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Science Alert From The Royal Society


Royal Society Alert 113 17 February 2000

1.Daily S&T news service
2. Marsden Fund applications
3. IUPAP (Physics) website
4. Theoretical and applied mechanics
5. Radioactivity monitoring stations
6. Implementation of technology in the NZ school curriculum
7. New Zealand Association of Scientists
8. UK Guidelines on scientific advice under review
9. UK biotechnology strategy published
10. Volcanology conference held
11. Achievement in science and mathematics
12. ERMA seminar on biological control agents
13. Advance notice of meeting on migration and NZ society
14. Postgraduate position in physiology available
15. PhD scholarship in modelling cardiovascular control
16. Radio programmes
17. Across the desk
18. Future events
19. Contributions to "Royal Society Alert"
20. Subscribing and archiving


Every week day the Royal Society sends out a summary of the science, technology and health news put out by the New Zealand Press Association - most of which ends up in the daily papers. The full text is kept on the Royal Society website and is accessible to members. The service offers no more than its name implies - a daily portrayal of what is being said about S&T in the news media, in New Zealand and elsewhere.

It is fair to say that a lot of what is published in the popular media is of questionable value, there is often a significant lack of balance, and inaccuracies abound. It doesn't seem to matter whether the topic is technical or in the realm of policy.

The Royal Society doesn't endorse the news content and certainly cannot be accused of giving such news credibility merely because it draws it to the attention of its professional membership.

The purpose of the service is to give the membership access to all that is relevant to S&T in the press - this obviates the need to keep up to date with the daily papers. The news is reproduced in full from the original release, not an edited version that may differ from paper to paper. There it is, warts and all, for the scientific community to ponder, lament or enthuse over - or, preferably, to decide to take some action on. The Royal Society encourages members to respond by way of support, correction or rebuttal, as appropriate.

An example of misreporting:

In the 26 January 2000 edition of the news, there was an press release about a seminar Dr Martin Foggo of the CIT had presented at the Forest Research Institute in Rotorua and the leading paragraph of the Press Release said "The world's current rate of population growth is unsustainable, and its present population of six billion people is about 30 percent too high, says a New Zealand scientist and environmentalist."

Dr Foggo, disappointed that the reported version reflected so little of the purpose, novelty and importance, as he saw it, of his seminar, sent us the following comment. This highlights how reports can misrepresent what the speaker intended.

"I should, of course, be pleased that a report of my seminar at Forest Research in Rotorua appears on your website. Given that the report was compiled by a journalist who did not stay for the duration of the seminar, I suppose that I have to expect some the mis-reporting of what I had actually said and, indeed, put up with the inventions of some things I certainly did not. But the greatest disappointment is that that the report almost entirely missed the main theme of my presentation.

The seminar was not about population growth rates, expected population stabilisation levels, global warming hypotheses or its likely consequences.

What I was discussing was the criteria by which we might assess an optimum number of people which the Earth could support. I presented the results of a series of calculations by which such numbers might be determined. None of these figures appeared in the report, not even the final one using the Wackernagel and Reece (1997) footprint analysis, from which the optimum number for the Earth, living as we do in New Zealand, is in the vicinity of 1600,000,000.

I know you are not responsible for the press release. But I am a bit disappointed that the reported version reflects so little of the purpose, novelty and importance, as I saw it, of my seminar."

And yet another example of misreporting:

The retirement of the Royal Society's CEO was quoted as being next month in the Dominion's InfoTech Supplement of 7 February. The misinformation presumably arose from a misinterpretation of what was said during interviews with the Royal Society President and the CEO.

To put the record straight, applications for a successor to Mr Moore close on 3 March and the selection process will follow using Deloitte as consultants. The effective date of handover will depend on the selected candidate's availability after the selection process is completed.

