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NRT: An empty strategy

Written By: - Date published: 9:01 am, October 8th, 2015 - 14 comments
Categories: science - Tags: , ,

I/S at No Right Turn on the government’s National Statement of Science Investment . (Meant to repost this earlier in the week!)


An empty strategy

The government finally released its National Statement of Science Investment today, more than a year after releasing the draft. Its a significantly different document, lacking much of the information in its predecessor (for example, the news that they were planning to cut science funding by 15 – 20% over the next decade). The good news is that they’ve removed the material about trying to get the Royal Society of New Zealand to gag scientists from commenting on public policy via a code of conduct. Other than that, its exactly the sort of empty strategy document National loves to criticise Labour for: 66 pages of sweet fuck all.

The big news: they’re planning to tinker with the science funding mechanism. Again. Whoop-di-do. If they spent the money they’re planning to spend on external consultants to tell them how best to invest in science on actual science instead, then perhaps AgResearch wouldn’t be having to sack 20% of its scientistsand gut core capabilities. But the real problem is around the private sector.

New Zealand is a low R&D economy. Despite flinging around buzzwords like innovation, our business community is generally unwilling to invest in the future (foreign ownership is part of the story here: you don’t invest in colonies. But the short-term thinking of our overpaid business “leaders” is a huge part of the problem). And the biggest offenders are those you’d think would have the most to gain: our primary industries like meat, wood and dairy.

The government’s “solution” to this is to set an “aspirational” goal of increasing business R&D to 1% of GDP by 2018 – just over two years away. Its currently around half that. So, the government wants business to double its spending in just two years. And their plan to do this is… nothing. Or at least, nothing new or remotely credible given the scale of the challenge. Yes, they have Callaghan Innovation, which is supposed to hand out business R&D grants and co-fund (emphasis on the “co-“) research. But the amount of money allocated isn’t anything like what is necessary for the task, even assuming they get their maximum payoff for the funding. As for the government’s “regional research institutes”, they’re a joke.

Basicly this is an empty strategy which commits the usual mistake of setting goals without any credible policy to back it up – exactly as they have done on climate change and energy. Its the same mistake, over and over and over again. But I forget: the purpose of the policy isn’t to produce science or business R&D – it’s to produce headlines saying that the government supports those things. And on those grounds, they’ll be considering it a success, regardless of how much actual science is done.

14 comments on “NRT: An empty strategy ”

  1. dukeofurl 1

    I think its not a “mistake”
    ” commits the usual mistake of setting goals without any credible policy to back it up – exactly as they have done on climate change and energy. Its the same mistake, over and over and over again.”

    It IS their policy to have empty promises, meaningless goals that are constantly shifted.
    They know these things are not on voters radar anywhere, but its done as some sort of smoke screen in case something pops up.

    Whats much more important is the PM plays Im a celebrity get me out of here
    “John Key’s drama filled Iraq visit included potential security breach”

  2. tracey 2

    What was the total funding for science at election 2008, and today? I would love to see those numbers.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1

      Per-capita, inflation-adjusted…

      Be careful what you wish for 🙂

      • dukeofurl 2.1.1

        The categories change over time but just in the previous period its a CUT

        Science and Innovation: Biological Industries Research (M84)

        94,918 2014/15 Actual (millions)
        92,153 2016 Budgeted

        Back in 2008 Research for Industry (M56) was 215 million
        Environmental research was (M56) was 106 million.

        No way of looking then and now

        • tracey 2.1.1.1

          seems the strategy to get to four terms is to restore some of the previous cuts and make it seem like generosity

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    The government’s “solution” to this is to set an “aspirational” goal of increasing business R&D to 1% of GDP by 2018 – just over two years away.

    The government should do anything about business R&D. If the business wants’ develop itself or not is up to the business.

    What the government should be doing is major development of the countries knowledge and capabilities. That would mean major government R&D right across the board but especially in 3D printed manufacturing and IC fabrication. They would then build these manufacturing plants that the innovators of NZ could then use to produce their own goods for sale and export. The government having ownership and maintaining these manufacturies would remove the need for the innovators to produce them and thus boost innovation* as more people would be able to enter the field.

    Of course, this innovation also needs to be backed by increase in education. Making it all cost more so as to restrict it further reduces the innovation capability.

    * Innovation is a numbers game – the more people who are able to innovate the more you get. Our present system of making rich people richer actually restricts innovation as resources are removed from the innovators.

    • Sacha 3.1

      “If the business wants’ develop itself or not is up to the business.”

      Disagree. Our business sector needs its feet held to the fire over its long history of under-investing in research and innovation, as if it is not important. Changing that is crucial for all of us. Joyce proposes nothing to change the pattern.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        Best thing that could happen to a business that doesn’t engage in R&D is that they fail and go out of business leaving the pathetic owners with huge debts. The government should probably be encouraging that.

  4. ropata 4

    A money trader, a woodwork teacher, and a hobby farmer know nothing about science yet they have the ability to set NZ’s innovation and research efforts back decades. Yet these are the same idiots who want us to be competitive in world markets and sign away our economic sovereignty for a few empty promises. It seems like their plan is just to drive NZ into a low skill low wage backwater with a large service sector catering to foreign billionaires. Because they are the only people that *really* matter to the FJK government.

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