National Science Challenges: Survey Results

Written comments - by involvement.pdf231.53 KB
NSC-survey-data.pdf55.77 KB

On Friday the 1st of August, we sent out a brief poll of opinion on the National Science Challenges, with the following description:

The National Science Challenges have been attracting media attention recently, based on an Official Information Act request which obtained copies of critical emails sent to MBIE. The Radio New Zealand story, along with interviews with the Minister and scientists can be found via the these links (in chronological order, 1, 2, 3).
The NZ Association of Scientists is looking to canvas opinion from across the science sector, both from those who have been strongly involved, and from those who have been less involved in the Challenges to date.  We recognise that CRI scientists in particular are unable to comment publicly in the lead up to an election: please let us know your thoughts here, or if you prefer, via email to

We copy here the results of this poll, which by 5 pm on Monday the 4th of August had attracted 290 responses.  We are aware that this simple poll will have some inherent biases, and may not be a perfect representation of opinion - however, the number of responses, and the detailed comments also supplied, convince us that these concerns should be considered very seriously by those in charge of our national science investment.

We would like to thank very sincerely everyone who contributed.



New funding tools

Over my career I've seen a whole bunch of new funding systems. They are all well intentioned (well mostly). Each time we face at least two years of chaos where nobody knows exactly what is expected in the new grant applications. The NSC is yet another round of new funding tools, this time confounded by the problem of a "challenge" designed by committee. In five years time we'll all know what is expected of an NSC application, we'll all understand what needs to go in and what should be hidden. Some really good science will be done. But for two or three years we'll all lose time and effort and money figuring the system out. However, history strongly suggests that the NSC will actually not change the science landscape of New Zealand in any fundamental way. Scientists adapt to each new funding scheme. We all try and do the best for New Zealand and the world in spite of the funding regime. Given the cost of changing funding systems is high and given that we already have/had some excellent/adequate funding tools, then creating the NSCs would appear to serve no scientific, social nor economic purpose. That for me is the biggest problem, at a time where funding for science is cripplingly low, any new money should go into established proven funding systems, if for no other reason than to minimise the cost.

Story for our TEU newsletter

Kia ora - I would be keen to write about this survey for our weekly TEU newsletter, Tertiary Update. Is there anyone at the Association to get some public comment on this survey and the National Science Challenges? Regards, Stephen