An update on the ’Science in Society’ project

by Sir Peter Gluckman
View of the New Zealand flags flying in front of the parliament building, the Beehive, in Wellington.

In November last year, the Government announced its acceptance of the recommendation of the National Science Challenges panel to develop an overarching strategy on science in society.  The Minister then established a steering group comprising deputy CEs from both the Ministry of Education and MBIE and myself; subsequent to his appointment as MBIE’s chief science advisor, Prof Jim Metson also joined the group. The Minister also appointed a reference group of key stakeholders, engaged to provide advice and feedback on the development of the plan which I have been chairing.

From this work a draft plan has been developed. The ministries are collecting feedback from key stakeholders and government departments before the plan is forwarded to Ministers for release for broader feedback.

The thinking of those working on the plan has been framed within three major headings 1) working within the education sector to enhance innovative and relevant learning opportunities in science and technology at both primary and secondary levels 2) enabling better and more relevant opportunities for engagement with science by the New Zealand public of all ages; and – crucially – 3) considering how to enable the science sector itself to better engage with the public and the public sector.  While these have been framed as separate streams, each inter-relates to the others and some integrating initiatives have been considered and are being developed further.

As national strategies in this area are rather unusual, I think this project is breaking new ground and any plan will have to be responsive, with opportunities for review and refocus built into its implementation. Certainly, there will be lessons learned along the way, but already, the very fact of developing a strategy puts us among the handful of countries that have formally recognised the importance of true integration of science within society and its complexities. Hopefully the plan once accepted by Government will strengthen and enhance this relationship from classrooms to communities and businesses.

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