Clause 6 New section 5 substituted
Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (Labour)
: I think the Hon Pete Hodgson, the member in the chair, explained the objective of the Royal Society very well. When I look at the objective as it now is in the Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill, I see that it includes science, technology, and the humanities. I have been thinking about that. There is one word that is missing, and it is something that perhaps Pete Hodgson can put some light on. It is the word “research”. We have science and technology in the definition, and now we have the humanities. But what about research? I hope that Pete Hodgson will have some answer to that. Traditionally as scientists we have done the research and developed the science, and then we have had the role of technology and engineering in the advancement we have made through research, but that word is somehow missing from the objective in clause 6.
Historically, in the over 144 years since the existence of the Royal Society, the emphasis has been always on science and technology but not really on the humanities. I always thought that this was incomplete. The objective of the Royal Society has always been incomplete, because once we do the science and we do the technology, these technologies are actually used for humans. We use them for our environment, and we use them in our surroundings, so they have to have some impact on the environment that we live in. Clearly, we should have had the humanities in the functions of the Royal Society a long time ago.
We have spent a lot of money, particularly in blue-sky research and—rightly so—in biofuels. We have gone into genetically modified food and genetic engineering. We have put money into research and development. But in the humanities area there are linguistics and various languages, and there are the social sciences. I know that my colleague there, the former Associate Professor Rajen Prasad, has done a lot of work in the area of the social sciences, and in the child and family area. A lot of research has been done, and all of that work has been done on a scientific basis. It is not something that has just happened; it has been done on a scientific basis. Whether we take the humanities in totality or just in part, as in linguistics, languages, and culture—and religion, for that matter—I am very strongly of the view that the humanities should all have been a part of the objective of the Royal Society a long time ago. I am delighted, even at this time, that we are including the humanities as part of the objective of the Royal Society.
But I still want to know, from Pete Hodgson perhaps, or from somebody else who can enlighten me, why we do not have the word “research” in the objective, because technology and the sciences are developed on the basis of research done. If we do not have that, we cannot have the technologies and engineering that we have, and those of course impact on humans and the environment that we live in.
In the history of the Royal Society it is a significant milestone, if you like, that we are including the third leg of the three—science, technology, and now the humanities—as part of the objective of the Royal Society as we go forward. More and more we are becoming conscious of the impact of technology and the impact of new innovations on humans. Thank you.
LYNNE PILLAY (Labour)
: It is a pleasure to stand along with my colleagues and speak in support of the Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill. In doing so I firstly acknowledge the role that the Royal Society plays. I myself, along with all of my
colleagues—certainly those on this side of the Chamber—have enjoyed the lectures that the Royal Society provides for people who may not be at the highest level of the sciences. Indeed, the Royal Society does lecture in the humanities, I think it would be fair to say. Many of us have enjoyed going to those lectures within Parliament, and we have certainly been enlightened.
I congratulate the Royal Society, which has operated since 1867, on all the good work it does. We are celebrating the research, and I will speak very briefly to what Dr Choudhary said in terms of whether research should be included in the objective. I know that Dr Choudhary is a scientist at heart, but also by occupation. Research, whether it be in science or in the humanities, is so important. It has made an improvement in this country and, indeed, everywhere. It has improved everything. It has improved quality, whether it be in any form of health care, any form of understanding of where we come from, any form of culture, or anything to do with the humanities. That research is absolutely vital. This is the time to acknowledge the importance of the research. However, I think that extending the work that the Royal Society does in promoting science and technology to include the humanities is a very worthwhile cause.
I will talk about my daughter. She went to university, whereas I did my training on the job, as my partner would say, because I trained as a nurse. I did not go to university. I have had some influence in the past over my daughter, and she has often asked me for advice, but I left her to her own devices to go to university and talk about what she wanted to do. When she came home she told me she was going to do a conjoint commerce and arts degree, which seemed quite strange to me because she had never shown any interest in commerce, but there we go. But it was not until afterwards that she said she had been persuaded by the fellow who was talking to her on the day, who just happened to be the head of the commerce department, that it would be a good thing to do. At the eleventh hour she changed to a psychology degree, which of course encompassed the humanities and, indeed, some mathematics and other things that went along with it.
She came home a few months afterwards quite flattened. Someone had said to her that her degree was a BA, which meant—and I do not know whether I am allowed to say this in the Committee, but I will give it a go anyway—bugger all. That was the description of an arts degree. This was some time ago. I quite eloquently reassured her. She went on to have some very interesting career choices at her very young age, and I think that is wonderful.
I think, certainly, attitudes have changed, and with them the ability of everybody, really, to recognise the strengths that come from whatever dimension of education. It enriches people’s lives, and it enriches what people are able to contribute to their communities and to society; it is very, very worthwhile. I think this move to include the humanities in the Royal Society is really just another acknowledgment—the icing on the cake—of how important this issue is.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour)
: I am pleased to take a call on clause 6 of the Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill. It is a source of great pride that a social scientist like me, who has spent a long period of time as a social scientist, will see the day when the Royal Society—this eminent organisation, which is historical, and has all the bells and whistles any scientist would seek to achieve—includes his or her particular discipline in the object of that particular august body. As a social scientist I am really pleased that we are here, although perhaps 30 years too late, because, indeed, the humanities and social sciences have been around a long time. It has taken some time to convince that august body that it was time to include this major area of study.
To now know that it will be the object of the Royal Society to enhance and promote this particular area is, indeed, a genuine source of great pleasure. But, of course, if I had
it my way—and I invite the member in the chair, Pete Hodgson, to make some comments about this, if he could—I would ask why we do not fix the problem properly, and really signal that by using the nomenclature that is used outside; that is, the humanities and the social sciences. At the moment, the social sciences are not mentioned in the objects of the Royal Society. What is used out there, and it has been used for the years in which I have been to university and practised, is the composite term of the humanities and the social sciences.
We have invited the Royal Society to contemplate that matter, and I hope it will give us its thoughts on that, so that we may move a little bit further. The member in the chair may want to comment on that, and whether he has any thoughts about the reasons for not using the convention in this particular clause, so that, for once, we would have it complete. We would know it would be the object of the society to advance and promote in New Zealand science, technology, the humanities, and the social sciences. I think that would also give a great deal of comfort and confidence, and help people a great deal to identify with the Royal Society and its objectives. I look forward to hearing some comments from the member in the chair.
What will the Royal Society advance by including the humanities? What will it be advancing and promoting? Without wanting to go into the definition, there is something particular about the discipline of the humanities, and the subjects within that discipline, that is brought to human thinking, human endeavour, human activities generally, and human development, as well. The humanities, as one authority puts it, introduce us to the people we have never met, places we have never visited, and ideas that may never have crossed our minds. This is a whole new area of thinking. To promote that area through the work of the Royal Society is, indeed, quite an important addition to the society’s work and to the particular professions that arise out of those disciplines.
This move also does something else. It signals to any field of professional or other activity that there is a wide area of knowledge and information that can be utilised to enhance our professions, how we think, and how we operate. If I had my way I would use the American experience, so that everybody would need to include the humanities and the social sciences. It does that as well. Later on, when we talk about the functions of the Royal Society, we will be in a much better place to talk a little bit more about what it is, and how the functions will make this relationship come alive. Thank you.
Hon PETE HODGSON (Labour—Dunedin North)
: I have had a couple of questions put to me by successive members, and I will quite quickly address them. The first question was from Ashraf Choudhary, who pointed out that clause 6 of the Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill does not include the word “research”, and he wanted to know why not. This issue refers, I think, to some earlier remarks I made about the nomenclature of the phrase “research, science, and technology” that has been in our public lexicon for 20 years or so. Mr Choudhary asked why we have lost it now. I can understand why he asked that. I think it is a legitimate and valid question, and I think it has a legitimate and valid answer. Put simply, it is because the word “humanities” has been added. The word “research” can come out because the word “humanities” has been added.
By that I mean that science and research are synonymous, and technology and development are synonymous—or near enough. Synonymous is probably too strong a term, but those words have at least a very similar meaning. But science and technology do not describe, or begin to describe, that thing called “the humanities”. So the concept of the humanities has to find expression one way or another. In clause 6 it finds expression directly. The word “humanities” has been put in, in black letter law. So we now have the words “science, technology, and the humanities”.
