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Chris Daughney

NIWA & Te Uru Kahika, New Zealand | Chief Science Advisor

Chris joined NIWA as Chief Science Advisor in 2020 and started a half-time secondment as Te Uru Kahika’s Chief Science Advisor in 2022. Originally from Canada, he completed his PhD at McGill University in Montreal and held post-doctoral fellowships at the University of British Columbia and the University of Ottawa before moving to New Zealand in 2002. Prior to joining NIWA, he held roles as Principal Analyst at the Ministry for the Environment, and as Director of the Environment and Materials Division within the Executive Team at GNS Science. Chris has had previous science advisory positions within central government, several regional councils, and the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency.  He has research interests in freshwater science, especially in groundwater quality and microbiology.

Observations of a science advisor: It ain't (just) what you do, it's the way that you do it

Thurs 30 Nov. 8.40am - 9.25am

Globally and in Aotearoa New Zealand, several interrelated and acute environmental crises are occurring at the same time. These include climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and lessening availability of key resources such as water and land. At the same time, our societies are also grappling with a wide range of other social, cultural and economic wellbeing issues.

Science is one form of evidence that helps to identify and implement responses to today’s ‘poly-crisis’. But not only do we need to consider what research should be undertaken, we also need to think about the way it should be conducted and delivered to be most useful.

I certainly can’t claim to know the answers to such difficult questions, but I can try to offer some insights from working simultaneously as a science advisor for two different organisations: the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA); and Te Uru Kahika.  NIWA is a government-owned research organisation charged with delivering benefits for the nation through climate, marine and freshwater science. Te Uru Kahika is the collective of New Zealand’s 16 regional authorities, which have statutory local government responsibilities including integrated management of air, land and water, delivering biosecurity and biodiversity functions, and helping communities be resilient to natural hazards and a changing climate.

Using examples from hydrogeology, this presentation will cover topics such as: how science can help organisations navigate the tensions between conflicting goals; how experimentation and lateral thinking can tease out pathways forward through complexity; how communication and ‘windows of opportunity’ can increase science uptake; how valuable it can be to try to quantify the future benefits of science (and why impact shouldn’t be our only objective); and how personal and professional networks can provide resilience when the unpredictable becomes reality.

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