News & Notices
Julie Mugford (pictured), a PhD student at the University of Canterbury and Chair of Te Pūnaha Matatini Whānau, is researching and developing statistical tools to improve the accuracy of classification-based crowdsourcing, aka citizen science.
Citizen science is the involvement of volunteers in helping scientists collect and analyse information, and Julie’s research aims to measure the accuracy of users and to develop efficient ways to improve the overall accuracy of such data.
Typically, classification-based citizen science projects ask multiple participants to identify each object and consensus methods are used to decide the classification of the object. Commonly, simple consensus methods – for example, majority vote – are used. However, majority vote weights the contributions from each participant equally but the participants may vary in accuracy with which they can label objects.
“Our approach is to use Bayesian statistics to estimate users’ accuracies at identifying objects and include these accuracies in the classification process,” explained Julie.
“Although this approach complicates the classification process compared to a simple majority vote rule, it improves the accuracy of the classification decisions and provides more robust measures of classification certainty.”
How Kiwis are helping to answer important scientific questions
Citizen scientists can encompass a wide range of members within our society – from school children to trained scientists – who participate in a variety of research projects. These projects are often set up and managed by professional scientists, and specifically designed to give volunteers a role. For example, sharing and classifying bird and other observations of nature, classifying land types in satellite images of Earth, or classifying galaxies.
The popularity of citizen science projects has risen enormously in the last two decades, providing researchers with access to data from a large range of locations at unprecedented frequencies with minimal costs. This has become increasingly important as costly expert resources struggle to match the effort required to answer scientific questions. However, there is ongoing debate on the usefulness and accuracy of citizen science data as it may be prone to greater variability due to differences in volunteer’s skills.
“Motivated by the vision of Biosecurity New Zealand to have a biosecurity team of 4.7 million [New Zealand’s resident population], we have initially focused on improving the accuracy of classification-based citizen science projects that could be used as a tool to monitor invasive pests in New Zealand,” said Julie.
Biosecurity New Zealand, a part of the Ministry for Primary Industries, has set out a vision for 2025, and one of its five strategic directions aims is to make all New Zealanders aware of the importance of biosecurity and to get them involved in pest and disease management. It hopes to encourage a collective effort across the country – in which ‘every New Zealander becomes a biosecurity risk manager and every business manages their own biosecurity risk’.
Public health researcher Dr Anna Matheson (pictured above), Te Pūnaha Matatini investigator and senior lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington, specialises in applying complexity theory to aid our understanding of actions that reduce health inequalities, research that has been recognised globally.
Anna is particularly interested in the use of novel approaches to social intervention that take account of social complexity, and has been involved in numerous research projects related to the social determinants of health, barriers to and through health systems, and approaches to reducing health inequalities in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Playing a key role in community health research
Anna’s current work includes co-leading the evaluation of Healthy Families NZ, which is funded by the Ministry of Health, and as a co-investigator on two community action research projects funded by the Health Research Council.
“Together with a colleague, we designed and are carrying out an evaluation, grounded in complexity theory, of a multi-community intervention to prevent chronic diseases – Healthy Families NZ,” said Anna.
“The approach we have taken is sensitive to context, and accounts for multi-level actions and perspectives which has been shown to be a big challenge in large-scale public health evaluations. Complexity theory has helped me to theorise and articulate the way that health inequalities arise in relation to excluded communities such as Māori and Pasifika.”
“Complexity theory has helped me to theorise and articulate the way that health inequalities arise in relation to excluded communities such as Māori and Pasifika.”
When brought together with the evidence, the theory shows that causes of health inequalities are systemic. These systemic causes compound in individuals and communities. For example, Māori and Pacific people experience multiple barriers to, and through, the health system, as well as being impacted by multiple levels of discrimination and other determinants of health such as income, education and housing.
“I have used this understanding of the social processes leading to health inequalities to inform the ideas in articles I have written about what this means for how to intervene to reduce health inequalities,” said Anna.
Importance of international health research connections
Connections abroad are incredibly important, said Anna, with international conferences and meetings being great opportunities to share her research findings and contribute to knowledge globally. Of note, she was recently invited to be a Fellow of the Salzburg Global Seminar (SGS), a prestigious non-profit organisation set-up 70 years ago to promote peace and the exchange of ideas across people and nations.
