Work Plan

The OPMCSA has a small team that provides science-based evidence to the Prime Minister to inform the programme of government.  The OPMCSA may also assist Cabinet Ministers with requests for science advice.

Formal Advice can be provided in three different ways:

  1. In response to an informal, sometimes confidential request – in person, direct to the PM and/or Ministers.
  2. In response to a request from the PM and/or Ministers – a formal letter containing a quick scan of the relevant literature on a topic of interest, by way of quickly providing advice and scoping an issue for possible future comprehensive research.
  3. A full and comprehensive report on a well scoped topic. This will generally become publically available and could be:
      • Initiated by the PMCSA with agreement from the PM
      • Initiated by the PM as part of the core work plan
      • Commissioned as a separate project by a Minister

Informal Advice

In addition, there are often ‘hot topics’ that emerge due to a rapidly changing research landscape and/or particular public interest.  The office will keep a watching brief on these topics and produce clear information summaries from time to time which are uploaded onto the PMCSA website, after prior distribution to the Prime Minister and relevant Ministers, on a no surprises basis.

Wide consultation in the first one hundred days of her tenure, has led to the PMCSA developing a list of topics where a piece of evidence synthesis would likely to be useful to inform the programme of government. We have done a preliminary categorisation of these topics into areas where evidence synthesis is required in a major project, and ‘hot topics’ where there is a large body of evidence available, but a clear summary of the current evidence would inform government and the public.  We are now in the process of scoping and prioritising these, having had an initial discussion with the Prime Minister. This is a live document that will be updated regularly as priorities evolve at projects.

Hot Topic Summaries

The following areas have been identified as examples of topics where a clear, well referenced two-page summary of the available evidence might prove useful. We are currently assessing what other information is readily available on these topics and prioritising areas where there is high public interest. Examples include: antimicrobial resistance; greenhouse gases; kauri dieback; myrtle rust; Mycoplasma bovis; solar energy; 1080; asbestos; fluoride; Round-Up.

Topics being scoped for more formal evidence synthesis or narratives

This list was discussed with the Prime Minister and the first piece of work that we are undertaking will be on plastics.  The rest are still being prioritised.

General area Area to scope Comments
Sustainability Beyond Plastics: weighing up the options for Aotearoa, New Zealand
  • A piece of evidence synthesis which includes short, medium and long term solutions to the issues arising from use of plastics.
  • Currently active, alongside consultation with the Royal Society, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and the Ministry for the Environment, to avoid duplication.
Artificial Intelligence Opportunities and implications for Aotearoa, New Zealand
  • This topic needs careful scoping to ensure that overseas work and national contributions, e.g. the AI forum, are not duplicated.
Climate change Implications for Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Obviously an important area, but one in which there is a lot of other work both internationally and nationally – requires careful scoping.
Decriminalisation of drugs Possible focus on evidence for harm reduction
  • Awaits international reports on the evidence.
Adaptation to the carbon zero economy Renewable energy
  • Obviously an important area, but one in which there is a lot of other work both internationally and nationally – requires careful scoping.
Water quality  
  • Probably covered by other offices, e.g. the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
Child well-being  
  • Probably covered by other offices, e.g. the Parliamentary Commissioner for Children, various Ministry work streams.
Connecting the Innovation Economy
  • Needs careful scoping in collaboration with key stakeholders

How we ‘do’ science in Aotearoa New Zealand

Earning the trust of the public – understanding social license to operate We need to change the relationship between scientists and the public.

A general area of concern across all topics considered.

  • The approaches of Kaupapa Māori researchers may offer insight that may help more broadly in the dialogue with communities.
  • We are exploring the idea of curating a series of success stories, where Mātauranga Māori and Western Science have come together to the benefit of both knowledge frameworks.
Regulation of GE A specific example of the more general issue of social license –to what extent does Aotearoa New Zealand have social license to use new genetic technologies.
  • A comprehensive piece of work is being carried out by the Royal Society and the OPMCSA will provide commentary on this as appropriate, once complete.
Diversity in Science and in science education We need to understand how to make science more inclusive, both in the framing of its questions and in the people doing the science
  • We will explore a project that identifies barriers to inclusion and mechanisms to increase the participation of Māori and Pasifika in STEAM.
How will Aotearoa NZ meet its UNDP sustainable development goals  
  • Obviously an important area, but one in which there is a lot of other work both internationally and nationally – requires careful scoping.
Aotearoa NZ’s framework for science advice in emergencies  
  • Requires careful scoping in collaboration with other agencies e.g. MCDEM and GNS.


  Phone: + 64 9 923 6318

Mailing Address

Office of the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor
The University of Auckland
Private Bag 92019
Victoria Street West
Auckland 1142
New Zealand