News & Notices

Te Pūnaha Matatini supporting NZ science journalism

Te Pūnaha Matatini supporting NZ science journalism

Te Pūnaha Matatini is a major contributor to the Aotearoa-New Zealand Science Journalism Fund, which recently awarded $20,000 in funding to several New Zealand science journalists to cover stories ranging from genomics to driverless vehicles to climate change.

This first round of funding received 20 applications, with six projects involving journalists from a variety of media outlets across the country being selected.

“Overall, we were extremely impressed with the range and quality of the applications – from established science journalists to relative newcomers, from a range of media and from around the country,” said the fund’s founder Dr Rebecca Priestley.

Controversial technologies to be covered

Within the fund’s category on ‘Controversial technologies: Should we even go there?’ Te Pūnaha Matatini is funding three projects to a total of $10,000, as follows:

  • $4,500 to Naomi Arnold (New Zealand Geographic article)
  • $4,000 to Simon Morton (RNZ’s This Way Up feature)
  • $1,500 to William Ray (RNZ’s Our Changing World series)

All of the projects are expected to be published by the end of 2017, after which they will be available under Creative Commons licence. Science journalists from around New Zealand will then have a second opportunity to apply for funding through the Aotearoa-New Zealand Science Journalism Fund in early 2018.

“Round one showed that journalists want to work on important science-related stories and that there is appetite to fund them doing so,” said Dr Priestley. “We are looking forward to seeing these projects come to fruition and to working on securing funding for round two.”

How to support the Aotearoa-New Zealand Science Journalism Fund

Interested readers and organisations wishing to support the fund can do so by emailing Dr Rebecca Priestley at or through the Aotearoa-New Zealand Science Journalism Fund Press Patron crowd-funding page.


Summer Student Internships 2017-18

Summer Student Internships 2017-18

Interested in expanding your data analytics skills in a real-world environment this summer?

Te Pūnaha Matatini, the Centre of Research Excellence for Complex Systems and Networks, is offering paid student internships for 10 weeks over the 2017-18 summer months in organisations based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

We have opportunities for teams of undergraduate and postgraduate students enrolled in New Zealand universities for internships working on projects with Iwi, government organisations, and industry.

Last year, we placed around a dozen students at a variety of organisations:

“The project directly related to what I was studying and the course I had studied at the beginning of the year. I was really passionate and loved going into work because I knew the work I was doing was contributing to making a difference for New Zealanders.”

– 2016-17 student intern at the Social Investment Agency in Wellington

This year, there are some exciting new opportunities. Intern with Te Reo Irirangi O Te Hiku O Te Ika, for instance, who are creating language tools that will enable speech recognition and natural language processing of te reo Māori. The project will require the collection of more than 100,000 sentences and 250 hours of Māori language corpus. Once complete, the aim is to provide these language tools to the Māori ICT industry.

Undergraduate opportunities

  • Conduct a supervised research project for 10 weeks over the summer months.
  • Work in teams to analyse data on important projects in data science.
  • Receive a stipend of $6,000 plus appropriate support for relocation.

Postgraduate opportunities

  • Extend your analytics skills by working with enterprise data sets.
  • Obtain 10 weeks of valuable industry placement and gain experience in leading a research team.
  • Receive a stipend of $8,000 plus appropriate support for relocation.


Undergraduate and postgraduate internships are open to students with some background in economics, social, or natural sciences with a strong background in mathematics (including multi-variate calculus and linear algebra), statistics or computer science.

Key dates

Applications open Applications close Applicants notified Internships start
Mon 14 Aug 2017 Fri 29 Sep 2017 late Oct 2017 Mon 20 Nov 2017

Apply now

To apply, please submit the following:

  • A cover letter detailing your current study, suitability, and why you would like to undertake the internship.
  • Your CV (no longer than 3 pages).
  • Your academic transcript.
  • Your demographic details.

Please send your applications to: Kathryn Morgan ( by Friday 29 September 2017. Applicants will be notified of the outcomes by late October.

Dr Rebecca Priestley wins Prime Minister’s Prize – fourth for Te Pūnaha Matatini

Dr Rebecca Priestley wins Prime Minister’s Prize – fourth for Te Pūnaha Matatini

Te Pūnaha Matatini investigator Dr Rebecca Priestley has been announced as the winner of the 2016 Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize. 

Dr Priestley is a senior lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington in the Science in Society Group. She has been an Associate Investigator in Te Pūnaha Matatini since the Centre was established in 2015.

Te Pūnaha Matatini is one of ten national Centres of Research Excellence. Its research focuses on the science of complex systems and networks, and applies this to study problems in society, the environment, and the economy. Dr Priestley co-leads a project in the Centre that studies public engagement by researchers.

“Dr Priestley is unique amongst New Zealand’s science communicators”, says Prof Shaun Hendy, Director of Te Pūnaha Matatini. “She is not only an accomplished science writer and journalist, she also has academic standing as one of New Zealand’s leading historians of science and has undertaken pioneering work in the study of science’s engagement with society.”

She received the $100,000 prize from the Prime Minister at an event in Wellington today, joining Te Pūnaha Matatini’s Dr Michelle Dickinson, Dr Siouxsie Wiles and Prof Hendy, as previous winners of the prize. 

