Mathematics Presentation

30 Apr 2019 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM
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This talk explores issues surrounding the quality of science presented as inputs into public policy. Scientists working for regional councils all over NZ are under political pressure to support corporate agribusiness consent applications. This has led to a significant decline in the scientific credibility of quantitative analysis supporting consent applications. Scientific Methodology demands open and transparent information, so that truly independent peer review is possible. This fundamental principle has been weakened in practice, and the various legal processes involved do not ensure the credibility of science inputs. The Law has not yet designed suitable processes to ensure the requirements of scientific methodology are fully satisfied, and this situation presents corporate agribusiness and its Regional Council allies with a golden opportunity. One of the reasons is reliance on “Overseer”, a nutrient flow model using software, initially developed to assist individual farm management. The internal details were not available for peer review by Mathematicians. Problems with Overseer include fundamentally naive mathematical modelling, undertaken by agricultural scientists without the assistance or input of appropriately qualified mathematicians. It is obvious to professional mathematicians that Dynamical Systems Modelling must be the basis for modelling the flow phenomena involved, and yet the people building models appear to have no understanding of these matters. We explain how Dynamical Systems Modelling works, especially the importance of nonlinear effects, and why it offers the best Mathematical approach to this topic of immense practical importance. An example of recent work, also from an Agricultural context will be given. It can and should deal with stochastic systems in describing the dynamical situation, since this can change outcomes. Of course, data is needed to inform and audit these models. A solution to this problem is simple. Use the mathematics appropriate to the problem. Further investigations are underway in partnership with Adjunct-Professor Tony Pleasants (Massey University at Hamilton) which strongly suggest the need for an urgent review of current practises in policy decision-making. The aim of this presentation is to explain our standpoint and to promote discussion.

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