PM’s new science adviser visits school

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St Gerard’s School in Alexandra welcomed the Prime Minister’s new chief science adviser, Professor Juliet Gerrard, earlier this week.

After greeting Prof Gerrard with waiata, pupils presented findings from their project on monitoring water quality in the Manuherikia catchment.

Funded by a grant from the Participatory Science Platform, the project met with Prof Gerrard’s approval.

“It was impressive how much of the scientific method they had learned.

“It wasn’t just that they were following the rule book blindly, they were really thinking about what the measurements meant.”

The visit was part of a goal of ensuring she knew what scientific research was taking place around the country.

“I wanted to take the opportunity while I am out in the regions to really see the science that is going on.”

Prof Gerrard also visited the Centre for Space Science Technology while in Alexandra.

“Amazing that there is a space programme coming out of Alex,” she said.

One of the challenges in New Zealand was to persuade people science was a useful tool, Prof Gerrard said.

“It is great to see that you have got a generation of schoolkids here who are really understanding the tools and starting to believe it.”

A focus was ensuring evidence was at the front of decision-making, Prof Gerrard said.

“The Prime Minister is very keen to make sure that all policy decisions are evidence-informed.”

Good science could help inform decision-making.

“It is making sure you prioritise the money with policies that are definitely going to work, and to make sure they work you need to be able to measure and see what is happening.”

Prof Gerrard wanted to open up conversations between scientists and policy-makers.

“At the moment a lot of science just sits in universities and research institutes and doesn’t necessarily get implemented as efficiently as it could do.”

A personal goal was “to make sure that as many scientists as possible are thinking about how the results that they have might make a difference to New Zealand.”