New name for the Centre for Science in Society

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s Centre for Science in Society is officially being renamed to Pūtaiao ki te Pāpori—School of Science in Society.

Professor Rewi Newnham
Head of School Professor Rewi Newnham

It may seem like a small move to some—but for new Head of School Professor Rewi Newnham, it’s a timely acknowledgement of the importance of the School.

“The name change isn’t indicative of a different purpose, but recognition of the existing purpose—which is to develop and deliver high quality research and research-led teaching in our science in society and science communication programmes.”

Professor Newnham was appointed to the role of Head of School in late February, and says the last two months have been inspiring.

“I was already familiar with the University and wider Faculty of Science, but getting to know and establishing working relationships with my new colleagues has been incredible.

“There’s a diverse and cohesive academy that has been developed here, and I’m excited to build upon their excellent momentum to date.”

The School’s work focuses on the relationship between science, scientists, society, the history of science, and the communication of scientific ideas and issues to different audiences and through a range of media.

Professor Newnham himself has a long history in this area, with over 30 years of academic experience at universities within both Aotearoa New Zealand and the United Kingdom. His research and teaching interests are wide ranging and span several disciplines across environmental change.

Dean of Science, Professor Louise Dixon, says she is pleased to have appointed someone of such high calibre to the role.

“Rewi is committed to upholding the mana of Mātauranga Māori within the Centre, and is committed to enabling professional development of new and emerging teachers and researchers. For these reasons, and many others, I have every confidence that Rewi will work well with Centre staff to achieve great things, and tackle the difficult societal questions the School is working to answer.”

Professor Newnham says effectively being able to communicate research within and to society is critical—now more than ever.

“The School is working at the cutting edge of some key issues facing society today.

“How do we harness science for the social good? How do we recognise and deal with misinformation? How do we communicate about climate change in a way that gives audiences hope for the future? How do we embrace and work with alternative knowledge systems to bring empowerment to Te Ao Māori at the same time as enhancing the wellbeing of us all?”

Professor Newnham says the School faces a fast-changing internal and external environment, but he is confident his team can meet any challenges.

“In the short term, we want to capitalise on the School’s new status and publicity to further promote our existing and new programmes to prospective students; and to secure the services of current temporary staff who are essential to the future vitality of the School.

“In the longer term, we want to extend our reach and influence by working even more collaboratively across the University, with external stakeholders, and with employers.”