Chief Science Advisor Forum
He Rauhinga Tohu Putaiao
The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor convenes a forum of Chief Science Advisors from across government. The forum receives additional support from co-opted members to ensure it can provide a full range of advice and an extensive range of contacts as needed. Meet the members of the Chief Science Advisor Forum below.
Terms of reference
Professor Michael Bunce
Chief Science Advisor | Department of Conservation (DOC) – Te Papa Atawhai
Michael grew up in Ōtautahi and studied genetics at Lincoln University, followed by a PhD in virology in Australia. He then took his DNA skills and decided to apply them within the field of ancient and environmental DNA, where he then spent the next 20 years (at Universities in Oxford, Canada and Australia) extracting DNA from a wide variety of biological material – from fossils to sea water. Michael has published over 200 papers. In 2019, he left academia to take up the position of Chief Scientist at the EPA but in 2020 was seconded into Aotearoa’s COVID-19 response, where he wrote science advice and policy on the pandemic for the PMCSA, MoH and ESR. In November 2023, Michael was appointed as Chief Science Advisor at DOC.
Dr Alison Collins
Departmental Chief Science Advisor – Kaitohutohu Mātanga Pūtaiao Matua | Ministry for the Environment (MfE) – Manatū Mō Te Taiao
Alison, intrigued from an early age about the how the world works, studied soil science (the mysterious universe beneath our feet) and geomorphology (how landscapes evolve). Seeing many different soils and landscapes became a passion and took her on a journey from the UK, around Europe and into Mississippi before landing almost 15 years ago in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Alison spent 12 years working for Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, leading a portfolio of science around ecosystems, soils, land use and informatics. She worked closely with regional councils and central government agencies in understanding and prioritising their science needs, and working with the science community to find ways to facilitate better uptake and use of science. In this capacity she established and became director of a centre for integrating data and science-based tools, facilitating clear and engaging communication.
Alison joined the Ministry for the Environment in August 2017 as Departmental Chief Science Advisor. Still passionate about enabling wise use of science, her role is focused on ensuring ‘valued and trusted science for environmental stewardship’. On a day-to-day basis this means translating complex science, navigating the science system so decision-makers can better access and use excellent research, and building capability at the science-policy interface. Her passion for building confidence, competence and capability at the science-policy interface will be the focus of a collaboration with the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Sciences and School of Environment, and recognised through an honorary academic position.
Read the report ‘Environmental stewardship and well-being’ (February 2021, Manaaki Whenua website)
Dr Chris Daughney
Chief Science Advisor | Te Uru Kahika – Regional and Unitary Councils Aotearoa
Chris joined NIWA as Chief Science Advisor in 2020 and started a half-time secondment as Te Uru Kahika’s Chief Science Advisor in 2022. Originally from Canada, he completed his PhD at McGill University in Montreal and held post-doctoral fellowships at the University of British Columbia and the University of Ottawa before moving to New Zealand in 2002. Prior to joining NIWA, he held roles as Principal Analyst at the Ministry for the Environment, and as Director of the Environment and Materials Division within the Executive Team at GNS Science. Chris has had previous science advisory positions within central government, several regional councils, and the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency. He has research interests in freshwater science, especially in groundwater quality and microbiology.
Professor Gary Evans MNZM
Chief Science Advisor | Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) – Hīkina Whakatutuki
Gary is currently Professor at Victoria University of Wellington and Deputy Director of the Ferrier Research Institute. Gary has a PhD in organic chemistry and specialises in understanding the role of enzyme function in diseases, with the aim of developing better medicines. A number of potential compounds from his work are in clinical and pre-clinical trial for the treatment of cancers, gout, malaria and microbial infections. Gary is a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, and a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry. In 2011 he won the inaugural MacDiarmid Award from the Royal Society Te Apārangi for his outstanding scientific research that demonstrates the potential for application to human benefit.
Gary leads the science leadership team at MBIE. He joins Hamish Spencer and Rob Murdoch as part of the cross-government group of departmental science advisors. He is seconded to MBIE for 80 per cent of his time.
