Tag Archives: Waikato University

Fluoridation: Hangout with the University of Waikato

Google-Hangout-Banner-FluorideThe referenda defeat suffered by the Fluoride Free groups campaigning against community water fluoridation does not mean this issue has now been settled. The activist groups insist they will continue their campaign.

Hamilton is still a prime target for them. Despite the 70% support for fluoridation the referendum was not binding. The  new Hamilton City Council still has to vote on whether to re-introduce fluoridation.  So expect to see more campaigning in Hamilton in the near future.

This means Monday’s “hangout” by Waikato University is still going to draw a lot of attention. It’s a chance for interested people to ask questions directly to a panel of academics with expertise in chemistry, fluoride and the fluoridation issue.

This will be a new experience for me – never participated in an on-line “hangout” – and I am intrigued to see how successful this will be for communicating science to the public.

The video will be available on-line afterwards but for anyone wanting to participate here are the details:


Date: Monday 14 October 2013
Time: 12pm – 1pm NZST


On the University of Waikato Fluoridation in Hamilton Hangout website

The video of the live hangout will be embedded on this page 10 minutes before the event, or you can view and ask questions on the Google+ page –http://bit.ly/1fkzNWe.

The Hangout page advises:

We’ll be asking your questions live to our expert panel. Tell us what you want to know about fluoridation on Facebook or on Twitter using the hashtag #uowhangout or on our Google + Page via the Hangout Q&A app. Once the hangout has started, you will also be able to ask questions via the comments section on the YouTube live hangout.

New to Google Hangouts? Find out more about Google Hangouts here.

What if I can’t make it?

They will be uploading the complete hangout to their YouTube channel to watch after it ends:http://www.youtube.com/UniversityWaikato

The panel:

See also:

Waikato University Fluoridation in Hamilton Hangout Facebook Event page.
Similar articles on fluoridation
Making sense of fluoride Facebook page
Fluoridate our water Facebook page
New Zealanders for fluoridation Facebook page

Is this the way to reorganise science?

Well, this brings back memories – and they aren’t very nice. AgResearch revealed today they are planning a huge reorganisation involving the relocation of almost 300 jobs (see AgResearch Jobs Move in Planned Restructure).


I used to work at the Ruakura Research Centre’s AgResearch campus in Hamilton . In my time there were about 600 jobs based at, or related to, that campus. Under these new plans about 180 “roles” will transfer from the Ruakura campus – leaving it with only about 90 “roles” remaining!

I really feel for AgResearch, and particularly Ruakura, staff at the moment. I have memories of the stress and emotions landed on staff in previous reorganisations – and those reorganisations were smaller than this.

Unfortunately, this sort of upheaval – together with diversion of energy away from research into stress, emotions and cynicism – has been a regular feature of scientific research since the reorganisation of New Zealand science about 20 years ago.

At the beginning, after the initial staff losses there was the intense ideological pressure to think in terms of “profit” instead of science. I remember being jumped on when I tried to point out that no commercially sensible corporation would want to buy our research capability of our science was not good. “Science” became a dirty word.

Then, at regular intervals with each change of CEO, board composition and reallocation of research funding we faced another round of uncertainty, staff losses and staff relocations. These sorts of reorganisations always cause a loss of staff morale, and I was particularly struck, and concerned, by colleagues who actively discouraged their children from following a science career. That seemed to say a lot to me about the negative effects of bureaucratic decisions.

I do not nave enough contact now with my former employers and colleagues to evaluate the current plans. There could well be a lot of sense in concentrating research staff closer to the universities (although why continue to ignore the potential of AgResearch-Waikato University links?)

But why do we always have to be so brutal about such restructuring? I thought science funding was being used to redirect research effort. That itself can be unpleasant enough but surely a milder pressure over a longer period is a more humane way of bringing about restructuring. To me, such a radical restructuring looks more like the result the deliberations of a committee of bureaucrats and not a natural evolution of research priorities and locations.

Bureaucrats often seem to be completely unaware of the value of staff feelings and attitudes towards an organisation. This value is particularly important in science where researchers have less interest in monetary returns and working condition than in the pursuit of knowledge. But make inroads into those working conditions and remuneration, start treating staff like  “full-time equivalents” that can be moved around on a spreadsheet, and suddenly the working environment becomes the major issue. Reorganisation can end up creating a stressed workforce who are resentful towards their managers and resistant to imposed changes and bureaucratic demands. Not good for the organisation.

It also does not correspond to the ideals which attract people into research. Considering the messages these alienated staff will give their children – not good for the future of science in this country.

