National Bank of New Zealand * Mr Alan Walker, Director, MAF Policy Info and Regions Group * Mr David White, Director, ASIT Consulting (Australia).

The experience and breadth of perspective offered by these speakers will ensure the symposium will prove valuable to primary industry producer and consultants, resource managers, insurers, finance and banking specialists, policy analysts, and produce marketers.

And why the ‘Noah Paradigm’, you may ask. The answer: It was Noah who first took heed of a climatic forecast, adopted the recommended adaptation strategy, undertook mitigative action (the ark), used indicators to assess environmental performance, and returned to normal business, given a suitable risk assessment (the rainbow). Hence, ‘The Noah Paradigm’! The convention will take place from 27 to 29 June, with the “Noah Paradigm” plenary symposium on 28 June. Convention information is available on the internet at http://hortnet.co.nz/noah/ or contact Nanthi Bolan, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University Tel. 06-356-9099.

‘NEW ZEALAND SCIENCE REVIEW’

EDITOR REQUIREDA major activity of the New Zealand Association of Scientists is to publish ‘New Zealand Science Review’. This journal provides a forum for the discussion of science policy and is one of the only non-disciplinary science journals to be published in New Zealand. It contains refereed review articles on science policy, and on all disciplines of science and technology in addition to editorials on current issues, opinions on science issues, education or communication, and conference proceedings.

The Association’s long-serving editor Dr Brian Shorland OBE FRSNZ passed away during 1999, therefore New Zealand Science Review is now in need of a new editor. This role would involve manuscript receipt, overseeing the selection of reviewers, managing the distribution to reviewers and coordination of the manuscripts for each issue, and also writing or commissioning editorial or opinion pieces. The editor would also become an ex officio member of the NZAS Council.

If you are interested in this opportunity to contribute voluntarily to the advancement and recognition of science and technology in New Zealand, please contact the President NZAS, Dr Janet Grieve: j.grieve@niwa.cri.nz.

VUW PLANS TO CLOSE THREE DEPARTMENTS

Financial problems will force the loss of 31 jobs at Victoria University’s Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty, and three departments to close.A proposal aims to cut $2.14 million in costs from the faculty by next year and points to more serious financial problems at the university.

Association of University Staff executive director Rob Crozier today urged the university to adopt caution over the proposal.

‘Victoria has the lowest morale of any university in the country at the moment and this won’t be doing anything to lift that.’

More than $1.8 million will be cut from the faculty by voluntary severances, redundancies, early retirements and the departmental closures. Some senior staff positions, including a professorship in history and a senior lecturing job in education, will also go. Other jobs will be downgraded.

The demand to cut costs, upheld by the university’s Council despite Professor Irving’s resignation in December, is the result of declining student numbers over the past two years and reduced Government grants.

Discussions are said to be under way to try to ensure students in the affected departments would be able to complete their studies.

MATHS AND INFORMATION SCIENCES

The Royal Society Mathematical and Information Sciences Advisory Committee, convened by Professor Jeff Hunter, held a meeting in Wellington yesterday.The committee comprising representatives of the New Zealand Mathematical Society, Operations Research Society of New Zealand, the New Zealand Statistical Association, the New Zealand Mathematics Teachers Association, and other related bodies in the discipline area, discussed issues relating to the review of mathematical sciences in New Zealand, tertiary funding, achievement and gender issues, awards, Marsden funding, awards, and international liaison. Dr Tim McMahon from the Ministry of Education addressed the meeting on curriculum issues in the mathematical and information sciences area.

CELEBRATING EXCELLENCE IN S&T

The Royal Society, together with the Canterbury Branch, is hosting an evening function on 5 April in C3 Lecture Theatre, University of Canterbury, to celebrate excellence in Science and Technology with four James Cook Research Fellows.This is an opportunity to hear four top New Zealand scientists discuss the challenges, opportunities and excitement of their research as James Cook Research Fellows. Topics to be discussed are:

* Superconductivity: Dr Jeff Tallon FRSNZ, IRL; * Palaeoceanography: Dr Bruce Hayward, University of Auckland; * Biogeography: Dr Rob McDowall FRSNZ, NIWA; * Bioengineering: Professor Peter Hunter FRSNZ, University of Auckland.

