Although I am always amazed at how long politicians can speak for and not say anything, I was actually quite surprised at the initiatives proposed in his speech. A few useful things may come out of this:
- Simplifying the whole system. This should hopefully mean less grant applications, and hence less time wasted. Talk to any academic and they will tell you that the amount of time they spend filling out grant applications, is hugely counterproductive. My supervisor once told me he could spend up to 1/5 of his time doing this! That is time wasted that could be spent on discovering the next big invention!
- More long term funding - good things take time, and so this gives the researcher more stability and confidence in their role.
- An examination of the funding balance of growth-oriented research (see here) and putting a bigger emphasis on the FRST to understand the value of their investments a bit better - this may mean that we find out exactly what things are worth putting money into, and as a result remain flexible to change investment policy further down the line if something isn't working.
We'll have to wait and see how this pans out - these changes will be made by the years end, and will be released in the Budget 2010.
* If you're interested you can listen to his speech via podcast over at the NZ Science Media Centre