Scientists criticise National Science Challenges

Posted By TEU on Jul 31, 2014 |

Tertiary Update Vol 17 No 25

Radio New Zealand has used an official information request to expose serious unrest among scientists this week over the way the government is handling its NationalScienceChallenges project.

The station has obtained emails between scientists and the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) outlining 19 complaints in the last half a year. The complaints included claims the challenges were too broad, too rigid and would not produce high-quality research.

“In one, Callaghan Innovation’s then-group manager Bob Buckley said there was a complete lack of challenging science and it was going to waste valuable and limited resources,” Radio NZ reported.

“An email from Auckland University vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon to the ministry expressed concern about the high cost to the university in being involved.”

The National Science Challenges project aims to focus science funding on specific issues that the government has identified as fundamental to the future of the country.

New Zealand Association of Scientists President Dr Nicola Gaston told Radio NZ the problems with the programme were widespread and scientists felt disillusioned and frustrated. She called for the government to invest the money elsewhere.

TEU’s Jack Heinemann supported her call, saying governments all over the world are attempting to micromanage the process of scientific discovery by “dictating ever more narrow funding specifications often overlain with ideological aspirations”.

“There is absolutely no evidence that such practices lead to more or even more useful outcomes from science. The best way that our Government could invest the money is to expand the Marsden Fund and increase opportunity for the small research groups with good ideas,” he said.

Also in Tertiary Update this week

  1. League tables due out this week
  2. Joyce monitoring, not acting, on loan cuts
  3. Whanganui prisoners want automotive course back
  4. Nurses celebrate partial victory for new grads

Other news

Student loan defaulters living abroad have so far eluded “border arrest”, despite Inland Revenue’s tougher stance on non-compliance – Fairfax Stuff

As students prepare for the early voting that will take place on all university and many polytechnic campuses next month, the restoration of post-graduate allowances, removed by the current government in 2013, is emerging as a key election issue – NZUSA

Copying the myth of competitive excellence in US highereducation – The Conversation

US colleges and universities have outsourced lots of services in the past several decades, from food preparation and delivery to bookstores to sanitation. But to many academics it is taboo to even consider outsourcing the faculty – Inside Higher Ed


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