Three quarters of scientists dissatisfied with funding policy

Posted By TEU on Aug 7, 2014 | 3 comments

Tertiary Update Vol 17 No 26

Four-fifths of scientists do not believe the National Science Challenges are the best way to organise research to deliver benefits to New Zealand, according to a quick snap poll by the New Zealand Association of Scientists.

The association conducted a poll of its members over the weekend and received 290 responses – many of them with detailed comments. Over half of the polled scientists disagree that the National Science Challenges align with key science objectives of national significance to New Zealand. More than three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the way the Science Challenges have been managed. Most of the respondents work in universities.

Nicola Gaston, president of the association, told TEU that she hopes these survey results will encourage the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to be more open to feedback on its overall strategy for funding science.

“We are seeing an increased focus, both in NZ and internationally, on creating economic value from investment in science,” she said. “This leads to an expectation that science should be funded based on what it promises to deliver, but this can lead to both unrealistic predictions of economic impact and less exploratory science.”

Nicola Gaston says initially the National Science Challenges had a lot of support from scientists, because they promised to reach out to the community, to be collaborative and provide stable funding.

“But the process for putting a proposal together was never clearly thought through, and the people in charge of each Challenge, and their institutions, clearly stood to benefit from the funding. So there has been a lot of discontent with the way decisions have been made since; mostly concerns relating back to the transparency of the process, but the details vary from Challenge to Challenge.”

The same day as the survey results were released Steven Joyce announced the launch of the Deep South Science Challenge which will focus on modelling the impacts of climate change on New Zealand. He also dismissed the association’s survey as unrepresentative of scientists.

“Ironically for the association it’s not actually a scientific survey, it’s an opt-in survey … there are 20,000 researchers around New Zealand, they’re all going to have a different view but this is a programme that’s had very wide support from the start,” Steven Joyce said.

Also in Tertiary Update this week

  1. Four REAPs agree to better redundancy provisions
  2. CPIT votes on 1.3% plus 1.3%
  3. Lift wages to solve inequality says Rosenberg
  4. Aussie universities reel from govt budget cuts

Other news

How much in real terms has the Government’s science investment grown since 2009/10 to 2014/15? Parliamentary question to Steven Joyce. What will the answer be?

The funding of higher education in Australia is a mess, and it is getting messier. New proposals on the table to allow universities to take on the debt burden of their own students could have profoundly worrying consequences for who gets to go to university – The Conversation

A Green Party policy to provide tertiary students with free off-peak travel on public transport has been welcomed by students – NZ Herald

Kentucky State University boss gives up over US$90,000 of his salary to boost lowest-paid campus employees – Lexington Herald Leader

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