Budget 2012: Young scientists will be booking their tickets

The NZAS welcomes funding for the Advanced Technology Institute, which will help build closer links between science and industry, and the new National Science Challenges. “The contestable funding system had largely eliminated the type of research and development that gave us companies like Fisher and Paykel Healthcare”, said NZAS President, Professor Shaun Hendy. “The Advanced Technology Institute should help rebuild this capability in New Zealand.”

However, this year’s budget has ignored the issues facing New Zealand’s emerging scientists.  Last year more than five hundred scientists called for the government to address the lack of opportunities for young scientists in New Zealand. Figures obtained by the NZAS point to a 25% decline in positions for post-doctoral scientists since 2008.

“Young scientists today face much dimmer prospects than when this government took office”, said Hendy. “After this budget, they will be booking tickets for countries that are willing to invest in the future.”

The budget provides only a 3% real increase in science and innovation spending, falling far short of achieving the levels of investment in science and technology made by other small countries, like Singapore or Denmark. It also keeps the focus only the short term while ignoring the long-term nature of science funding.

“Science is a critical component of modern economies, and is the engine for sustainable economic growth” Prof Hendy remarked. “New Zealanders work harder and earn less than almost any other people in the developed world thanks to a lack of investment in science and technology twenty years ago.  Our failure to address the problems that affect our young scientists today will haunt us for decades to come.”

While the high-value manufacturing sector has benefited in this Budget, the NZAS is concerned that other areas of science will face shrinking budgets. “You only have to look at the role that science played in our response to the Canterbury earthquakes to see its broader value, yet this budget will actually see our spending on hazards and environmental research decrease” noted Hendy.