Listen to Paul, Peter and what’s his name!

By Jennifer Nickel 22/05/2011 6


I got an unexpected boost this morning when I came across the news story on Sir Paul Callaghan’s call for innovation to lift the economy.  I have also heard the same endorsement from New Zealands Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman in most of his speeches. 

We’ve given these men a good lot of recognition for their work and intelligence, so why aren’t we listening to them? 

Perhaps I do not appreciate how difficult it is to put together a budget for 4-5 million people, but to completely ignore all signs that the world needs or wants to head towards low carbon technology and a reduction in pollution seems dissapointingly out of touch.

But before I go on and on about that… here is yet another guy who agrees, which inspired me to share:  see the story $1b prize plan for NZ’s future

He talks about creating an incentive for New Zealand’s innovation potential so “we could lead the green energy revolution, reinvigorate the nation, and inspire the planet”.

Imagine visiting a country that operates more sustainably than the rest of the world with a high standard of living.  I bet we could export some of that!  I bet tourists would come to see that!  Then throw in the Remarkables and their crystal clear rivers for good measure because we can!


6 Responses to “Listen to Paul, Peter and what’s his name!”

  • It’s good to see our top scientists and young entrepreneurs getting some press on these issues.
    It is often said that politicians are only interested in short term changes as they need to focus on getting re-elected every three years. Unfortunately science usually works over a much longer time frame.
    And unfortunately in an election year, political parties are probably more focused on bribes that long ranging smart policies.
    Perhaps we need a few smart young scientists in politics? Fancy a change in scene, Jennifer?

  • Wow – love the article! $1b prize would certainly change a few things around here, though I’m cautious as to focusing it solely on green/cleantech. As Sir Paul mentioned in some of his recent addresses, it’s extremely difficult to predict where innovation will occur but i think one would have to admit that prizes this big, with this scope of impact would foster some serious ‘Kiwi ingenuity’. I think you might be great in politics (I’d vote for ya!) but it’s too easy to point the finger at politicians. Innovation is up to us all, and personally I think the sun will explode long before politicians make any serious changes to the NZ innovation economy. But that’s just me and my cynicism.

  • I think your cynicism is shared.
    It irritates the heck out of me, actually – we get politicians (Key et al, etc) giving lip service to how important science & technology are to our future (look at the direction TEC is taking with university EFTS funding, for exampe), but when push comes to shove the actual support isn’t there. I know a lot of innovative scientists, but there’s a limit to what can be done on the smell of an oily rag (& that’s the reason that a close family friend, a top-flight physicist, is in France & not here).

  • @Michael. Great point actually, it is fantastic that these guys are getting ‘air-time’ (even if in print). Its a nice contrast to those stupid ‘ask the people on the street’ moments that are so popular on the news. I’m all for smart young scientists in politics 🙂 going to need more than one!

    @Grant. Thanks for posting the link to your previous blog, very relevant, love it! Surely could rustle up 500+ 😀 or on the other hand: when are these departmental science advisor positions finally being appointed? It would be good if they aren’t political positions (it would be hard to argue without bias if you are meant to be loyal to a parties ‘great’ ideas, wouldnt it?!), but likely they also wouldn’t be full time (i.e. not full focus)and only go to near-retirees.
    Oh… and yeah… you probably know by now, the only department which doesnt have an advisor in the UK was/is treasury – wonder how thats working out for them 😉

    @Elf. Yes as you say big ideas are certainty to change things. Fair call about not making it all about clean tech! True innovation is up to us all – totally us actually (we are the ones with the hands-on as opposed to the politicians!). So why aren’t we doing it? because we dont want to or because we can’t?

    @Alison. I share your pain. I was so excited about Key, and I’d still take him over many others anyday – but as you say… the actual support is not there.

    Dear MP/PM: C’mon we are a predictable bunch… incentive -> kiwi ingenuity -> innovation -> taxation -> enjoy the praise!
    Giving out awards and jobs (e.g. to Paul and Peter) and then saying ‘no thanks’ to the advice seems a little odd!!