By Matt Cooney,
Successful scientists are a fortunate bunch, says Paul Callaghan: “You get to work with talented people, you have funding and you’re part of a global community.” The influential Kiwi physicist has enjoyed a hugely productive career, but he’s starting to question his impact on the country. “It’s too easy to say, ‘Keep the funds coming so I can churn out more papers, have more students and go to more conferences. You get to my age and think, ‘What the hell have I been doing all these years?’”
Callaghan needn’t fret about his record—he’s made a valuable and lasting contribution to New Zealand science and has plenty more to contribute yet. But he’s right to examine the role of science in New Zealand. As Jehan Casinader reports in this issue, science is increasingly sidelined and seen as a boffin’s specialty.
There’s the problem in a nutshell. We know why science is important. What isn’t well-known is why science is interesting, exciting and even inspirational. Lloyd Davis at Otago University puts it beautifully: “Science hasn’t got the right street cred … scientists lock themselves off in a land of gobbledegook, technical language and jargon. And, too often, they remind us that they can never be certain about anything.” Davis, Callaghan and the other innovative scientists we’ve profiled in these pages are the solution to science’s problem. You’ll find Jehan’s story on page 94.
Of course, scientists are hardly alone in pondering their usefulness. We’ve taken a hard look at our own efforts, and decided more practical articles will help many of our readers. This issue includes the first of our Idealog Guides, focused on our favourite subject: turning ideas into money. The Idealog Guide to Commercialising Ideas starts on page 33; writer Andy Kenworthy has stuffed its 40 pages with advice and experience gleaned from some of the country’s foremost experts on ideas, IP protection, starting new businesses, researching, prototyping, branding and funding. This is just part one; tune in to our next issue where part two will help take your product to market, improve it, repackage it, resell it and even move on to the next big thing. We hope it kick-starts some fabulous new Kiwi businesses.