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Science Funding Shifts "Too Far Too Fast"

09 May 2002

The Government should respond to warnings from scientists that crown research institutes are in "chaos" and slow down the shift in science funding, Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

Ms Fitzsimons said contestable funding was hugely unstable for scientists, who need to be able to build on previous research.

"Chopping and changing too much leads to inevitable frustration for scientists, job losses and movement of scientists overseas. While I agree with the Government that mature industries should fund ongoing research, pulling a large amount of research funding overnight will permanently damage research capabilities in areas critical to New Zealand farming.

Media reports today said that scientists involved in pastoral farming and forest research will lose a third of their funding in this $110 million round from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

"We must not let the focus on innovation and new technology drive us away from research into farming and forestry, which will form the bulk of our exports for a long time to come. If we ignore basic research into soil and climate science (which the private sector will not fund), our primary industries will gradually lose their position in the world."

Ms Fitzsimons said she was also concerned that the Government's focus on biotechnology is likely to force research institutions to put in proposals for genetic engineering research in order to win funding.

"This forces scientists to put the cart before the horse. A lot of GE experiments are gene technologies looking for useful applications. Instead we should be looking at the problems we need to solve, and then at the best research routes to solve them."

Ends

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