News & Other Events

Upcoming talk

Storying sea rise: Can storytelling reduce the distance people feel to sea level rise and inspire action?

Join us for PhD student Zoë Heine’s confirmation seminar, on sea level rise and science communication. Full details in the poster below.

Upcoming talk: A Sociotechnical analysis of the dream of Mars colonisation, by Jingwei Qiu

Join us for Jinwei Qiu’s PhD confirmation seminar, and for talks by some CSIS staff and students afterwards. Details below.

Full Masters scholarship to study socio-ecological values related to Kauri dieback and Myrtle Rust

Image courtesy of Onco P53

A scholarship (fees + stipend) is available for a student to undertake a Master of Science (Science in Society) in the Centre for Science in Society at Te Herenga Waka (Victoria University of Wellington). The student will work as part of the project ‘Ngā Rākau Taketake, Saving our Iconic Trees’, which sits within New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge

The exact direction of the project will be determined in dialogue with the scholarship recipient. However, the student is broadly expected to explore the work of researchers, practitioners and other stakeholders active in kauri dieback and myrtle rust mitigation. We are particularly interested in using qualitative methods (potentially including but not limited to interviewing, participant observation, and participatory mapping) to investigate the representational practices employed in understanding kauri dieback and myrtle rust, and how these practices reflect and shape knowledge production about these diseases. The student will be based in the Centre for Science in Society, while also participating in the wider Ngā Rākau Taketake team, joining a community of researchers from throughout Aotearoa.

This project will be supervised by Drs Courtney Addison and Pauline Harris (CSIS), and Andrea Grant (Scion). We will be accepting expressions of interest on a rolling basis, with an intended November enrolment.

The scholarship covers full fees plus a stipend of approximately $15,000. If you are interested, please get in touch with Courtney at    

Zoom drop-in session/meet and greet for Science in Society Masters

We will be holding a drop in Zoom session next Tuesday 13 October at 1pm, where students who are curious about Science in Society can hear about the programme and meet our teaching staff. Come along if you’d like to:

  • Learn how the Master of Science in Society or Master of Science (Science in Society) works;
  • Find out about what postgraduate study entails more generally;
  • Meet lecturers (and potential supervisors) from the program: Tim Corballis, Courtney Addison, and Nayantara Sheoran Appleton;
  • Chat about how your own interests align with our Masters degree options;
  • Talk about electives from other disciplines that you might combine with your Master of Science in Society.

Please register your interest by e-mailing to receive the Zoom log in details.

Past events

Dr Nayantara Sheoran Appleton is speaking on ‘Future-Making: COVID-19, Climate Change, and the Overcoming the Spectre of Overpopulation’

This Friday Dr Nayantara Sheoran Appleton is presenting as part of the South Asian Studies Association of Australia’s Digital Seminar Series. Her talk is titled ‘Future-Making: COVID-19, Climate Change, and the Overcoming the Spectre of Overpopulation’. Her abstract reads:

In collectively dealing with COVID -19 and its concomitant climate change, we are seeing increasing conversations in non-scientific spaces about human consumption patterns, extractive economic structures, illnesses, and the environment. As we live through this new challenge to human life (and lifestyles), we as scholars of South-Asia have a twofold challenge. The first is to identify the places and structures that may have led us to this point while paying particular attention to Asia (and its histories). Second, is to work towards a future that is not replicating these problems and looking for solutions to enable a sustainable life for all. This challenge requires us to do work – what I call ‘future-making’ work. It requires us to push back against simplistic narratives around over-population and policy that allows for a eugenics creep. In the recent past, often the spectre of population-control has reared its head, in all its various avatars from ‘family planning,’ ‘empowering women,’ to ‘contraceptive rights.’ Today, in light of COVID-19, conversations on over-population emerge as rhetoric around population-density, nation of 1.3 billion, largest lockdown in the world, migrant crisis etc. This discourse first casts population as the problem causing virus spread, illnesses, environmental degradation, food shortages, and overall scarcity; and in the second instance as the site for ‘management’ to ensure better future(s). For this presentation, drawing on scholarship on feminist medical anthropology and Science and Technology Studies (STS), with a focus on India, I outline the problematics of populationism and the dangers of locating population as the site for managing the environmental crisis or COVID-19. Aiming for a nuanced reading of the contemporary, this presentation makes suggestions for future-making work that reconfigures if, how, and when we can talk about population in light of climate change and COVID-19 in South Asia. 

