Kia ora koutou

Over the last few months, as I’ve spent time listening to researchers and policymakers, I have been constantly struck by how weak the interface is between these two groups. There are of course some marvellous exceptions. However, in general, I hear researchers determined to make a difference by providing an evidence base, but not knowing how to connect. And policymakers hoping for an evidence base that meets the important constraints of setting government policy within a defined timeframe, but struggling to find the right fit for their needs. It is all too rare that a researcher’s evidence base appears in a form that is useful and timely for direct use in policy. How can we do better?

I was inspired by a conversation with one of Barack Obama’s former advisors who had joined the science advisory team at a time when it was expanding to strengthen this interface between researchers and policymakers in the US. Where there was an unmet need for an evidence base to inform key policy areas, they seconded researchers with expertise in that area to their team. The researchers brought with them extensive knowledge in a particular field and enthusiasm to provide their research evidence to make a difference.

Although my Office doesn’t have resources to cover any formal internship scheme, we can host researchers whose work is strengthened by a stronger connection to policy. We piloted this with a researcher from the University of Canterbury, Dr Akshita Wason, last year. And this year we are embarking on a second internship project, in collaboration with Professor Stuart MacNaughton, the Chief Science Advisor to the Ministry of Education, in which Dr David Pomeroy will explore challenges to achieving excellence and equity in mathematics education.

Dr Akshita Wason

Dr David Pomeroy

This week we are thrilled to announce a joint initiative with the MacDiarmid Institute to take this activity to the next level.  In 2019, we will be welcoming six finishing PhD students from the MacDiarmid Institute to the Office. Each will be looking at one of the areas that have been identified as important intersections of the researcher-policymaker interface for Aotearoa NZ, where there is an evidence base to be collated, made accessible or communicated. Topics include: artificial intelligence, insect biodiversity, energy futures, quantum computing, batteries and diversity and inclusion. A huge thank you to the MacDiarmid Institute for their support and a warm welcome to Georgina, Jono, Odile, Ankita, Kyle, and Wayne.

You can meet the growing whānau here

We are actively exploring the possibility of internships at all levels, from undergraduate to senior researchers, and are starting lots of conversations in this space. If you are interested – especially in areas that we have identified for scoping but not yet prioritised (see our work plan) or if you have an area where your research could make a difference via policy – get in touch!

Ngā mihi nui

Juliet's signature

MacDiarmid interns (left to right): Kyle Webster, Georgina Shillito, Wayne Crump, Odile Smits, Jono Barnsley, Ankita Gangotra.