Science needs funding certainty to excel

The Press science reporter Dr Sarah-Jane O’Connor looks at the state of science funding in New Zealand and whether it is serving the needs of the country.

An excerpt: read in full here.

“At the end of the year, Palmerston North’s Centre of Research Excellence the Allan Wilson Centre will close, after missing out on millions of dollars worth of funding.

“Annually, the centre has sent speakers around the country to talk about big research ideas. As a postgraduate student I was inspired by those speakers – research can be long and slow and lonely so anyone who can lift your head from the data and remind you of the thrill of discovery, the importance of the small piece in the greater picture of knowledge and understanding, is worth their weight in gold.

“‘The cost of keeping the centre going would’ve been less than amounts we face spending on a flag referendum,’ the centre’s director Professor Hamish Spencer told media in August.

“I understand his sentiment. It’s easy to get your nose out of joint when the flavour of the day (pandas, flags) gets more support or funding than essential and important science.

“It’s not like losing funding for one project, or one CRI, is the final straw. But it’s a slow erosion of certainty, the ability to peck away at the great unknown and uncover things you didn’t even know you were looking for.”