The talk is 9am NZST, or 12pm AEST. Click through the link above to register to attend via Zoom.

Join us for a screening of Picture a Scientist!

Summer studentships in Science in Society

We are delighted to offer two summer scholarships for the coming summer period in the Centre for Science in Society. Both scholarships will be supervised by Associate Professor Rebecca Priestley. The first is ‘Tearing down the statues? Which figures from history are celebrated’, and will explore who the buildings of Te Herenga Waka (Victoria University of Wellington) are named after. The second will evaluate the impact of the Science Journalism Fund on journalists, funders, and the science media landscape in Aotearoa. You can learn more about the summer scholars scheme here, and contact Rebecca if you are interested in applying or learning more.

Science in Society webinars

Our popular Science in Society seminar series has moved online, and will be kicking off on Monday 4 May with a talk by Dr Helen Petousis-Harris about how Covid-19 is unfolding.

The following week, we will welcome Dr Fabien Medvecky, who will present a Harawayian discussion on the relationship between Covid-19 and digital technologies. More details in the poster below.

These talks are open to all, and while we will miss seeing many of you in person, we’re thrilled to be able to include our more distant friends and colleagues!

CSIS graduate Lorraine Taylor profiled in VUW news

Lorraine Taylor, BSc

Check out this profile of our graduate, Lorraine Taylor, whose Bachelor of Science included a major in Psychology and a minor in Science in Society. Lorraine talks about how SCIS211, Contemporary Issues in Science, Environment and Technology became her favourite paper.

She said, “The course was taught by a range of experts and with different viewpoints, and no particular issue was presented as the only truth. Each issue was dealt with as varied as it is in the real world, and there was a real focus on critical thinking.”

Master of Science in Society profiled in Victorious

The Master of Science in Society has been profiled in the Spring 2019 issue of Victorious magazine. Victorious keeps friends and alumni of VUW abreast of new research and course offerings across the University.

The article features Associate Professor Rebecca Priestley reflecting on how the Masters of Science in Society came about, and what it offers the range of students who enrol each year.

“Most people who do a science degree don’t go on to be research scientists, but many still work in the science sector. The Master’s can give them a broader context for their degree and make them more aware of the relationship between science and wider society.”

As the article states, the Master of Science in Society gives students the confidence and expertise to move across essential disciplinary positions in order to gain greater insight into the key scientific challenges of our time. Our Masters students work across the natural and social sciences, history and the humanities, and learn to communicate complex information in diverse and engaging ways.

Enrolments for the Master of Science in Society are open now.

Nayantara Sheoran Appleton gives NZ Association of Scientists keynote

This week Nayantara Sheoran Appleton gave the keynote lecture at the New Zealand Association of Scientists Annual meeting. The conference theme was ‘Changing the Culture of Science’. Based on her widely shared blog post, Do not ‘decolonize’… if you are not decolonizing, her keynote addressed what decolonization in science might look like. These are ideas that Nayantara continues to develop in her current research on reproductive health and justice in Aotearoa and India.

CSIS Academic Showcase

On Thursday 24 October, we will be showcasing the research underway in the Centre for Science in Society. Each of the CSIS faculty will give a short presentation of their research projects and foci, and will be available to chat about these at a reception afterwards.

Our research spans the anthropology of medical and environmental science, science and gender, the history of Antarctic and New Zealand science and of ecological change, the aesthetics (art and narrative) of science, mātauranga Māori including maramataka, science communication and science writing. Regionally, we work across China, India, Antarctica, the United Kingdom and, of course, Aotearoa and the Pacific.