To receive full versions of the daily news one must be a member of the Royal Society. Ordinary membership costs $50 + GST per year; professional membership (where the member is entitled to use the letters MRSNZ after his/her name ) costs $80 + GT per year; and student membership costs $10 + GST per year.


The closing date for receiving Marsden Fund applications for 2000 was Monday, 7 February.

756 preliminary applications have been received, about the same as last year (773).

Applications are distributed over the panels as given below (last year's numbers in brackets).

Biochemical and Biomedical Sciences: 126 (115); Cellular, Molecular and Physiological Biology: 158 (171); Earth Sciences and Astronomy: 83 (79); Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour: 189 (175); Humanities: 32 (37); Mathematical and Information Sciences: 61 (46); Physical Sciences and Engineering: 103 (119); Social Sciences: 82 (92).

Some applications are going to be assessed by more than one panel and so the total number of assessments by panellists will be 834 .


The International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) website is in operation ( and includes:

* information regarding IUPAP sponsorship of conferences; * calendar of IUPAP sponsored conferences; * most recent IUPAP News Bulletins; and * links to IUPAP commission websites.

The Royal Society is the Adhering body for the Union in New Zealand and the New Zealand representative is Professor John Harvey FRSNZ, Dept of Physics, University of Auckland.


The Royal Society has recently appointed Professor Jeremy Astley FRSNZ, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Canterbury, as liaison person between the International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (IUTAM) and New Zealand scientists and engineers.

IUTAM is one of the more successful international organisations which is involved in fostering links between individuals and institutions involved in the broad subject. This is a traditional area which does not involve large investments in equipment but is nonetheless central to many recent advances in technology based on numerical simulation of real world problems. Such work is often fundamental in nature and can be (and is) undertaken as effectively in New Zealand as anywhere else in the world. Each year IUTAM hosts a series of symposia which are generally "by invitation only" events bringing together small groups of high profile international researchers to focus on quite specific areas. There is no reason why applications to hold such meetings in New Zealand should not be successful.

If you are interested in being kept informed about IUTAM activities please contact Professor Astley (email: The IUTAM website may be accessed through


Three radioactivity monitoring stations forming part of a global network established under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) were installed by the National Radiation Laboratory (NRL) at the end of January. The stations, in Kaitaia, the Chatham Islands and Rarotonga, are the first three purpose-built stations in the world established under the Treaty.

At each station, air is drawn through a filter which traps airborne particulates. At the end of 24 hours (by which time around 20,000 cubic metres of air will have passed through the filter), the filter is replaced and set to one side for a further 24 hours to allow short-lived radionuclides to decay. Finally, the filter is compressed and placed on a sensitive gamma-ray detector enclosed in a lead shield for 24 hours. The detector accumulates a spectrum showing the energies of gamma rays being produced from particles on the filter.

Data is transmitted over a dedicated satellite link to the CTBT Headquarters in Vienna for analysis. Spectra acquired from each station are compared with the characteristic spectrum of gamma rays produced by radionuclides released from an above-ground nuclear test, and unusual spectra logged on daily event bulletins made available to treaty signatories.

Construction and operation of the system is by the CTBT organisation. The NRL is also hosting one of 16 Certified Radionuclide measurement laboratories under the Treaty, and in the future will install further monitoring equipment involving different technologies on the Chatham Islands.

The Ministers of Health and Foreign Affairs and Trade will formally open the Chatham Islands nuclear test ban monitoring station on 6 March 2000.


In 1998 the Research Division of the Ministry of Education undertook research designed to gather information about how schools were progressing with implementing the technology curriculum. The purpose of the research was to provide a basis from which to decide how best to support schools' ongoing implementation of the technology curriculum.

A paper entitled "Schools' progression towards implementation of technology in the New Zealand Curriculum: a summary of results of 1998" has been published which provides a brief description of Technology in the New Zealand Curriculum, describes the research that was carried out, and presents a summary of key findings from the research.