For further details of the evening, please contact George Hook 03 351 5078, georgehook@clear.net.nz; or Sue Usher 04 472 7421 usher.s@rsnz.govt.nz

REDUCING GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS

Banning coal-fired electricity generation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would probably produce a significant increase in electricity prices, according to a report released by Minister of Energy Hon Pete Hodgson this week.Modelling by the Ministry of Economic Development suggests that by 2020 a ban on all coal-fired generation would have reduced New Zealand’s carbon dioxide emissions by 13 percent. But while electricity prices in 2020 could be similar to today’s (in real terms) on current policy settings, a ban on coal-fired generation could raise them by 26 percent.

Other scenarios, such as a ban only on new coal-fired generation and a carbon pricing mechanism – tradable emissions permits or a carbon tax – are also modelled. The analysis suggests carbon pricing would spread costs more evenly across the economy, reducing the impact on electricity prices but producing a significant increase in the price of coal.

Mr Hodgson said the report was another indicator of the size of the challenge involved in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. ‘There are no easy or cheap answers to global warming,’ he said. ‘There is no free lunch.’

The Government is in the early stages of exploring policy options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. New Zealand is obliged under the Kyoto Protocol, which it is in the process of ratifying, to stabilise its emissions at 1990 levels by 2008 to 2012. The Ministry’s latest forecasts suggest that on current policy settings emissions would be almost 40 percent higher than 1990 levels by 2010.

Mr Hodgson said the Government was proceeding in the meantime to develop measures to improve New Zealand’s energy efficiency. It was also looking at the scope for increased use of public transport and renewable energy technologies.

NATIONAL BIODIVERSITY STRATEGY

Prime Minister, Rt Hon Helen Clark, and Conservation and Environment Ministers Hon Sandra Lee and Hon Marian Hobbs introduced the National Biodiversity Strategy to parliament yesterday.The Strategy proposes several actions aimed at reducing the impact of introduced animals and plant pests and predators and at improving the quality of forests and water. The key goal was to maintain and restore a full range of habitats and ecosystems, along with populations of all native species.

More money, both government and private will be needed to stop the decline in native species but the strategy does not say how much. However, last year’s draft said $36 to $47 million more a year was needed to hold the line.

Hon Nick Smith, Minister of Conservation in the former National Government said Labour’s bipartisan support for the strategy was excellent but it would need a ‘very substantial investment’ of $45 million a year. He was confident the strategy would be funded because the Treasury had said the draft was the most comprehensive since the department was formed in 1988.

MEDICAL RESEARCH FUNDS

New Zealand needs to double the amount of money it is investing in medical research, the Health Research Council has told the Government.The additional investment, an estimated $40 million, was needed just to keep world-class scientists in New Zealand and to remain vaguely comparable with similar countries for the next five years, the council told the health select committee last week. ‘We have been under-purchasing great science in this country for a number of years now,’ council chairwoman Ms Jane Holden said.

The HRC is charged with assessing and allocating public funding for health-related research projects. Last year, it had a budget of about $39 million, which paid for about 400 people to research health topics from diabetes to asthma.

Ms Holden said the council could afford only two of every four world-class research projects that were presented to it. She said that, in contrast to New Zealand, Australia had a research budget of $A180 million ($NZ222 million), which the Australian Government had promised to double to $A360 million, and Canada was also preparing to double its budget.

‘If we don’t remain vaguely comparable, we will find it increasingly difficult to retain people. Australia is a very close neighbour that is attractive to our own scientists,’ she said.

HRC chief executive Dr Bruce Scoggins said that at least four senior medical researchers had left New Zealand recently because of poor funding.