In earlier times, 20 years ago, when we were talking about why the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology had that name, we examined those words and wondered why both “research” and “science” were needed. The answer was that it was a nod to the humanities, because the humanities were not explicitly mentioned. Certainly, the Ministry of Research, Science, and Technology, as an agency, did not concern itself with the humanities. The Ministry for Arts, Culture and Heritage did that. We had divided our State in such a way that the humanities could not be a part of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology. But it is also the case that because the humanities are a part of scholarship, and because the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology was seriously involved with scholarship, we needed to put the word “Research” in there to give a nod to the humanities.
I suggest to Dr Ashraf Choudhary that we are entitled to give ground here. We are entitled to say that the word “research” is no longer needed in the legislation as it is. If “the humanities” by itself, in conjunction with the words “science and technology”, covers the patch, then we have no yawning gaps. This leads to another question in the name of another doctor. We are surrounded by doctors in the Chamber, especially on the Labour side. Dr Rajen Prasad, who is himself a social scientist, is asking whether, given that we now have the words “science, technology, and the humanities” sitting there, we have ambiguity about where social science finishes and the humanities start. This is evidenced, for example, by the ordinary Mr Chris Hipkins, who said that criminology is both an art and a science. Many things are both arts and sciences, including something that I am familiar with, called anaesthesiology. It is absolutely an art and a science.
Chris Hipkins: Is that what he’s doing now?
Hon PETE HODGSON: It is what I am doing now.
Jo Goodhew: Oh, that’s very rude.
Hon PETE HODGSON: No, I did not think so. I resemble that remark. I think the member is absolutely on the button here.
But can I just say to Dr Rajen Prasad that I think he is guilty of special pleading. That is what I think. I think that if Dr Rajen Prasad were to succeed in having the words “social sciences” put into black-letter law, then soon enough along would come Dr Ashraf Choudhary to ask what about the natural sciences, biological sciences, agricultural sciences, or whatever took his fancy. Someone else said physical sciences. I say that we should leave it alone, that we should let the word “science” be the broad church we all want it to be. Let the social scientists find their place in that broad church of science. Indeed, the member himself has made social science a much more relevant contributor to the public debate with his work in the Families Commission. I applaud him for that. But there is no need, in addition to that, to plead for a special mention because the social sciences are feeling on the outer or not quite as important.
GARETH HUGHES (Green)
: Kia ora, Mr Chairperson. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou. Kia ora. It is great to take a call tonight on the Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill, and, in particular, on clause 6.
Before I begin, I say it is good to see this bill in the Committee. The Green Party will support it. Only the member for Mana has been in the House for a shorter time than me, and he might agree that the debate tonight on the Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill is probably the most intellectual debate that I have seen in my 1 year in this Chamber, particularly because of the calls taken by the member in the chair, the former Minister, Pete Hodgson.
It is good to be having this debate. I think it is crucial to talk about the humanities. In New Zealand in the last couple of decades the humanities have often been seen as a valueless part of academia or of our society. There has been a focus on research,
science, and technology, yet the emphasis, from our universities to our schools, has been away from the humanities. So it is good to have this debate on this bill.
Clause 6 is the crucial clause; it is the clause that changes the object of the Royal Society. I have a whole bunch of questions, and they might be addressed in Supplementary Order Papers or in further calls tonight. First, I will look at the wording. My question is to the member in the chair, or to the members who were on the Education and Science Committee. I note that clause 6 is the only part of this albeit small bill that calls it only the “Society”, not the “Royal Society”. I am an avowed republican and I would like to see the Royal Society’s name changed, and maybe we will get to that part of the debate later on tonight. But I ask why the word “Royal” is not in this clause. Maybe another member can explain it. Maybe there is a common-sense explanation, but as a new member I am not sure what it is.
I have not particularly followed this bill through the House or the Education and Science Committee, but I thought I would take a call tonight, as I have a humanities academic background. At Victoria University of Wellington I studied religious studies and history, which are two of the areas listed in the definition in clause 5 of this bill. I have a postgraduate degree in political science, which is one of those topics on the cusp of definition: is it a science, is it humanities—
Hon Judith Collins: You’re very unemployable apart from here, but really only here.
GARETH HUGHES: I thank the member very much for that contribution, which I could not quite hear. Anyway, I have a background in the humanities, which is why I thought I would take a call on this crucial clause. It is the only call I will be taking. Clause 6 amends the object of the society, which currently is “the advancement and promotion of science and technology in New Zealand”. We are adding the humanities to that object.
I was not able to take a call on clause 5, which dealt with the definitions, so I will raise a couple of questions corresponding to the decisions made on clause 5. Clause 5 defines the humanities subjects by listing them. They are languages—not specifically including English or te reo—history, religion, philosophy, and law. History and religion were the two degrees that I studied at university in Wellington. What is missing, of course, is a whole bunch of others, such as music, dance, visual arts, and sociology. I think the problem is—and I am not sure whether this was raised at the select committee, but it would be great if a member of the committee could take a call on it—that the humanities have been defined as a list of topics. An equally valid way to define the humanities is as an approach. One good quote I have found that shows the difference between the humanities and the sciences is that the humanities are not defined by a list of topics; they are defined by an approach to the question. It is all about the question one asks. That definition defines the humanities as an interpretive method of finding truth, rather than explaining the causality of events or uncovering the truth of the natural world.
I think we will find, when using clause 5 and defining the humanities as a list of topics—some of which we agree with, some of which we disagree with, and some of which are not included, such as te reo or indigenous studies—we will see, in an increasingly technological world, a whole bunch of potential new humanities subjects coming in that will not be defined in this legislation. In the future we may find ourselves in this Chamber adding more topics, as our society is enriched and we find new fields of study for the advancement of approaching the question that is the humanities.
I think we might rightfully see that this clause amends the work of the Royal Society. People will challenge the Royal Society because it is not adequately advocating for, promoting, or advancing their particular topic. A hypothetical example is astrology.
Maybe astrology is a humanities subject or maybe it is a science. I personally disagree with it. There is the science of studying mysterious animals like the Sasquatch or Bigfoot. Someone could legitimately go the Royal Society and say: “This is what I define a humanities subject as. Why aren’t you advancing or promoting my humanities subject?”. I think that possibly the problem in clause 5 is that we have defined the humanities as a list of subjects when, in fact, maybe we should not have listed—
JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany)
: I move,
That the question be now put.
KRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana)
: Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak on the Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill. It is my first call tonight, and one of a couple, I hope. Before I talk on the bill, as this is the first opportunity I have had to address the Chamber since the aftershocks in Christchurch, I send my sympathies to the men, women, and children of Canterbury, and also to the members of Parliament from across the Committee who hail from Canterbury. Our sympathies and support go out to them, too.
We are talking on clause 6 of the Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill, which substitutes the new object clause. New section 5 in clause 6 states: “The object of the Society is the advancement and promotion in New Zealand of science, technology, and the humanities.” As the member in the chair, Pete Hodgson, said earlier in this debate, this clause is really at the heart of the bill. It changes the focus of the Royal Society from focusing strictly on science and technology, as it has since 1867, and future-proofs the society by bringing the humanities into the realm of the Royal Society.
Just in case people have just switched off
Coronation Street and do not know what the definition of “humanities” is under this bill, I say that it includes languages, which obviously are very important here in New Zealand, with our own official language of te reo. It is good that languages have entered the realm of the Royal Society. It is interesting that there was a debate at the Education and Science Committee as to whether English or te reo should be specifically included in the bill, but at this stage they are not. The humanities also include history. For a young nation it is promising to see that subject enter the realm of the Royal Society. They also include religion, philosophy, law, classics, linguistics, literature, cultural studies, media studies—I think that in this age of new media that is an advance for the Royal Society—art history, film, and drama.
As I said, this bill moves the focus of the Royal Society towards the humanities, but I hope the Royal Society does not lose its focus on research, science, and technology. Since 1867 it really has been a champion to make sure that our scientists, our research, and our technology have been cutting edge. Through awards like the Rutherford Medal and scholarships, it has ensured that New Zealand research, science, and technology stay world class.
Since late 2008 there has been a debate on making sure that the focus of the society changes. This is an advancement, but I think it is very important that we have a champion in science to make sure that we are pushing it. Although we welcome the humanities coming into the realm of the Royal Society, it is very important that we have a focus on science and innovation to ensure that our economy remains highly skilled, and that we have a workforce that ensures economic success for our country. It is very important that the Royal Society makes sure that that continues and that we have a champion in this area. It is obviously very important for that function of the Royal Society to continue, because research and development are essential for our productivity to grow and for our economic success. So I really hope that although the humanities have come into its realm, the Royal Society will continue its focus and its heritage around science.