The research consisted of an analysis of milestone reports made by professional development programme directors to the Ministry of Education, interviews with key informants, e.g., training providers for technology, curriculum advisers, practitioners, and a survey of a random sample of schools in August/September 1998. In the report, the findings are presented under each of six themes which emerged from the data. These themes are quoted as follows:

* Strong leadership at the school level is important; * School level strategic planning for implementation makes the difference; * Full implementation will take time; * Schools have a strong desire for guidance, and materials and resources to support the curriculum; * Teachers felt least confident about student assessment and monitoring; and * Professional development is an ongoing process.

The report then includes a brief synopsis of some positive outcomes, evident from the data, as a result of implementing the technology curriculum (e.g., the sense of excitement about technology and that students enjoy the subject, together with what emerged as particular "barriers" or problems in relation to implementing technology, e.g., that not all teachers of technology had undertaken professional development.

In general, in 1998 most schools in the study, but particularly primary schools, seemed to be making good progress in working towards full implementation of the technology curriculum during 1999. However, the research also indicated that since technology is a new curriculum area, requiring new knowledge as well as new learning and teaching approaches, it is important to recognise that full implementation in all schools will take time. Implementation of the technology curriculum has posed some particular challenges, the implications of which may be important not only for the ongoing implementation of technology but also for the implementation of other curricula.

Interested members of the Royal Society are invited to contribute their views on the Ministry of Educations paper (Research Bulletin, Number 10, October 1999 available from the Ministry of Education). Send comments to


The Council of the New Zealand Association of Scientists held its first meeting for 2000 last week. It considered the likely attitudes and approaches of the new Government to science and technology. The Council resolved to contact the Minister of Research, Science and Technology concerning the threats to the advancement of science and the ability of science to contribute to New Zealand society.

The lack of sound scientific input into the current public debate in New Zealand on genetic engineering and gene technology is of concern to the Council. It is keeping a watching brief on the implications for science and New Zealand and on how NZAS might contribute.

The state of science and technical education (both undergraduate education and postgraduate research) within New Zealand tertiary institutions is also of great concern. The Council is considering ways that it can make a constructive contribution to improving the situation.

If you have concrete ideas on how to advance solutions to any of these problems, please contact the President, Dr Janet Grieve at


The United Kingdom Government's Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA), Sir Robert May, has published his second annual report on how his 1997 Guidelines on 'The Use of Scientific Advice in Policy Making' are being implemented by Government Departments and agencies. On the whole, he was encouraged by the progress made, but warned that more still had to be done.

At the same time, he also announced a review of the original guidelines, to determine whether any changes or improvements might usefully be made. According to May, "The Guidelines have been instrumental in establishing new standards of openness and transparency in the way the Government uses scientific advice, and in helping Departments to take a more strategic approach to the important scientific issues of the day. However, we must constantly strive to ensure that they are the best we can make them. I want to involve all stakeholders in that process, which is why I have launched this review."

The CSA's second annual report can be found at


Competitiveness Minister, Alan Johnson, has unveiled the British Government's latest thinking on the biotechnology challenge facing the United Kingdom in the new Millennium. The strategy, entitled "The Genome Valley Report: The Economic Potential and Strategic Importance of Biotechnology in the UK", sets out the key areas for action in the United Kingdom, from addressing public concerns to getting the conditions right for the development of biotechnology companies. The report begins by outlining the UK's current position before painting some possible future scenarios. It then examines the barriers to development of biotechnology in the UK and explains the Government's activities for overcoming these. A useful appendix is included, listing the locations of UK biotechnology companies, public centres of research excellence, and pharmaceutical industry R&D and manufacturing sites.

