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Marsden Fund Council Rejects Media Criticism

Marsden Fund Council Rejects Media Criticism

27 Sep 2006

The Council believes that recent unfounded criticism in the media of the ethics and the research some of New Zealand's leading academics is highly regrettable. The research of these brilliant individuals is one of the most important sources of the future competitive advantage of the New Zealand economy, and critical to the knowledge we need to achieve positive environmental and social outcomes. They should be more highly valued.

The Marsden Fund Council is unwavering in its opinion that the research it selected for funding in 2007 was uniformly of the highest academic standard and of international best quality. Our brief is to select ideas-based research which pushes the boundaries.

In selecting projects to fund we seek advice both internationally from more than 700 of the world's leading academics as well as drawing on a pool of 70 New Zealand researchers who are operating at an international level of excellence. Our instruction from the Government is to fund across the full range of research disciplines.

This currently includes both the Social Sciences and the Humanities. Approximately 85% of funds go to the physical sciences, engineering, biological sciences and mathematics. Approximately 10% goes to the social sciences such as psychology economics and anthropology, whilst about 5% goes to the Humanities to cover subjects ranging from journalism through linguistics to gender studies.

Typically we fund researchers for a three year period. It costs about $150,000 per year to free up academics from their teaching duties, support them with a research assistant and pay for their research materials and facilities for this time. There is no duplication with their salaries as their institutions are obliged to replace them for teaching purposes. All budgets are carefully scrutinised to guard against largesse and double dipping.

It is also our opinion that the fund is hopelessly under-resourced to cover such a wide span of intellectual effort. Much of the controversy surrounding the fund has its origins in the desperately low success rate, and the despair of the many rejected applicants, most of whom operate at professorial level or hold lead scientist positions in the Crown Research Institutes.

The successes of projects funded in the past are legendary and some of these projects are already creating economic returns to New Zealand which exceed the total cost of the fund. Humanities research is not necessarily any less likely to create economic benefits than discovery science as it can fuel the creative industries leveraged by information technology.

From the Marsden Fund Council:

Professor Peter Bergquist Associate Professor Richard Blaikie Dr Garth Carnaby Professor Sally Casswell Professor Charles Daugherty Professor Harlene Hayne Professor Peter Hunter Dr Rupert Sutherland Associate Professor Lydia Wevers Professor Christine Winterbourn


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