Govt seeks feedback on $1.5b science spend: researchers are urged to have their say

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce has released the Government’s first draft National Statement of Science Investment (NSSI), which sets out the current settings and proposed future priorities for Government’s science investment, for public feedback.

In a media statement, Joyce said the Government’s science investment would be almost $1.5 billion in 2015/16, a figure which has grown by more than 70 per cent across government since 2007/08.

To capitalise on opportunities to increase the value and effectiveness of this investment, the draft NSSI proposes a series of key priorities for action over the next five to 10 years, he said.

“This government has introduced a number of new initiatives including the National Science Challenges, Callaghan Innovation and the Primary Growth Partnerships. Now is a good time for a stocktake on the overall shape of the science system to consider where the next investments should be made.”

The draft NSSI reviews the entire cross-government investment in research and development. It also proposes potential reforms to the sector-specific research funds administered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

“We’re after feedback from everybody who has an interest in the science system to assist us in focusing our efforts. We want a broad conversation about the overall direction of Government’s science investment and the balance of that spend, between investigator-led, mission-led, and business-led research,” Mr Joyce says.

“It is also important that we further develop the evaluation framework for our science investment; and not just focus on the amount invested. The draft NSSI proposes a number of measures in this regard.

“It’s vital our science system can respond to the unique economic, environmental and cultural challenges that New Zealand faces now and in the future.

“Over the next five to 10 years, the science system will be increasingly prominent as it both shapes and is shaped by an economy that is increasingly innovation-led, and New Zealanders who are more engaged with science in their daily lives than ever before.

“New Zealand is now making a much bigger investment in science than it was six years ago. Through the NSSI we expect to maximise the critical contribution of science to New Zealand’s economic growth, prosperity, and the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.”

The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, welcomed the Government’s announcement.

“For the first time, we have a comprehensive account of the state of the science system in New Zealand that not only describes the features and intent of existing resources, but also suggests a strategic path for the next several years,” said Sir Peter. “The detailed consultation plan in the document is recognition that we all have a stake in this strategic path; it is a unique opportunity particularly for the science community to give input,” he said.

“I applaud the Government’s focus on scientific excellence and on ensuring its value and relevance to New Zealanders. From the social sciences to the natural and engineering sciences, the quality of the research and a view towards its impact must be foremost in our thinking. It is timely to critically consider the strengths and weaknesses of our science system, its role in our future and how it connects us to the world.

“However the document is also frank about the large and long-standing divergence in R&D investment, by both government and the private sector, when compared to other similar countries. This limits our potential, and while we have started to see the gap close, it is still significant,” said Sir Peter.

He urged members of the country’s research community, across all public research and tertiary institutions, along with the business community and the general public to engage actively in the consultation process.

The draft NSSI is available here. http://www.msi.govt.nz/update-me/major-projects/national-statement-of-science-investment

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