Changing of the Chief Scientist guard – In the News

There’s been a changing of the guard in the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor’s office over the weekend, with outgoing chief scientist Sir Peter Gluckman handing over to his successor, Professor Juliet Gerrard.

Over the weekend, Sir Peter spoke to Kim Hill on Radio NZ and Corin Dann on TVNZ’s Q&A. He told Radio NZ that he had flagged concerns about the meth testing standards earlier, but nothing had been done.

“I was aware that there was controversy of [the tests]. I had raised with the ministry prior, but I got pushed back … It wasn’t the right time.

“Through the government, through the prime minister’s office, I raised it.

“The response from the ministry was that there was no need. They were looking at the standards.”

Speaking to Q&A, Sir Peter discussed genetically modified organisms, which he said continued to be heavily debated despite the science being as “settled as it will be” and evidence showed they were safe. “There are no significant ecological or health concerns associated with the use of advanced genetic technologies,” he said.

“That does not mean that society automatically will accept them. And what we need is a conversation which we’ve not had in a long time that, I think, needs to be more constructive and less polarised than in the past.”

Prof Gerrard was also interviewed by Newshub Nation, where she said the issue of meth testing had been a “really useful case study for me, to see how the scientific evidence was presented and how that was turned into policy”.

“It would’ve been helpful if the scientific evidence had been ahead of the policy decision making. So my top priority is to understand the programme of Government, see where the science advice is going to be needed and to make sure we get that expert opinion in ahead.”

Sir Peter and Prof Gerrard were both interviewed by the NZ Herald last week as well.