Potty Peer in Waikato

Well, Christopher Monckton’s “Freedom Tour” totters on. Peter Griffins has given an initial summary in his blog post Monckton’s nightmare week in New Zealand. This has links to some of the press coverage – which, as we might expect with the Potty Peer, is rather humorous.


Percy the Astrologer and Mavis the Comely Wench representing the NZ Flat Earth Society came to support Lord Monckton’s Waikato meetings

The good Lord was in the Waikato yesterday. He “wowed” a largely passive, and I suspect largely apathetic, “crowd’ of a couple of dozen people at his  lunchtime presentation to a student forum at the Waikato University. A high point (for me) was the applause and speeches from members of the NZ Flat Earth Society, who are, apparently, the Lord’s most enthusiastic supporters.

While Monckton was challenged on some of his cherry picking he seemed to want to hide his political message about the international conspiracy which is using climate change and scientists to impose a one world government and preparing concentration camps. I thought this was meant to be the main message of his “Freedom Tour.” But he really overdid his claim that, despite his lack of a scientific education, he was well skilled in science and had the support of most scientists. There was something about classical architecture (his education is in classics) and his skill with differential equations. People from all over the world contract him as a consultant. Bloody hell, wonder he has time for all the travelling and talking tours.

He assured us that he gets on well with scientists, works well with them, gives advice to them, and is even himself publishing peer-reviewed papers. There were just one or two individuals he seemed angry with – scientists who were “controversial” and unsupported by their colleagues. Hmm.

Poor guy, though. He wouldn’t just modestly accept the flattery from Percy the Astrologer (see photo), who listed some of Mockton’s immense achievements. He felt the need to respond in detail, repeating and describing these achievements himself. This impressed one of the bystanders who commented that the man suffered from narcissism. Had to look up that word when I got home – it describes “a generalized personality trait characterized by egotism, vanity, pride, or selfishness.” Hmm, actually seems quite correct.

A very low-key forum. Students seemed not to have heard of the guy before (except a suspicious few elderly types who heckled scientists) – one student even referred to him as “that man in the suit.” Don’t know if that is just modern student apathy, or a healthy disregard of minority personalities. Perhaps these students have a fuller life than I do.

Later in the evening Monckton spoke to a meeting sponsored by the NZ Institute of International Affairs (Waikato Branch). I think their support is just local, and I wonder if their political orientation is somewhat unrepresentative.

I didn’t bother with that meeting but followed it on Twitter. It sounded rather humorous. I have put together below some of the tweets using Storify (see Potty peer in the Waikato or follow the hashtag #MoncktonLive).

Wish I had gone now!

Some of Joshua Drummond’s tweets from Monckton’s Monday Night Waikato meeting. This was sponsored by the NZ Institute of International Affairs (Waikato Branch) – I think the support was purely local.

Of course, there was the usual cherry picking and misinformation

cakeburgerJoshua Drummond@cakeburger Drought’s nothing to worry about. That’s good. I think he should tell that to Waikato farmers. They’d laugh. #MoncktonLive
cakeburger Joshua Drummond@cakeburger Antarctic glaciers aren’t retreating, therefore glaciers aren’t retreating. #MoncktonLive

Is he still claiming he is a member of the House of Lords?

cakeburger Joshua Drummond@cakeburger I read the letter from the House of Lords at him. Audience: When did you write that? #MoncktonLive

cakeburger Joshua Drummond@cakeburger That was interesting. He didn’t like being told he wasn’t a member of the House of Lords. He says he is. #MoncktonLive

cakeburger Joshua Drummond@cakeburger .@ImperatorFish When I pressed him after event he refused to give yes or no, just repeated “learned opinion is that I am” #MoncktonLive

Seems much of the audience was pretty much in awe of the Potty Peer.What does this say about the members of the NZ Institute of International Affairs (Waikato Branch)? Is this a local libertarian coven?

Joshua Drummond@cakeburger Monkton on biofuels = mass death. Guy behind mutters “That’s the agenda. That’s the agenda.” #MoncktonLive

Joshua Drummond@cakeburger Audience member to me, after #MoncktonLive “I was very disappointed with your disrespect towards Lord Monckton.”

Joshua Drummond@cakeburger Things just got VERY shouty. At me, again. Now I know how poor Richard Prosser feels #MoncktonLive

This final drama sounds intriguing. Would love to see a video. or perhaps a circus presentation by clowns.

Joshua Drummond@cakeburger #MoncktonLive Got a brief 1-on-1 with the man himself. Ended with him grabbing my laptop, me saying “No, MY laptop. Mine. Mine.” #TrueStory

Joshua Drummond@cakeburger Final #MoncktonLive: Monckton says to security guard “Please escort this man [me] from the premises”.

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