“We’ve placed public engagement and communication of our research at the heart of our mission” added Hendy, “and so it should be no surprise that Te Pūnaha Matatini has become the meeting place for New Zealand’s leading science communicators.”

Some of Dr Priestley’s prize money will be used to establish New Zealand’s first fund to support science journalism. Te Pūnaha Matatini will also contribute to this fund.

“As newsrooms shrink, it is getting harder for the media to cover science,” says Hendy. “For science engagement to work well, journalists need to be able to take the time to cover science stories critically. We hope this fund will help sustain independent science journalism in New Zealand.” 

Contact: Dr Rebecca Priestley ( 021 917050); Prof Shaun Hendy ( 021 1442349)

Scholarship established following “Hidden Figures” gala screening

Scholarship established following “Hidden Figures” gala screening

A fundraising campaign and gala screening of the critically acclaimed film Hidden Figures has raised $13,500 to help establish a scholarship for women to study physical sciences, maths or engineering in 2018.

Te Pūnaha Matatini’s Executive Manager Kate Hannah, Deputy Director Dr Siouxsie Wiles and University of Auckland Associate Professor Nicola Gaston from the Department of Physics organised the fundraising campaign to raise the profile of Māori and Pacific female scientists and students.

Listen to an interview with Kate Hannah on Radio Zealand’s Morning Report:

In addition to funds raised through the Givealittle campaign, five New Zealand Centres of Research Excellence provided financial contributions toward the scholarship: Te Pūnaha Matatini, the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies, the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Technology, the Maurice Wilkins Centre, and Brain Research New Zealand. The University of Auckland Department of Physics also contributed.

The scholarship will be administered by the Association for Women in the Sciences (AWIS).

20th Century Fox, EVENT Cinemas, SOHO Wines and L’Oreal New Zealand provided valued assistance and promotional material for the gala screening of Hidden Figures.

Donate to an ongoing scholarship fund to support women in New Zealand science.

Read more:

Analytics to improve health delivery systems

Analytics to improve health delivery systems

Te Pūnaha Matatini Associate Investigator Dr Michael O’Sullivan discusses analytics to improve health delivery systems.

Michael researches a combination of Operations Research and Analytics and is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Engineering Science and the Precise, and Timely Healthcare Theme Leader at the Precision Driven Health Research Partnership. The latter is a data science research initiative that features collaborations between the University of Auckland and partners in the public, corporate and healthcare sectors.

This presentation was recorded at an Orion Health Seminar on 6th December, 2016.

Reception for Women in Mathematics and their Supporters at NZ Mathematics Colloquium

Reception for Women in Mathematics and their Supporters at NZ Mathematics Colloquium

After the AGM for the New Zealand Mathematical Society on Monday 5th of December, there will be a reception for women in mathematics and their supporters. Everyone is welcome. The reception is sponsored by Te Pūnaha Matatini and will be chaired by Principal Investigator Dion O’Neale.

The event theme is: Being an ally: what we can all do to improve equity.

Abstract: Advocating for improved equity is a task that often falls to members of under-represented groups. This is problematic for a number of reasons; not least because it means that some of the voices that most need to be heard are least numerous and are, perhaps, undermined by perceptions of self-interest.

This event will begin with some background on what it means to be an ally, the benefits it can bring, and some of the potential pitfalls that can be associated with it. Over drinks, we will discuss the things that we can all do as individuals, both at work and at home, in order to improve equity in our departments and the New Zealand mathematical sciences community.

This event comes with a code of conduct: see

SciGlow at Silo Park: the art of bioluminescent bacteria

SciGlow at Silo Park: the art of bioluminescent bacteria

Be wowed by the eerie glow of bioluminescent bacteria as art and science unite for SciGlow at Silo Park Auckland, 3-4 December.

Microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles has teamed up with artists, schoolchildren and bioluminescent bugs to create the unique bacterial paintings in giant petri dishes. View intriguing artworks by professional artists or try your own hand at creating a living, glowing masterpiece.

Proudly sponsored by the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery, Te Pūnaha Matatini and the University of Auckland.

Dates: December 3-4
Time: 11am-6pm
Where:  Silo Park, Auckland
Cost: Free

The New Zealand Polymath: Colenso and his contemporaries

The New Zealand Polymath: Colenso and his contemporaries

November 16 & 17, Te Pūnaha Matatini’s Executive Manager Kate Hannah and Principal Investigator Dr Dion O’Neale are presenting at a conference on William Colenso and his contemporaries.

What: The New Zealand Polymath – Colenso and his contemporaries
When: Conference runs from 16-18 November
Where: National Library of New Zealand, Molesworth Street, Wellington

Opening address: Dabbling Dilettantes and Renaissance Men: colonial polymaths and New Zealand’s science culture.
During the opening session, Kate will present “Dabbling Dilettantes and Renaissance Men: colonial polymaths and New Zealand’s science culture.” The presentation will explore the hero narratives regarding the network of polymath-scholars who established the institutions of New Zealand’s scientific culture. Such narratives permeate New Zealand’s history and contemporary public discourse, but actively exclude the impact of those participants who are exceptions to the hero narrative, rendering them invisible.

