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Resignation Sends Warning Signal

The Government’s desire to build a New Zealand knowledge economy is seriously at risk. The fragile state of confidence in the future of science in New Zealand was shown by yesterday’s decision by a highly skilled molecular biologist to resign from AgResearch the Chairman of the New Zealand Life Sciences Network, Dr William Rolleston, said this morning.

“The Government needs to show strong leadership if we are going to avoid a situation where the other countries pick the eyes out of our scientific workforce. A step in the right direction will be the Government removing legislative impediments to innovation in biotechnology, as promised last week by the Minister for the Environment.

“The Government needs to create a positive environment to attract investment and the best scientists to come to New Zealand.

“It is clear that Dr Phil L’Huillier has become very frustrated with the constant delays which have surrounded his work on the myelin gene in cattle. We are fortunate the work, which the High Court has found does not impose any significant risks to Maori or the environment, will be able to continue without his leadership.

“It is also tragic that the issues have been clouded in the public mind by ethically questionable actions of scientists from Waikato University.

“It is not acceptable for a senior scientist to publish information on a website questioning the validity of another scientist’s work and then to refuse to identify the source (and therefore the credibility) of the opposing view. Professor Wilkins used to work at AgResearch and should know better.

“He is a very clever scientist himself and would react strongly to anonymous criticism of his own work. That he has provided a vehicle for anonymous criticism of the work of former colleagues is a breach of accepted ethical behaviour among scientists. Serious scientists know they have an obligation to be personally and publicly accountable for their work. Dr Wilkins’ actions should be subject to review by Waikato University to determine whether they are consistent with his obligations,” concluded Dr Rolleston.

Ends

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