RSI System Performance Report is released

Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods today announced the release of the 2018 Research, Science and Innovation System Performance Report, detailing how New Zealand is performing in key areas.

Findings show New Zealand’s science system is highly productive and produces a large amount of publications both per researcher and per $1 million spent on higher education and research, she said.

New Zealand’s international collaboration rates are high and strong connections have been made with key overseas partners, including in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany and China.

The Report also says that while only 20% of New Zealand university graduates specialise in STEM subjects, New Zealand has a net brain-gain with more STEM professionals migrating to New Zealand than STEM professionals departing.

Total expenditure on R&D was 1.23% of GDP in 2016.

The Ardern Government is committed to raising this to 2% – an increase that will require sustained growth in R&D investment by both the public and private sectors.

The 2018 Research, Science and Innovation System Performance Report presents a series of findings from across the system, and compares New Zealand’s performance to other similar-sized economies and Australia.

It can be read on the MBIE website HERE.

Source:  Minister of Research, Science and Innovation

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Dr Woods pushes diversification further into the science community

The Government’s diversification policies are being pushed further into the science domain, where they are already being applied by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods has announced the launch of new measures “to help increase diversity in New Zealand’s science community”.

“Diversity guarantees we capture the very best ideas and talent to support the highest quality research. This work will maintain the existing high level of scientific excellence in the workforce while enabling fair and equal opportunities for all,” says Dr Woods.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates female doctoral graduates outnumber male doctoral graduates, but women make up just 32% of the scientific workforce, Dr Woods says.

And whilst nearly a quarter of the New Zealand population identifies as Māori or Pasifika it is estimated they make up less than 2% of the scientific workforce.

The ministry’s new Diversity in Science Statement

” … aims to support a vibrant and successful science and research workforce that is as diverse as New Zealand. This will happen through the way policies are developed, encouraging diversity of people and perspectives as part of scientific process, challenging bias, and ensuring fair and inclusive funding processes.”

Specifically, it’s a commitment to:

·       collect and report on the diversity of science funding applicants,

·       review funding policies and process to understand their impact on inclusion and diversity,

·       ensure a diverse range of people and perspectives in science advisory, assessment and decision making bodies, and

·       showcase researchers from a diverse range of backgrounds and raise awareness of unconscious bias.

“This initiative is a big step towards everyone having a fair and equal opportunity to participate in our science system to their fullest potential,” says Dr Woods.

“Diversity of genders, ethnicities and career stages throughout the science community cannot be achieved without strong leadership, mentors and role models who challenge bias and encourage inclusivity at every step of the science process.”

The Point of Order blog reports a challenge to belief in the efficacy of diversification programmes, quoting a critique by Heather MacDonald, the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. She earned a BA from Yale University, an MA in English from Cambridge University, and a JD from Stanford Law School.

She writes for several newspapers and periodicals, including The Wall Street JournalThe New York TimesThe New Criterion, and Public Interest, and is the author of four books, including The War on Cops: How The New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe and The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture (forthcoming September 2018).

She argues:

Marie Curie did not need female role models to investigate radioactivity. She was motivated by a passion to understand the world. That should be reason enough for anyone to plunge headlong into the search for knowledge.

As for the belief that diversity encourages excellence and that diverse thought is necessary to solve complex problems, MacDonald says this is ludicrous on multiple fronts.

“Aside from the fact that the one thing never sought in the academic diversity hustle is “diverse thought,” do [the champions of diversity] believe that females and underrepresented minorities solve analytical problems differently from males, whites, and Asians?

“A core plank of left-wing academic thought is that gender and race are ‘socially constructed.’ Why then would females and under-represented minorities think differently if their alleged differences are simply a result of oppressive social categories?”

Columbia’s science departments do not have 50/50 parity between males and females.

But does this prevent them from achieving “excellence”?

MacDonald notes:

“Since 1903, Columbia faculty members have won 78 Nobel Prizes in the sciences and economics. The recipients were overwhelmingly male (and white and Asian); somehow, they managed to do groundbreaking work in science despite the relatively non-diverse composition of their departments. “

The  Royal Society’s diversification policy aims (among other things):

To embrace diversity in all Society activities, with particular emphasis on those involving panel- and committee-based evaluation and assessment processes, and public lectures and other events.