It is also very important that the focus of the society remains on science and technology because New Zealand’s private business research and development spend is one of the lowest in the OECD. We need to make sure we have a separate body that ensures that although our spend on research and development in comparison with other OECD nations is low, someone outside the realm of business and the Government is pushing to make sure that we are doing the best that we can, and that we are continuing to make sure we have scientists and technicians in crucial areas for our businesses, to ensure our technology is cutting edge.
It is also very important that the Royal Society continues its focus on science and technology, as it has since 1867, because compared with other countries we are still lagging behind. We continue to stagnate, in terms of our growth, because of a lack of investment in science and technology. It is very important. Although we welcome this change of focus and this change of object for the Royal Society, I would hate to see the voice it has had since 1867 on science and technology get drowned out, because that voice is very important.
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government)
: I move,
That the question be now put.
Clause 7 New section 6 substituted
Hon PETE HODGSON (Labour—Dunedin North)
: Clause 7 is a long clause. It details the functions of the Royal Society in part by, in many cases, just adding the words “and humanities”. But it means that the work of the Royal Society now increases significantly, because the humanities are a significant addition to what is already going on. Let me give the Committee a couple of examples.
The first would be the management of various awards. The Rutherford Medal, the Pickering Medal, the Thomson Medal, and many other awards are sought and given under the aegis of the Royal Society on an annual basis. These are highly contested awards, and they are prestigious in the world of science. One needs to be a scientist or understand a bit about scientists to understand why the awards are so prestigious. They are often the thing that either drives a scientist or makes a scientist feel well-respected in the eyes of his or her peers. That peer review, that peer acceptance, and that peer acknowledgment is often much, much more important to a scientist than anything to do with money, status, title, or whatever. It is what drives many scientists; it just is. So it is reasonable that the Royal Society should be responsible for managing the allocation of those various medals.
There is another thing the Royal Society does, or at least it does indirectly, and that is manage the Marsden Fund. Actually, there is a council appointed by the Minister of Science and Innovation that manages the Marsden Fund, but the link between the Marsden Fund and the Royal Society is so close that it is best to not bother distinguishing one from the other. The Marsden Fund is a pot of money that everyone says is too small and everyone does not want to get any bigger, or at least not too much bigger too quickly. The reason for that sort of dichotomous approach—it is too little but do not make it too big—is that the Marsden Fund is itself a prestigious fund and a Marsden Award is a prestigious award. People put them on their CVs. If Marsden Awards were freely available, then everyone would be able to put them on their CVs and that would lower the currency a bit.
But there is another reason why the Marsden Fund should not get hugely big. I guess some people are listening to this and saying “Oh, that’s why that guy Hodgson, when he
was Minister of Research, Science and Technology, never did make it that much bigger when we wanted him to.” Actually, it went up by 90 percent while I was Minister, but not 190 percent. The success rate is still only about 10 or 12 percent—
David Shearer: Five to 10.
Hon PETE HODGSON: If that is what the member’s notes say, it has dropped away even more. That means that the vast majority of the folk who apply for a Marsden Fund grant do not get one. In a way, we need to remember that because the Marsden Fund is not based on relevance to New Zealand society but only on excellence, that means that an irrelevant topic can be studied so long as the proposal is excellent and so long as the researcher is excellent. That means that every year some journalist says there will be, for example, $300,000 given over to a particular topic—the last one I remember reading was into the study of moth genitals—and we are all supposed to laugh like drains. Chris Hipkins is away already. He has got it. He is going to crack a joke about moth balls before long. Let us see how long it takes him. The point is that that sort of weird and wonderful research enables excellent researchers to follow their dream, not to follow what someone else says is relevant. Out of that sometimes come serendipitous results that are of value, and the Marsden Fund is alive and well with examples of that. But there also come scientists who become committed to a research career, especially scientists who are in their late 20s or early 30s. If they pick up a Marsden Fund grant, they feel as if they have reached a bit of quality and they are often away on their career.
The Royal Society oversees that stuff, and it is really interesting because the Royal Society is itself made up of excellent researchers This could be a den of iniquity. This could be a den of backhanding. This could make FIFA look like something amateurish, but it does not happen.
Hon Members: Ha, ha!
Hon PETE HODGSON: Well, think about it. The only people who are qualified to decide who is an excellent researcher are excellent researchers. If they are not conflicted, they are no good to us. That is the truth of it. I do not think that is funny. That is honestly how I see it. The question is how one maintains the integrity of a situation under those circumstances without the word getting around that someone’s brother-in-law got what he should not have got. All I can say is that that has never come across my desk. I think when the Hon Steve Maharey was Minister for Research, Science and Technology for a couple of years he ran into a bit of that—an allegation that others said had absolutely no substance—but the allegations themselves are rare. So how will very clever people decide which of those very clever people or other very clever people will get a bunch of money, because they do, without it becoming an issue of conflict of interest?
One other thing is that the Marsden Fund has for years supported humanities. It might have decided to fund research into moth balls, but it will also fund research, if it wants to, into ancient Icelandic. The only criterion is one of excellence. So for years, long before this Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill came into the hands of Grant Robertson and long before it came before the House, the humanities part of the Royal Society’s function has been, in a way, manifest through its very close neighbour, the Marsden Fund and that funding process. The Royal Society is generally responsible for housing the Marsden Council—you know, the tea and the coffee. Generally, it is responsible for putting up the names to the Minister of the day as to who should go on this or that committee. It just circulates them around.
All the while that I can remember being a Minister, there were some monies there for humanities, so there is a bit of a track record of money coming from Vote Science and ending up in the hands of humanities researchers. Humanities scholars would say “not enough”—they would say serially and seriously not enough—but that does not alter the
fact that we have been doing this a little bit for some time. It may now mean that the emphasis on the Marsden Fund distribution heads a little more towards humanities. I do not want to dictate that to the folk who will be appointed to that body, or offer any advice to any present or future Minister; I am just saying that it seems possible. So those are a couple of the functions of the Royal Society. There are many other functions listed. They are listed in the legislation and I am sure that other colleagues will want to explore them.
I say in conclusion that in respect of the Government’s interaction with the Royal Society, 20 years ago when Simon Upton was looking at what to do with the Royal Society, and trying to work out how to carve out its niche, which he finally did in the legislation called the Royal Society of New Zealand Act 1997, way back then it was unclear what its role would be. Since that time it has developed a series of roles including advisory roles to the Government, which I am sure other members will speak about. That means we cannot easily do without those functions—and not only do we want them; we now need them. That, I think, is something that needs to be said in the Royal Society’s favour. For those who think the society is a bunch of people who are fuddy-duddy and sandal wearing, that is no longer the truth and has not been the truth for at least the time I have been in Parliament.
LOUISA WALL (Labour)
: Kia ora, Mr Chairperson. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou. Thank you very much for the opportunity to support my colleague Grant Robertson’s Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill. At this point in the debate we are focusing on clause 7, and the aspect of clause 7 that I will be talking about also relates to new section 5, inserted by clause 6, which states: “The object of the Society is the advancement and promotion in New Zealand of science, technology, and the humanities.” Of course, all of those are underpinned by research or evidence-based action.
I acknowledge the Hon Pete Hodgson, who was the Minister of Research, Science and Technology when I was Māori research manager at the Health Research Council. The research, science, and technology sector has been, historically for me, one that I have known quite a bit about. Obviously I know quite a bit about what the Hon Pete Hodgson was talking about in terms of conflict of interest, but also in terms of scientists themselves being able to select and be involved in processes of allocating our public-good science, research, and technology money.
What I really want to focus on is the definition of humanities that we have in this amendment bill. The definition includes languages—and I hope there is an opportunity to ensure that our indigenous languages are part of that definition—as well as history, religion, philosophy, law, classics, linguistics, literature, cultural studies, media studies, art history, film, and drama. It was very interesting for me to look at the definition of humanities that I could find on the internet, as one does. For me it is very much an academic discipline that is about studying the human condition using disciplines that are analytical, critical, and speculative.
What does this bill mean for me in terms of humanities outputs in the future? I think it is very exciting, and I just highlight the fact that the Royal Society, having been around since 1867, has mirrored situations that many countries across the world, and many leading academies, such as those in Scotland and Canada, have followed in ensuring that the humanities are integrated into the work of the Royal Society. It is very exciting that the breadth of the Royal Society now includes the humanities.