Read the report ‘Excellence in research’ (August 2021, MBIE website)
Chief Methodologist | Statistics New Zealand – Tatauranga Aotearoa
Vince is Chief Methodologist at Stats NZ. He has extensive experience in official statistics, with stints in Australia and the United Kingdom in addition to a wide range of international collaboration. This is on top of more than 30 years working in the New Zealand system.
His work has encompassed environmental, social and economic measurement.
He chairs the Pacific Methods board, a new group looking to ensure that the nations of the Pacific benefit from developments in statistical methodology.
Vince is an organiser of the Wellington Data Analytics Forum and has served as both a board member of the Market Research Industry Association and a member of the organising committee of the New Zealand Statistics Association.
Manahautū | Kaupapa Kura Taiao – Environmental Protection Authority
Erica’s tribal affiliations are to Waikato and Ngāti Maniapoto.
Erica joined the EPA in 2016 as a Principal Advisor to lead the development and implementation of the EPA’s mātauranga programme. In 2020 she was appointed to the Manahautū role.
Erica has an extensive background in public sector policy development and implementation through working for the Ministry for Economic Development and Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). Her focus in the past 18 years has been around facilitating Māori engagement on a range of economic development and environmental management issues. This has included an abiding interest in how mātauranga Māori can better inform the work of agencies and decision makers.
At the Ministry for Economic Development, Erica supported work to understand the intersect between mātauranga and intellectual property rights. At MPI, she was actively involved in increasing awareness within MPI of the need to consider mātauranga alongside science in responding to biosecurity challenges. More recently, her focus has been on enabling environmental decision makers to consider mātauranga in decision making processes. The metaphor of a waka hourua, a double hulled canoe, emphasises for Erica the partnership approach that is needed to engage with Māori to ensure mātauranga informs EPA policies, processes and decisions.
Professor Simon Kingham
Chief Science Advisor | Ministry of Transport (MoT) – Te Manatū Waka
Simon is Professor of Geography at the University of Canterbury. His research primarily focuses on the impact of the urban environment on individual and community health and wellbeing. Much of his research uses geospatial science including some done through the GeoHealth Laboratory, of which he is the Director. His research incorporates a strong community engagement focus.
Simon spends two days a week working for the MoT. The work spans across a range of transport areas including access and mobility, resilience, active travel, urban development, demand management and safety. In addition Simon’s role includes a focus on how to better link the research being done in New Zealand with policy decisions at the MoT.
Professor Ian Lambie ONZM
Chief Science Advisor | Justice Sector
Ian is Professor in Clinical Psychology at the University of Auckland, where he teaches clinical, forensic, child and adolescent psychology. His specialist clinical and research interests are in child and adolescent mental health, childhood trauma and youth justice, building on more than 30 years’ experience working with children and adolescents and their families. Initially as a general and psychiatric nurse, then as a specialist clinical psychologist, he has worked with children and adolescents with severe conduct problems and trauma, in both family and criminal-justice settings, and was involved for 15 years in programmes for adolescents with harmful sexual behaviour and children who deliberately light fires. His academic position is an opportunity to build robust, applicable knowledge in these areas, including in training new forensic and clinical psychologists, and advising Fire & Emergency on child firelighters and Oranga Tamariki on child offenders. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the New Zealand Psychological Society for his services to Psychology in New Zealand in 2018. As Science Advisor for the Justice Sector two days a week, Ian works across the Ministry of Justice, Department of Corrections and Police, as well as maintaining links with the broader social sector including Oranga Tamariki and Ministry of Health.
Professor Tracey McIntosh MNZM
Chief Science Advisor | Ministry of Social Development – Te Manatū Whakahiato Ora
Tracey is of Ngāi Tūhoe descent and is Professor of Indigenous Studies and co-head of Te Wānanga o Waipapa (School of Māori Studies and Pacific Studies) at the University of Auckland. She was the former co-director of Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga – New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence. She previously taught in the sociology and criminology programme at the University of Auckland. She was a Fulbright Visiting Lecturer in New Zealand Studies at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and lectured at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. She has sat on a number of assessment panels including PBRF panels (Māori Knowledge and Development and Social Sciences), the Marsden Social Science panel, Rutherford Discovery, James Cook Fellowship and Health Research Council panels. In 2012 she served as the co-chair of the Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty. In 2018–2019 she was a member of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group and Te Uepū Hapai i te Ora- The Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group. She sits on a range of advisory groups and boards for government and community organisations. She currently delivers education and creative writing programmes in prisons.
