23 Feb 2015

New chief science advisor appointed

12:15 pm on 23 February 2015

The newly-appointed chief science adviser for the Ministry of Social Development hopes to help make vulnerable people's lives better.

Richie Poulton

Richie Poulton Photo: SUPPLIED

Professor Richie Poulton, who appeared in Thomson Reuters' 2014 list of the world's most influential scientific minds, becomes one of six chief science advisors across government departments.

Having led the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study at the University of Otago for the past 15 years, he is also their Professor of Psychology, the co-director of the National Centre for Lifecourse Research and director of the Graduate Longitudinal Study.

Professor Poulton said he hoped to improve evidence based support for people such as children in care.

"I¹m excited to have the opportunity to facilitate the uptake of research findings so they can help make vulnerable people's lives better.

"I'm a little sick of doing the best quality research my team can do and not seeing it have any impact beyond the academy, given that what we do in terms of understanding how people's lives turn out should be relevant to policy makers.

"Some colleagues of mine were a little sceptical about how this could turn out, but, I've got to say, I'm very optimistic."

He said it was a step to increase science's influence on government and would work to improve the use of evidence in policy development and advice.

Sir Peter Gluckman.

Sir Peter Gluckman says obesity crisis will also affect Chinese and Asian communities Photo: SUPPLIED

Professor Poulton's appointment has also been welcomed by Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor.

He described Professor Poulton as "extraordinarily well qualified."

"The appointment of Chief Science Advisor to the Ministry of Social Development is a major step forward in the Government's and State Services' commitment to enhance the use of evidence in informing policy development and evaluation.

"I am delighted that Professor Poulton has agreed to take on this task."

Professor Poulton's new role will involve the establishment of stronger links between Ministry staff and external academics and other reserach organistaions.

He will also liaise with Professor Sir Peter Gluckman and other departmental Chief Science Advisors.

His engagement with the University of Otago will continue, as the advisor is a part-time one.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Harlene Hayne, said that she believed Professor Poulton to be eminently suited to the new role, as he had "already demonstrated his ability to translate research into policy."

"Professor Poulton will be in the perfect position to advise Government on the best way to capitalise on research from New Zealand and around the world."

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