The society shares the Minister’s confidence in the beliefs which are debunked by MacDonald. Its policy says:

The value in different viewpoints and perspectives offered by people of different backgrounds, age, experience, ethnicity and gender is considered to lead to more informed decision making, greater innovation and better outcomes for our stakeholders.

We believe that recognising and embracing diversity provides the opportunity to make our organisation stronger, leads to increased morale, and is an essential element in the long term success of the Society.

Under the society’s policy all employment interview panels should have at least 30% women.

At least 30% of nominations/applications in all nomination rounds should be from people from under-represented group.

The society’s staff including management and Council must have at least 30% from under-represented groups.

Results are to be published annually.

$58m for research supporting environmental, economic, social outcomes

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods today released the revised 2019-2021 Endeavour Fund Investment Plan, with new investment signals to support the Government’s aim of transitioning to a more sustainable economy.

The Endeavour Fund supports over $200m of research each year, investing in ambitious research ideas with the potential to transform our economy, environment and society. It will invest $58m of new annual funding between 2019 and 2021.

The Government’s vision for New Zealand puts the long-term well-being of people and the environment at the heart of what it does, Dr Woods said.

“That’s why the Endeavour Fund will now be guided by investment signals that reflect the Government’s priorities of growing R&D intensive industries, and transitioning to a low emissions economy. These new signals will initiate much needed research into both areas.

“Research, science and innovation will make a vital contribution towards improving kiwi’s lives by informing and improving how we respond to the social, economic and environmental challenges we face.”

The new investment plan also introduces a new approach to supporting higher-risk, transformational Research Programmes proposals. This is to encourage research proposals in emerging areas where impact initially can be harder to assess, such as technologies, and goods and services which are new to New Zealand, or new to the world, Dr Woods said.

Other key settings of the Endeavour Fund remain unchanged.

The Science Board will continue to make funding decisions, and excellence and impact will continue to be key assessment criteria.

The Fund will continue to support research with a broad range of economic, environmental and social impacts beyond the new investment signals.

The Investment Plan is a guide for researchers and scientists to apply for funding, and will cover the next three rounds from 2019 to 2021.

More information on the 2019-2021 Endeavour Fund Investment Plan can be found can be found HERE  on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s website.

R&D tax incentive update: Minister says legislation will be introduced in October

Reporting progress on the Government’s plan to introduce a research and development (R&D) tax incentive, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods reiterates the aim to lift New Zealand’s economy-wide spend on R&D from 1.3% to 2% of GDP over the next 10 years. The tax incentive will be a key lever in reaching this goal.After a consultation period, officials are now producing final recommendations on the design of the scheme.

There will be further opportunities for people to have their say on the design of the R&D tax incentive during the select committee process later this year.

Legislation will be introduced in October for the R&D tax incentive to be in place by 1 April 2019. Eligible businesses paying tax will be able to benefit from this policy from day one.

Over time, the Government intends to have a full package of support for New Zealand’s Innovation system, including support for start-ups.

“We recognise it is vital to have the right kinds of support in place for pre-profit businesses that are in tax loss or those that have insufficient taxable income to benefit from a tax credit,” Dr Woods said.

She has noted concerns that R&D-intensive firms and start-ups would not be able to benefit from the incentive.

The policy issues involved in supporting companies in tax loss through a tax incentive were complex, she said, “but we are committed to having a solution in place by April 2020”.

In the meantime start-ups and businesses in tax loss can continue to get support from the range of grants and incubators from Callaghan Innovation.

Source: Minister for Research, Science and Innovation

Banana-growing project among the winners of Māori science funding

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta have announced funding for 34 new projects worth $3.8 million over two years through the sixth round of Te Pūnaha Hihiko: Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund.

Te Pūnaha Hihiko: Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund invests in people and organisations undertaking or planning research which supports the four themes of the Vision Mātauranga Policy: indigenous innovation; taiao achieving environmental sustainability; hauora/oranga improving health and social wellbeing; and mātauranga exploring indigenous knowledge.

“This fund has a strong focus on investing in Māori people and organisations that can create unique opportunities and innovative solutions through science research,” says Minister Woods.

“The projects funded through the Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund reflect the high calibre of diverse research aimed at creating a healthier, more sustainable and better future for all of New Zealand.”

Nanaia Mahuta says the new projects in this year’s round include sustainability in the Chatham Islands, improving biodiversity and kaitiakitanga (guardianship) in South Westland, and developing a climate change strategy for Te Arawa.

