Raising the profile of diversity & inclusion in NZ research and science communities

On 02 October, the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) announced $6 million of new funding to be allocated to programmes that encourage diversity in science over the next four years. The announcement said MBIE wants to remove the barriers that are slowing down progress in this space and ensure that equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives are prioritised.

“This extra support will help more research and science institutions to take ownership and break down the structural and societal barriers that exist for underrepresented groups in the science system, including Māori and Pasifika groups and women,” said Honourable Megan Woods.

As a stronger focus is brought to recognising and encouraging diversity and inclusion in New Zealand's science and research sectors, the NeSI team have been involved in a number of collaborations and activities to initiate conversations, engage in collaborations, and create opportunities for bringing these topics to the forefront. 

Below are a few of the team's recent activities in this area:

  • NeSI hosted its largest ever Science Coding Conference this year, with many new faces and a growing diversity of representation from the New Zealand Research Software Engineers (RSE) and science communities. NeSI's Research Communities Advisor Nooriyah Lohani has been leading the community-building charge in this area. We were also pleased to host three excellent keynotes, sharing diverse perspectives on how software and code development is supporting research:
    • University of Canterbury Associate Professor Tammy Steeves (who spoke jointly with computational biologist Roger Moraga), who shared a perspective on the computational needs in the conservation genetics domain and how they relate to those of computational biologists.
    • Dr Céline Cattoën-Gilbert from NIWA who spoke about how her team is using Artificial Intelligance (AI) and high performance computing (HPC) for flood forecasting
    • Dr. Anushia Inthiran from the University of Canterbury who talked about her research in human - computer interaction in medical search patterns
  • NeSI Communications Manager Jana Makar is among the inaugural members of a new Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, established by Australasian eResearch Organisations (AeRO) to improve the diversity, inclusion, balance, and sense of belonging in the eResearch sector. The Working Group meets regularly to discuss diversity and inclusion issues, to identify issues and future activities, and to contribute to AeRO’s Diversity and Inclusion Resources. Anyone is invited to join the discussions via AeRO's eResearch Chat and Collaboration platform.
  • As part of the recent eResearch Australasia 2019 conference in Brisbane, themed "eResearch Diversity, two NeSI team members ⁠— Jana Makar, NeSI Communications Manager, and Megan Guidry, NeSI Training Coordinator ⁠— co-hosted a Birds-of-a-Feather session with Kerri Wait, an HPC Consultant at Monash University, to explore interest in establishing an Australasian Chapter of Women in High Performance Computing (WHPC). WHPC was created as an international organisation with the vision to educate and collaborate with the global HPC community and encourage participation by providing knowledge, fellowship, and support to women and the organizations that employ them. Participants in the eResearch Australasia BoF showed interest in pursuing the effort to establish a WHPC Chapter, and to better align and coordinate any existing community-building, networking, and skill-building activities for women in New Zealand and Australia's HPC and eResearch sectors. NeSI is keen to continue these conversations at eResearch NZ 2020 next February in Dunedin, and will look to host another BoF session as a followup. If you are keen to stay informed of these WHPC Chapter activities, let us know
  • As part of the 2019 Australasian Leadership Computing Symposium (ALCS) happening in Canberra on 6-8 November, NeSI team members assisted with the coordination of an all-female pleanary session, hosting two NeSI users ⁠— Dr. Ann McCartney (Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research / Genomics Aotearoa) and Dr. Krista Steenbergen (Victoria University of Wellington)Themed "All About the Data", the discussion will focus on topics such as big data, FAIR principles, virtual data, and recovery / management of data. ALCS is gathering communities from across Australasia to share knowledge and practice within high performance computing (HPC) and high performance data (HPD), and across research areas such as astronomy, genomics, geosciences, climate and weather, and materials science. If you're in Canberra or able to make it there in time for the event, there is still time to register for the conference.
  • eResearch NZ 2020's Call for Submissions is currently open (deadline is 22 November!) and NeSI, alongside event co-hosts Genomics Aotearoa and REANNZ, is keen to carry on conversations from eResearch NZ 2019 regarding Indigenous data sovereignty (IDSov). Last year, Tahu Kukutai was scheduled to speak on this as a keynote, however due to a last-minute conflict she asked Māui Hudson, Associate Professor / Manukura at Waikato University to speak in her place. His talk shared an overview of developments in IDSov with a specific focus on the opportunities and challenges in Aotearoa NZ. If you are interested in contributing to the eResearch NZ 2020 programme on this topic, please submit an abstract.

If you have ideas of other ways NeSI can support initiatives and discussions around diversity and inclusion within New Zealand's research and science sectors ⁠— particularly related to building digital skills or strengthening collaborations and computational approaches within research communities ⁠— please contact us to explore options for making it happen.