It will also combat misinformation, declining public trust
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Countering the global rise of misinformation and declining public trust with robust research and evidence-based advice is the fundamental goal of a new think tank at the University of Auckland.
The initiative, called, ‘Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures is an independent and apolitical established by Distinguished Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, the first Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand.
Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy launched the think tank at the Government House in Auckland today (March 4, 2020) the Centre is focused on addressing global and national issues arising from rapid and far-reaching social, economic, technological and environmental change.
Sir Peter said that the Centre was born out of a realisation that it has never been more important for community and local, national and global policy decisions to be informed by evidence, and that society is searching for information it can trust.
“Unfortunately, we live in a world where the contest of ideas is increasingly taking place in an unhealthy environment of misinformation and, in many places, declining public trust in democratic, scientific and societal institutions,” he said.
Sir Peter said that social, economic, technological and environmental transformations are occurring at a scale and speed, unique in human history.
“As scientists, we have a crucial role to play in ensuring our Rangatahi’s future is in the hands of decision makers armed with robust evidence,” he said.
The Centre’s research themes include societal and individual resilience in the face of rapid change; factors affecting social cohesion, choices and decisions about the impacts of rapidly emerging technologies; and understanding the trade-offs embedded within the sustainability agenda.
Sir Peter said that as a small, advanced country, New Zealand can be the “canary in the mine” to identify issues that are emerging and “the headlights to identify the road ahead.”
Deputy Director Dr Anne Bardsley said that the Centre will focus on how to help communities and governments understand better complex issues and acknowledge inevitable trade-offs and values, in ways that lead to robust, societally-accepted decisions.
She said that the Centre will offer thought leaders and researchers a way to engage with the community and inform the policy discussion, while also offering a pathway to policymakers to find the right advice.
The Centre is developing ‘complex conversations’ tools to assist traditionally disempowered groups, as well as other stakeholders including the business community, to better participate in policy development, aiming to become a recognised neutral space to initiate conversations that catalyse broader processes and decision-making.
“We combine the scientific disciplines, natural and social, to provide collaborative advice that can help policy makers and civil society better understand the issues. We want to connect better the knowledge produced in academia with true engagement with society, integrate their perspectives and assist societal decisions and the policy community in a relevant way,” Dr Bardsley said.
“Operating at the nexus of academia, civil society and public policy, and between national and international discourses, we are uniquely placed to explore these issues,” she said.
The Centre staff include experts in the Physical Sciences, Humanities, Law, Engineering, Computer Science, Social Science, Economics, Health Sciences, Policy and Matauranga Maori.
The Centre has extensive domestic and international partnerships with science and policy communities and is home to the Secretariat of the International Network for Government Science Advice, a growing global network with more than 5000 members in 100 countries.
The name and its intent
Koi Tū describes the intent of the Centre.
Koi is to be bright; to be clever; it is the sharp point of the arrow.
The Centre is koi by integrating the various knowledge disciplines and to inform people through true engagement and a holistic approach.
The Centre places itself at the sharp end of long-term issues of complexity such as societal resilience and social cohesion, sustainability, human capital development and societal decision-making regarding emergent technologies.
Tū means to stand, to set in place and infers resilience.
The Centre is future focused, addressing areas of concern to Aotearoa New Zealand, small advanced countries and globally. It is committed to making a stand; to inform societal and policy decisions over the mid to long-term.
Source: University of Auckland