Fascinating op-ed by @DrAMatheson on the Salzburg Global Seminar! “Particularly heartening for me was hearing all the passionate discussions that normalised talk of complex systems & the need for systems change in relation to health and equity.” Read here: https://t.co/3A0L2DatQJ
— Te Pūnaha Matatini (@PunahaMatatini) January 22, 2018
Following her attendance at a SGS session on ‘Building Healthier Communities: The Role of Hospitals’, Anna led the writing of an article for the BMJ, one of the world’s leading medical journals, with co-authors from Australia, Pakistan and Rwanda.
“It has been valuable to see how people in different countries are thinking about complexity and health, as well as the innovative approaches being taken to improve complex health outcomes, and the enormous challenges that some countries face,” said Anna.
“It has been valuable to see how people in different countries are thinking about complexity and health, as well as the innovative approaches being taken to improve complex health outcomes, and the enormous challenges that some countries face.”
“These international connections have also provided me with a very positive perspective on my own work. The relationship with SGS is on-going, and they have an interest in the career development of those they invite to attend. I have also provided suggestions of others working in innovative community action areas within New Zealand to attend SGS sessions.”
Te Pūnaha Matatini incoming co-directors Priscilla (Cilla) Wehi, conservation biologist with Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, and Murray Cox, Professor of Computational Biology at Massey University, have collaborated on an analysis of Māori ancestral sayings (whakataukī), and their recognition of extinctions and their impact.
Cilla and Murray co-authored a paper published in the journal Human Ecology, reporting the linguistic analysis of indigenous Māori whakataukī that focus on fauna and environment, particularly with regard to extinctions of important food sources such as Moa. The findings provide evidence that such extinctions were important as they influenced both ecological and social thought in Māori society. The authors also suggest that oral traditions could have played a similar role in other early societies living through major faunal extinction events.
Examples of whakataukī referring to Moa extinction:
Kua ngaro i te ngaro o te moa
Lost as the moa was lost
Huna i te huna a te moa
Hidden as the moa hid
Ka ngaro ā-moa te iwi nei
The people will disappear like the moa
“Oral tradition, such as these whakataukī passed down by Māori, provide our only real glimpses into the ecological relationships and concerns of early settler populations, and provide early human context to an otherwise relatively dry scientific record of extinction events,” the researchers wrote.
“The whakataukī emphasise that indigenous peoples are not simply passive actors against an environmental backdrop but rather interact with the environment in myriad ways that affect not only the species assemblages present but also the development of cultural values, ideas, and practices.”
Cilla and Murray’s work was picked up by The Conversation in an article entitled ‘Dead as a moa: oral traditions show that early Māori recognised extinction’, and in interviews on Radio NZ, Radio Waatea and TVNZ’s Te Karere.
Te Pūnaha Matatini was able to offer New Zealand university students paid 10-week internship positions over the 2018-19 summer, which involved working on projects with various partner organisations.
Out of a total of 160 undergrad and postgrad students from across the country who applied for the programme, 29 were successful and placed at 11 partner organisations – including government ministries, iwi organisations and private companies.
Although the students had a wide range of backgrounds, they all had one thing in common – a passion to change the world through data and its applications and contexts.
“This programme provides students with invaluable data analytics experience and new perspectives while working for organisations in a real-world setting,” said Dr Alex James, Te Pūnaha Matatini’s Deputy Director of Industry and Stakeholder Engagement.
“Through its student internship programme, Te Pūnaha Matatini is able to engage with partners to complete small-scale projects with defined outcomes, develop relationship networks, and introduce talented students to potential employers.”
“This programme provides students with invaluable data analytics experience and new perspectives while working for organisations in a real-world setting.”
Now in its fourth year of operation, the 2018-19 programme featured an excellent variety of projects, and the overall feedback from both students and industry stakeholders was very positive.
Streamlining the process of social network analysis at AgResearch
University of Canterbury Masters of Applied Data Science student Romalee Amolic (pictured above) spent the summer in Hamilton working with scientists at AgResearch, helping develop a tool to streamline survey data for social network analysis.
In addition to providing a much-needed tool for AgResearch, Romalee is now working out how to commercialise her software so more people can take advantage of it.
“From our perspective, we got exactly what we’d hoped for, which was a new viewpoint and different expertise from what we may have normally recruited,” said Helen Percy of AgResearch, Romalee’s supervisor.
Vision Mātauranga in partnership with Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei
Brianne Halbert (left) and Megan Leijh (right), who are both at the University of Auckland, worked together on a project that is part of an ongoing research partnership between Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and Te Pūnaha Matatini.