The report can be found at:


Between 24 and 28 January, 55 geoscientists from 11 countries met in the Grand Chateau on the flanks of Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand's largest active andesite volcano, to consider the "State of the Arc 2000". The theme of the workshop "Processes and Timescales in the genesis and evolution of arc magmas" was selected to bring together earth scientists with an interest in understanding the workings of arc-type volcanoes and, more specifically, to consider the rates and timescales on which complex magmatic processes interact on these volcanoes. The meeting was convened by Dr Jon Davidson, University of California, Los Angeles, Dr John Gamble, Victoria University of Wellington, Dr Richard Price, University of Waikato and Dr Ian Smith, University of Auckland. The workshop took the form of six sessions built around a "State of the Arc" keynote address, poster presentations and informal, but in depth, discussion sessions. The workshop was sponsored by the Royal Society of New Zealand.


Gender differences

Recent research by the Ministry of Education (Gender Differences in Achievement and Participation in the School Sector-a review of information held by the Ministry of Education 1986-1997) shows that while there are areas where particular concern for male students is warranted, for example, participation and achievement in English, and levels of suspension from school, the data presented suggest that any differences in the relative participation and performance of males and females in the school sector are not new. Both male and female students display particular areas where their schooling experiences could be enhanced. Studies have shown mixed results with respect to gender difference for achievement in both maths and science.

Achievement in mathematics and science at various levels

Analysis of the Third International Mathematics and Science study (TIMMS) by the Ministry of Education (A brief overview of the Third International Mathematics and Science study; Walker M and Chamberlain M 1999 in The Research Bulletin 10, 1999 Ministry of Education) showed that while achievement by Year 4/5 (Standards 2/3) NZ students was well below average in maths and average in science, it had improved to just below average in maths and just above average in science for Years 8/9 (Forms 2/3) students and then well above average in science and maths literacy at the senior secondary level. For further information see

Comments on the above report findings can be sent to


Dr Barbara Barrett, from AgResearch Mosgiel, is giving a seminar entitled "Predicting the environmental impact of biological control introductions: crystal ball or can we do better?" at ERMA New Zealand, at 2.30 pm next Wednesday, 23 February.

Barbara has recently returned from a series of international meetings addressing the non-target ecological effects of biological control agents. In this seminar she will outline the framework for assessing these effects; some of her research to date; and the international initiatives that are under way to bring consistency to this subject.

For more information, email:


"New Directions: New Settlers. Migration and New Zealand Society into the 21st Century", 12-13 April 2000, Victoria University of Wellington Law School's Annex Lecture Room 2, corner Stout and Whitmore Streets, just off Lambton Quay.

The meeting is being organised by Massey University's "New Settlers Programme" research team led by Associate Professor Andrew Trlin and the University of Waikato's Migration Research Group, led by Professor Richard Bedford. There will be several presentations relating to the FRST-funded "New Settlers Programme" (Massey) and the "New Demographic Directions Programme" (Waikato).

Research staff from the New Zealand Immigration Service as well as the International Metropolis Project's office in Citizenship Immigration Canada will be contributing papers as well as a team from the University of Auckland reporting on a Marsden Fund project on globalisation and the transformation of Auckland.

There will also be a meeting of the Aotearoa/New Zealand Migration Research Network at 4.00 pm on 12 April in the Lecture Theatre. This network is part of the UNESCO-MOST Asia-Pacific Migration Research Network which has its headquarters at the University of Wollongong.

A more detailed programme for the two days will be available shortly from Dr Monica Skinner at Massey University ( or Dr Jacqueline Lidgard at the University of Waikato (

Registration for the meeting will be necessary but there is no charge for participation.


Massey University, in liaison with Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, is currently seeking a suitably qualified student interested in undertaking a masters degree in physiology. The student should have completed a science degree or diploma of science in a biological or biophysical discipline. A scholarship will be available to an appropriate student.

The study will investigate the influence of air temperature and humidity on mucociliary transport in the trachea. Initially, experiments will use ex-abattoir ovine tracheae as an in vitro preparation. Mucus transport rate will be measured by direct observation and ciliary beat frequency using an optical device. The project will also involve quantitative histological studies and some electron microscopy. Preliminary studies and equipment development are already under way and the sponsors would like the study to start as soon as reasonably practical and to proceed rapidly. Training will be given where appropriate.