Let us look at some of the historical work that the Royal Society has been involved with, and I particularly highlight Dr Steve Thompson, who was involved with the Royal Society when I was working at the Health Research Council. I will also look at some of the evidence that the society has come out with in respect of the humanities and decided
to share with the New Zealand public. For example, the Royal Society signed a petition in favour of genetic modification testing in 2008. It was really interesting to note that a report was released by the energy panel of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2006 recommending that the Government set aggressive but achievable targets for renewable transport fuels, that it phase out the use of fossil fuels unless carbon emissions could be contained, and that it put in place policies to ensure that fossil fuel - free targets are met by 2020.
As we can see, the Royal Society has historically engaged in the pursuit of the humanities, but I guess that with this formal mandate there will now be a greater opportunity for our humanities leaders and academics to apply to the Royal Society. Also of note in 2006 was the comment by chief executive Steve Thompson that the Government’s research and development investment of about 0.52 percent of GDP was well below its goal of reaching the OECD average, then 0.68 percent and rising. He said that scientists were chasing a moving target, and the gap was getting bigger. It will be very interesting to monitor in the future what this definition will mean to the Royal Society. I commend my colleague Grant Robertson for prioritising this member’s bill.
DAVID SHEARER (Labour—Mt Albert)
: As Gareth Hughes said earlier in the debate, we are having an extremely good discussion on the Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill, one that is perhaps on a slightly higher plane than the debates on most of the legislation that comes through the House.
Three words of clause 7 run right through the various parts of the clause, and those words are “science”, “technology”, and “humanities”. Pete Hodgson touched on and answered the questions of some of the other members who had asked about research. We have a Ministry of Research, Science and Technology and a Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, and now we have a Ministry of Science and Innovation. The word “research” has been removed from the title of that ministry. As Pete Hodgson quite rightly argued, it has been taken out because research is an inherent part of science; we cannot have science unless we have research. We can discuss the types of scientific research we can have, but nevertheless research is part of science. The really interesting point is that the word “humanities” has been brought into the three words I mentioned.
I will make a couple of points, and first I will again go back to what Pete Hodgson was talking about in terms of the Marsden Fund. In some ways the Marsden Fund, which is to recognise and reward excellence in New Zealand, has for some time provided awards in both the science and the humanities areas. There has been no problem in terms of that happening. In many ways, what we are trying to do with this legislation is bring the humanities into the Royal Society.
Mr Hodgson mentioned in his contribution that the Marsden Fund is for excellence, regardless of what end the research might be put towards in the future, and of what it might be able to produce. It is about the best research that can possibly be done, and we can have extreme examples of that. It is something that is held up as being about the best science in New Zealand.
My only issue with the Marsden Fund—and I will diverge on this for just a short period of time—is that often the work is done and we already have the conclusions before we can actually put forward an application for the Marsden Fund. So in a sense the 2 years’ funding from the Marsden Fund in many ways is confirming what we have already found out. In a sense the Marsden Fund does not do exactly what we would like it to do, which is to take forward an area of science at the most excellent level. Often, in order to get the Marsden Fund, applicants must already know almost the conclusions of their research.
The other thing I will point out about the fund is that only 5 percent of the applications are rewarded in this regard. Just about everybody whom I have spoken to has said it could easily be 10 percent. Making that cut-off point between 5 percent and 10 percent, or even 15 percent, is extraordinarily difficult. Would it not be great if we in New Zealand had more money to provide that extra 5 percent or 10 percent to those other researchers who are there and who are just as excellent but who perhaps, for whatever reason, have not been chosen?
I come back to the key point I started with. The key point is that the humanities have been part of the Marsden Fund, which has been seen as the highest point of endeavour in our scientific community amongst the universities, Crown research institutes, etc. In doing that there has been no problem about dumbing down science or making science less relevant, but it has in fact been holding up the humanities and science together. That is a very important point.
The other thing I will say is that about nine or maybe 10 out of the 13 submissions made on this bill on the humanities—I do not have the exact figure—were against bringing the humanities into the Royal Society. It seemed to me that many of those branches believed and felt that bringing in the humanities would undermine the tenets of the Royal Society and what the Royal Society stood for—that is, excellence in science. In fact, the more I look at this, the more I think that what will happen is that it will be the other way round. It is the humanities that need to worry about what will happen by bringing the humanities into an august scientific organisation like the Royal Society, and the humanities will perhaps face the greater risk of being submerged by broader science within the society.
I think the movement forward is a healthy one on both sides. Both sides, both the pure scientists and those who are involved in the humanities—again, as Pete Hodgson pointed out to my colleague Dr Rajen Prasad, this involves the social sciences, as well—will have to work together for the benefit of excellence and for the benefit of New Zealand. No one side will be threatened, as many of the submissioners seemed to suggest when they came before the select committee.
As has been pointed out, the movement forward of bringing in the humanities and of looking at science, technology, and the humanities covers that broad range of endeavours that we believe belong together. As other speakers have said, in this much more complex world, where we are looking at global warming and at some of the other areas that we are trying to apply science to, there is a natural fit. They naturally fit together, and we need to have that broad conversation across the whole of the Royal Society.
I will make just one comment about something that Gareth Hughes mentioned before about the Royal Society and about why it is called the Royal Society. He mentioned the fact that he is an avid republican—as am I, I say to Mr Hughes. There is an element of the Royal Society being traditional. This organisation was first established in 1867. Therefore, the word “Royal” in those years perhaps had a much more relevant connotation than it does today. But I still believe that we can be cognisant and respectful of the history of this organisation by maintaining its title, the “Royal Society of New Zealand”. I would hate to see it being called the “Republican Society of Science”. I do not think that has quite the same ring to it as the “Royal Society”. Therefore, I believe that the Royal Society and what it stands for—and, in particular, where it is going—is what clause 7 really establishes in its six subclauses, which is to bring the humanities into the Royal Society.
I will particularly point out that proposed new section 6(e), which is to be substituted in the Royal Society of New Zealand Act by clause 7 of the bill, states that the Royal Society’s function is “to provide expert advice on important public issues to the
Government and the community:”. That can involve pure science, but by definition of what it is anticipating doing, it must bring in society and the way society works, as well. That means that it is to incorporate what we have been talking about, which is bringing in the humanities.
In conclusion, I say that I believe that the Royal Society is taking the right track in bringing in the humanities. I think that the three words that pervade clause 7 of this legislation—“science”, “technology”, and “humanities”—are reflective of where we want to see the Royal Society going in the future.
TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West)
: I move,
That the question be now put.
CAROL BEAUMONT (Labour)
: It is a great pleasure to rise to speak again on the Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill—my first time this evening—and I am speaking on clause 7, which substitutes a new section 6, “Functions”, into the Royal Society of New Zealand Act. Clearly, new section 6, “Functions”, is almost the “how to”. So how will the Royal Society advance and promote these matters? The obvious change has been that instead of just science and technology, the humanities have now been included. The functions are quite broad-ranging, and if members look at them as outlined in clause 7, they will see that all the way through we now have the addition of the humanities.
Many of my colleagues have, I think, eloquently explained why it is so important that we include the humanities, and throughout the functions listed in section 6(a) to (f), the humanities are now included. Part of those functions, as stated in paragraph (a), is “to foster in the New Zealand community a culture that supports science, technology, and the humanities,”. I think that is very important for a whole range of reasons.
The pursuit of knowledge for the end goal, if you like, of acquiring that knowledge and then using it, and the processes by which one acquires knowledge, are very, very important. It is, in some ways, what goes to heart of us being human—the way that we learn and the way that we use what we learn. Clause 7 looks at how the society will promote or “foster in the New Zealand community a culture that supports science, technology, and the humanities,”. That will be done by promoting public awareness and through the advancement of education.
It is interesting to look at section 6(a)(ii), in clause 7, because it talks about the advancement of “science and technology education:”, as opposed to science, humanities, and technology education. I wonder whether that is deliberate. Perhaps my colleague Grant Robertson, the fine member sponsoring this bill, could explain to me why the humanities are left out of that particular subparagraph.
Importantly, in the functions there is the issue of excellence. I think that excellence and promoting excellence in everything we do, including science, technology, and the humanities, is important. New section 6, in clause 7, looks at other things, such as providing infrastructure and support for the professional needs of scholars who are part of the Royal Society, and, importantly, it looks at establishing a code of professional standards and ethics.