Led by their supervisor Kate Hannah, Te Pūnaha Matatini’s Deputy Director, Equity and Diversity, and Dion O’Neale, a Te Pūnaha Matatini Principal Investigator, the ‘He waka eke noa’ project combines qualitative and quantitative methodologies to work with iwi and hapū data, centralising Māori data sovereignty.
An important goal of our internship programme is to have students with complementary skill sets working together. That was certainly the case for Bri and Megan. Bri is undertaking a double major in Computer and Data Science, while Megan is completing a conjoint Law (Hons) and Arts degree in political philosophy, law and politics.
“While these disciplines may appear vastly different, we were able to find a lot of overlap and even harmony in our exploration of inclusive education for Māori,” wrote Bri and Megan in a subsequent co-authored blog.
“From the outset, a major goal was to utilise our respective disciplines for research while keeping the essence of te Ao Māori alive throughout. Thus, we incorporated kupu o te wiki, watched Te Kaea and participated in a lot of korero”.
Working with Te Hiku Media to improve access to Te Reo Māori
Bachelor of Engineering in Mechatronics at the University of Canterbury, Cherie Vasta (pictured above), worked with both Te Hiku Media and Dragonfly Data Science on a project to aid in the development of a Māori voice assistant.
The tool is designed to make Te Reo Māori more accessible and fun in the digital age At the completion of Cherie’s internship, the project was documented and all the code uploaded online to allow other developers at Te Hiku Media to progress it further and demonstrate the abilities of the Rāpere box.
“I got a great feeling of accomplishment from my work,” said Cherie. “I’m grateful to Te Pūnaha Matatini for connecting me with Te Hiku Media and providing me with the opportunity to have this internship.”
Further details about individual projects
Following the completion of their placements, several interns were invited to blog about their experiences on the Te Pūnaha Matatini website.
Dr Audrey Lustig, Associate Investigator at Te Pūnaha Matatini and postdoctoral researcher with the Geospatial Research Institute (GRI) Toi Hangarau, University of Canterbury, presented her work at the 2018 British Ecological Society (BES) held in Birmingham, UK, in December.
Audrey, whose research is focused on spatial modelling of species distribution, presented her paper on regional pest control at the conference, the second largest annual meeting for ecologists in the world. With more than 500 talks and 200 poster presentations, there was an international flavour, which really added to the diversity of speakers, topics, systems and organisms discussed.
BES promotes diversity, equity, access, and inclusion
Audrey said it was a privilege to attend the three-day event. “This really is an exciting place to be for those partial to thinking about the natural world…. It was an incredibly stimulating and well-organised three days, with a lovely balance between unstructured (social) time and scientific talks and posters.”
The BES has taken a national leadership role in promoting diversity, equity, access, and inclusion in science and academia, reflected by a various new initiatives meeting diversity targets across gender, race, and sexual orientation during the event. This included a 1:1 gender ratio at the plenary session, a ‘women in science’ networking session, a LGBT+ and Trans mixer, gender neutral toilets, a ‘meet the plenary speaker for early career researchers’ session, and more.
Conference presentation highlights and challenges
“The wonderful plenary sessions by Samuel M. ‘Ohukani‘ōhi‘a Gon, III on using the Hawaiian Isles as a Model for Biocultural Conservation and by Danielle Lee on cultivating a generation of scholar in your communities were a major highlight of the academic program,” said Audrey.
“I urge people to view their talks when they become available through the BES [website]. We also all had a good laugh when Ken Thompson started listing some of the most inspirational ecology papers of the year. I will remember that ‘gardening is the perfect antidote to thinking that one year’s field data means anything at all!”
“I somehow muddled through my presentation on regional pest management in the invasive species oral session,” Audrey added. “Unfortunately, I felt like a bit of a zombie that day as my body still insisted that it was night time! On the positive side of things, I interacted with so many great scientists. I finally had the opportunity to meet up with Guillaume Latombe and Tim Blackburn and catch up with the incredible Jane Catford and Stéphane Boyer. Lots of cool research opportunities and potential collaborations, so I’m already looking forward to the next British Ecological Society Meeting!”
Shaun Hendy, Professor of Physics at the University of Auckland and Director of Te Pūnaha Matatini, has been appointed to the Board of Directors for Callaghan Innovation. Shaun’s appointment was announced recently by the Minister for Research, Science and Innovation Hon Dr Megan Woods.