Her recent research focused on incarceration (particularly of Māori and Indigenous peoples), gang whānau issues and issues pertaining to poverty, inequality and social justice.
Tracey co-chaired the expert panel on cannabis. Read more about the cannabis project here (July 2020)
Professor Stuart McNaughton ONZM
Chief Education Scientific Advisor | Ministry of Education – Te Tāhuhu o Te Mātauranga
Stuart is Professor of Education and Director of the Woolf Fisher Research Centre at the University of Auckland. His academic focus is children’s learning and development; literacy and language; the design of effective education for culturally and linguistically diverse populations, and cultural processes in development. His nine books and numerous research articles in educational and developmental science are in areas of children’s development in family, early education and school settings; instructional designs and equity outcomes in education; and the use of design based approaches in large scale interventions with schools. He has served on numerous international and national advisory bodies including the International Reading Association’s Literacy Research Panel. In 1998 he established the Woolf Fisher Research Centre at the University of Auckland and was its inaugural Director. He holds a visiting position as a Distinguished International Professor at East China Normal University (Shanghai) as. In 2011 he was made Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, and has been the Chief Education Scientific Advisor since 2014.
Read ‘AI is here to stay. Now we need to ensure everyone benefits’ on The Conversation (co-authored by Juliet, Stuart, Tahu and intern Kyle Webster)
Dr Rob Murdoch
Departmental Science Advisor | Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) – Hīkina Whakatutuki
Rob is currently NIWA’s General Manager—Research, responsible for overseeing all of NIWA’s research, and the operation of its research vessels.
His research experience includes biological oceanography, fisheries, ocean productivity, the environmental effects and management of marine resource use (aquaculture, oil and gas exploration) fiord ecology, coastal reef and fish surveys, seabird ecology, marine natural products, and marine invertebrate taxonomy. His field research has ranged from the tropics to the Southern Ocean.
Rob provides input primarily into science investment processes, and science policy development and implementation, along with advice into other areas of MBIE such as economic development and Crown Minerals. He works closely with other science advisors, especially within the Natural Resources Government agencies.
Read the report ‘Excellence in research’ (August 2021, MBIE website)
Strategic Economic Advisor | The Treasury – Te Tai Ōhanga
Tim provides strategic vision and leadership to the Treasury on economic and fiscal policy.
Tim is a macroeconomist with extensive experience in monetary, fiscal and financial system policy. His work is published in a range of professional and academic journals. Prior to joining the Treasury, Tim worked at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, at the Bank for International Settlements and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Tim was born and raised in Auckland. He studied economics and biochemistry at the University of Auckland and economics at Victoria University of Wellington.
Dr John Roche
Chief Science Advisor | Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) – Manatū Ahu Matua
John is the Chief Science Advisor for New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries. He is also the managing director and principal consultant for Down to Earth Advice Ltd, and an honorary academic in the School of Biological Sciences at University of Auckland. Until recently, he was principal scientist for Animal Science at DairyNZ. He has also held science appointments with the National Centre for Dairy Production Research at Moorepark in Ireland, the Department of Primary Industries in Australia, and the University of Tasmania.
John has published more than 150 peer-reviewed science journal articles and book chapters. He is a regular contributor at international science and farming conferences and has been a section editor for Journal of Dairy Science since 2012.
During the last two decades, his animal science programme has focused primarily on dairy cow peripartum nutrition and the role of body condition score and energy balance on milk production, health, and reproduction. He has also been involved in numerous genotype x diet comparison studies and grazing management.
