President’s column

Cyclone Gabrielle and AI

Cyclone Gabrielle and AI

Tēnā koutou katoa

As I write this, our news is filled with details of the ravages caused by Cyclone Gabrielle. To all our members who have been affected personally, professionally or through whanau, we send you our best wishes in recovering from the flooding, loss of electricity and trauma. Kia kaha! Certainly, evidence for climate change is all around us these days. As scientists, we are used to weighing up evidence, employing models to simplify the complexities of nature and factually communicating the outcomes resulting from our studies. It can be surprising if others are not on the same page. We need to address the challenges of these times in ways appropriate to our audience. 

The emergence of ChatGPT, and other AI communication tools, is exercising those of us who are in the education sector.

I also want to acknowledge chemists who have been impacted by job cuts. This causes great personal distress for those who have lost their jobs and affects those who remain, with fewer staff to maintain function. Job losses in STEM areas reduce our ability to function as a modern, educated, technologically underpinned society, which is sorely needed for the NZ economy to weather the current and future storms. 

The emergence of ChatGPT, and other AI communication tools, is exercising those of us who are in the education sector. On the positive side, such functionality can help students and educators produce (generally) well-phrased written material in an efficienct manner. For example, this is what ChatGPT had to say when I asked about the benefits of AI tools for educators: 

AI tools... can help to quickly generate ideas and content for educational materials, saving educators valuable time and effort. AI tools can assist in researching relevant literature and compiling data, which can be time-consuming if done manually. They can also assist with grammar and spelling checks, which can help ensure that educational materials are high-quality and professional. AI tools can be used to tailor educational materials to the needs of individual learners, including personalized feedback and assessments, as well as adaptive learning programs that adjust to individual learning styles and abilities. Additionally, AI tools can help to create more accessible educational materials, such as text-to-speech functions for visually impaired learners or translation functions for non-native speakers. Finally, AI tools can help create educational materials that are scalable and can be easily adapted to meet the needs of larger audiences, including the use of chatbots or virtual assistants to provide support and guidance to learners at scale.

ChatGPT produced this in a fraction of the time I would have taken to formulate those ideas and get them onto the page and, in my opinion, did a pretty good job. This was ChatGPT’s second pass at the subject and might improve upon further refinement of my prompts. 

There are significant ethical problems arising when using this tool to produce written work that we claim as our own. For education, this is creating challenges for assessment of written work (and other creative exercises), leading educators around the world to test out new ways of assessing work, including embracing the positive aspects of AI tools. In the research arena, journals are developing different approaches to AI content, from those forbidding any use of AI to those allowing writing that has AI input as long as the extent is described and acknowledged. Journalism, legal and other sectors are also grappling with the implications of this technology.

On the horizon for NZIC, we have a new look online format for our journal Chemistry in New Zealand under development. A working group headed by Vyacheslav Filichev (Manawatu) has been planning the transition to a fully online journal with click-through and interactive functionality. We hope it will be in place by the end of this year and look forward to engaging more strongly with the community through this.

For your calendars, please note that the next NZIC conference will be in 2024, hosted by Otago Branch. Exact dates and location are under discussion so watch this space! Additionally, Pacifichem will be back as a fully in-person congress in Hawaii in December 2025 – there are some further details in this issue. Pacifichem runs as a series of overlapping symposia, most on highly specific areas of chemistry, and the scientific programme for each is organised by a team from at least three different chemical societies. Now is the time to be considering whether you could co-organise a symposium and/or be a topic reviewer. Mark Waterland, our Pacifichem rep, is on the lookout for reviewers. Having New Zealand-based symposium co-organisers is likely to attract more NZIC members and raise our profile. NZIC benefits financially from any members who attend, so the more, the merrier!

A reminder that NZIC also benefits financially from members publishing in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. and the Asian Chemical Editorial Society (ACES)/Wiley journals Chemistry – an Asian Journal, Asian Journal of Organic Chemistry and ChemNanoMat. Do consider submitting research articles to these quality international journals.

Finally, we are seeking a new Treasurer for NZIC. Our current treasurer, Hamish McDonald (Hon. FNZIC), has indicated his intention to retire from this position.  We are incredibly fortunate to have benefitted from his financial expertise, wisdom and initiative over the past 4+ years. He led our transition to Xero’s financial service and improvement in our accounting and auditing compliance, as well as delivering vision, insight and experience to the Executive group of NZIC, while also maintaining the accounts. Hamish has done all this voluntarily and from Australia – immense gratitude and thanks for such commitment to NZIC! We are looking for someone to fill this important role moving forward. Please get in contact with Samantha at if you would like to know more, register your interest, or nominate someone. 

Nāku noa, nā

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