Royal Society of NZ is split by disciplinary action taken against prominent professors who signed letter in defence of science

Let’s meet Professor Garth Cooper, described on the University of Auckland website as one of New Zealand’s foremost biological scientists and biotechnology entrepreneurs.

He is professor of Biochemistry and Clinical Biochemistry at the School of Biological Sciences and the Department of Medicine at the University of Auckland, where he also leads the Proteomics and Biomedicine Research Group. He is a Principal Investigator in the Maurice Wilkins Centre of Research Excellence for Molecular Biodiscovery, a member of the Endocrine Society (USA).  He was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (London) in 2013

And – for now – he is a member of the Academy of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

But the society has subjected him and another prominent academic, Robert Nola, to disciplinary action which looks suspiciously like a witch hunt.

Nola is emeritus professor of the philosophy of science with his own impressive CV.

The society has called off its investigation into a third academic,  Michael Corballis, who died earlier this month.

The Emeritus Professor at the Department of Psychology at the university of Auckland, Corballis was awarded the Shorland Medal by the New Zealand Association of Scientists in 1999, the 2002 Queen’s Birthday and Golden Jubilee Honours, and was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to psychological science. In 2016, he received the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Rutherford Medal, its most prestigious award, for his work on brain asymmetries, handedness, mental imagery, language, and mental time travel. Continue reading “Royal Society of NZ is split by disciplinary action taken against prominent professors who signed letter in defence of science”

How $82m of Marsden Fund dosh is being spent – on spatters, structure theory, sea ice, sex-changing fish and black holes

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The Government is investing $82.345 million over the next three years in 120 projects focused ( for example) on infectious diseases, wellbeing, climate change, natural disasters, and space.  We can’t wait for the research results, enabling us to assess how well this money has been spent.

The announcement of Marsden Fund grants was made by Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods, who said:

“This funding will help address real world problems that people in Aotearoa are facing right now, as well as drive New Zealand’s ambitions in pioneering research.” 

A mind-boggling list of projects – or rather, a list of projects with mind-boggling titles – can be checked out on the Royal Society of New Zealand website www.royalsociety.org.nz.

The average Kiwi – we suspect – may wonder about the real-world problems being tackled and the pioneering research that is being undertaken with the aid of government funding.

For example: Continue reading “How $82m of Marsden Fund dosh is being spent – on spatters, structure theory, sea ice, sex-changing fish and black holes”

The importance of being Ernest – our royal society is using him to inspire youngsters to redesign our $100 bank note

As I observed in an article posted on the  AgScience blog earlier today, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ernest Rutherford, New Zealand’s most celebrated scientist and the country’s first Nobel laureate, was noted by RNZ, and by some newspapers and universities.

On RNZ’s Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, the programme host talked about Lord Rutherford with  Professor David Hutchison, the director of the Dodd Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies.

Stuff featured an article by Nelson reporter Tim Newman under the headline Ernest Rutherford: From humble beginnings to New Zealand’s greatest scientist

This referenced an obituary in the New York Times on October 20, 1937, which described Lord Rutherford as one of the few men to reach “immortality and Olympian rank” during his own lifetime. Continue reading “The importance of being Ernest – our royal society is using him to inspire youngsters to redesign our $100 bank note”

Here’s a letter to the editor you might have missed on science and how it should be shaped by the Treaty and spirituality

Scimex drew our attention around two weeks ago to news that Māori researchers were calling for a Tiriti-led science-policy approach.

A multi-disciplinary group of Māori researchers – most of them from the humanities – had published a report which recommended the appointments of Māori Chief Science Advisors and the development of Treaty-based guidelines for science and innovation funding.

In other words, scientists should have their funding chopped off if they don’t subscribe to the authors’ ideas about how the Treaty should play a role in this country’s science and innovation systems.

They wrote that the way scientists and policymakers work with each other left little room for Māori participation or leadership, although it seems they have been doing nicely, thank you, with their own careers.

But they were championing a different way of working and said the Treaty of Waitangi offers a “powerful framework” for connecting communities of knowledge that are mutually beneficial.

