IRANZ & STEMM - Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, & Mātauranga

uncurling punga fronds

Photo: Louise Thomas.

"Recent discussions about science and mātauranga Māori have highlighted the need for IRANZ members to note our collective support for not only our Māori colleagues but also mātauranga Māori.

"As a collective, we aim to develop sustainable solutions to the challenges we all face, with an open-minded, inclusive, and bold approach that incorporates values beyond traditional science. In many research facilities, including our members, indigenous and non-indigenous researchers are working in partnership to solve some of these significant challenges. We are committed to upholding the value of mātauranga Māori, and the mana of our Māori colleagues and their marae communities." - Dr John McDermott, IRANZ Chair

Mātauranga Māori concepts are a new and challenging space for many of us in science, but as scientists we support the knowledge gains that mātauranga Māori presents. Recent discussions surrounding science and mātauranga Māori highlighted the opportunity for IRANZ members to lead by example and undertake our research in a more holistic manner. IRANZ is excited to embrace our three newest member organisations, who are Māori-led Independent Research Organisations: Mātai Medical Research Institute, Takarangi Research Group, and Te Tira Whakamātaki. We look to them to help us find sustainable solutions to the challenges IRANZ faces to support mātauranga Māori and partnerships with Māori. We strive to provide the right culture in our organisations to incorporate mātauranga Māori into our research programmes and to welcome Māori into our research teams.

Research excellence is a measure that is vital to successful research. Research Excellence is a hurdle that competitive research proposals to the Endeavour, Marsden, and other research investment funds must face. However, currently Excellence is assessed in the traditional way by peer review. MBIE Science Advisors have recently issued a discussion paper on Excellence in Research. They emphasise that definitions of research excellence need to be broad, ensuring that all forms of research are treated fairly, and that this requirement is particularly important for research involving and embedding in Te Ao Māori - given the need to significantly improve the record of the RSI sector in meeting the requirements and aspirations of Māori.

MBIE recommends that Māori should continue to develop their own definitions and measures for research excellence to guide future assessments of excellence by research funders. It is IRANZ’s intention to take the lead and work with our Māori members and researchers make sure that outdated research excellence measures are not a barrier to the research programmes that Aotearoa New Zealand needs to go forward.

Equity, diversity, and inclusivity (EDI) are a current focus for IRANZ members. We want to ensure that we identify and adopt best practice to provide the types of organisations that Māori researchers are keen and proud to work in. We seek to ensure Māori values and science are part of our work programmes, and we seek to develop further pathways for Māori students to engage in STEMM* (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics and Mātauranga) careers in independent research organisations and with our stake holders. IRANZ and our members are planning to partner with MBIE to lead the way - ārahi i te ara - with best practice policies and protocols for EDI in our members, and to further work with the Pūhoro Charitable Trust to develop pathways to help young Māori take up STEMM careers in independent research organisations, so we can move Aotearoa New Zealand forward in today’s world.

IRANZ strongly encourages the Government to ensure that appropriate mechanisms and financial resourcing are in place to support Māori as we move to build capacity to incorporate mātauranga Māori within the independent research space. We acknowledge that the small number of Māori who are currently enabled to contribute face almost overwhelming demands on their time – both as scientists and cultural advisers - and that at times these demands have included little consultation at the correct end of projects, or even consultation with the researcher – who happens to be also Māori – that they want to be consulted with in a cultural capacity rather than just for their scientific expertise. We want to see this changed and to see our valued Māori colleagues empowered to develop both professionally and, if they choose, as ambassadors of the mātauranga Māori world view.

* STEMM - Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, & Mātauranga - the acronym used in the title of this article is inspired by the Pūhoro Charitable Trust.

Date posted: 9 September 2021

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