NewsPublished 22 December 2022
He Pānui: A Message from Royal Society Te Apārangi President, Dr Brent Clothier FRSNZ
Looking back over the past year, the most notable aspect for me was being able to connect with people kanohi-ki-te-kanohi (face to face) once again. As wonderful as digital technologies can be in allowing us to meet ‘virtually’ with people across the world, there is a special sense of sharing that accompanies sharing a physical space.
We have heard a wide range of perspectives this year. In addition to our special meeting with Fellows in Āperira (April), Chief Executive Paul Atkins and I have been able to travel overseas this year and meet with overseas academies and umbrella organisations, many of which have a narrow focus, or represent a single discipline.
Many of the people from these organisations expressed enthusiasm for the model of our organisation, which brings together many disciplines into one academy. We also have many other facets, including public engagement, expert advice, research funding, Branches, Constituent Organisations, Companions, Members, and much more. It is my belief that this diversity of our members, disciplines and interests is our real strength and brings with it convening power. These aspects will serve us well in our journey to map out how we will be relevant to all our stakeholders and the wider public over the next twenty years and beyond. The long-term planning process we are just beginning is an exciting opportunity for the Society to ensure we are future-proofing ourselves to remain relevant to our membership and the country over the coming decades, especially in a world that is ever changing, and that has been changed irrevocably by the pandemic.
This long-term planning process is now well underway. It is a process that kicked off in earnest last week with an open survey being launched. I encourage you to respond via the online tool which can be found at: Shaping the Society’s future – take part now. In parallel with the online survey, there are kanohi-ki-te-kanohi meetings with key stakeholders being held. We will be running further workshops in the first part of 2023 to give opportunities for all people to discuss, in detail, with myself and Paul, the key themes that are emerging. We look forward to 2023 to see this process take its final shape in mapping out our long-term strategic vision.
Last month saw the return of regional events to celebrate the Research Honours Aotearoa. It was wonderful to be able to present these medals and awards in person, and to marvel at the immense difference these researchers have made through their resolve and passion. My special congratulations to all the winners.
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting with members of the delegation from the European Union, led by Ms Signe Ratso, Acting Director-General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission and Chief Negotiator for the Horizon Europe Association. The delegation is in the country for formal negotiations for New Zealand to become an Associate Member to Pillar Two of Horizon Europe, the European Union’s largest ever global research and innovation programme. This global fund totals € 95.5 billion over 7 years. We are likely to become the 44th Associate Member as the negotiations were positive. New Zealand researchers and organisations should therefore start to form consortia with Horizons Europe partners to prepare project bids. This is an exciting opportunity for joint research projects on global challenges, such as climate change, the food-water-energy nexus, and global health.
Last week, I had the privilege of attending the presentation evening of Powering Potential, where 58 senior secondary tauira shared what they had been learning and innovating over 3 days about how to solve some of the ‘wicked problems’ set them by their mentors. These mentors were drawn from of our Early Career Researcher Forum. The problems included tackling inequities in the health system and the future shape of our research and innovation sector, mitigating climate change with forests, including kelp forests, through to understanding the importance of whakapapa and young people’s engagement with science for a sustainable future. We were unable to run this programme last year due to the pandemic — so it was a great buzz to have so many rangatahi in the whare, sharing their energy, ideas and innovative communication methods, including dance moves! We certainly hope they will continue to follow their passion and curiosity and become future research leaders for Aotearoa. As many of the ECR mentors said in giving feedback to their groups, if the future is in their hands, then the future is in safe hands. Many thanks to all involved to make this programme such a success, especially Freemasons New Zealand for their continuing support.
The end of the year has also brought to a close the almost 5 years of service at the Society from our Tumu Tūhonohono Director—Communications and Outreach, Tarah Nikora, who has decided to seek new career opportunities. Tarah has been an important member of the senior leadership team in the Society, and an integral part of the Society’s important developments and achievements over the past 5 years. She has also found herself in the leadership position of an outreach function during an extremely challenging period of lockdowns and constraints as a consequence of the pandemic. This has been a challenging time for the outreach team, and very ably managed by Tarah and her team, in large measure by pivoting to more online activities. On behalf of the Society, I thank Tarah for all her important mahi and wish her all the very best for the future.
My thanks to the Society’s Council, the Academy Executive Committee, plus Paul and all the kaimahi of Te Apārangi for their hard work that enabled us to get through a challenging year with many successes.
In closing, I wish you all the best for the festive season. It’s been a tough year for many with covid in the community, large cost-of-living increases, and international concern for the situation in Ukraine to name but a few challenges, but I hope you will be able to take a good break with your whānau and be able to greet 2023 fully rested and with renewed hope.
He rā ki tua better days are coming.
Ngā manaakitanga and ngā mihi o te wā season’s greetings.
Dr Brent Clothier FRSNZ
Royal Society Te Apārangi President