News & Notices

How we make trust judgments when it comes to scientific information

How we make trust judgments when it comes to scientific information

It is often difficult to find accurate information online, especially when it comes to science-based questions. This is amplified by the fact that scientific findings themselves are revisable or when they are the subject of debate within their respective fields. However, not being able to find concrete answers to scientific questions may lead the public to question and discount the general veracity of science.

Te Pūnaha Matatini invites you to a free lecture by Professor Rainer Bromme, Senior Professor for Educational Psychology, University of Münster, Germany, who will provide an overview of data collected from surveys in multiple countries on the public’s trust in science, and also discuss research on peoples’ capacities to make trust judgments.

In the best case scenario, such judgments are not based on gullible faith in ‘science’, but rather rest on informed trust. Such trust judgments are based on a general understanding of both sides of science as: a system of knowledge and methods for understanding the world and as a social institution for the production and distribution of such knowledge.

Event: The ingredients of informed trust: What citizens (need to) know for coping with science experts

Guest Speaker: Professor Rainer Bromme, Senior Professor for Educational Psychology, University of Münster, Germany

Speaker panel:

  • Professor Shaun Hendy, Department of Physics, University of Auckland (MC)
  • Associate Professor Nicola Gaston, Department of Physics, University of Auckland
  • Dr Daniel Hikuroa, Senior Lecturer, Māori Studies, University of Auckland
  • Dr Cate Macinnes-Ng, Senior Lecturer, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland

Location: Auckland Museum

Date & time: Wednesday 25th October from 6-8pm

Tickets are free but bookings are essential. Please email membership@aucklandmuseum.com or register here to book tickets.

Maths Craft Festival arrives in Auckland

Maths Craft Festival arrives in Auckland

Do you enjoy craft? Then you probably enjoy mathematics too – you just may not know it yet. Don’t miss out on Maths Craft Festival 2017 being held this coming Saturday and Sunday, September 9-10, at the Auckland Museum.

Discover the maths behind craft and the craft behind maths. Find out how to tie a mathematical knot, crochet a Möbius strip, fold an origami octahedron, draw an impossible triangle, or colour a Latin square.

Ten craft creation stations will be set up in the museum’s event centre, a fully glazed circular room on top of the museum roof. Featuring incredible views of the city and harbour, it also has plenty of natural light – perfect for crafting. And there will be lots of space and seating, so you can stay and craft all day!

Sharing the beauty of maths

Dr Jeanette McLeod and Dr Phil Wilson, senior lecturers at the University of Canterbury’s School of Mathematics and Statistics, will lead a team of volunteers and host the two-day festival, part of a nationwide tour to raise interest in maths among New Zealanders.

“By using craft as a medium… we aim to introduce adults and children alike to a new and fun way of engaging with mathematics,” says Dr McLeod.

“Through these events, we’re keen to show people how maths underpins almost every aspect of today’s society. Whether it’s used in crafts, technology, business, science, social science or education, maths is vital,” she says.

Learn how to make an origami icosahedron (pictured) and many other wonderful creations at this weekend’s Maths Craft Festival.

Dr McLeod has crocheted and knitted a variety of mathematical objects – from Möbius strips to intricate coral-like hyperbolic planes – and is passionate about sharing maths as the language of science. Her specialisation is combinatronics, with a particular focus on asymptotic enumeration, graph colouring, random graphs, and Latin squares. She is also an accomplished crafter and crocheter.

Dr Wilson, who usually works in the field of theoretical fluid dynamics and mathematical modelling in biology and industry, says Maths Craft Festival offers something for everyone.

“A lot of our speakers are really good at finding mathematics in ordinary everyday things –from how you tie your shoe laces, tie knots or even how to set a wobbly table straight,” says Dr Wilson. “Maths Craft is really for all ages and all backgrounds.”

Public talks promise to fascinate

The two-day festival will also include five public talks over the course of the weekend:

  • Associate Professor Clemency Montelle, University of Canterbury – The (a)symmetry of a sari (September 9, 2.30pm)
  • Ms Elizabeth Chesney, University of Canterbury – Knuts about knitting knots (September 9, 3.45pm)
  • Associate Professor Burkard Polster, Monash University – What is the best way to lace your shoes? (September 9, 5.15pm)
  • Dr Michael Assis, University of Melbourne – The beauty of origami / The beauty of mathematics – connecting folds (September 10, 2.30pm)
  • Professor Bernd Krauskopf and Professor Hinke Osinga, University of Auckland – Chaos in Crochet and Steel (September 10, 3.45pm)

Where and when?

