NZ Herald: Picking winners in science

Shaun Hendy writes in an opinion piece in the New Zealand Herald about the strategy of ‘picking winners’ in science funding, and how continued science funding shows diminishing returns in knowledge gain over time.

He proposes that this can be offset by investment in infrastructure and research networks.

An excerpt: (read in full here)

“This is nothing new. New Zealand has always prioritised its science spending. A glance at our New Zealand science tag cloud for 2009 shows that we are strongly focused on agricultural, environmental and medical sciences. If we have scale, then it lies in these disciplines.

“So does our science funding system facilitate or foil scientists’ attempts to beat these diminishing returns?

“There are some hopeful signs on the horizon. New Zealand scientists do collaborate through mechanisms such as the Centres of Research Excellence (the CoREs), and increases in non-contestable funding for the CRIs may be able to break down traditional institutional barriers. Furthermore, the government has also shown a willingness to invest in key scientific infrastructure, including advanced genomics capability and high performance computing.

“However, continued micromanagement of the contestable funding pool for science is likely to limit the size of science teams in Universities and skew the balance of this portfolio towards well-established, low pay-off areas.”