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Science Challenges get a D minus

Steven Joyce’s $1.3 billion National Science Challenges have been handed a resounding fail grade from the country’s leading scientists, says Labour’s Innovation, Research and Development Spokesperson Megan Woods. 

A survey released today by the NZAS slammed the Minister’s flagship initiative. It showed overwhelming dissatisfaction with the whole process behind the National Science Challenges and little confidence in the Challenges ability to deliver. The scientists also believe that that this billion dollar plus investment over 10 years is not even aligned to science objectives.

 

“This survey must be a wake-up call to the Minister of Science and Innovation. It makes harrowing reading and should leave him in no doubt that he has got it wrong. 

“There is no option for New Zealand to get this wrong. These challenges are going to consume $1.3 billion of science funding. Money has been recycled from all over the science system into them. $641 million  (over 10 years) of Crown Research Institutes Core funding and up to $306.5 million of  contestable funding is  being swallowed up into the Challenges that our leading scientists are telling us they have little to no faith in. 

“Labour has previously raised concerns about the out of control administrative and governance costs of the challenges. These costs scattered across the science and research sector which our calculations have already put at well over $4 million already.  To hear today that in  the Biological  Heritage  challenge alone, there  is  around $1m per year  assigned  to  governance, but  only  around $2m to the science  program is simply absurd. 

“The very people who are tasked with delivering these Challenges are calling them the Novopay of the science world. To read the comments is alarming. We have a scientists with over 20 years-experience in the NZ  system, telling us that no  initiative  has  done  more  to  promote  distrust, waste time and work against  cooperation within the science community. Something has to be done. 

“A Labour Government will not let our science system fail. We will listen to the suggestions of our country’s leading scientists. We will look to build on the success of respected funding bodies such as the Marsden Fund. A sensible approach could be to use challenge funds to establish a companion contestable fund for applied research that could also be administered by the Royal Society.”