Other recommendations over the medium term include establishing an independent Mātauranga Māori entity, and developing regionally based Te Ao Māori policy hubs. Continue reading “Here’s a letter to the editor you might have missed on science and how it should be shaped by the Treaty and spirituality”

Now that non-scientists can win a Rutherford Medal, there’s a good case for changing the name of the award

Until this year, the Rutherford Medal has been the most prestigious science award the Royal Society of New Zealand can bestow on worthy scientists.

But big changes are being made to the meaning of “science” and the society has proudly announced:

Rutherford Medal now includes humanities

The announcement explains that Royal Society Te Apārangi’s highest award, the Rutherford Medal for recognition of eminent research, scholarship, or innovation, will now include humanities scholarship in the fields of recognition.

This change has been made to recognise the widening of the object and functions of the Society under our Act, with the inclusion of the humanities, so that now the Society’s highest award will be opened to all disciplines covered by the Act.

In light of this change, the nomination deadline for the Rutherford Medal (and $100,000 prize money) will be extended out for an extra month (to 30 April 2020) to allow time for humanities nominations to be submitted for the current year.  Continue reading “Now that non-scientists can win a Rutherford Medal, there’s a good case for changing the name of the award”

An emphasis on equity, diversity and inclusion has an impact (and raises questions) on Marsden Fund grants

Questions are raised on the AgScience blog about the allocation of grants from the Marsden Fund this year.

The fund is managed by Royal Society Te Apārangi on behalf of the government and presumably its decisions reflect government policy.

The allocation of $83.671 million (excluding GST) to 125 research projects across New Zealand was announced this week.

The society says the 2019 grants support excellent New Zealand research in the areas of science, engineering, maths, social sciences and the humanities

The AgScience post reports a dearth of grants for science in the agricultural and horticultural sector.

It also questions whether the money is being invested in the best projects or has been allocated on the basis of other considerations. Continue reading “An emphasis on equity, diversity and inclusion has an impact (and raises questions) on Marsden Fund grants”

Marsden Fund dishes out $85.64m of grants – and we can’t wait to read the research reports

Want to know what counts as a “critical issue” when public funding is dispensed, through the Royal Society of New Zealand, to the country’s top researchers?

You can get an idea from the titles of the successful projects in the latest round of grants.  They include –

  • The Best of Times, the Worst of Times: A Biocultural investigation of 19th century Frontier mining cemeteries in Australia, New Zealand and California;
  • Sensitive Negotiations: Indigenous Diplomacy and British Romantic Poetry;
  • The Natural History of Film Form: Film Aesthetics through Animal, Vegetable and Mineral Matter;
  • Legal cannabis for sale: home-grown or supermarket?
  • Embodying the law: Manhood and authority in the making of English legal culture c.1300-1600.

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods announced the successful projects yesterday (almost 90% of the applications missed out), saying the country’s top researchers will be able to investigate critical issues and build knowledge across the board supported by $85.64 million over the next three years through the 2018 Marsden Fund round. Continue reading “Marsden Fund dishes out $85.64m of grants – and we can’t wait to read the research reports”

Diversification in science – a policy that might have squeezed out Dr Einstein

Great news for mathematicians.  Their services – or the services of a few of them, appropriately selected – look likely to  be increasingly required to monitor the implementation of the Government’s diversification policies.

Those policies are being pushed into the domain of science by the Royal Society of New Zealand and by Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods.

The society and the Minister are saying – in effect – they can’t wait for the gender and race blends they seek to evolve naturally.  They favour a creative approach, to be effected through social engineering.

This puts merit on the back seat and promotes a numbers game.

Continue reading “Diversification in science – a policy that might have squeezed out Dr Einstein”

New charter aims to culturalise scientists – will dissidents be starved of funding?

Several questions are raised by the development of a “charter” to set out the principles to guide “sound research” practice in New Zealand.

The Royal Society has announced the formation of a working group to develop the charter with support from research funding agencies, bodies representing different types of research organisations and the Royal Society.

Dr John Hay, appointed independent chair of the working group, says the task is to develop the proposed charter within 12-18 months.

One aim of the charter “is to provide clarity to all researchers and research organisations on expectations for sound research practice”.

The charter will foster “a culture of collective responsibility” for maintaining good research practice, set out what sufficient compliance looks like and support cohesive research teams working across many research organisations.

Continue reading “New charter aims to culturalise scientists – will dissidents be starved of funding?”