Kia ora koutou

In my first reflection in October, I foreshadowed a few changes to the Departmental Science Advisory network. After a lot of conversations in Wellington and within the group of advisors, we have decided the best way to enable a team approach to advice is as a Forum of Chief Science Advisors. All the advisors have slightly different roles and responsibilities, to suit their home Department/Ministry/Agency, but there is much to be gained from formalising the group as a community of practice and provide a forum to discuss cross sector science issues. We now have a draft Terms of Reference under which we will operate in 2019 on our web pages. This forum provides a fantastic sounding board for me in my role advising the PM and Cabinet, and I am grateful for the constructive way in which we have agreed our new way of working.

The Forum of Chief Science Advisors is a natural evolution of the science advisory network which grew under Sir Peter’s tenure, as the case for ensuring a sound evidence base in government policy grew. With the group now well established, it has been a good time to take stock and survey the composition of the group around our table and co-opt new members to provide missing skills, perspectives, and expertise, where this hasn’t arisen naturally through individual appointments to different Departments/Ministries/Agencies. I am delighted to announce that we are co-opting two new members in 2019 to begin to address some of these gaps: Dr Gill Jolly and Professor Tahu Kukutai.

Gill brings to the table a depth of expertise in volcanology and a breadth of experience in natural hazards. She also has experience in advising the government on a range of science issues connected to risk, disaster preparedness and response. Gill is well known in the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency and her co-option onto the Forum builds a bridge between this stream of science advice and the rest of the advisory network.  Science advice in emergencies was highlighted in the Government response to the Technical Advisory Group on ‘Better Responses to Natural Disasters and Other Emergencies in New Zealand’ and Gill’s appointment to the Forum will assist in harnessing the best expertise across the country and internationally to ensure that the right people are ready to give the right advice at the right time. With generous support from GNS, Gill also has ready access to a range of experts in communication of risk, an important component of community preparedness.
Welcome Gill, great to have you on the team.

Tahu (Ngāti Tiipa, Ngāti Kinohaku, Te Aupōuri) brings to the Forum a wealth of experience as an academic, has undertaken research with and for numerous iwi, Māori communities, and Government agencies, and provided strategic advice across a range of sectors. She is a founding member of the Māori Data Sovereignty Network, Te Mana Raraunga that advocates for Māori rights and interests in data in an increasingly open data environment. As a Professor of Demography, her insights will be of value across many Ministries, in particular those in the social sector. Tahu will also provide a much needed voice around the table to ensure that the Forum embraces and connects effectively to the strengthening network of Māori advisors, including the recently appointed Mel Mark-Shadbolt in the Ministry for Environment, the recently advertised Executive Advisor, Matauranga Māori reporting to the Deputy General of DoC, and the team of innovation and research advisors to the Federation of Maori Authorities (FOMA) led by Te Horipo Kairaitiana (more on which below). Welcome Tahu, we are really looking forward to working with you.

It was a great privilege to join the FOMA conference in Gisborne this year at which the new partnership with the Science for Technological Innovation Challenge (SfTI) was announced.  Recognising the importance of building capability in science, technology, engineering and mathematics within the Māori economy. SfTI is co-investing in the role of Chief Advisor Innovation and Research, which is a key role to help FOMA members and other Māori enterprises understand and navigate the science and innovation ecosystem. FOMA knows that science, innovation and technology are critical to the future diversification and development of their assets, including their people. They want to continue to be a thought leader in the science and hi-tech space. Te Horipo will be supported by Prof Stephen MacDonnell as Technical Advisor and Mr Rawson Wright as Enterprise Advisor and a yet to be appointed Rangatahi advisor. I am looking forward to working with Tahu and SfTI to strengthen the links between this group and the Forum of Chief Science Advisors.

In addition to the day-to-day behind the scenes advice that the advisors provide, two pieces of more formal work have emerged from the Forum over the last few weeks. Firstly, a short information sheet on antimicrobial resistance, and secondly a major report on family violence by Ian Lambie, the Chief Science Advisor to the Ministry of Justice. You can read the report here, and see the widespread coverage here. Congratulations, Ian, on producing a high impact discussion document which we hope will move the conversation forward in this very important area for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Finally, on a personal note I’d like to thank the advisors for their significant support since I started my role in July, and take the opportunity to thank the research community more widely for their engagement and warmth as I’ve travelled the country. I’m looking forward to harnessing the expertise of the community next year as we begin our work on plastics. In the meantime, I hope you all manage to have a relaxing holiday and that 2019 treats us well.

Meri Kirihimete e ngā mihi o te tau hou

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