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Science in New Zealand Supplement to Salient, Vol. 28, No. 7. 1965.

N.Z. Students And The Royal Society

page 10

N.Z. Students And The Royal Society

The Royal Society of New Zealand was founded by Act of Parliament almost a century ago as the New Zealand Institute and renamed by Royal consent in 1933. It is a federal body for the promotion of Science linking together the activities of 11 regional branches and three national institutes catering for separate disciplines of Science, through a council that meets biennially and a Standing Committee of Wellington councillors meeting monthly.

The Society serves the functions performed in many other countries by Academies of Science and is recognised as the senior New Zealand organisation of scientists. It differs, however, from the Royal Society of London and other academies in its federal constitution, with "member bodies" most of which have a membership open to all interested persons.

Within this broadly-based membership there has been established a Fellowship, a self-perpetuating body of persons elected for distinction in research, limited to 100. The re-constitution of the Society to vest control of its Council in the Fellows is at present under consideration by the Government.

The functions of the Royal Society of New Zealand may be grouped as local, national and international.

A Local Science Forum

The branches fulfill local functions by providing a forum for the scientific community by programmes of lectures, symposia and discussions, and they also achieve a considerable measure of success in liaison with the general public. The Wellington branch of the Society conducts a series of general meeting and has specialised sections in Biology, Geology, Technology, Social Sciences, Astronomy and Geophysics and Physics, which meet monthly during the winter months for presentation of research papers and discussions. Most meetings are at the branch's room (Dominion Museum) but some sections meet at the University and the Astronomy and Geophysics section meets at the Carter Observatory. Meetings of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry, now a member of the Society, cater for Chemical papers, but many chemists attend other meetings. Some branches provide for student membership at a reduced subscription.

In the meetings of branches and their sections, the university science student can take an active part, getting acquainted with research workers in the scientific community and with the problems and achievements of current research activities in a wide range of disciplines. My own association with the Auckland Institute and Museum (the local member body in Auckland) dates from my undergraduate days and I certainly found it a profitable and enjoyable extension of university science — to meet and hear speakers offering results of their observation and research, particularly in the field sciences. By the time a student is preparing a thesis for B.Sc. Hons or higher degrees, he or she may find an opportunity to contribute to discussion or to present the results of personal research.

Research Library

The national and international functions of the Royal Society are performed by senior scientists working on its Council and its committees, but some of these activities are of interest to the post-graduate student. The library of the Royal Society of New Zealand is housed at Victoria University (Kirk Building) and is available to research students both by interloan through university libraries throughout New Zealand, and as a special privilege to Victoria students on campus. It contains many scientific periodicals unique in New Zealand. The Society's own research periodical (the Transactions) has included many papers based on postgraduate students' researches, especially in zoology, botany and geology.

Awards For Research

By Dr. C. A. Fleming, President, Royal Society of New Zealand

The Society's national responsibilities include administration of funds supporting awards for achievement in research and research grants. The Hamilton Memorial Prize, "for the encouragement of beginners in pure scientific research," is awarded on the basis of a candidate's earliest publications, and in 1962 the joint winners were P. N. Webb and B. C. McKelvey, for papers on Antarctic geological research undertaken when they were post-graduate students at Victoria.

Modest grants in aid of research in zoology, botany and geology are supported by the Society's Hutton Memorial Fund and Mappin Trust. In general, grants are not made their function is not educational, but grants have been made to support work for master's theses, on the principle that in the past to graduate students to support expeditions, travel, purchase of equipment, etc.

Mutual Aid

The fact that the Royal Society's office and library are housed at Victoria has given Victoria students especial opportunity to profit from the library, but the benefit of proximity has been reciprocal. The Society's staff have been grateful on many occasions for the help of students in such tedious tasks as shifting and sorting stocks of publications or library books. Recent moves to bind many of the library periodicals have entailed plans to enlist the help of students (with appropriate remuneration), to check and package journals for the binder. The Society is grateful to the University for providing meeting rooms for its Council Meetings, and especially to the Zoology Department for help in many ways in the course of a symbiotic existence that has sometimes been irksome if of mutual advantage.

Just as Gresham College, in London, provided a home for the Royal Society of London during its early years, three centuries ago, so Victoria University has housed the Royal Society of New Zealand for 40 years. Owing to the urgent need for better accommodation, the Society is now seeking to found its own headquarters, outside the University of Wellington. When this is achieved, both institutions will be able to look back on a fruitful stage of co-existence during a critical period in their history.