Friday, April 25, 2008

Science funding in New Zealand

SideLines, April 2008

There has been some serious laughing-but-not-laughing about New Zealand science funding in the news recently ("NZ research assistance 'laughable', Weekend Herald, March 8th 2008).

Part of the problem is a lack of business spending on research.

What does this mean when so much of New Zealand business is driven by international companies? Presumably, they do a lot of their research in other countries.

New Zealand has had some success with agricultural-industry groups pooling their resources to carry out research that is valuable for all members.

Is there any way that disparate small companies can pool their resources to support the pre-proprietary stages of research? What topics would be relevant to diverse small companies in a small and relatively-isolated country?

Social research on employment-related issues? Logistical research on transport systems? Legal research on doing business across the ditch? Research on the risks of not doing research? (Try selling sunhats on a rainy day).

A good starting point might be to create a science-fashion magazine with a title like: 'Science for Every Occasion' (SEO, now recruiting, wanted: science writers with flair).

It might be laughable, but textile science is a big business, and the Wearable Art contest in New Zealand is a joke that seems to never wear thin. I have no doubt that there is a lot of science behind the art.

You can laugh, but some of those hats might be useful on Mars.

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