Scientist tells scientists to get out of their ivory towers


Scientific academics shouldn’t be looking down their noses at their colleagues involved in technological developments for industry according to Royal Society of New Zealand president Garth Carnaby.

Speaking at the NZ Association of Scientists conference, in collaboration with the Institute of Policy Studies at Victoria University, Carnaby said while there are two different cultures between scientific research and research that is guided or needed by industry, both are important for the country’s development.

“There’s a confusion in New Zealand about these two different systems as we’ve tended to treat them as one,” Carnaby says. “Unless we address this confusion, we will continue to have an innovation system that underperforms and an economy that does not meet expectation,” he said in a conference theme that’s re-setting science and innovation for the next 20 years.

Carnaby says research for industry is often looked down upon by academics, such as those at universities, as being unworthy of their attention, while considering that there is too little applied research carried out in New Zealand.

For New Zealand’s high value manufacturing to be taken to scale, “scientists need to listen to industry,” he says. Answering industry’s questions will require more generalists and multi-disciplinary teams among scientists.

“The science community may regard it as heresy, but we want excellence in applied research as well,” he says. “We need an army of them if we’re to catch up to Australia. The idea that technologists are involved in a second class activity that isn’t as intellectual as science discovery is rubbish.”

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About sticknz

sticK is by Peter Kerr, a writer for hire. I have a broad science and technology background and interest, with an original degree in agricultural science. My writing speciality is making the complex understandable. I am available for outside consultancy work, and for general discussions of converting a good idea into something positive
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