I am interested in paragraph (e) of new section 6, which states: “to provide expert advice on important public issues to the Government and the community:”. I am unclear as to how frequently the Royal Society would fulfil that role. Perhaps my colleague Grant Robertson might stand and explain to me, as probably our foremost expert on the Royal Society, how frequently it does provide expert advice on important public issues to the Government and the community. That will certainly be strengthened by the addition of the humanities.
Paragraph (f) is very interesting, because in it the council of the Royal Society is given the opportunity to do “all other lawful things …”. I put my mind to what that
might look like and whether it would change with the addition of the humanities in those functions. Would the all other lawful things look somewhat different? I wondered whether that could include specifically the promotion of what is called by some people “integrative education”. A number of speakers tonight have stood up and made a very compelling case that the distinctions are somewhat arbitrary between science, the humanities, and technology and that there are many subject areas where, in fact, all three components are at play at once.
There is, I think, an important role for the promotion of integrative education and understanding. Michael Roth, the president of Wesleyan University in Connecticut is a strong advocate for integrative education that mixes science and the arts. He uses the example of neuroscience and behaviour as one of its fastest-growing majors, which links those things. He talked about it as a kind of intellectual cross-training, which I thought was a very striking description.
So I think that with the addition of the humanities it may be that these functions should specifically include a point of promoting integrative education. Again, perhaps my colleague Grant Robertson might be able to explain whether any consideration was given by the Royal Society or the select committee to this idea.
Hon STEVE CHADWICK (Labour)
: I am delighted to take a call on clause 7 of the Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill. I commend the Royal Society of New Zealand for putting up this bill. [Interruption] And for putting up with this debate! It put up this bill, which is very important for us to consider in Parliament. I like the functions of new section 6, which is inserted by clause 7, about the integration and promotion of science, technology, and the humanities.
I did a little bit of research—along with my colleagues, I am sure—into what we have historically funded in science. I hear that my colleague who was previously in the chair, Pete Hodgson, was very interested in the science of the moth. I am sure that would be appropriate coming from Pete Hodgson. I have looked at funding that is related to the arts, which is part of my field as the spokesperson on arts, culture, and heritage.
It is particularly interesting that some funding is now being distributed and made available for researchers who look at the computer games industry. When we look at the digital platform and arts, we need to be guided by some of the potential economic opportunities, if they are well researched, for the computer games industry and the country. At the moment it is a section of the creative industries that is not funded by, and cannot make applications to, Vote Arts, Culture and Heritage. Yet I think those funding applications that come before the film industry and the Film Commission may be better looked upon if research accompanied them. I am really pleased about the animation diploma course here in Wellington that Tony St George is running. He says that it is a pretty tough course and he puts students rigorously through it. They look at the impact of gaming and the gaming industry. I think that that research is certainly needed. It relates a little to a portfolio interest I have.
Another interest, much closer to home—and I think we are finding this at the moment with uncertainty in the environment—is the pure science on volcanic eruptions. Much more research is needed. I went up to look at the lahar on Tongariro. I was amazed. I looked at the need for research about when there may be another big blow in the country and also how we could predict super-eruptions into the future. That scientific research is absolutely critical. It guides us as to whether, in a big blow, we would break into the lahar crust to let it flow down the mountain, and potentially take out a motorway, or leave the crust and let nature take its course. It is absolutely imperative for the Minister of Conservation, the Minister of Transport, and the Minister
of Local Government to be informed of that research and science. It is great to see science supporting us with the big decisions we make in Government.
We are also seeing some science go into other important decisions made by this Government. One example is research about the unconscious mind of the violent criminal. This issue hardly fits with the humanities, but when we look at restorative justice and law and order we must not make decisions without being informed by good research and good science. This is exactly the sort of information that Ministers and legislators will get to decide where they will take policy in the future. I was particularly interested in Victoria University funding, which came from the Marsden Fund, administered by the Royal Society, for a forensic psychologist to look at the unconscious mind of a violent criminal. What a great slice of research that funding has promulgated; it got a response from Government.
GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central)
: I will take a call on clause 7 of the Royal Society Amendment Bill, which I have not done so far. I will respond to the questions that my colleague Carol Beaumont asked me—
Hon Rodney Hide: What questions?
GRANT ROBERTSON:—and any other interjections that Mr Hide or Mr Williamson might have. I am happy to respond to those, as well.
Carol Beaumont raised in relation to new section 6(a)(ii), inserted by clause 7, that this currently states only: “the advancement of science and technology education:”. To look back at the historical roles of the Royal Society in science and technology education gives us a clue as to why the humanities is not included in that subparagraph. That relates to the Royal Society’s role in helping to set the science curriculum, which is a role that it has traditionally played. It is not one that would have been associated, I suspect, with the Council for the Humanities, which has previously guided that particular area. The other area will be a historical, and even more recent, requirement for more science and technology teachers. Obviously that is an area where we have had a significant shortage as well.
I can see that some colleagues—Dr Prasad, for instance, who is a passionate defender of the social sciences and the humanities—look at this subparagraph and wonder why the change has not been made to include the word “humanities”. I was not on the Education and Science Committee so I am not aware that it was raised. But I believe it relates to the Royal Society’s role in developing the science curriculum, which the Council for the Humanities has not had. I do not think that Dr Prasad should be too upset about this new subparagraph. When we look at the overall functions that are now within this new section we see that it gives the humanities the role alongside science and technology. The particular new subparagraph notwithstanding, when we look at the total of this new section we see that the humanities are right up there beside science and technology.
The comments I specifically wanted to make on these functions note something. The bill does not add just the word “humanities”. The bill repeals the whole of section 6 in the Act and substitutes a new section 6. So this is an opportunity to reflect on whether we think these are the functions we believe the Royal Society should have. So although it is a conversation about the inclusion of humanities, we are not doing just that; we are actually as a Committee repealing a whole section of the Act and replacing it with a new section. This is the opportunity to assess whether these are, in fact, the functions that the Royal Society should have.
I will focus on two of those functions. One is in new section 6(b), which states “to encourage, promote, and recognise excellence in science, technology, and the humanities:”. I believe that the Royal Society is now doing this more and more. A quick look at the Royal Society’s website would tell members that the range of awards, prizes,
and medals now given out by the Royal Society is vast. We have the Charles Fleming Award for Environmental Achievement, the Cooper Medal for physics and engineering, the CREST Awards for creative and innovative science, the Dame Joan Metge Medal for social science research, and now a new award to be given out for the first time this year: the Humanities Aronui Award.
The humanities, as we have noted previously in this debate, are already functioning within the Royal Society. Our job here is simply to give the final legislative tick-off to that; the actual work is ongoing. So there is now a humanities award in there. The award that people will perhaps know the most about is the Rutherford Medal. I hope members know about it; if they do not, I am happy to enlighten them. The Rutherford Medal recognises excellence in science. When we look down the history of the people who have received the Rutherford Medal, we see that it really is a tribute to the scientists of New Zealand. Members of this Committee will be quite familiar with them: the likes of Paul Callaghan; Alan MacDiarmid, obviously; and Peter Gluckman. Peter Gluckman is now the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor; some years ago he won the Rutherford Medal. To me, his latest publication is an exact example of why the bringing together of the humanities and the sciences under this bill is so important.
Peter Gluckman’s topic, I guess, was adolescent morbidity, but when we talk about what adolescent morbidity is, we see that it is a combination of physical health—the things that people need to enable them to, as Sir Peter says, survive adolescence—and also the whole way in which we support people to achieve their potential in whatever field they are interested in. That involves moving into areas like psychology; it also goes into areas of social development and social science. They are important areas. The Rutherford Medal is an important example of a high-quality excellence award. Sir Peter Gluckman is now showing us that the kind of work he is doing takes on issues of physical science and brings in social sciences and the humanities in a very, very important report that we hope the Government takes notice of. Paragraph (b) is important. We are re-putting these paragraphs and we are re-establishing the functions of the Royal Society; we should be very proud.
