Professor Juliet Gerrard, Supplied.

PM’s new Chief Science Advisor – Expert reaction

Prof Juliet Gerrard, Associate Dean of Research at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Science, has been appointed as the new Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor.

Prof Gerrard replaces Sir Peter Gluckman who has held the post since its establishment in 2008. A biochemist, Prof Gerrard is the Associate Dean of Research at the University of Auckland and previously served as chair of the Marsden Fund Council.

She will begin in the role on July 1 for a three-year term.

The Science Media Centre gathered expert reaction on the appointment. Please feel free to use these comments in your reporting.

Dr Mona Nemer, Chief Science Advisor of Canada, comments:

“I congratulate Juliet Gerrard, a fellow biochemist, on her appointment as New Zealand’s new Chief Science Advisor. It is truly wonderful to see more women scientists in this important role. Professor Gerrard is a respected scientist and an inspiring role model for all. I very much look forward to working with her over the coming years.”

Dr Patrick Vallance, the UK’s Government Chief Scientific Adviser, comments:

“I want to congratulate Prof Juliet Gerard on her appointment as Chief Science Advisor. I am looking forward to building on the excellent relationship that already exists between the UK and New Zealand’s science advice mechanisms.”

Professor Shaun Hendy, Director of Te Pūnaha Matatini at the University of Auckland, comments:

“The University of Auckland’s Professor Juliet Gerrard is a brilliant choice for the next Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor.

“Professor Gerrard is an internationally renowned scientist, and has worked in both the CRI and the university sector, so she brings an extensive network of relationships across the science sector. She worked closely and successfully with MBIE as Chair of the Marsden Fund for two terms, but will now need to broaden her relationships across government. The established network of Departmental Science Advisors will no doubt facilitate this greatly.

“At least in terms of policy advice, Sir Peter Gluckman has proved much more effective under the current government than the last (e.g. his hard-hitting report on meth contamination), so there is an excellent opportunity for Professor Gerrard to build on this. I have been an advocate for a Parliamentary Commission for Science because of its independence from the government of the day, but if the Prime Minister is willing to accept free, frank, and open advice from her Chief Science Advisor then Professor Gerrard has the skills, background, and ability to make a real difference in this role.”

Conflict of interest statement: I am a colleague and friend of Professor Gerrard.

Dr Andrew Cleland FRSNZ, Chief Executive, Royal Society Te Apārangi, comments:

“On behalf of Royal Society Te Apārangi, we are extremely pleased that Professor Juliet Gerrard FRSNZ has been appointed to the position of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor. Not only is Professor Gerrard a first-rate biochemist with expertise in fundamental and applied research, she has a high standing in the New Zealand research community as well as a significant international reputation.

“Through her involvement with the Marsden Fund Council, the fund which supports New Zealand’s best investigator-initiated research, she has a strong appreciation of the depth and breadth of research occurring throughout New Zealand and the needs of communities. She served on the Marsden Fund Council for 10 years and has been Marsden Fund Chair for the last six years, finishing her term at the end of last year, during which time she lead significant changes. She also has relevant governance experience with research organisations.

“As the recent response from the Government to Sir Peter Gluckman’s methamphetamine contamination report shows, the role of Chief Science Advisor is a critical one for New Zealand to ensure that policy is backed by evidence.

“During his term Sir Peter Gluckman FRS FRSNZ has not only made the case clear for why science advice is so critical but has also produced a large number of important reports on topics of great importance to New Zealand.

“Sir Peter has made a huge contribution to science advice both nationally and internationally. New Zealand is now held up as an exemplar of a good practice system of proving science advice to government.

“We have confidence that Professor Gerrard will continue and build on Sir Peter’s legacy. There will continue to be challenging policy issues where choices need to be evidence-based. We believe Professor Gerrard will pick up this challenge in a positive and influential manner.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Professor David Bilkey, Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Chair of the Marsden Fund Council, comments:

“I am very pleased to hear of Juliet’s appointment. Juliet has already achieved some tremendous outcomes for Science in New Zealand, including in her recent tenure as Chair of the Marsden Fund Council, the body that supports cutting-edge, investigator-led research in New Zealand. She managed to make great progress in this role, adopting a positive and optimistic approach.

“I am sure she will bring her approachable attitude and clear-thinking mindset to this new position, to the benefit of all New Zealanders.

“At the same time, we should all acknowledge the fine work of Professor Peter Gluckman, New Zealand’s first PM’s Science Advisor. He and his team have contributed greatly to New Zealand in facilitating an understanding of science, in opening discussion about its role in our future, and in ensuring that public sector decision-making is based on sound evidence.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Associate Professor Justin Hodgkiss, Co-Director of the MacDiarmid Institute, comments:

“Professor Juliet Gerrard is an exceptional scientist and has played an integral role within the MacDiarmid Institute since 2008.

“Her multi-disciplinary work within the Institute brings together materials engineers, biochemists, chemists and physicists to create an entirely new class of hybrid materials.

“Professor Gerrard has an exemplary track record of bringing people together in many areas, including in her successful tenure as Chair of the Marsden Fund.

“She understands the breadth and depth of New Zealand science, encompasses a big picture perspective, has worked across all areas of New Zealand science and earned respect at all levels along the way. Professor Gerrard embodies what both Alan MacDiarmid and Paul Callaghan knew; that science is about people.

“Professor Gerrard not only excels at communicating science but she has also spun out her own company – Hi-Aspect – which produces protein nanofibres for the medical and life-sciences markets.

“A key aspect of her new role will be to provide advice on science issues. Professor Gerrard has the breadth and mana to carry on the work that Sir Peter Gluckman has begun, including cultivating a network of international science advisors to develop best practice science advice.

“I congratulate Professor Juliet Gerrard and wish her all the best in her new role.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Professor Wendy Lawson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the College of Science at the University of Canterbury, comments:

“We’re delighted to hear Professor Gerrard will be the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor. A highly respected former University of Canterbury (UC) professor, she was instrumental in setting up the Biomolecular Interaction Centre (BIC) – an interdisciplinary research centre based in UC’s College of Science.

“She continues to be involved in BIC through research collaborations. As a successful woman scientist, Professor Gerard is a role model to emerging female scientists. We very much look forward to the fresh new approach that we know Juliet will bring to this role and we wish her all very best.”

No conflict of interest declared.