National Science Challenges – Govt unveils the areas of focus

The Government has announced the National Science Challenges – 10 areas of focus over the next four years – $73.5 million in new funding to address them ($133.5 million in total to be spent on research addressing them).

The areas of focus are:

1. Aging well
2. A better start
3. Healthier lives
4. High value nutrition
5. New Zealand’s biological heritage
6. Our land and water
7. Life in a changing ocean
8. The Deep South
9. Science for technological innovation
10. Resilience to nature’s challenges

So what do you think? Has the Government, after consulting the science sector and the public, got the mix right?

6 Comments

  1. Marcus Wilson

    I think I’ll move to Australia. Precious little for a theoretical physicist to get excited about. But then that’s no departure from the current agri-aqua-forestry focus to NZ’s research. Can’t we take off our blinkers, just for a moment, and see a little wider?

  2. Michael Edmonds

    from the report

    “The Panel was concerned by the lack of significant proposals in educational research”

    You mean the kind of research that as a rule scored low on the PBRF and which some institutions discourage their researchers from getting involved in? Well, go figure.

    As far as I can see the whole exercise has just involved a restatement of the key research areas NZ should be involved in, most of which we are already involved it.

    And the NSC campaign has been a “feel good” exercise with the general public – though it may have at least encouraged some people to find out more about the science going on in NZ.
    It would be interesting to know what this whole exercise has cost.

  3. Siouxsie Wiles

    Yep, plenty in the biomed field looking like the cat that got the cream at the announcement! At least one CoRE is firmly embedded in one of the health challenges, and Richard Faull (UoA Centre for Brain Research) could barely contain his excitement with the ‘aging well’ challenge.

  4. Bruce Hamilton

    Wow. Tragic.

    The medical research community is going to be ecstatic, but few of the challenges are unique to NZ. I’d have thought they would favour researching uniquely NZ problems, but clearly they haven’t.

    Aside from mentioning Singapore and Ireland as tentative partners for a specialist area, not much recognition that many of the proposed challenges are global issues that could be partnered offshore.

    What chances are there of NZ developing assistive technologies for old people faster than Japan, which has an extensive investment programme already underway?.

    As for biodiversity, predator and pests, there is much emphasis on bioinformation, rather than solutions. Counting passenger pigeons and huia didn’t help survival. NZ’s flora and fauna are already seriously compromised, why no start working on solutions?.

    They apparently struggled to understand where Callaghan Innovation could contribute, which isn’t surprising – given the minimal focus on manufacturing and energy.

    “There was also extensive discussion of the issues of sustainable energy and of improving transport but the Panel could not formulate these into a meaningful or effective Challenge given the criteria tests.”

    Absolutely tragic, they should feel embarrassed. A significant % of NZer’s income is spent on energy and transport, and we do have unique factors that could be addressed.

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