As we are a relatively new group and since our research is so interdisciplinary, we hope that this event will provide an opportunity to meet colleagues with common interests from across the University. If you are interested in learning about what we do, developing new collaborations or potential co-supervisions, we would love to meet you. Students who may be interested in pursuing graduate studies with us are also very welcome. This is a great, low-key way to meet potential supervisors and sound out project ideas that interest you.

Come along, hear about what we do and please join us for a drink afterwards!

Cafe Scientifique, October 7

The last Cafe Scientifique for 2019 was held this Monday, October 9. The Centre for Science in Society runs the Wellington Cafe Scientifique, proudly supported by the Wellington Branch of the Royal Society Te Apārangi. Check out our facebook page or our local cafe page for more information.

Cafe Scientifique Monday September 9.

See the eventfinda page.

Lunchtime Talk at Adam Art Gallery: Rebecca Priestley, ‘Illustrating precarity’

Friday September 6, 12pm.

From Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi:

“Our second lunchtime talk in association with our current exhibitions is by science writer Rebecca Priestley. Priestly brings her knowledge of the history of Antarctica to bear on Joyce Campbell’s 2006 series Last Light. Like Campbell, Priestly has spent time in time in Antarctica and shares her interest in the early romantic visions projected onto the continent.

As a creative non-fiction writer working in the space between art and science, Priestley believes art can play a role in conveying information about the ecological threats posed by climate change to lay people. She explores how creative writing and image making might circumvent the specialist language found in academic journals to connect with the reality that we all are implicated in deciding the fate of the planet.

Rebecca Priestley is Associate Professor at Victoria University of Wellington’s Centre for Science in Society, where she teaches courses on the social, political, and historic context of current Antarctic research. With over twenty years of science communications experience, Priestley received the Prime Minister’s Science Communicator’s prize in 2016. Her most recent publication, Fifteen Million Years in Antarctica (VUP, 2019) is a personal response to her three visits to the continent. Prior to that Priestley authored Mad on Radium (AUP, 2012) and edited collections of New Zealand and Antarctic science writing, including Dispatches from Continent Seven: An Anthology of Antarctic Science (Awa Press, 2016).”

From Zealandia:

‘What Matariki and Maramataka can tell us about Climate Change’ with Pauline Harris

Matariki is a time rich with custom and tradition but also has much to tell us about our changing world today. Māori understand that changes to the environment and ecology at this time may be due to climate change. Join astrophysicist Dr Pauline Harris, of Victoria University of Wellington, as she unpacks Matariki and maramataka – the Māori traditional calendar.

What can Māori knowledge and science add to our understanding of how to predict and mitigate climate change?

Part of ZEALANDIA’s 2019 Matariki programme on Monday 1st July at 6.30pm.

Click here to register.

Also see our blog post about Pauline’s upcoming talks.

From City Gallery Wellington:

Rebecca Priestley is part of a panel on ‘Contemporary Feminism: Art and/or Science’

City Gallery and RNZ are back with a third series of lively panel discussions exploring Contemporary Feminism, inspired by our current exhibitions. Presented in partnership with RNZ and recorded for broadcast.

Science and art often seem to develop in separate silos, but many thinkers and creators are inspired by both, actively ensuring they converge in their professional practice. Do the similarities between how artists and scientists work outweigh their stereotypical differences? Do left-brain/right-brain theories hold any current relevance? Are science and art more compatible and interlocked than we realise—should STEM be STEAM?

In this panel, chaired by Kim Hill, we hear from women who have debunked the myth that you have to choose between being scientifically or creatively minded—while also challenging occupational pigeonholes by establishing their place in historically male-dominated fields.

Panelists include Siouxsie Wiles, Rebecca Priestley (from the Centre for Science in Society) and Huhana Smith.

In association with Semiconductor: The Technological Sublime.

Doors open 5.30pm. Cash bar open until 6pm and again after the panel discussion to continue the conversation.

Book now

The Contemporary Feminism: Sons of Feminism panel takes place on Tuesday 2 July, 6pm.

The first Cafe Scientifique for 2019 was in early May, see our blog post.