The other function I will particularly highlight, and it has been mentioned by a couple of colleagues, is the question of expert advice on important issues to the Government and the community. The Royal Society needs to be congratulated, because across New Zealand branches of the Royal Society play the role in their communities of highlighting issues that it is important the public be able to debate. I know that during the debate on genetic modification, when the royal commission was meeting and then in the wake of the royal commission’s report, we saw the Royal Society playing an important role. I happen to know that when the Local Government and Environment Committee did its inquiry into matters surrounding the possible accidental release of genetically modified organisms into New Zealand—[Interruption] Yes, it was indeed; that is quite some memory for Mr Hodgson. It took in the Royal Society’s advice. In fact, there was one fascinating occasion when two scientists assessed the information that was related to the so-called “corngate” situation and came up with quite different conclusions. They were both fellows of the Royal Society and they were both brought in by the select committee. To me that is the essence of the role that the Royal Society can play. We will be able to say that science is not an absolute thing but we will bring together the best minds in the country to advise, in this case, a parliamentary select committee. Frankly, with due respect, the then members of the Local Government and Environment Committee were probably not able to bring that advice to the table themselves. That kind of community and parliamentary advice role is very important and I am very pleased that we are restating that particular function tonight.
I also mention just a couple of other things. The Marie Curie Lecture Series is a year-long tour of talks by female New Zealand chemists in honour of Curie’s Nobel Prize in chemistry. Here is an example of both supporting scientists and acknowledging the role of women in science. Were Moana Mackey—I am not allowed to mention the absence of members. But Moana Mackey has contributed significantly to this debate, and I know that she is very keen on encouraging the role of women in science. It has often been seen as a male-dominated profession, so that lecture series is a good example of the way in which the Royal Society fulfils the function within this section.
The point I am really trying to make here is that there are important roles within this section and we should not gloss over them too quickly, because they are the essence of why we have the Royal Society. We as a Committee are being asked tonight whether we want to put those objects and those functions back into place; we are making that judgment. I think those objects and functions have served the Royal Society extremely well. They have been altered at times over the years, and earlier in this debate we talked about the different Acts that have been put in place. The most recent one was the 1997 Act, which brought the social sciences to more prominence within the legislation. That is what these particular sections do.
I also note that there is always the “get out of jail” function, which is the final paragraph: “to do all other lawful things that the Council considers conducive to the advancement and promotion in New Zealand of science, technology, and the humanities.” That is the paragraph that people familiar with constitutions will recognise. I do not know why, but students associations come to mind on this particular evening. There is always one of these clauses in the constitutions of incorporated societies. There is a clause that allows the organisation to perform things that are within its remit but perhaps have not been considered within the exact language above. Again, that could assure Dr Prasad that the humanities are not being left out, in that particular paragraph.
I wanted to make those comments. I had not spoken on this particular clause, which is one of the most significant clauses of the bill. It is the restatement of the very things that we expect the Royal Society to do, and it is important that we are taking some time to work through them. They are, in a sense, listed in order of importance, from the overall role of fostering the culture of supporting science, technology, and the humanities, all the way through to the “get out of jail” function. They are all important, and I am very pleased that we are able to re-include them in our legislative framework.
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government)
: I move,
That the question be now put.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour)
: I thank the member in the chair, the member for Wellington Central, for inviting us to reflect on clause 7 as a whole, and to reflect on the fact that there, for the first time, we are being invited to think about the inclusion of the humanities alongside everything else. I appreciate the member in the chair reminding us that we are not just bolting something else on to an existing structure; it actually means something quite different. I will take up his invitation to reflect on the functions of the Royal Society in that particular light. I mention in passing that it is good to hear the members in the chair beginning to sound like professors—“Professor Robertson”. I thought “Professor Hodgson” did a sterling job even though I did not agree with all of his explanations, particularly those about social sciences and the humanities.
It is important to look at the functions of the Royal Society and contemplate what the humanities will get out of entering this pool of scientists as a whole, through the Royal Society, and achieving that kind of elevation, which I want to reflect on. All interests are elevated: the interests of science and technology as well as those of the humanities. All boats are lifted by the way in which the member in the chair has encouraged us to think about the functions of the society.
Look at new section 6(a): “to foster in the New Zealand community a culture that supports science, technology, and the humanities,”. I think section 6(a)(i) adds to the bill something very important, which is “the promotion of public awareness”. I can sincerely say that, as a social scientist, an academic at a university, and a person belonging to a profession that calls on the humanities to develop its own graduates, at times the level of public awareness of what the humanities can contribute to any profession one cares to name is often missing. We went around recruiting students in their last year of high school to go to university, and we encouraged them, in addition to the specialities they wanted to develop, to build into their degrees those subjects and disciplines that would help them to think, to develop their minds, to think about our society, and to think about those disciplines and subjects that take us somewhere we do not normally go. That is what the humanities do. This function of promoting public awareness of what now also includes the humanities, if looked at it in a composite kind of way—and this is a sincere comment—is quite amazing. Promoting public awareness is already included in the way the American academic system thinks about the role of a university. It makes it possible for everybody to have a broad social science or liberal arts education that includes the humanities, so that graduates grow up with the ability to think for themselves and articulate their points of view.
However, with respect, I do disagree with the member in the chair. I rather suspect that new section 6(a)(ii) actually includes a typographical error. I would like to receive another explanation the next time a different “professor” is in the chair about why the humanities are not included in it. I sincerely believe that is an omission. If we read the provision, we see that it states: “(a) to foster in the New Zealand community a culture that supports science, technology, and the humanities, including (without limitation)—”. Subparagraph (i) includes the humanities, but subparagraph (ii) states “the advancement of science and technology education:”. That almost assumes that the humanities require no educational preparation. In fact, they do. Think about ethics and philosophy; there is a huge amount there that really does touch this particular function. I invite the Royal Society, through the member, to come back with another explanation, or maybe members of the Education and Science Committee will have one. Of course, as other members have already talked about, the other functions of the Royal Society now include the humanities.
Other members have talked about recognising excellence. Those who are functioning at the highest level in any discipline always look to see which courts they need to be part of so that their discipline is seen as standing alongside any other science and technology discipline. When we recognise excellence we actually recognise our high achievers, and a function of the Royal Society is to recognise high achievers in the humanities alongside everybody else. This is not about a pecking order; that is now long gone. This addition might be the final piece of the jigsaw. It actually says that when we recognise excellence, no one discipline plays second fiddle. The provision is there, right at the beginning; new section 6(b) has that very, very important function.
I am talking about what the humanities will get out of being included in the Royal Society in the way that this bill includes them. The benefits are embedded in its functions, and we can talk about them. In new section 6(c), the Royal Society will have a role in providing “infrastructure and other support for the professional needs and development of … humanities scholars:”. So there we are. That is an investment in the humanities of the future. The humanities will take any profession to new heights by building alongside the basic knowledge of that particular discipline something else that is not ordinarily available to particular scientists. Here we are providing an infrastructure to do that. To support the professional needs of those who are humanities
scholars really is an investment. That investment is made in that particular way by the Royal Society, and it is something that I am particularly pleased to see.
Then there is that little question that needs to be asked of any profession or discipline that actually adds to the advancement of our society: how will it function, and what are the rules that will guide it? Here the Royal Society is saying to the humanities that they also have ethical requirements to meet. A function of the Royal Society is to administer for members a code of professional standards and ethics. The humanities are now beholden to that code, as well, in addition to any code of their own they might have. A set of principles, a code of professional standards, is embedded in the functions of the Royal Society that the humanities will now have to meet.
Hon Christopher Finlayson: A hopeless lightweight.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: I ask the member to take a call and explain to us his view about the inclusion of the humanities in the social sciences, as a jurist and a lawyer. I am sure that that particular profession could learn a lot, as well, from the humanities—including an ability to stop, think, and add. I know that that member is very capable of doing that, rather than taking cheap shots.
Another cornerstone of the Royal Society is now available to the humanities, and I am particularly pleased to see it.
The other aspect of the role of the Royal Society is its contribution in bringing expertise together in some kind of composite way to be made available to our society for the advancement of our society. Therefore it is a day of celebration for me personally, from my background, to know that the humanities will stand alongside each of those other disciplines—the sciences, technology, etc. We know that they will have the space to make that kind of contribution. I am pleased that I have been able to take this call today to explain that fact from my and my students’ point of view. Thank you.
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green)
: I will take a pretty short call, but I was on the Education and Science Committee and had the privilege of hearing a number of the submitters. They were really fascinating people, and the hearing was very different from hearings on other bills that I have participated in. There was a fierce eccentricity about the submitters that I found really interesting. I think that it was the science community debating the issue of humanities that made it such a fascinating experience.
