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Science Engagement

Source: Otago Museum.

Participatory Science Platform – Otago Pilot, Otago Museum, 21 July 2015

Today, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, ONZ, KNZM FRSNZ FMedSci FRS launched the Otago Participatory Science Platform. The Participatory Science Platform initiative was identified in the Science in Society strategic plan, A Nation of Curious Minds, released in July 2014 and developed by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Ministry of Education with close involvement from the office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor.

“All New Zealanders should feel encouraged and equipped to deal with the challenges and opportunities presented by science and technology, and be capable of participating in debates involving science. We also need an environment that helps New Zealanders to use our natural curiosity to interrogate, decide on and make the most of new developments and technologies”, says Sir Peter.

“Participatory science is a method of undertaking scientific research where volunteers can be meaningfully involved in locally-relevant scientific research projects. By working in collaboration with science professionals, participatory science delivers both pedagogical and scientific value. Participatory science goes beyond the idea of scientists crowd-sourcing their data, and builds a true partnership between scientists and the broader community.”

Otago has been selected as one of three regions to pilot a programme where contestable funds, support and scientific expertise will be made available to community groups, schools, kura, local rūnaka, businesses and other organisations who may have a research idea that they need help bringing to life. The other two regions piloting the Participatory Science Platform are Taranaki and South Auckland.

The Otago initiative is a collaboration between the Otago Museum, the University of Otago, the Otago Polytechnic, Ngāi Tahu and the NZ International Science Festival. The collaboration, known as Otago Science Into Action, will be led by the Otago Museum.

Otago Museum Director Dr Ian Griffin is excited about the unique way the Otago region is approaching the project.

“It’s exciting to be able to help connect the world-class research happening in our region with our communities. This partnership allows us to make the most of our collective networks, community contacts and expertise. Each party brings something different to the table, and from the beginning it made sense to look at how we can work together on this.”

Dr Griffin encourages the people of Otago to think about how they could take their research idea and bring it to life. “We want people and groups to share their ideas with us so we can help make connections with scientists working in the field of interest. There are so many questions that people may have about issues or opportunities in their community or school, and we now have, thanks to the support of MBIE, a real opportunity for people to give life to those research ideas. It doesn’t matter how big or small those questions are, we’re keen to hear about them. We see this pilot as a chance to deliver some inspiring science and real learning to all involved”

The Otago Science Into Action team will be going out to communities, schools and interest groups in the region to discuss their questions and offer support and advice on how to start answering their questions through research and science. People who are interested in learning more can go to to find out more and register their interest.

Who can apply for funding?

Either a community group or their science partners can apply for funding.

Community groups include organisations and special interest groups such as: students, schools, kura, local rūnaka, businesses and environmental or cultural-based organisations.

Groups can be a geographical community or a community of interest spanning several locations, but they must be substantively Otago-based.

What can research funding be used for?

Research project funding can be used by science professionals and community groups/schools/businesses/Māori collectives and organisations to plan together and progress research projects that have scientific value, pedagogical rigour and resonate with the community.

Funding could be used to determine the research question(s), data collection methods, engagement plan, data analysis plan and knowledge translation strategy for the project, and could cover elements such as travel, meetings and liaison costs. Eligible costs could also include research tools or consumables related to progressing a project that would not otherwise be accessible to community partners.

Funding may be used to enhance an existing or ongoing research project, which has local relevance and support, with a community collaboration element. In this case, community partners must be fully integrated into the research project, including becoming engaged in guiding the research questions, collecting the data and disseminating the results.