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

Please note this terms of reference document is currently a draft and is not government policy.

Professor Michael Bunce

Chief Scientist | Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) – Te Mana Rauhī Taiao

Mike is Chief Scientist at the EPA in New Zealand. Mike completed his undergraduate degree at Lincoln University and his PhD at the Australian National University. He undertook post-doctoral training at Oxford (UK) and McMaster (Canada) universities before moving to Perth, Western Australia in 2006 to start his own laboratory. In 2014 he founded Curtin University’s Trace and Environmental DNA (TrEnD) laboratory. Through his research career Mike has developed and applied DNA techniques to characterise biological communities within a wide variety of biological samples from sediment and scat, to seawater and streams. His research focus has spanned many areas of environmental science including; biodiversity assessment, impact assessment, archaeology, extinctions, food-webs, biosecurity, marine conservation and endangered species detection. Mike has over 100 peer reviewed publications including nine publications in the journals Science and Nature.

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.

Alison is working with seconded scholar Dr Anne-Gaelle Ausseil (Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research) on the relationship between the environment and wellbeing

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.

Visit Gary’s university staff profile

Read the report ‘A resilient research, science & innovation sector enabling post-pandemic economic transformation’ (MBIE website)

Vince Galvin

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.

Professor Ken Hughey

Chief Science Advisor | Department of Conservation – Te Papa Atawhai

Ken is Professor of Environmental Management at Lincoln University and is an adjunct Professor at the Sustainability Research Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia.

Ken’s research interests are diverse. He leads the ongoing triennial environmental perceptions survey of New Zealanders  that began in 2000, works on sustainable tourism, studies and publishes on various aspects of sustainable water resources management, and is interested in climate change and the economics of threatened species management. Ken is highly applied and is a committee or board member on several organisations involved with aspects of water resources and/or threatened and endangered species management.

Ken is seconded for three days per week to the Department of Conservation. He is on the kauri die back and myrtle rust strategic science advisory groups, is leading implementation of the Conservation and Environment Science Roadmap, assisting MBIE with a variety of strategic science initiatives, helping develop and implement a Biodiversity Conservation Science Prospectus, among a wide range of activities.

Visit Ken’s university staff profile 

Dr Gill Jolly

Research leader – Natural hazards and risk theme | GNS Science – Te Pū Ao

Gill went to Cambridge University to read geological sciences. This led to a PhD at Lancaster University on the physical properties of lavas from Mt Etna, Italy and Oldoinyo Lengai, Tanzania.

On completing her PhD, she joined the British Geological Survey (BGS). Her work mostly concentrated on mineral exploration—using 3D modelling software for mine design and structural geology interpretations—and environmental geochemistry.

From 1997 to 2005, she worked at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory, with stints as the Deputy Chief Scientist and Director.

She joined GNS Science in 2006 and became the Head of the Volcanology Department based in Taupō, New Zealand. Between 2007 and 2014, she led the Volcanology team through both New Zealand eruptions and responses in the south-west Pacific.

In 2014, she became the Director of Natural Hazards, leading a team of more than 150 people who are responsible for research and monitoring of New Zealand’s geological hazards and providing advice to the NZ government. During this time, she led the response to the November 2016 M7.8 Kaikōura Earthquake. Gill currently leads the coordination and strategic direction of natural hazards and risk research in GNS Science.

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.

Visit Simon’s university staff profile

Visit the GeoHealth Laboratory website

Professor Tahu Kukutai

Professor | National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis (NIDEA) – Te Rūnanga Tātari Tatauranga

Tahu (Ngāti Tiipa, Ngāti Kinohaku, Te Aupōuri) is Professor of Demography at the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis (NIDEA) at the University of Waikato. Tahu specialises in Māori and Indigenous demographic research and has written extensively on issues of Māori population change, Māori identity, official statistics and ethnic and racial classification. Tahu 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. She is also co-chair of the Research Data Alliance International Indigenous Data Sovereignty Interest Group and co-edited (with John Taylor) Indigenous Data Sovereignty: Toward an Agenda. Tahu has undertaken research with and for numerous iwi, Māori communities, and government agencies, and provided strategic advice across a range of sectors. Tahu has degrees in history, demography and sociology from the University of Waikato and Stanford University. She was previously a journalist.

Read a foreword by Tahu and Juliet for the NZSR special issue on Mātauranga Māori

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.

Read Ian’s criminal justice report series

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.

Visit Tracey’s university profile page

Tracey co-chaired the expert panel on cannabis. Read more about the cannabis project here

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 Stuart’s report ‘The literacy landscape in Aotearoa New Zealand’

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 ‘A resilient research, science & innovation sector enabling post-pandemic economic transformation’ (MBIE website)

Tim Ng

Deputy Secretary, Chief Economic Adviser | The Treasury – Te Tai Ōhanga

Tim is responsible for ensuring that the Treasury’s policy advice on raising New Zealand living standards is supported and strengthened by sound economic theory and evidence.

Tim is a macroeconomist by training, with extensive international 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 managed various functions at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, including domestic and international economic monitoring and forecasting, analysis of monetary policy conduct, banking regulation and payments system policy.
Tim has also worked as an economist at the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland and at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Tim was born and raised in Auckland. He has postgraduate degrees in economics from Victoria University of Wellington and in biochemistry from the University of Auckland.

Professor Richie Poulton CNZM FRSNZ

Chief Science Advisor | Social Sector (Social Wellbeing Agency – Toi Hau Tāngata & Minister for Child Poverty)

Richie is Director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit which conducts the Dunedin longitudinal study, one of the most detailed studies of human health and development ever undertaken.

In 2007, he established and became a Co-Director of the National Centre for Lifecourse Research.

He has published 250+ peer-reviewed scientific papers, with many appearing in leading international journals. His research interests include: mental health, nature-nurture interplay, and psychosocial determinants of chronic physical disease.

In 2010, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and was the joint recipient of the RSNZ Dame Joan Metge Medal for excellence and building relationships in the social science research community. In 2017, the Dunedin Study Research Group, which he leads, received the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Science Prize for work that has had a significant impact on New Zealand and internationally. He was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List of 2017, for services to health research and science.

He has also held a part-time position as the inaugural Chief Science Advisor to the Ministry of Social Development since October 2014.

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.

Professor Hamish Spencer FRSNZ

Departmental Science Advisor | Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) – Hīkina Whakatutuki

Hamish is a professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Otago, where he has been since 1992. After completing his PhD at Harvard University, he was appointed lecturer in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics at the University of Waikato. At Otago he teaches in the genetics programme. In 2009 Hamish was elected to Fellowship of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Hamish’s research interests are broad, from the mathematical modeling of genetic changes that occur in human, animal and plant populations to the use of molecular-genetic methods in the understanding of our native flora and fauna. In collaboration with historians, he has written about the history of eugenics, the laws and attitudes surrounding first-cousin marriage and the historiography of Robert FitzRoy.

Hamish served as Director of the Allan Wilson Centre, which was notable for its innovative engagement with Māori communities in the Gisborne area. In recognition of this work, Hamish was awarded the 2016 Royal Society of New Zealand’s Callaghan Medal for science communication. That same year Hamish was appointed as half-time Departmental Science Advisor at MBIE.

Visit Hamish’s university profile

Read the report ‘A resilient research, science & innovation sector enabling post-pandemic economic transformation’ (MBIE website)

Hema Sridhar

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

The CSA Forum is committed to transparency and equity. It is proactive in identifying potential conflicts of interest.

Download the ‘Disclosure of Interest Register’ (PDF, 324KB)

Last updated: 25 September 2020