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$3.8m for researchers to tackle big issues

Thursday, August 23, 2012
$3.8m for researchers to tackle big issues

Massey University researchers will study population movements, marine ecosystems, and communities' resilience to disasters, thanks to $3.8 million in government research grants announced today.

Five major Massey projects were awarded funding in this year’s science investment round announced by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Science said the main focus of the grants is high-quality science that delivers results. Forty-seven projects received a total $133 million.

Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey says Massey aims to be a world leader in the areas of research it specialises in and supports through collaborations with a range of stakeholders. "The grants announced today reflect the efforts and ability of our staff to achieve that goal and find solutions to issues that are important to New Zealand and are relevant in a wider, global context."

Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) Professor Brigid Heywood says she is delighted with the outcomes of the funding announcements. "It demonstrates that we undertake and support research that is clearly of value to New Zealand, with notable contributions from the University's health and society specialists.

"The Government’s funding investments also extend our growing capability in emergency and disaster management, and our active engagement with developing the infrastructures underpinning the marine ecosystems that are central to this nation’s future prosperity.”

A project led by Professor Murray Patterson, from the School of People, Environment and Planning, received $1 million. It aims to develop a robust framework to characterise, quantify, map and place an economic value on coastal-marine ecosystem services and will use Tasman Bay as its test-bed. Ecosystem services are benefits derived from ecological processes that occur in the natural and human-modified world that typically are not considered in economic decision-making – for example nutrient recycling, climate regulation, carbon sequestration, and food provision, Professor Patterson says. This research will “make visible” these coastal-marine ecosystem services by placing an economic value on them as well as socio-cultural valuations.

A study headed by Professor Paul Spoonley, from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, on the regional impacts of demographic and economic change received $800,000. New Zealand is experiencing significant population changes as mobility (immigration, emigration, internal migration) combines with an ageing population to impact on labour supply, community development and a sense of belonging or attachment. These demographic and economic changes vary considerably by region and have markedly different outcomes for rural and urban communities. Professor Spoonley’s research will provide a detailed model of the nature of these changes at the regional between 1986 and 2013 and will provide projections out to 2036.

Professor David Johnston, from the Joint Centre for Disaster Research, will develop understanding of factors that build resilience in New Zealand. The project, awarded $796,000 over two years, will consolidate and add to knowledge about resilient communities in New Zealand, across the continuum of hazard mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery – with a particular focus on indigenous knowledge. Building on research on the Canterbury earthquakes, the Rena oil spill, responses to economic shocks, and recovery from natural hazard events, the research will investigate post-disaster community resilience in urban, rural and Māori communities.

A project led by Associate Professor Chris Stephens, from the School of Psychology, received $598,629 over two years to provide answers to questions about older people’s aspirations for independent living, their contributions to paid and voluntary work, and their opportunities to use digital media. The Inclusion, Contributions and Connections study will survey 3200 “baby boomers” aged 63-78 years, and the findings will be used to develop appropriate digital information services, housing provision and employment support policies.

Dr Robin Peace from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences will head a project creating a social research knowledge space. The project, also granted $598,629 over two years, will launch a website eSOCSCI Hui Rangahau Tahi (engaged social science) to act as a virtual platform for dialogue, improving access to social research and knowledge, increasing the capacity of researchers, scientists, and policy makers and communities to share knowledge in ways that leads to robust and engaged research, evaluation, policy and policy implementation.

The research contracts to take effect from October and last for between two and six years.


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