Science keeps on ticking
However, taking redundancy seemed the lesser of two evils, a move they’d seen coming in recent years at Niwa. As McKenzie ruefully points out, the ‘a’ in Niwa – the National Institute of Atmospheric Research – had become smaller, as atmospheric research funding dwindled. Both nearing retirement, they put up their hands for redundancy, not just to protect themselves, but for the sake of the station and ongoing research, otherwise ‘‘young talented people would lose their jobs’’. Not that this noble attitude has made the unease they’ve experienced since July, when Niwa announced it would axe scientific jobs at Lauder, any easier. What helped coat a bitter pill was the international outcry this caused at the loss of measurements of chlorofluorocarbons, ultraviolet light and greenhouses gasses, and their key role in assessing the ozone layer’s health. The support from the global scientific community had
Alexandra Scientists Paul Johnston, left, and Richard McKenzie check out a Skycam, recording sunshine and radiation. been overwhelming, McKenzie said. ‘‘We were surprised, gratified, even humbled.’’ Johnston strongly believed the threat of scaling-down research could undermine New Zealand’s scientific reputation. ‘‘It will be a black mark that will be remembered for a while.’’ Having given 78 years between them to atmospheric research, they will continue to give a few days each week in their ‘‘retirement’’. McKenzie said he would have more time for interests and to play golf. But for Johnston science is not just his job, it’s his hobby and passion. It would leave a hole in their lives larger than the one they found in the ozone layer over Antarctica, not to be onstation or to keep in contact with their young colleagues, for guidance and consultation. In the meantime, they will continue data analysis on a study that looks at the relationship between UV and vitamin D, the ‘‘sunshine vitamin’’, in blood serum, for the medical community.