In terms of clause 7 of the Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill, even the issue of the functions of the society was controversial. It was very difficult to find out from the various submitters what they thought the society was, and their idea of who was included and who was not. I had an overwhelming desire to get out a whiteboard and do a flow chart, because it was really difficult to understand how the members, the branches, and the governing body defined themselves. I think that other parts of the bill are controversial, and we will talk about that, but even in talking about functions these people confused the select committee, and vigorously debated—passionately debated—who the society was, before we even got to the question of the function. Maybe the nature of academia and intellectual life is that every single word will be debated—a bit like parliamentarians do, only the scientists were more interesting than we are, somehow.
I will just look at the functions of the society, in terms of what came up at the select committee. It was a bit of a concern at the select committee—although the Greens support the bill—that there was such a dispute about whether consultation on these issues had been thoroughly carried out. Part of that was because nobody could really understand how the process worked—no one could really work out who was supposed to consult with whom on the functions of the Royal Society. So it was difficult for us to make an intelligent assessment of whether that had happened in a fair way. Of course, the leading people submitting on behalf of the society’s governing body said it had been
a fantastically rigorous consultation, although some of the submitters on this issue said that it had not been. It was really difficult to know the truth. In the end we went back to the bill and the principles in it, and that is why we supported it.
If we look at clause 7, in terms of new section 6(a)(ii) “the advancement of science and technology education:”, we see the omission of the word “humanities”. That is an issue, but if we are talking about schools and the curriculum in primary schools, I think we have to be even more concerned that since the introduction of national standards there has been a deliberate attack on the idea that science is actually a crucial part of the curriculum. I have had science teachers who might want to be guided by the Royal Society and have its input into the curriculum telling me they are losing professional development, and they are losing opportunities to teach the curriculum in primary school, because there is only literacy and numeracy. There is a narrow and very, very limited way of looking at what learning is.
On the one hand we have the Royal Society promoting the advancement of science, technology, and the humanities; on the other hand we have the Government saying that at primary school level science is not important. It seems to be conceptually beyond its grasp that young people will come to literacy and numeracy via science, via the arts, via the humanities, and via a whole range of learnings. If the Government understood how education actually works—and clearly the Royal Society does, because it is making this change—it would understand that people come to a basic understanding about literacy and numeracy through their passion for a particular discipline. Many children will come to literacy through science, and through their absolute wonder and passion for how the physics of the world works, rather than from actually doing maths on the board. It would be terrible if the capacity of the Royal Society to advise on the curriculum for science and technology was not applied in primary schools, and it is a real concern that these are being narrowed and the whole area has been shut out.
In terms of new section 6(a)(i) I am fascinated by the debate about science and technology versus the humanities, because originally the science community and the Royal Society in Europe had a very elitist view of what was knowledge. It was a very patriarchal view of what was knowledge, it was a very materially defined view of what was knowledge, and it did not include the view that the essence of all knowledge is holism, that knowledge is about the connections between disciplines, and that a true knowledge of science requires an ability to understand what it is to be human.
I would like to continue a little further on my dissertation on this, because I am interested in the idea of humanity and science being connected and I am encouraged by this. I also would like to say that, as someone touched on earlier, the Rutherford Medal is part of recognising excellence. Tonight I was privileged to hear one of the medallists, Paul Callaghan, talking. He was talking about that very connection between science, entrepreneurship, and humanity in this country. His bottom line was that this must be a place where talented people would want to live. He is repeating this around the place, and it is interesting when a Royal Society medallist talks like this because it actually manifests what this change in the law is all about: that we need a society that will attract the best minds, hold the best minds, and create the best business and scientific ideas. It must also have the capacity to maintain human relationships and human values, including environmental values. He was very lucid on that subject. I think that is a good example of the Rutherford Medal, and why we need to encourage and promote excellence. People like Paul Callaghan get those medals because of that absolutely deep and articulate capacity to make connections. That is what makes other people come with them when they are trying to promote science, or business, or an understanding of how society works. So it is good to see that in the bill.
One of the other issues, which I think Grant Robertson has already touched upon, is the issue of expert advice on public issues. I lived for many years on the East Coast, in Tai Rāwhiti, and even there members of the Royal Society and people working for the Royal Society were active on issues that affected our community, mainly in terms of environmental science. But for those of us who did not know anything about the Royal Society, it was heartening to see its members play a role in issues like GE and issues like water quality not only on the national stage but also on the local stage. In the long debates that we had over things like sewerage and water quality, our community benefited from having people connected to the Royal Society participate and provide expert advice on important public issues. There is a real need in the public domain for debate around science and technology issues and around humanities issues to have some expert advice and to ensure our citizens actually know what they are talking about because that debate is accessible—and the Royal Society has shown its ability to be accessible.
I would have liked to be here for the entire process of the Royal Society bill. I thought it was really interesting being at the Education and Science Committee. I would have liked to be at more of its deliberation, although my primary responsibility is education and I believe that David Clendon was there for most of the Royal Society bill. But I will not forget those people and their passion. I think we owe them a debt as a society because they provide us with both understanding and public awareness of not only science and technology but also the humanities. As a former social science teacher myself, I do not see a separation between these things. As a person committed to environmental issues, I cannot see a separation between human values and the environment and the science that informs them. I commend these parts of the bill because this is interesting, but I will never forget the debate at the select committee about who the members of the Royal Society actually were as well as what they actually stood for. Thank you.
HILARY CALVERT (Whip—ACT)
: I move,
That the question be now put.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the question be now put.
||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 3; United Future 1.
||New Zealand Labour 38; Green Party 9; Progressive 1; Independent: Carter C.
|Motion agreed to.
Clause 8 No dividend or profit to members
GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central)
: Clause 8 is smaller than the clause we were considering previously, but within it lie some interesting matters that need to be discussed.
Clause 8 is headed “No dividend or profit to members”, and makes some additions to the current section 8 within the Royal Society of New Zealand Act. For the benefit of members, I think it is worth reading out what this clause is about. It cuts to the heart of some of the issues that make up the Royal Society and why it operates in the way that it does. The current section 8 in the Act states: “The income and property of the Society must be applied solely towards the object of the Society, and (except as otherwise provided in this Act) no portion of the income and property of the Society may be paid directly or indirectly by way of dividend, bonus, or otherwise to members.” That section is saying that membership of the Royal Society is about science, it is about the
humanities, and it is about the society’s reason for being there; it is not about any kind of pecuniary gain.
But quite obviously there are limitations to that proposal. There is a certain purity in that statement; it certainly sheets home the fact that the Royal Society is about the importance of science—and now the humanities—beyond all things. But there will always be exceptions, and the current section 8 goes on to say what those exceptions are. It says that the previous paragraph “does not prevent the payment of remuneration to employees of the Society or members in return for services rendered or goods supplied;”. There are certainly members of the society who work within the Royal Society framework. They work on projects in relation to particular issues, and they work on the panels and funds that Mr Hodgson talked about earlier in the debate, so they are in a position where they will receive some money. Clearly an exception is required for that situation, and it is covered in this section of in the Act.
Section 8 further states that the Act does not prevent: “(b) the repayment of money borrowed or the payment of interest on money borrowed; or (c) the payment of expenses incurred in the performance of office;”. Certainly there are office holders within the Royal Society of New Zealand Council and the Academy Executive Committee who will receive payment for expenses incurred when attending Royal Society of New Zealand Council meetings or Academy Executive Committee meetings.
This bill moves to make some amendments to the final exception to remuneration, which relates to the granting of awards and prizes. As we have discussed at some length in different parts of the debate, the Royal Society gives out a range of prizes and awards. Quite clearly, members of the society will receive those awards, so an exception needs to be made. Section 8 provides an exception for “the grant of awards or prizes for—(i) achievement in scientific or technological research; or (ii) the advancement or promotion of science and technology in New Zealand.” For those final two subparagraphs I mentioned, the bill is omitting the reference to “science and technological research” and substituting “research in science, technology, or the humanities”. Section 8(2)(d)(ii) is amended to omit “science and technology” and substitute “science, technology, and the humanities”. Those amendments make sure that those exceptions for prizes and awards will include the humanities.
Although this is a technical change at one level, it is also very significant. It says that those who work in the humanities will be eligible for those awards. The list of Rutherford Medal winners I read out earlier does not, at this time, include anybody whose field of study was in the humanities. I mentioned Sir Peter Gluckman, and Catherine Delahunty has just mentioned Paul Callaghan. Some of their work subsequent to winning the Rutherford Medal has verged into the social sciences, particularly, but until this point in time the Rutherford Medal has not been awarded to anyone from the humanities. This clause makes that possible, and that is quite a significant change.