Maths Craft Festival is being held at the Auckland War Memorial Museum Events Centre on Saturday 9 September and Sunday 10 September. All are welcome and entry is free with a museum ticket. Maths Craft is running a free bus service from South Auckland to the Museum on Sunday 10th September (see www.mathscraftnz.org/events/maths-craft-festival#bus-service for details of how to book your free seat).

Visit the Maths Craft website for more information about upcoming events in Dunedin: www.mathscraftnz.org. Also on FacebookRavelry, and Twitter #mathscraftnz

Sexism and the gender pay gap – data that can’t be ignored

Sexism and the gender pay gap – data that can’t be ignored

A recent study by researchers at Motu Economic and Public Policy Research provides strong, definitive evidence that sexism is mostly to blame for the gender pay gap in New Zealand.

The study found that, on average, women in New Zealand’s workforce are paid 84 cents for every $1.00 a man earns, despite there being no statistically significant difference in productivity levels between male and female employees.

“This study is different to most previous wage gap studies in that it tests whether men and women are paid different wages for adding the same amount of value to their employer,” said lead researcher Dr Isabelle Sin, Fellow at Motu and Principal Investigator at Te Pūnaha Matatini.

Motu study dispels some common arguments

Lead study researcher Dr Isabelle Sin, Fellow, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research and Principal Investigator, Te Pūnaha Matatini.

The researchers analysed New Zealand tax data for 50 per cent of the working population from 2001 to 2011, to determine how much of the overall difference between women and men’s pay could be attributed to women being employed in industries that pay less.

“We found that women were over-represented in low-paying industries like food and beverage services, but this explains a mere 7 per cent of the entire gender wage gap,” Dr Sin said. “If you add in the fact that women also tend to work in low-paying firms, we can say that 12 per cent of the overall gender wage gap is due to the particular industries and firms where women work.”

The study then looked at productivity and wages of New Zealand men and women in private, for-profit organisations with five or more employees. Using employee-level data linked to business information, they found that on average, Kiwi women are paid 16 per cent less than their male counterparts for making a contribution of the same value to their employer.

Overall, the data suggest that sexism is a drag on large segments of New Zealand’s economy, with the gender wage-productivity gap as high as 40 per cent in some sectors – in finance and insurance, telecommunications, transport equipment manufacturing, water and air transport, and electricity, gas and water, and rail.

“It’s worth noting that these are all sectors that have the potential for monopoly-created profits and have low competition,” said Dr Sin. “To put it simply, our research suggests sexism is likely to be a major driver of the gender wage gap. What we’re going to do about it is another matter.”

Quality of the data make findings difficult to ignore

Professor Tava Olsen, Deputy Director – Industry and Stakeholder Engagement at Te Pūnaha Matatini.

Professor Tava Olsen from the University of Auckland, Director at the New Zealand Centre for Supply Chain Management and Deputy Director, Industry and Stakeholder Engagement at Te Pūnaha Matatini, described the results as “pretty definitive”.

“There is a gap and [because the study researchers] were able to get firm-level data on productivity, there’s really no explanation for it other than implicit bias or sexism,” said Professor Olsen.

The Motu research is a lot harder to ignore than previous studies due to its sheer size and the nature or quality of the data collected, she added.

“It’s not until you get a really big study like this that you can say ‘Oh yes, there is actually a problem here.’ Obviously, this isn’t the first study to show gender pay gaps, it’s just a very clean one in terms the data they got access to,” she said. “I doubt there are many countries who allow researchers access to their tax data… If you think about it, it’s pretty phenomenal.

“So I think this is quite important research in terms of showing there is a real gap. There is a problem here and it’s not really okay,” said Professor Olsen.

“Hopefully, companies will start putting procedures in place to check themselves and try and start looking at their own gender gaps.”

Sin I., Stillman S., Fabling R. (August 2017). What drives the gender wage gap? Examining the roles of sorting, productivity differences, and discrimination. Motu Working Paper 17-15 Motu Economic and Public Policy Research.

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 sciencejournalismfund@gmail.com 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 and Wellington.

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.

Prerequisites

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 (kathryn.morgan@auckland.ac.nz) 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 (Rebecca.priestley@vuw.ac.nz 021 917050); Prof Shaun Hendy (shaun.hendy@auckland.ac.nz 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 http://nzmathsoc.org.nz/downloads/miscellaneous/CodeOfConduct-NZMC-WiM.pdf?t=1479095141.

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