Shaun will sit on the Callaghan Board for a term of 3 years. Other new appointments announced by Dr Woods include Jennifer Kerr, who is on the board of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, and sitting members Stefan Korn, George Gong and Robin Hapi, who have had their terms extended.
“Callaghan Innovation is New Zealand’s innovation agency, supporting Kiwi businesses to innovate and collaborate,” says Dr Woods. “They have been major partners in the development of the R&D Tax Incentive which will encourage even more New Zealand firms to undertake R&D activity.”
Te Pūnaha Matatini is delighted with the news of Shaun’s appointment and wholeheartedly congratulates all of the new appointees.
As many of you will be aware, our director Shaun Hendy has been travelling a lot differently this year. Despite being a frequent domestic and international traveller, Shaun decided that for 2018 he would set an example and highlight his concern about climate change by not using air travel for the entire calendar year. The hashtag #nofly2018 was born and, from the first day in January, he has walked the talk – effectively turning his back on flying as a means to get around, favouring instead modes of land transport that emit less carbon.
Various news outlets have covered Shaun’s journey over the year, including Radio New Zealand and the New Zealand Herald. So, now that we’re into September, how is he getting on? Well, very impressively according to the stats. By mid-September 2017, Shaun had made 10 return flights from Auckland to Wellington, at a cost of 2.66 metric tonnes of CO2 (equivalent)*. So far this year he has been to Wellington and back six times (once by car, three times by train, and twice by bus) at a cost of just 0.458 metric tonnes of CO2 (equivalent)*. What is more he’s got more done in Wellington this year: in 2017 his 10 flights gave him 10 business days in Wellington, while in 2018 he has had 21 working days down the capital.
Not flying has its advantages
In addition to reducing his carbon footprint, Shaun says one of the great advantages to taking it slower by road or rail is that you can actually get a lot of work done on the way and plan in more meetings with investigators in one trip. Te Pūnaha Matatini, a national Centre of Research Excellence, has investigators spread across New Zealand.
“Over the last two weeks [for example] I have travelled #nofly2018 style from Auckland to Queenstown and back again,” said Shaun. “It was great to catch up with a number of investigators on the way through. I spent a beautiful sunny day at the University of Canterbury, catching up with [Te Pūnaha Matatini investigators] Alex James, Jeanette McLeod, Mike Plank, and Audrey Lustig, as well as dropping by to see Rebecca Turner at Scion. The conversations that day were very timely as I have gotten involved with MPI’s Mycoplasma Bovis Eradication Science Advisory Group to help them think about how they can use the various data sets they have at their disposal.”
Electric vehicles becoming more feasible
On his most recent trip, Shaun was also sponsored by Yoogo Share, an electric vehicle share company that has 100 electric vehicles based in eight locations in Christchurch.
“They lent me one of their Hyundai IONIQ’s for five days,” said Shaun. “I had about 1,000km to drive, including the odd hill or two. The IONIQ doesn’t yet have the range of a petrol vehicle. Depending on the terrain, you’ll get around 100-160 km between charges, although running the heater will shave 10-15% off this. A fast charge takes around 15 minutes and will boost your battery up to about 80% capacity, but if you’ve got another 10 minutes or so you can charge it up to 95%.”
Luckily, there is a growing network of charging stations across New Zealand, which means electric vehicle users can get to most places without too much trouble.
“From Christchurch, I charged up at Geraldine, then Tekapo, followed by a big charge at Twizel to make sure I made it over the Lindis pass, and then a final top up in Cromwell,” said Shaun. “The IONIQ was great to drive – I had no problems taking it up over the Crown Range Rd. Definitely give it a go next time you are in Christchurch.”
Follow Shaun on Twitter for #nofly2018 updates!
Keep up-to-date with Shaun Hendy’s travels on Twitter by following the #nofly2018 hashtag.
— Shaun Hendy (@hendysh) August 19, 2018
*Calculated using the Enrivo-Mark Travel Emissions Calculator.
In the summer of 2016-2017, Te Hiku Media and Te Pūnaha Matatini co-funded a number of student internships – work from which led to the development of Kōrero Māori – a project to teach machines how to speak te reo Māori.
One of the interns was Jamie Chow, a conjoint BComm/BEng (Honours) degree student from the University of Auckland. Jamie’s work on Te Hiku’s Data Analytics and Visualisation Project involved using online audience data to measure the performance of the organisation’s digital platform, matching it with other information such as demographics and geographical data.