Dr Kay Saville-Smith MNZM
Chief Science Advisor | Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
Kay is the inaugural chief science advisor to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). She is the director of Centre for Research, Evaluations and Social Assessment (CRESA) and has built up more than 20 years expertise in community and social policy research with a focus on housing. In 2018, Kay was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to older people’s housing research. She was a member of the Ministerial Advisory Group on Housing and Urban Development, the Office for Senior Citizens’ Independent Advisory Group Reviewing the Positive Ageing Strategy; and Commission for Financial Capability’s review of retirement incomes. She led the Life When Renting research in the Ageing Well National Science Challenge, as well as a number of programmes in the Building Better Homes Towns and Cities National Science Challenge including the current programme Affordable Housing for Generations.
Dr Rodney Scott
Kaitohutohu Mātāmua – Chief Policy Advisor and Chief Science Advisor | Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission
Rodney is the Chief Policy Advisor and Chief Science Advisor at Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission. Rodney is also an Adjunct Professor of Public Administration at the University of New South Wales, affiliated researcher with the Bennett Institute of Public Policy at Cambridge University, a board member of the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand, chair of the Victoria University of Wellington School of Government Trust, and Member of the Institute of Directors.
Rodney completed a PhD in system dynamics and public management at the University of Queensland. He subsequently completed research fellowships as a 2017 Innovations Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and as a 2018 Fellow in Practice at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University.
Rodney leads the Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission research programme, and focuses on the translation of research into public policy. He has written several books and numerous articles on public administration in New Zealand.
Chief Advisor Industry and Science | New Zealand Ministry of Defence – Manatū Kaupapa Waonga
Hema Sridhar is the Chief Advisor Industry and Science at the Ministry of Defence as part of the Capability Delivery Division. Prior to this, she was the Chief Advisor for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) at the Ministry of Defence.
Hema has more than fifteen years of experience in defence science and technology and expertise across the C4ISR domain with a focus on emerging and disruptive technologies.
In her role as Chief Advisor, she supports engagement with industry, academics and other government agencies. Hema also provides advice on innovation, science and technology and works closely with industry to bring innovative ideas into defence.
Hema is the Departmental Science Advisor for Defence and works closely with the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor (PMCSA) and the other Departmental Science Advisors to represent defence matters to Ministers, Chief Executives and government decisionmakers.
Prior to joining the Ministry of Defence, Hema worked at the Defence Technology Agency. She received a Master of Science in Physics and a Bachelor of Technology in Opto-electronics from the University of Auckland.
Professor Ian Town FRACP
Chief Science Advisor | Ministry of Health – Manatū Hauora
Ian has worked across both the health and education sectors during his 30-year career. A physician by training, he has published extensively in respiratory medicine. Much of this research has been implemented through evidence-based guidelines for the management of common conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia. Following an eight-year period at the University of Canterbury as Deputy Vice-Chancellor, he has taken on a wide range of roles including Chair of the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) Sector Reference Group and Chair of the Tertiary Education Commission PBRF Governance Group overseeing the 2018 quality evaluation. Returning to the health sector in recent years, Ian has worked extensively on the development and implementation of the New Zealand Health Research Strategy and has contributed to a range of projects locally and nationally across rural health, community pharmacy, infection prevention and control, antimicrobial stewardship and occupational safety and health. Ian has just completed a five-year term as the Chair of the Health Precinct Advisory Council leading one of the key Christchurch recovery projects.
Ian has played a key role in Aotearoa New Zealand’s response to COVID-19. Watch a documentary about the COVID-19 response here (July 2020)
Professor Tom Wilson
Chief Science Advisor | National Emergency Management Agency | Te Rākau Whakamarumaru
Tom is the Chief Science Advisor for the National Emergency Management Agency | Te Rākau Whakamarumaru. He is also Professor of Disaster Risk & Resilience at University of Canterbury | Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha.
Tom’s research expertise is focused on disaster risk assessment and rural disaster resilience. He has led and been a senior researcher in various large interdisciplinary applied research programmes studying the physical, social and economic impacts of natural hazards, and developing strategies which can increase our disaster resilience in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Tom is seconded two and half days a week to NEMA, with his role focused on supporting the effective use of science within emergency management policy and practice. This includes considering how to more effectively reduce disaster risk and support better disaster recoveries in the long term, as well as how to prepare for and respond to future disasters. Tom’s role also includes supporting partnerships with science agencies and other government agencies, and helping to better connect research with policy.