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.

Advice from the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor

Formal Advice

This 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 publicly 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 here.

Our work programme

We keep a watching brief across all areas of science, and update our immediate priorities periodically in consultation with the Prime Minister. We avoid projects that overlap with other providers of science advice – e.g. the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. Some major topics of interest are covered below

Sustainability

In 2019 we completed our first major report: Rethinking Plastics in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Read the ‘Rethinking Plastics’ report

Regulation of genetic technologies

In 2019, the Royal Society Te Apārangi released a comprehensive report on gene editing. Juliet provided commentary on the report for the Prime Minister.

Read Juliet’s briefing to the PM

Science advice in emergencies

This is a developing focus in conjunction with Gill Jolly and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). Juliet also sits on the Hazard Risk Board.

In 2019 we provided advice after the Christchurch mosque shootings.

Read the Christchurch mosque briefing

We also supported the response to the 2019 Whakaari/White Island eruption.

Equity, diversity and inclusion in science

This is a major focus for 2019 and 2020, addressed by a collection of intern projects – including two that are Tairāwhiti-based. In 2019, we facilitated a series of hui focused on increasing Māori  – and especially Māori rangatahi – participation in STEAM. This culminated in a special hui with Hon Dr Megan Woods, Minister of Research, Science and Innovation.

Read summary notes reflecting the consensus of the hui

Read a one-page summary of the hui

Read a foreword from Juliet and Tahu Kukutai on the relationship between science and mātauranga Māori

5G

We provided accessible information for the public at the request of the Prime Minister and Hon Kris Faafoi, Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media.

Read the 5G information sheet

Antimicrobial resistance

A global public health emergency, pathogens are rapidly evolving resistance to antimicrobial drugs such as antibiotics.

Read our 2019 briefing on antimicrobial resistance

Climate change

We provide informal advice on request, e.g. on targets in the 2019 Zero Carbon Bill.

Legalisation of cannabis

This is an active project in 2019–2020. We are producing a public-facing summary of the evidence of harm reduction on legalisation of cannabis.

Read more about our legalisation of cannabis project

Adaptation to the zero carbon economy

Renewable energy is a focus of several small intern projects aligned with the office.

Environmental measures and the wellbeing framework

We are currently scoping a project for discussion with the Prime Minister in 2020, currently titled ‘The future of fishing: How might science and big data support our industries?

Artificial intelligence (AI)

AI technology has many opportunities and implications for Aotearoa New Zealand. We are currently scoping projects on equity and education for discussion with the Prime Minister in the second half of 2020.

Read ‘AI is here to stay. Now we need to ensure everyone benefits’ on The Conversation

The internet and wellbeing

We are scoping a possible project for discussion with the Prime Minister for late 2020, titled ‘How is pornography influencing relationships for young kiwis?

Independent science advice to Standards NZ

We provide advice as required at the request of Hon Kris Faafoi, Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Read about our work on standards setting

Data ethics

Juliet chairs the Data Ethics Advisory Group, supported by Stats NZ.

Sensitive technologies

Juliet sits on the Sensitive Technologies Working Group, chaired by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Defence Technology Advisory Board.

The future of food

Food, especially protein, is an important area from both public health and climate change perspectives. This topic relates to several workstreams across government but is not currently prioritised in our office.

Contacts

  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