Internship leads to ongoing employment opportunity
Following his 10-week summer internship, Jamie continued working on the project for Te Hiku in part-time employment over the course of 2017.
“We kept Jamie on board,” says Te Hiku’s R&D Scientist and Engineer Keoni Mahelona. “He had the internship then we hired him on contract for about 6 months or so. Just casually, furthering the work that he did for that project. That was really useful.”
Jamie was able to create visualisations of the data that allowed Te Hiku staff to quickly understand and interpret the behaviour of their audience. Staff can now immediately examine their content for audience engagement, allowing them to adapt their future programming.
“The project mainly involved developing tools to obtain usage data for their online platform and present this data in a suitable form to their staff, producers, and content creators,” says Jamie.
“My project was very self-driven so it was always challenging and engaging. It was clear even from the beginning that I would learn a lot throughout the project. Te Hiku Media seemed to be pleased with the results and I’m happy they’re using and benefiting from my work.
“Overall, it was a great experience and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to work with some awesome people.”
About the Kōrero Māori project
Te Hiku’s Data Analytics and Visualisation Project led to discussions about the need for ICT tools for te reo Māori. Working together, Keoni’s team developed the Kōrero Māori project to create computer language models for te reo Māori – the basic tools which will allow machines to be able to transcribe and speak the language.
Keoni is optimistic about how Te Hiku and Te Pūnaha Matatini can collaborate in terms of research direction in the future.
“I do look forward to us continuing to work together… and doing research around Te Reo, language processing and also looking to the languages of the Pacific – because there’s a lot of similarities,” says Keoni. “If we can turn these into machine models, perhaps we can learn something about the evolution of our languages.
Keoni says that Te Pūnaha Matatini has been very helpful and open in terms of how the data are managed.
“It’s about managing data in a way that aligns with our tikanga and our values, as Māori and as a Māori organisation and as indigenous people. Our language is our culture. It’s our identity. We’re talking about giving that to a machine and I guess the question comes, well, who owns that data or who owns the machines that have access to that data,” explains Keoni.
“As indigenous people, we want to maintain some sovereignty… and Te Pūnaha Matatini has been helpful in terms of having quite a broad and open understanding of those aspects of the project.”
Students who’ve taken part in previous summer internship programmes run by Te Pūnaha Matatini have expressed a high level of satisfaction with their experiences. Indeed, the 10-week paid internship programme provides an excellent opportunity for students to hone their data analytics skills while working for organisations in a real-world setting.
A total of 21 undergraduate and postgraduate university students from around New Zealand were selected for our 2017-18 programme. Divided into teams, the interns were placed on a wide range of projects working for various organisations, including Iwi, government and private firms based in either Auckland or Wellington.
There were some exciting new opportunities. One team, for instance, were placed on a project with Dragonfly Data Science and Te Hiku Media based in Wellington. Their internship involved work related to Te Hiku’s Kōrero Māori project, developing language tools that will enable speech recognition and natural language processing of te reo Māori. This requires the collection of more than 100,000 sentences and 250 hours of Māori language corpus. Once complete, it aims to provide these language tools to the Māori ICT industry.
Interns share their thoughts and details of their work
One of the student interns on this project was William Asiata, a BSc Mathematics graduate from the University of Canterbury and a current Master of Information Technology student at the University of Auckland.
“As a result of the internship I was able to generate a corpus of all te reo Māori spoken in Parliament which will be included in the greater corpus used to train the digital natural language processor language model,” said William. “As an interesting by-product we also produced some statistics about the historical usage of te reo in Parliament. I had the opportunity to learn and practice the Python and R programming languages and exercise data processing skills.
“I believe that it was a great opportunity for an inexperienced student to sharpen one’s skill set, to clarify future career goals, and to gain direct insight into the ICT and data science industries through practical work experience on meaningful, high-impact projects and the chance to learn directly from working professionals,” he added.
Check out our latest guest blog! This one is by maths grad William Asiata about his internship with @dflydsci, @TeHiku and @PunahaMatatini, working on the #KōreroMāori project & analyzing the rapid recent growth in the use of te reo by NZ parliamentarians. https://t.co/oxI0kuoPMp pic.twitter.com/POhuQ6Q9fQ
— Te Pūnaha Matatini (@PunahaMatatini) March 1, 2018
Another team worked on a project supporting research by Kate Hannah, Te Pūnaha Matatini’s Executive Manager, into the historical representation of women in science.
