Incoming Chief Scientific Advisor says independence of her role is 'critical'

  • 30/06/2018

The Prime Minister's incoming Chief Science Advisor, Professor Juliet Gerrard says she wants to ensure independence in her role and retain the ability to speak out against "bad science."

Professor Gerrard told Newshub Nation she wants to make sure the integrity of her office is not undermined by politics, or an obligation to the Prime Minister.

"It's an independent role and that independence is absolutely critical. So it's my job to speak out if we see [bad science]," said Professor Gerrard.

One of her key priorities in her new role  is to find a balance between the urgency of policy-making and making sure her science advice is thorough.

"Science is slow and methodical, traditionally, and policy has to be made in response to urgent issues. The challenge of science advice is to really marry those two timelines," said Professor Gerrard.

Moving to New Zealand over 20 years ago to be a research scientist at Crop & Food Research, Professor Gerrard has quickly risen in her field, becoming the chair of the Marsden Fund Council, a National body that oversees research grants.   

Science with an emphasis on proteins and chemistry in the food industry, has been a significant focus of the Professor's career, which began with an honours degree and doctorate in biochemistry at Oxford University.

After 16 years at the University of Canterbury, she now works as a Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Auckland and has published over 125 papers.

She hopes her appointment as the first female chief science advisor will inspire others to be ambitious and follow their dreams in the field.

"The times are changing… I hope my appointment will go some way towards encouraging ambition in young female scientists," she said.

Profess Gerrard has set up an Instagram account to showcase the role and make it more accessible to young people.

She will replace outgoing advisor Sir Peter Gluckman on July 1, having retired as the Associate Dean of Research to avoid any conflicts of interest. She will not apply for any research grants during her term.

Watch the video for the full interview.

Newshub Nation.