What a week! It was nearly two years ago that I sat down with Dion O’Neale to first discuss about the possibility of establishing a Centre of Research Excellence in complex systems over a beer in Wellington. And finally, last Wednesday, in the University of Auckland’s Fale Pasifika, the Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon declared Te Pūnaha Matatini open for business.
Te Pūnaha Matatini is now starting to seem rather real. Te Pūnaha Matatini HQ has also been humming with visiting investigators hot-desking in our new wāhi hui, new students arriving, and a couple of top-secret projects. We ordered business cards on Monday, we launched our website on February 13, and @punahamatatini has been tweeting now for 292 days. But what really made it tangible for me was the two-day research symposium we held last Thursday and Friday.
Over two days we asked our investigators to give three-minute ‘lightning’ talks (or lightning strikes as Peter Davis called them), one slide each, on the most exciting aspect of their research right now. This was a real success – it turns out there is a lot you can say in three minutes if you put your mind to it. We also heard from our project leaders on their plans and the PhD projects that will be offered, and heard talks from several outside organisations who we are keen to work with.
Have a look at the @punahamatini and @TPMwhanau twitter feeds if you want to see the range of topics we covered.One of the talks we didn’t tweet about was the one given by Lillian Grace from Wiki New Zealand, who gave us a sneak preview of the new Wiki site and the engine behind it. Lillian is on a mission to increase data literacy in New Zealand – to democratize data as she puts it – by bringing together disparate streams of government data in one place and making the data sets easy to work with and present. The new site went live on Tuesday so you can go see what we were so impressed by at wikinewzealand.org. It is also worth mentioning that there is more to come – they will be rolling out several exciting new features over the next few months.But what made Te Pūnaha Matatini feel most concrete for me last week was watching Rachelle Binny and her Whānau committee get together in the wāhi hui for a meeting after our symposium had finished. Rachelle is the first chair of our early career researcher network, our whānau, and it has been really quite wonderful to watch the way she is has started to inspire and lead this group of young, talented scientists. Te Pūnaha Matatini is no longer an idea owned by me, by our investigators, or by any of our institutions. It has been adopted and made real by the next generation of researchers.