The lecture is free and open to the public. More details>

Panel discussion: Colonial polymaths and New Zealand’s science culture
Following the address, Kate will chair a panel discussion that will problematize the impact of centering national identity within a group of ‘Renaissance men’, exploring those whose scholarly contributions are framed as dabbling distractions, and those others whose labour enabled the expansion and sharing of knowledge that typified colonial New Zealand.

The panellists are:

  • Nicola Gaston, University of Auckland
  • Angela Middleton, University of Otago
  • Linda Tyler, University of Auckland
  • Daniel Hikuroa, Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, University of Auckland

Presentation: Colenso’s correspondence network
Thursday 17 November Dion and Kate present on Colenso’s correspondence network.

View the full conference programme>

Marsden Fund success for Te Pūnaha Matatini investigators

Marsden Fund success for Te Pūnaha Matatini investigators

Seven Te Pūnaha Matatini investigators were awarded Marsden-funding this week across a broad range of research projects, from investigating Māori social systems to integrative models of species evolution.

Professor Thegn Ladefoged and Dr Dion O’Neal from the University of Auckland, and Associate Professor Marcus Frean from Victoria University Wellington will study the development of Māori social systems over time. The investigators will combine their skills in archaeology and network science – a prime example of the ability of New Zealand’s Centres of Research Excellence to connect researchers from across disciplines to tackle exciting projects. Read more>

Professor Alexei Drummond and Dr David Welch from the University of Auckland’s Department of Computer Science have received Marsden-funding to research genomes, phenotypes and fossils and integrative models of species evolution.

Dr Steffen Lippert from the University of Auckland’s Business School will be leading a project titled: “Beyond the Jury Paradox: Collective Decision-Making without Common Priors.”

Dr Daniel Hikuroa, an earth systems scientist from the University of Auckland, will be an associate investigator on a project titled “Melt inclusions as a ‘window’ through the crust: What drives the most productive region of silicic volcanism on Earth?”

Marsden Funds are highly competitive grants distributed over three years, paying for salaries, students and postdoctoral positions, institutional overheads and research consumables. The grants are managed by the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the government.

In 2015, Te Pūnaha Matatini Principal Investigator Adam Jaffe from Motu Economic Research and Public Policy worked with the Royal Society of New Zealand to evaluate and identify opportunities to improve their decision-making processes around funding.

Adam demonstrated that receiving Marsden funding leads to higher productivity and impacts in terms of papers published and citations received. Adam and his team also found there is no reason to expect diminishing returns if Marsden funding were increased.

Read the Motu working paper on the findings or Te Pūnaha Matatini Director Shaun Hendy’s blog.

Māori social systems focus of novel research collaboration

Māori social systems focus of novel research collaboration

Archaeology and modern network science are combining to investigate the development of Māori social networks over time as part of a new three year $705,000 Marsden-funded project.

The research draws upon the skills of archaeologist Professor Thegn Ladefoged and network scientists Dr Dion O’Neal and Associate Professor Marcus Frean from Te Pūnaha Matataini, a Centre of Research Excellence in complex systems and networks. The research team also includes Associate Professor Mark McCoy from the USA’s Southern Methodist University, and Alex Jorgensen from the University of Auckland who will use portable X-ray fluorescence to characterize and source obsidian artefacts. Assistant Professor Chris Stevenson from Virginia Commonwealth University will develop obsidian hydration dating of artefacts to establish tight chronological control of changing levels of interaction.

Professor Ladefoged from the University of Auckland explains that over centuries relatively autonomous village-based Māori groups have transformed into larger territorial hapū lineages, which later formed even larger iwi associations.

Information passed down through generations by word of mouth has traditionally provided the best evidence of these complex, dynamic changes in Māori social organisation. The research group’s novel combination of archaeological and network science skills aims to provide new insights into these social changes.

“By researching ancient obsidian tools and their movement across New Zealand we can reconstruct historical systems of inter-iwi trade,” Professor Ladefoged says.

The research group will then combine this archaeological and location data with social network analysis modelling and local iwi input to provide new insights into how Māori society was transformed from village-based groups to powerful hapū and iwi.

Network analysis will enable the group to look for patterns of how archaeological sites, artefacts and obsidian sources relate to one another, and how those relationships have changed over time, explains associate investigator Dr Dion O’Neale.

“Based on those changing relationships we can put forward hypotheses about the roles played by geography or social groupings in producing the distributions of obsidian that we observe,” Dr O’Neale says.

The collaborative research project also aims to connect or reconnect Māori with their taonga held in museums and university archaeology collections.

Te Pūnaha Matatini Director Professor Shaun Hendy says the project demonstrates the ability of New Zealand’s Centres of Research Excellence to connect and amplify the efforts of researchers across a wide range of fields and locations.

“We all know that research needs to become more interdisciplinary, but we also know that this is easier said than done,” Professor Hendy says.

“I am really pleased that Thegn and his team have taken advantage of Te Pūnaha Matatini’s diverse network of researchers to tackle such an exciting project.”