23 Dec 2010

Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor

From Our Changing World, 9:06 pm on 23 December 2010

By Alison Ballance

Sir Peter Gluckman is New Zealand's inaugural Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister. Sir Peter's research area is in developmental endocrinology and neuroscience, and before taking on the Chief Science Advisory role he was Director of the Liggins Institute, and the National Research Centre for Growth and Development. He has also held the position of Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland.

His recent visit to Antarctica through Antarctica New Zealand's Distinguished Visitor programme coincided with Alison Ballance's visit, and while they were down on the ice she took the opportunity to talk with him about his early research career. Because of Sir Peter's connections with Sir Edmund Hillary they spoke in the TAE/IGY hut, which was part of the original base for the 1957-58 British Trans Antarctic Expedition Ross Island team, led by Sir Ed. The extended web version of the conversation includes Sir Peter's views on basic and applied research, and how 'curiosity must be a key starting point for innovation'.

His early Himalayan research on iodine deficiency remains relevant today, as a reduction in the use of iodised table salt has seen a recent rise in iodine deficiency in New Zealand. Alison notes there was a curious irony in talking to a scientist whose research has focused on human foetal development on a continent with just one recorded human birth.

Sir Peter makes reference to his colleague and collaborator the late Sir Graham (Mont) Liggins - listen here to an interview with Mont Liggin which was replayed on Our Changing World following his death in August.