“The contribution Māori make to our research, science and innovation sectors is distinctive and essential to the growth of New Zealand,” says Minister Mahuta.

“Māori have valuable knowledge to help solve our country’s unique problems. Investment into Māori knowledge and resources, and building a better understanding of Māori values creates resilient communities.”

Up to $4 million per investment round is available through two different schemes in the fund.

A full list of successful projects is available on the MBIE website.

At the top of the list, AgResearch is being funded for three separate projects.

One of these (with $93,455 of funding) is to nurture the growth of a banana industry through “the rapid expansion of commercial Banana growing in Tārawhiti” in partnership with a company, Tai Pukenga Limited.

The Institute of Environmental Science and Research has secured $100,000 for the validation of a food safety framework for mahinga kai Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

The Rakiura Titi Islands Administering Body / Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, in partnership with Callaghan Innovation, has secured $100,000 for a project to find ways of utilising tītī by-products and add value to mahinga kai.

Source: Ministers of Science and Māori Development

Red Zone project aims to boost the endangered bee population

The Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Megan Woods, has announced that the Residential Red Zone will become the new breeding ground for the embattled global bee population.

May 20 has been declared World Bee Day by the United Nations.

Dr Woods used the occasion to announce the initiative to protect and grow native bee stocks.

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) has created a trial in the Residential Red Zone after an extended search for appropriate and safe areas to place and grow beehives.

The first trial involves 10 beehives with around 600,000 bees at a Dallington location, but that number of locations can be increased in the future.

“This trial is another wonderful example of a transitional project to use the red zone effectively and created eco-friendly activities in this area until the final regeneration plan has been formed,” says Dr Woods.

“The Government recently extended the amount of time red zone land can be used for community projects.”

Christchurch beekeeper Simon Phillips, who manages the hives on behalf of LINZ, says declining bee numbers are a worldwide problem. “

It is a constant battle, with new diseases appearing every month, so we constantly have to develop new treatments to deal with each new virus.”

Jeremy Barr is General Manager of the Canterbury Recovery Group of LINZ, responsible for managing the red zone areas.

“It is only a small first step, but with this trial LINZ wants to do its bit to protect and grow the local bee population,” he says.

Mr Phillips has timed the introduction of bee hives with the end of the honey season, before splitting his strongest hives in two new hives.

“We then introduce a new queen from our breeding programme and hope the new hive will grow to house around 60,000 bees each by next year.”

Mr Phillips says the red zone is the ideal area to grow bees.

“Normally we would have the hives on farms or in open fields where there is not always much for them to feed on, but the red zone is full of fruit trees that will be able to sustain the bees.”

Despite the large open spaces in the red zone, Mr Barr says that the project team had to be careful in deciding on the location for the hives.

“We are trying to keep them out of sight of the public and places with no traffic and little pedestrian traffic,” says Mr Barr.

The hives will be well sign-posted and fenced off after LINZ conducted a robust health and safety assessment.

Mr Phillips says that the hives only need 10 to 20 square metres. “But we wanted to make sure there will be no safety concerns, for the public, and the bees.”

A video interview with Mr Phillips can be seen HERE. 

Source: Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration 

Budget provides $1 billion for Govt’s R&D tax incentive

The Coalition Government is delivering on its plan to support a stronger and more productive economy with higher wages by injecting $1 billion into business research and development (R&D), Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods and Revenue Minister Stuart Nash say in a Budget press statement.

New Zealand spends just 1.3 per cent of GDP on R&D, whereas the OECD average is 2.4 per cent, Dr Woods says.

“We need new ideas, innovation and new ways of looking at the world if our businesses are to build a more productive economy,” she says.

“That’s why this Government is putting $1.0 billion of operating expenditure over four years on the table to finance an R&D tax incentive, giving eligible businesses 12.5 cents back for every dollar they spend on R&D. This funding will be available to all businesses spending more than $100,000 a year on R&D.

“This system will help us transition away from the current Growth Grants model, which is available to a narrower range of firms. This represents a significant increase in the amount available to help smart Kiwi businesses to innovate.”

Mr Nash says the design of the R&D tax incentive is currently out for public consultation and productive conversations are being held with businesses around the country.

The billion-dollar boost for innovation would make the New Zealand economy stronger and more productive, he says.