Writing for Fairfax NZ News, Anthony Hubbard profiles Prof Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor.
An excerpt (read in full here):
Of a scientific persuasion
The life of the Government’s top scientist is full of trouble. Take the problem of alcohol.
Sir Peter Gluckman published a huge report on adolescence which included a raft of ideas about liquor. This was an attempt to bring science to bear on our binge-drinking culture.
The Government ignored it. This was not his first disappointment.
“I remember on the first day of the job,” the eminent biologist says from Singapore, “it was the day they rejected putting folic acid into bread. I mean, that’s an area of my own expertise!”
So the chief science adviser began at a time when his own advice had just been rejected. But Sir Peter had been warned.
A former British chief scientist, Lord May, told him, “You are going to win some, you are going to lose some. The key thing was not to get upset about it; it just goes with the role.”
But of course the professor wouldn’t be human if he didn’t have his private thoughts and feelings.
“Of course I do! Of course I do! Of course I do!” he says in a rare bout of vehemence.
“I try, and I’m not saying I do it perfectly – nobody’s perfect, you know that – you try to do the things you believe in within the terms of reference of the job.”
So what has he won and what has he lost? He’s certainly won the support of the prime minister. Sir Peter “has done his job extremely well and continues to do so”, Mr Key said through a spokesman.