The position is for up to 2 years and there is a strong possibility that with the right student the project could be extended to become a study leading to a PhD. Further interaction with the sponsoring company is also a possibility.

A scholarship of NZ$15,000 plus enrolment fees for a single year of full-time research, or NZ$12,000 plus enrolment fees each year for 2 years will be available for a suitable student. This scholarship is seen as including the equivalent of summer studentship(s) and a masters scholarship and it is envisaged that work on the project should begin as soon as possible. An option for half-time research is available on a pro rata basis.

For further information please contact, preferably by email, either Dr Rodger Pack at Massey University ( or Dr Stuart Ryan at Fisher and Paykel Healthcare (


A Marsden-funded PhD scholarship is available to carry out fundamental research into the interactions between the brain and the cardiovascular system using signal analysis and mathematical modelling approaches.

Suitable candidates should have an engineering degree or equivalent mathematical experience. The three-year scholarship carries a stipend of $15,000 p.a. (plus an annual fees grant of $3,000).

Expressions of interest should be sent as soon as possible to Dr Simon Malpas, Department of Physiology, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, Fax 09 373 7499, email:


*Eureka! this week: -New Zealand's dinosaur forests -Getting the right nitrogen in Canterbury -The FG5: an absolute gravity meter

Eureka! National Radio Sunday 2pm; repeated Monday at 7pm.

Contact Eureka!

*Discovery programme

Scientific development and research (BBC)

This features on National Radio at 9.06 pm on Friday nights and 12.06 am on Wednesday mornings.

*One Planet: Listen to this on National Radio at 9.06 pm on Wednesday nights.


The following publications have been received by the Royal Society this week.

*Agriculture ITO Strategic Plan 2000-2002 *Ecological Society newsletter, Nov 99 *EDUVAC Education Weekly 14 February 2000 Vol. 11 - No. 408 *February 2000 Education in Science (Assn for Science Educators) *Food insight, Nov/Dec 99 *IPENZ Congress 2000 conference brochure *National Institute of Science and Technology (Japan) policy report 1998 *New Zealand Biotechnology Association newsletter, Nov-Feb 2000 *New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' Committee newsletter, Feb 2000 *NIWA Climate update 15 Feb 2000 *NZ Education Review 4 February 2000 *NZEIROUROU (NZ Education Institute) 10 February 2000 *Primary Science Review 61 Jan/Feb 2000 *RDS News, Jan 2000 *Rural Bulletin Feb 2000 *Tukutuku Korero Education Gazette 7 February 2000 *University of Canterbury "Chronicle", Vol. 35, No. 2, Feb 2000


Listed below are some conferences/events listed in the Royal Society conference database as taking place in New Zealand in the next 3 months. For a full list of conferences in New Zealand and overseas, access

"A futures perspective on strategy in New Zealand" seminar, Park Royal Hotel, 5.15 - 7.30 pm , 23 February 2000

CAE Prestige Lecture 2000: "Technology and the America's Cup" by Professor Peter Jackson, Ilott Theatre - Wellington Town Hall 6.00 - 7.00 pm, Wednesday, 23 February 2000

Royal Society Canterbury Branch lecture: "Antarctic - New Zealand Geological Relationships" by Associate Professor Steve Weaver, 7.45 pm, 1 March 2000. Contact email:

CAE Seminars on "Innovative Manufacturing", Christchurch, 2-3 March 2000. Contact Phone 64-3-3642478; fax 64-3-3642069.

Water 2000 - Water Conference and Expo "Guarding the Global Resource", Auckland, 19-23 March 2000. Contact email:, Website:

New Zealand Archaeological Association annual conference. "New approaches and future directions for New Zealand archaeology", Victoria University, Wellington, 5-8 May 2000. Contact email:


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