Emma Vitz, a statistics and psychology graduate from Victoria University of Wellington assigned to this project, researched an algorithm that classifies people by gender according to their first name, and blogged about the ethical pitfalls of such an approach. Emma also began research into networks underlying science collaboration in New Zealand. “I particularly enjoyed using both R and Python in the internship, and collaborating with researchers and other interns from Te Pūnaha Matatini,” said Emma.
Comp programs that learn from past experience/data are all in vogue. However, as data science consultant @EmmaVitz explains, such machine learning can reinforce racism when crunching population-based numbers. Check out her timely & thought-provoking piece: https://t.co/IKYI6juu7X pic.twitter.com/c6kEe8wVwI
— Te Pūnaha Matatini (@PunahaMatatini) February 1, 2018
Also on the team was Beth Rust, a BA (Hons) history graduate from Victoria University of Wellington, who conducted a literature review of the background and achievements of women in science.
“Women are everywhere in science,” said Beth. I noticed a few trends: a lot of early women scientists tended to be in botany – then later women dominated home science – now they are everywhere. I’ve also learnt a lot these past ten weeks, not just in terms of the history of science but also in a more general sense,” she added. “I’m very grateful for the experience and everything it’s taught me.”
It was a privilege hosting history grad Beth Rust over the summer. Check out her blog – an in-depth investigation into the extensive contributions of Māori & Pacific women in science over the years & the importance of their representation within the field. https://t.co/op9fZSXnSh pic.twitter.com/9rv31a86iz
— Te Pūnaha Matatini (@PunahaMatatini) February 11, 2018
Te Pūnaha Matatini Whanau member Stephen Merry, who is pursuing a PhD in mathematics at the University of Canterbury, also took part in the internship programme working with the Social Investment Agency in Wellington.
“I worked on two projects,” said Stephen. “The first investigated the scope of data held inside and outside of the Integrated Data Infrastructure, and the second examined how people’s use of health services is affected by the services’ accessibility. This internship gave me the opportunity to work in a different environment, and I felt a genuine sense of purpose completing the projects,” he added. “My colleagues in the Social Investment Agency were enormously helpful and understanding throughout, and the experience overall is something I would recommend to anyone interested.”
Following the programme, interns were invited to blog about their work for the Te Pūnaha Matatini website and these articles resulted in very positive feedback on Twitter – with even some New Zealand parliamentarians chiming in!
We love hearing about this stuff! 🤓One of the lesser-known perks of hosting a large publicly-available text corpus is seeing the cool projects that come out of it. (For those playing along at home, you can find #Hansard reports on our website: https://t.co/h8GdImYvud) #nzpol https://t.co/s2RaMq0hrN
— NZ Parliament (@NZParliament) March 8, 2018
A Te Pūnaha Matatini research project that aims to improve the way in which scientists connect and work with Māori has been awarded $100,000 in funding by New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE).
The project, part of MBIE’s Te Pūnaha Hihiko: Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund, will be led by Dr Tara McAllister (pictured above), an environmental scientist with the University of Auckland, in collaboration with ecologist Dr Cate Macinnis-Ng and earth systems scientist Dr Daniel Hikuroa, Principal Investigators with Te Pūnaha Matatini at the University of Auckland. Importantly, the project team will partner with Mahaanui Kurataiao Limited, an environmental and resource management advisory firm based in Canterbury.
While there are some excellent examples of scientists engaging well with Māori communities, there are also instances when connecting has been a struggle.
“We want to look at how we make those interactions more successful, more productive, and more workable for everybody involved,” Dr Macinnis-Ng says.
“So we are going to co-develop a project with an Iwi group, where we’ll look at what their science needs are, and work out who in our field can deliver those things. By co-developing the project, it’s all about what the needs are of that group, rather than imposing what scientists want to do.”
The project will be conducted in a reflective way so the project team can understand what works best for the different groups involved. It will also develop te reo science materials appropriate for school curricula.
“We’ll be developing some teaching materials for kura kaupapa to make science more accessible to everyone,” says Dr Macinnis-Ng.
The project will be very important to Te Pūnaha Matatini’s wider research programme, says Shaun Hendy, the Centre’s Director and Professor of Physics at the University of Auckland.
“Building close engagement with Māori communities and learning about the mātauranga of complex systems is a wonderful opportunity for us,” he says.
“Not only will this project be essential to us in meeting our research goals, it will also provide social, economic, and environmental benefits to Aotearoa New Zealand.”