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Māori researchers keep pressure on funding stalemate

9 April, 2014

Māori researchers keep pressure on funding stalemate

Māori researchers are calling on Government Ministers to come up with ways of tackling the issue of Māori research funding.

They believe the decision not to advance Māori research body Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga into the final round for Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE) funding was a step back towards mainstreaming Māori research, which denied Māori research aspirations and needs.

That decision came on the back of strongly expressed Māori concern over the National Science Challenges processes, which failed to include any Māori research areas, themes or questions.

Associate Professor Leonie Pihama from the University of Waikato’s Te Kotahi Research Institute believes the denial of meaningful Māori input into the National Science Challenges will have a significant impact not only on Māori but the country as a whole.

“There needs to be an urgent assessment of how the government agencies are defining what research will be prioritised over the next 5-10 years and who they are going to fund to undertake that work,” she says.

Two weeks ago about 200 Māori researchers expressed strong support for Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga and that was reinforced at the ‘Value and Future of Māori Research’ workshop called by Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga at the University of Auckland.

Associate Professor Pihama says Māori researchers are trying to get questions and projects that are important to Māori onto the agenda but “it is a constant struggle as MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) has set up a process that denies meaningful Māori input”.

“It is a mainstreaming approach that does not work for us as tangata whenua,” she says.

“The MBIE process positions Māori merely as stakeholders and objects of research, which denies our ability to ask questions and seek answers in ways that are appropriate to our people and our needs,” Associate Professor Pihama says.

She says Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce has said there will be around $804 million distributed for the seven challenges in the second tranche of the National Science Challenges but none is targeted for Māori research, even though these challenges directly affect Māori across a range of sectors.

“The result of no direct allocation to Māori research in either the CoRE allocation or the National Science Challenges means that much of the time and energy of Māori researchers is being exhausted trying to convince the ‘lead’ institutions that we must be involved. This is unacceptable in this day and age when we know that Māori research approaches have significant impact on the issues at hand.“

She says Mr Joyce, Finance Minister Bill English and Māori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples need to provide ways of moving this issue forward as soon as possible.


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