CRIs MAKE URGENT PLEA FOR MORE MONEY

New Zealand may not survive as a modern economy unless the government urgently invests much more in research and education, leading science bodies say.In a report damning of past government policy, Crown Research Institutes have joined to make a strong plea to the government to beef up education, research and development so New Zealand can join the knowledge economy.

In an economic commentary issued today, the Association of Crown Research Institutes (ACRI) says the true state of the economy is indicated by a poorly performing sharemarket and a serious balance-of-payments deficit.

New Zealand has so far failed to act to be part of the global knowledge-based economy – one focusing on developing knowledge-intensive services and production. Instead it is still, relative to almost all the economies in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development grouping, low-tech and commodity-focused in areas with little significant growth, it says.

‘If we are to change – and we must – every aspect of our economy and our culture needs to be revisited,’ the report says. This should include revaluations of the role of education in producing top people, laws affecting business, taxation regimes, savings disincentives and the availability of capital, the development of knowledge-intensive firms, and the creation of an environment fostering excellence, innovation and entrepreneurial skills with a market focus.

The report says that to tackle these issues, the government must provide policies that: * improve and fund education at all levels, but particularly tertiary, toward building world-class institutes producing an appropriate mix of skills for a knowledge economy; * invest more in research and development; * help the emergence of a private sector with a greater emphasis on innovation and the spread of technology; * provide a tax system that encourages innovation, private-sector research and development and investment in new enterprises, and improved savings. ‘Government cannot afford to hang back in case it ‘gets it wrong’,’ the report says. ‘The risks are enormous.’

This country’s economic performance relative to those of advanced nations is poor, the report says.

New Zealand might rank highly in terms of economic freedom, but in terms of gross domestic product per capita, it is falling behind other OECD countries.

‘Nor does it seem that we will catch up.’ Economic ‘characteristics’ causing concern include its dependence on agricultural commodities, a lacklustre sharemarket, a chronic trade deficit (‘among the worst in the OECD and worsening’) and an over-heavy reliance on Australia as an export market.

Savings are low and much of the public and private investments are not wealth-creating, the report says. The service sector is ‘too dependent on unimaginative, poorly marketed, low-tech products’.

‘New Zealand has yet to substantially demonstrate that it can survive as a modern economy,’ the report says.

‘The rewards of positive action will be an improved and sustainable quality of life for no more real effort, giving us the chance to make New Zealand a nation we are proud of.’

MARSDEN FUND

This year’s Marsden Funding round is in full swing, with the last of the eight assessment panels meetings being held tomorrow.This year 756 preliminary Marsden Fund applications were received, about the same as last year’s 773 applications. This indicates a continuing strong demand for funding, despite the Marsden round following close on the heels of NERF.

Approximately 55% of the proposals were in the life sciences, 30% in the physical sciences, and 15% in the humanities and social sciences. Following a meeting of the Marsden Committee on 4 April, about 16% of the applicants will be invited to submit full proposals. The funding round will be completed in early September when the successful applications will be publicly announced.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ASSOCIATION OF NZ

The IT industry supports unequivocally the vision of a knowledge economy for New Zealand and will work actively in partnership with the Government, Information Technology Association of New Zealand (ITANZ) Executive Director Mr Jim O’Neil said yesterday.‘We will be very up-front in identifying potential or real barriers to achieving this vision and we will not be shy in proposing solutions to remove them’, he said.

Mr O’Neill said that New Zealand is already a knowledge-driven nation and there is much to be optimistic about. What is needed is clear leadership, a sense of urgency and the creation of a national focus by this Government.

‘The Government has to create the climate for a knowledge economy to blossom. Particularly it needs to do so in those ares where only Government has the ability to affect change, namely education, R&D, immigration policy, tax, regulations and legislation.’

Mr O’Neill said that education is the true key to attaining a knowledge economy and that it was vital to train all ages of New Zealanders and retain their skills in this country.

He flet that Government must lead by example. The early adoption and promotion of e-government is a vital cog in the process.

