New Zealand must embrace science in order to be a truly innovative nation, Massey University vice-chancellor Steve Maharey told a conference in Wellington today.
In presenting the keynote address at the Science Communicators Association of New Zealand conference, he told delegates that, despite their efforts, science is still not integrated into all aspects of society.
“We are entering the second industrial revolution,” he said. “The pace of scientific and technological change is accelerating and an increasing number of people want new goods and services to enable them to respond to the enormous and challenging problems of our age. The answers will come from work in areas such as genetics, life sciences, robotics, energy, health, education, virtual reality, nanotechnology, transport, water use, biotechnology, information technology – to name a few.”
But apart from a number of notable exceptions, New Zealand has been slow to embrace this new thinking.
“I think this is our problem when it comes to achieving the goal of having science not just communicated and appreciated but embraced by all New Zealanders. We have not yet answered the question of why science is so important to all of us.”
New Zealand is a nation struggling to keep its head above water, he said.
“Our economy is underperforming, social problems are mounting and New Zealanders are frustrated by their inability to build a better country. New Zealand needs to create a society in which institutions and organisations can and do respond to markets, customers, company needs and opportunities. This is the knowledge economy we have talked about but not yet realised," Maharey said.
“Nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive sciences are all working together. The point I am making is that we are on the threshold of amazing times. The nations that are prepared to create the environment for people, institutions, technologies and businesses to be a part of this are going to find the future a wonderful place.
“Scientists need to be hungry to see this happen and the rest of society must be equally hungry to apply new thinking. A society that understands this point will 'get' the importance of science because they will experience it.”