Emerging NZ Scientists – Catherine Davis and Shalen Kumar, Te Ropu Awhina Mentors

By Elf Eldridge 15/04/2012

Te Ropu Awhina whanau 2011

These answers were provided by Catherine Davis and Shalen Kumar, both senior mentors in Te Ropu Awhina, Victoria University’s whanau that I have blogged about before. Both are final year PhD candidates in Victoria’s School of Biological Sciences.

1. NZAS has picked emerging scientists as the topic of their yearly conference. What does that say about the current climate for emerging scientists in NZ?

That there are certain issues with the current climate that need to be addressed and new avenues of science and communication needs to be explored. This doesn’t just mean slight modifications on current science but inspiration into new ways of tackling problems faced by the wider community.

2. Do emerging scientists want a future in NZ? Why would they choose NZ instead of overseas?

There is nothing to suggest an emerging scientist wouldn’t want to remain in NZ and develop their career here. However, the current scientific climate means that it is not appealing as it could and should be. One issue is retention of graduates. Investing in local talent for postdoctoral fellows and the like rather than looking at sourcing people for these positions from overseas would make NZ a more favourable place for local students looking for a position post-study. Commitment from those who have a say in terms of funding and support would address one of the main reasons NZ emerging scientists look to move overseas.

Starting a career is a daunting task. Having grown up here, being able to work in the environment you are familiar with would make this first step a lot easier. Working somewhere where you understand the “mannerisms” of science and society is appealing. Another major drawcard is the ability to contribute to your own community.

3. What paths, realistically, are there for emerging scientists in NZ?

There are currently somewhat limited paths available to emerging scientists. A lot of this is due to funding issues and the limited investment into science R&D.

4. Is working/studying overseas an important part of being an emerging scientist?

Depends on your field of work. If more was done to address the issues raised above particularly in terms of investment and support, then world-class expertise would be found right here on our doorstep. In some areas, this is already the case and it is these areas where you will find that many emerging scientists are choosing to remain in NZ.