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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 29 July 2008

Dr Greg Bodeker, Research Scientist at NIWA, Lauder, answers the question: “What key ideas would you want school students to understand about your research?”


I think the first key idea is that the work that we do – especially here at Lauder and in science in general – does have a very immediate impact and a very immediate benefit for humanity. So much of our standard of living today has been built on a huge history of scientific research. What I would also like 13 or 14 years olds to understand is a little bit about what scientists do every day, and it’s not that we sort of beaver away sitting in an office in complete isolation. I would say about 60 or 70 percent of my time personally is spent communicating my research to colleagues overseas, co-ordinating work and communicating the results of that research to a much broader audience. So yes, we do spend a lot time working in front of computers, doing the hard science, but there is such a huge aspect – if we just did that it would hardly be at all beneficial – there is a huge aspect on getting that research out to the outside world, communicating it to policy-makers – so, speaking to government officials – and really providing a sound scientific basis for decision-makers, whether they be in government or local regional councils. If children are considering a career in science, they should really pay attention to that communicating aspect. It is all well and good if you are good at maths, physics or chemistry, but make sure that you are also good at writing, and good at communicating what you are doing to other people. You can sit in isolation and sort of beaver away there but you will never be a really good scientist. You will be useful, and there is a place for people like that, but if you really want to have a rewarding career in science, make sure that you can talk about your work and talk about it so that people can understand what you are doing.