numerology

How many scientists are there in NZ?

I had a simple question: How many scientists are there in New Zealand? The answer provided by the wonderful folk at Stats NZ was embedded in a 59 page spreadsheet that listed no less than 1091 different job types from the 2013 census.

The rationale for the request lies with the simple assumption that there are likely to be far more citizen scientists in New Zealand than there will ever be professional scientists. I just wanted to get a sense of the numbers. The Stats NZ data set is intriguing, not only because of the level of detail within say the science professions, but for the diversity of jobs out there and the relative numbers of employees in each. There are still 258 ‘farriers’, 63 ‘crowd controllers’, over one-thousand all-encompassing ‘diversional therapists’, 48 ‘bungy jump masters’, 3 ‘cotton growers’ and currently no ‘armoured car escorts’. Or ‘sugar cane growers’ for that matter – the job types are intended to cover Australia as well.

Back to science professionals and if the broadest categorisation is used that includes the majority of ‘ists’ (and the intriguingly labelled ‘other spatial scientist’), there are as many plumbers as there are scientists in New Zealand, in other words around the 5800 mark. Of the science professionals 648 are agricultural scientists catering for the research needs of the 57,474 people involved with growing animals or crops. There are a mere 267 environmental managers, though 912 environmental research scientists. There are 543 conservation officers – not a lot of folk when considering the 8,647,270 ha area of DOC administered Protected Areas.

Despite the numbers of citizen scientists there might be, many community groups struggle to get enough people on board to do e.g., baseline monitoring of their restoration project sites. In needing more people and more basic science, these groups are keenly aware of just how much more work needs to be done to stop further biodiversity losses. The numbers from Stats NZ provide a useful snapshot of how many people are doing what and ratios between industries. The more citizen science activities evolve in NZ the better idea we will have of how many people are engaged. And over time, how much of a difference they’re making.

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