Valuable insights gained from science plan workshops

Jan 17, 2018Big Data, Healthy Weight, Media release, Resilient Teens, Successful Literacy and Learning, Vision Matauranga, Workshop

A series of well-subscribed workshops held nationwide to help inform the science strategy for A Better Start National Science Challenge has produced thoughful feedback which will inform the Challenge’s science strategy for the next five years of its mission until 2024.

Professor Wayne Cutfield, the Director of A Better Start National Science Challenge thanked all those who took part in workshops held nationwide to inform the shape of Challenge research over the next five years. Professor Cutfield said, “A lot of people gave us their time and expertise. The Challenge can only succeed by bringing the best teams of people together and the workshops allowed us to spend time listening in person to a great range of perspectives. The Challenge thanks them for helping us sharpen our research to give New Zealand’s children a better start in life. ”

The workshops were hosted in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland, with two specific workshops, for Māori and Pasifika stakeholders, and a workshop that brought together the Challenge science leadership. The seven workshops drew a total of 224 people and included researchers, education practitioners, ministry officials, DHB clinicians, and community organisation representatives.

The Challenge research theme leaders have been busy since December drafting a 5-year science strategy. The draft strategy will then undergo a series of reviews by the Challenge’s international Science Advisory Panel, the Kāhui, and Pasifika Advisory Group, before being presented to the Challenge Board.

Three key questions were posed at each workshop:

  1. What are the priorities for work in the second five years for each of the four Challenge research domains (Successful Learning, Healthy Weight, Resilient Teens and Big Data)? What are the opportunities for additionality, new collaborations and new science?
  2. What should shape any future contestable funding opportunity?
  3. What needs to be done to achieve impact by the end of the second five years of Challenge work?

Feedback from all the workshops has been analysed to derive common themes.

These are summarised here:

Workshop themes Summary of feedback
Use a strengths-based framework
  • shift the three research areas away from a deficit focus
Integrate the four research themes
  • siloing doesn’t help families/communities, and there are links between literacy, mental and physical health
  • frame as well-being for children, rather than separate issues
Don’t just focus on the individual
  • change will involve the whole family, community, or even the system
  • Poverty as contributor, so barriers to uptake at the family level: have they the resource, is it sufficient of a priority given circumstances?
  • ecognise that families can be multigenerational; and that communities are diverse
Deliver on equity
  • make a difference where it matters most
Research must involve end-users


  • co-construction of research: working with those at the coal-face will encourage research that can be practically applied
  • Should not just be researchers setting the research agenda. What do whānau/teenagers/communities want?
  • importance of being authentic in relationships with families/communities, engendering trust, showing reciprocity
Relevant research leadership
  • quality of research is critical
  • place for research that is by Māori, for Māori and with Māori
  • Māori and Pasifika leadership in research to drive appropriateness and relevance
Knowledge transfer is critical
  • think about the audience and tailor messages accordingly: consider innovative ways of getting the message across
  • families/communities want simple, clear messages that are relevant to them
  • economic modelling probably critical part of being implementation-ready
  • local demonstration projects to encourage adoption: it has to work in the real world
Starting early is important
  • particularly for literacy and sustaining healthy weight trajectory, the earlier the better
Think beyond IDI for data sources
  • potential of social media data, and other datasets; genetic, twin, geospatial
  • urrently available data not always suitable for what Māori want i.e. it’s often deficit focused
  • big data is a clear link to other NSCs
  • ABS needs to model good practice, e.g. consideration of data sovereignty


Themes in feedback on a future contestable round
Develop co-funding partnerships
  • onsider partners who might contribute in-kind e.g. access, implementation skills
  • support for cross-Challenge collaboration opportunities
Implementation focus
  • must involve end-users in research, so needs resourcing for co-construction and for dissemination
Be realistic
  • Can small projects, or stand-alone projects, make a difference? Best wins from working from existing research
  • must be closely linked with Challenge goals
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