WOMEN IN SCIENCE

The 18th Century may have been known as the Age of Reason or the Enlightenment but its attitude to women in scholarship was still mediaeval.Women were forbidden to study and lecture in universities and they were seldom engaged in the sciences. But there was an exception.

A recent publication on ’18th Century Women scientists of Bologna’ (M. Cieslak-Golonka and B. Horten) features early women scientists at the University of Bologna.

For the next few weeks we will include a paragraph in Alert on the more notable women referred to in the publication.

Laura Bassi (1711-1778): Bassi was the pioneer among the women professors of the University of Bologna. She became the first women to earn a doctor of philosophy degree, the university’s first female professor and the first woman to occupy a chair in physics. She focussed on mechanics, hydraulics and anatomy, and she was particularly intrigued with the works of Newton (1642-1727). She conducted physics tutorials and experiments for her students throughout her academic career, and for over 30 years, she offered an annual public lecture on experimental physics. Her academic duties were combined with an active family life: in 1738 she married a physician, and together they had 12 children.

ZONTA AWARD

Women scientists from Hamilton, Christchurch and Palmerston North have been selected as finalists in this year’s Zonta award for women in science.The four have been chosen from a strong field of thirty-one women who put their names forward from fields as diverse as biochemistry, botany, cellular and molecular biology, organic chemistry, environmental science, geophysics, and marine science.

The finalists, selected by a panel of judges who represent a number of different scientific disciplines, are:

* Dr Tessa Mills from HortResearch in Palmerston North who is engaged in researching the use of plants like poplars and willows to provide a cheap, effective and environmentally sound method to clean up polluted soil and water.

* Dr Catherine Morrow from AgResearch at Ruakura is currently working on projects monitoring stress and welfare in cattle, sheep and deer. She analyses samples of manure to determine the stress status of animals which provides an insight into their management and productivity. The technique has great potential in conservation biology such as managing tuatara in captivity.

* Dr Elaine Murphy from the Department of Conservation in Christchurch who is managing the Department’s new stoat research programme. She is assisting in the development of sustainable methods of pest control that do not result in long-term environmental pollution

* Dr Michele Prinsep a senior lecturer and research scientist in the Department of Chemistry at Waikato University. She is an organic chemist investigating micro-organisms and marine invertebrates for potential pharmaceutical compounds which may have a use in fighting diseases such as cancer.

The Zonta Club of Wellington is running the Award which is held every two years. The winner will be announced at a special reception at Government House on 3 April.

The principal sponsor of the award is AGRESEARCH, with contributions from BP Oil New Zealand, the Balivean Trust, the John Ilott Charitable Trust, Hill’s Pet Nutrition NZ Ltd and the Sutherland Trust. The Zonta Club of Wellington contributes financially to the award as well as organising it.

IBAC

Professor Peter Gluckman has resigned as the convener of the Independent Biotechnology Advisory Council (IBAC), Hon Peter Hodgson, Minister of Research, Science and Technology announced last Friday.The 10-member Council was established by the previous Government in May 1999 to provide an independent source of advice and information on biotechnology for Government and the public.

Professor Gluckman resigned to be more involved with a University of Auckland start-up company working on novel pharmaceuticals for treating brain disease. He was concerned to avoid any possible conflict of interest with IBAC.

Mr Hodgson said he expected to appoint an acting convener shortly from among the sitting members of IBAC.

NEW APPOINTMENT AT THE ROYAL SOCIETY

Jacqueline Marchant has joined the Royal Society recently as manager responsible for promotions and communications, contract management, human resources and technical advice. She is also responsible for the strategic plan.Jacqueline has a background in strategic planning, marketing and communications. She has worked in the public and private sectors, spending time at DSIR and the Beehive, where she worked for Rt Hon Simon Upton at the time of the science reforms. She has wide experience of government processes, particularly in the areas of reform and has worked with entrepreneurs in the development of science and technology based products.

Jacqueline is enjoying her new role, and hopes to be able to build on the excellent work already being undertaken.