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In response to “A Science Manifesto”

17 April 2008

In response to “A Science Manifesto”

Press Release from New Zealand Association of Scientists

The New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) applauds the rationale and recommendations put forward by the Royal Society’s National Science Panel in their just released “Science Manifesto”.

As practicing scientists, we identify with the state of New Zealand science as described in the Manifesto, in particular the excessive weight of competition between would-be colleagues, and the excessive and distracting compliance costs that compromise the productivity of research teams. This reduces the effectiveness of scientific research in this country, demoralises our scientists, and restricts the appeal of science to the coming generation of graduates. Yet, ironically, appropriately organized science is an amazingly exciting career for our top graduates and of huge benefit to the future wellbeing of New Zealand’s society, culture, economy, and environment.

This Manifesto is a timely wake-up call for the present government and any aspiring future government. We look forward to next month’s budget when Minister Hodgson has indicated (NZ Herald, 19 March) significant additional science funding. We are encouraged by the statement in the NZ Herald article: “The Government is planning to announce new scientific research spending in May's budget, which it expects will largely pacify growing resentment among the country's scientists.”

That resentment, however, is deep-seated and will take some placating. We suggest that members of the National Science Panel are better linked to the realities of science research than the Minister might suggest in his reportedly dismissive response to the Manifesto (NZ Herald, 16 April). The NZ Association of Scientists hopes that the Minister will join with the science community to seek the desired more effective and efficient contribution of science to New Zealand, rather than attacking those who seek such collective and positive outcomes.

We fully support the National Science Panel’s call for establishment of an office of Chief Scientist or Science Council providing direct advice to government leadership. We also advocate that office to have oversight of the government’s funding agency Foundation for Research Science & Technology that has progressively become an empire in itself, administering a fragmented, complicated, changeable, and jargon-ridden bureaucracy.

Promises in the forthcoming budget of a $700 million agriculture research injection (over 10 years) along with other science funding initiatives, and a move to increase the level of negotiated, multi-year funding, are steps in the direction advocated in the Manifesto. Inflation adjustment of research funding also needs urgent implementation to redress years of annually eroded purchasing power of project funding, as if inflation was a myth.

But funding alone will not achieve the needed recovery for New Zealand’s science. As just one of ten elements in the Science Manifesto’s programme, NZAS urges government to take seriously all needs articulated by the National Science Panel, and to work with the science community to maximise the benefits of science for the broad national good.

New Zealand Association of Scientists (http://nzas.rsnz.org/) is a nationwide association of practicing research scientists spanning the universities, technical institutes, Crown Research Institutes of Science NZ, government departments, industry, museums, and other science institutions.

ends

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