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Are we about to hear of a much closer connect between our diplomats and science and technology sector when New Zealand’s yarning to overseas countries about how we might ‘work together’?

After all, its well-accepted practice by other countries in their diplomatic dealings.

About to be Minister of Science and Innovation Wayne Mapp hinted at changes to when addressing the NZ Association of Scientists meeting in Wellington on Thursday, as well as the day before when announcing the research institutions which are to be first accredited organisations for Technology NZ’s tech transfer vouchers.

John Key, Peter Gluckman and Mapp have recently been in discussions with new Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade chief executive John Allen.
Given the push and expectation of science, technology and particularly the innovation part is to play in the government’s economic transformation plans, such a meeting of the great and the good will have meaning.

Speaking at the same NZAS forum, carried out in collaboration with Victoria University’s Institute of Policy Studies, chief science advisor Gluckman said MFAT's keen on a more co-ordinated approach with the country’s science and technology sector when discussing bilaterally with other countries.

Among hints he threw out were that diplomacy plays a role in science – an NZ scientists now have access to EU funds, and bilateral science projects with Germany, China and Singapore among others. Science assists diplomacy, since science is neutral, and trust can be built from that says Gluckman. Science also operates within diplomacy, climate change policies being a key example. Finally he says, science is the glue that holds the real and virtual spaces of the world together. Space, deep oceans, Antartica and the Internet are all ‘ruled’ by science conventions, not necessarily political ones.

Both Mapp and Gluckman speculated that former AgResearch chief Andy West’s current examination of the science, technology and innovation sectors could be an eye-opener. Given West’s lateral thinking ability, and his preparedness to be bold, the as yet to be announced when it is to appear paper, could be well worth reading.

The New Zealand science system itself globally ranks well for numbers of papers published per person. What West's recommendations might be to increase the economic benefit of our science spend, will be, no doubt, interestingly controversial.

Science and diplomacy to become better bedmates?

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