Is science system ‘heading in right direction’? – NZAS survey

NZAS‘No’, say more than half of Crown Research Institute (CRI) scientists and nearly a third of university scientists, according to results of the just-released 2008 NZAS Survey of New Zealand Scientists and Technologists.

The survey canvassed the opinions of a sample of 361 scientists and technologists randomly selected from a pool of nearly 6000. Previous NZAS surveys were completed in 1994, 1996 and 2000.

New Zealand Association of Scientists 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.

Some key findings:

  • Only 41.2% of scientists would recommend research as a career to New Zealand youth. CRI scientists
    were the most negative, with only 26.7% able to recommend research as a career, whereas university
    scientists were more positive, with 43.8% feeling they could so recommend.
  • The proportion of women entering the profession has gone up between 1996 and 2008, with women
    now making up 32.4% of the survey population as opposed to the sample respondents (28.8%). There
    has been a modest increase in Mäori scientists from 0.7% in 1996 to 1.7% in 2008.
  • Crown research institute (CRI) scientists are younger than their university counterparts. Those in the
    under 35 category are four times more numerous in the CRIs and the over 55 age group in CRIs is
    two-thirds of the size of this group in universities.
  • Only 13.6% of the respondents agreed with the proposition that government science strategy development
    is open and inclusive of a large segment of New Zealand scientists, and none of them did so
    emphatically. Nearly half (48.5%) disagreed and the emphatic disagreement (13.6%) matched the entire
    level of agreement.
  • A summary judgment of whether New Zealand science is ‘headed in the right direction’ received a
    majority negative response of 53.5% from CRI scientists compared with 30.9 % for university scientists.

You can find the full report here. (PDF)

NZAS President Dr James Renwick says the survey, “supports the view that the time is ripe for significant change in the science system in this country… and that the recent Taskforce review of CRIs is addressing a critical situation.”

The NZAS will be holding a one-day conference in June 2010, to consider the overall science environment in New Zealand, the findings of the survey, and possible ways forward.