New Zealand.


When mathematician Alys Clark left the United Kingdom to do her master’s degree in Australia, she only intended to be gone for a year. She ended up following her course with a PhD, before moving “across the ditch” to take up a job in New Zealand. Seven years after leaving home, she’s still there, living with her New Zealand husband and their young son amid ferns and kauri trees, just a short drive from the black sands of the country’s west-coast beaches. “It’s pretty amazing, in that you can drive for half an hour and you are on the beach and not far away are the mountains,” says Clark, who uses mathematics and physics to create virtual organs and identify early pathological changes at the University of Auckland. In 2014, Clark was awarded a five-year Rutherford Discovery Fellowship, which she is now using to mathematically model the physical processes involved in early pregnancy. Beyond the natural beauty on her doorstep, Clark feels at home in what she describes as a collegial, informal and inclusive research culture. “The senior academics are very approachable and supportive of researchers going off and setting up their own projects. The whole way of life is a little more relaxed than back home in the UK.” New Zealand has a population of less than 5 million and spends just 1.2% of its gross domestic product on research and development — half the international average, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. As a result, the science community is small and the scope for career progression is limited, particularly in academia. “It’s not always an easy environment to stay in if you want a long-term career,” says Clark. But for others, the small pool has advantages. Having previously worked in his native Germany, as well as Switzerland and the United Kingdom, meteorologist Olaf Morgenstern moved to New Zealand to continue his climate-modelling research in one of the field’s most challenging environments. Before the move, a colleague told him that whereas in larger communities he may be a small fish in a big pond, in New Zealand, “the pond is all yours”. Indeed, since arriving to take a position at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in 2008, Morgenstern has become something of a big fish: last year he took on a job in Wellington, leading the Earth system modelling and prediction programme for the Deep South National Science Challenge, the country’s Antarctic climate-science endeavour. A growing interest in climate science and modelling in New Zealand in recent years fits well with the country’s conventional strengths in Earth and environmental sciences. In the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand leads the field, according to the Nature Index, which assesses research performance on the basis of contributions to high-quality publications. Agricultural research is a particular strength, driven by both government-owned research institutes and large corporations, such as the multinational dairy cooperative Fonterra. Although New Zealand’s dramatic landscape is central to its appeal to many international researchers, for others, such as Morgenstern, the country’s beauty is just an attractive backdrop to the scientific challenges and opportunities that it provides. ■ Jason Johnston works on automated monitoring of stored fresh produce at Plant and Food Research. BRUCE CAMPBELL Chief operating officer at Plant and Food Research, headquartered in Auckland

DOI: 10.1038/536S30a

Cite this paper

@article{McGilvray2016NewZ, title={New Zealand.}, author={Annabel McGilvray}, journal={Nature}, year={2016}, volume={536 7617}, pages={S30-1} }