The range of awards and prizes given out by the Royal Society is recognition of the importance of those disciplines, and tonight we are making a change that will enable the humanities to be a part of the provision of those prizes. That is a very significant thing to be doing. As Dr Prasad said earlier, it is elevating the humanities to the same level as the sciences. It will be a very proud day for New Zealand when someone from the humanities or the social sciences wins the Rutherford Medal.
It is dangerous to name-drop a scientist at this time, but I think of scientists like Richard Bedford, who studies populations at Waikato University and has done some remarkable things. I also think of Richie Poulton, who runs the multidisciplinary study in Dunedin. These are people whose work transcends those boundaries of the traditional sciences, and they could potentially be a recipient of something like the Rutherford Medal in the future. Clause 8 makes a change to allow those who work in those areas to
receive prizes for achievement, or for the advancement and promotion of the humanities. I think we should be very proud of the fact that as a Committee we are overseeing what will be quite a significant change.
I wanted to make those comments just by way of introduction. I will be interested to hear views from any other members in relation to the importance of this clause, and whether there are matters that perhaps we have not considered. I wanted to highlight the fact that although it seems like a minor technical clause, it is, in fact, making a significant change. In years to come I hope we will see people from the humanities represented in the awards and prizes that the Royal Society so proudly gives out.
Hon PETE HODGSON (Labour—Dunedin North)
: I want to speak straightforwardly and uncomplicatedly in favour of clause 8 of the Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill, and I will say why that is so shortly. But before I do that I just want to refer, with your permission, Mr Chairman Tisch, to some remarks made by Catherine Delahunty on the previous clause. She said of the people who had come to the Education and Science Committee on this legislation that she had found them to be—and I think I have her words correct—fiercely eccentric. That is a lovely, poetic description of scientists when they are being scientists. I commend the member for that description; it seems to me to be a cracker.
As long as this clause makes its way into law, as the member in the chair, Grant Robertson, pointed out, we now have the opportunity for a person who is primarily interested in the humanities to be involved in picking up prizes that are big in the range of prizes that exist for scholarship in general. Those prizes are inevitably administered by the Royal Society. Who else would administer them? The member in the chair pointed out that we might see a person picking up the Rutherford Medal, for example, who has a humanities background. Here is the thing: it is entirely possible—actually, I would assert it is likely—that a person who picks up the Rutherford Medal for the humanities may well also be a scientist. In my experience, which is not vast or anything, people who have brains way bigger than mine will move quickly and easily across endless disciplines. They just get comfortable with themselves, and comfortable with their ability to think. They do not see boundaries; they do not see limitations.
I do not want to name-drop particularly, but I went offshore with Dr Alan MacDiarmid in about 2000-and-something. We went to China, Korea, and Japan. His job was to open scientists’ doors, and to get into the Chinese and Japanese academies of science, or whatever they are called. My job was to open Government doors, and we had 20 or 30 science managers with us. I think it was a successful trip. I hope it was; it was certainly well planned. Dr MacDiarmid was nearing the end of his life, and he put in a huge amount of energy. He was an amazingly energetic man. But he was also, in a way, fiercely eccentric, and he would just wander off, almost into hyperspace. I could not keep up with him. He had certainly moved away from all of the chemistry that he received his Nobel Prize for many years ago. He was miles away from that; he was entirely philosophical about any issue that came to mind. So it seems within the bounds of possibility that such a person might receive the medal that the member in the chair spoke of, and might in fact be moving freely across from one discipline into another, and back again.
Actually, that point raises another matter, which is the link between the sciences on the one hand and the humanities on the other. We have some classic examples in which we know that science and the humanities interact. The interaction with the humanities in the Antarctic is an example of that. Writers and poets, as well as photographers, give us an insight into that environment, given that most of us will never be allowed to go there, because scientists are allowed to go and non-scientists are not, unless they are the occasional writer, poet, or photographer. That is an example.
When I first because the Minister of Research, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology ran something called the Smash Palace Fund, in which it put scientists and artists together for the day, or for 2 days, or whatever it was. They had to do problem solving, and they had to then explore how each other’s mind worked. Solving the problem was the given issue, but in actually working out the difference between the way that the left brain and right brain worked, the link between the two voids, the two big lumps of science and arts, was explored.
Then, of course—and I think other people have made mention of this—we now have some sciences that need the arts. Everybody’s really favourite science these days is neuroscience. It used not to be; 10 years ago the favourite was forensic science. But, hey, we have a new fashion: it is neuroscience. Neuroscience does not make good progress unless the arts are involved. It does not make a lot of sense unless we take a bit of behaviourism and fold it in, and behaviour, is, of course, very often an expression of culture. We would love for economics to be a science—
David Shearer: Dismal science.
Hon PETE HODGSON: —well, some people call it a dismal science—but I do not think it has enough of a body of knowledge to be a science yet. Certainly there is enough in microeconomics, but there is not in macroeconomics, in my view. The behavioural economics developments that are occurring now as a result of neuroscience are pretty interesting. I have had the opportunity to study them in the last year or two. I understand that some members of the Committee may not want to do so, but I have done that, and I have enjoyed it and found it to be reasonably interesting. Those developments have come about because science and the humanities have been required to collide, and the collision is reasonably productive.
So I do not think that the Royal Society legislation that we have in front of us, and the clause 8 contribution that means that someone who has a humanities background might be involved in picking up a prize, is the limit of what we are about to get up to tonight. I think that we are offering a sort of legislative can-do to the idea of the collision between the arts and science. I do hope that especially in economics it makes progress, because economics as a discipline needs to make some progress.
If you will indulge me, Mr Chairperson, I have just finished reading this book by a guy called Lloyd Geering. The title is
Christianity without God.
Hon Christopher Finlayson: Heretic!
Hon PETE HODGSON: I thought he was found not to be such. I could be wrong. I thought that the decision in 1966 was that he was not a heretic, but if the member wants to correct my history, he is welcome to do so. I was not about to get into that issue. I was about to draw this thread: the good professor says “We are encouraged by no less an authority than the Bible to believe that we have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle and over all of the Earth.” Lloyd Geering asserts, in other words, that biblical theism encouraged us to exploit the Earth. He then goes on to say that in earlier times, when we were not being monotheist, when we were dealing with many Gods, we were much more aware than we are now, and I quote again “that their continued existence on Earth was dependent on the forces of nature. That is why they, our ancestors, personified and deified these forces and tried to placate them. That is why they believed their own destiny to be in the lap of the Gods, the most important of whom was mother Earth.”
All I am saying there is that the humanities collided with environmentalism, and therefore with environmental science. Am I right? I do not want to make a big deal of that, but that is what a big brain can do. I cannot do that, but a big brain such as Lloyd Geering’s can. It seems to me to be not a bad example, in a book that I finished reading
a couple of days ago, of where that collision between the humanities and science might lead us.
There is another thing to be said, and then I will stop saying anything. The other thing to say is that the opposite of that, ignoring the role of humanities as a scientist, or of science as a humanities student, is just a form of chauvinism. It is not tolerable, it is not useful, it is something we should not put up with, and it is the reason why we should, I hope rapidly, pass into law clause 8, which puts science, technology, and the humanities on an equal footing for the first time in our legislative history.
KRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana)
: It is an honour and a pleasure to be here at 7 minutes to 10 to take a call on the Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill, in my second call of the night. I acknowledge what the member sponsoring the bill, Grant Robertson, said about clause 8: that although it is a small, technical clause, it is a very important part of the bill. Although it is technical, it keeps the single focus of the Royal Society on excellence as we introduce the humanities into the realm of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Earlier in the debate I think my colleague David Shearer said the single focus of the Royal Society, when we introduce the humanities into its sphere, should be to ensure that the best work and the best research it can possibly do is maintained. Although we are introducing the humanities to it—and I spoke in an earlier contribution about the importance of science and technology to our economic growth—bringing in the humanities and making sure that we keep a single focus on excellence—
Hon Christopher Finlayson: Shearer’s clearly a soft vote.
KRIS FAAFOI: I welcome the contribution from the member across the Chamber, whose legal prowess is equal to his anger tonight. I will not call him nasty, because I think that is unfair; it is 10 to 10. We maintain a focus on excellence—