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Otago lecturer acknowledged for inclusive nature

Monday 9 July 2018 8:34pm

Otago's Dr Anne-Marie Jackson was recently praised in Nature. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

A leading University of Otago lecturer has been praised in one of the world’s most prestigious academic journals as someone who is “winning at science”.

School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences Senior Lecturer, and Co-Director of Te Koronga Dr Anne-Marie Jackson, of Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Kahu, Te Roroa descent is one of three people profiled for their efforts to diversify academic learning environments in Nature.

The article, which appeared in June, is headlined These labs are remarkably diverse — here’s why they’re winning at science.

Nature is one of the most prestigious journals in the world, and so to me it was important that our students and communities we work with were also involved,” Dr Jackson says.

“It raises the profile of our School and the University with respect to indigenous knowledge.

"Nature is one of the most prestigious journals in the world, and so to me it was important that our students and communities we work with were also involved."

“But it also shines a light on the issues of diversity (or lack thereof) in Universities in New Zealand – especially for Māori academic staff numbers in the sciences.”

The article discusses Dr Jackson’s journey at the University, which started in 2011. A lack of Māori graduates within her department led to the creation of Te Koronga. The programme, which she co-founded alongside Māori cultural scientist Dr Hauiti Hakopa, aims to intentionally grow Māori research students within the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences.

The article also discusses the work of materials scientist Professor Mukhles Sowwan from Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST), and Vanderbilt University Stevenson Professor of Physics and Astronomy Keivan Stassun.

Although they differ greatly by geography and discipline, the groups share some key elements, including lab leaders who are directly engaged in the work, have high expectations and think that a diverse team produces the strongest research,” the article states.

These factors seem to be the secret sauce for these groups’ notable cohesion and robust research output.

“For Anne-Marie Jackson … those benefits are secondary to the goal of creating science that will better serve the needs of indigenous communities. It’s science’s job to provide solutions for diverse communities, she says, so science must “reflect a diversity that comes from outside the ivory tower.”

Dr Jackson says there has been a lot of positive feedback from the article and heightened interest in what they are achieving.

“It also raises the profile of the quality of our students we are intentionally developing through Māori research excellence, such as Chanel Phillips who will submit her PhD in September.”