RSNZ National Science Panel's Science Manifesto

In response to 'A Science Manifesto'
scoop.co.nz Friday, 18 April 2008, 10:03 am
Press Release: New Zealand Association of Scientists

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.