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Super-Ministry Not Good For Health Or The Environment

Press Release – New Zealand Association of Scientists

The Government’s plans to merge the Ministries of economic development (MED) and Science and Innovation (MSI), the Department of Labour (DOL), and the Department of Building and Housing (DBH), demonstrate a lack of vision around environmental …The New Zealand Association of Scientists (Inc.)

The Government’s plans to merge the Ministries of economic development (MED) and Science and Innovation (MSI), the Department of Labour (DOL), and the Department of Building and Housing (DBH), demonstrate a lack of vision around environmental sustainability and human health and well-being, according to the New Zealand Association of Scientists. “Such a merger shows a desire for science in New Zealand to focus on the short-term bottom line” said Prof Shaun Hendy, President of NZAS. “But, it makes no sense in terms of environmental science for environmental sustainability or in terms of health science to improve the well-being of New Zealanders” said Prof Hendy.

“We know that more scientific research is needed to grow industry, manufacturing and exports. But large components of the science system are concerned with the broader view, such as environmental and health science research, areas that do not often deliver an immediate payoff but which can be immensely valuable over longer time frames” Prof Hendy remarked.

The recent report of the McGuinness Institute on the government science system in New Zealand (http://www.mcguinnessinstitute.org/) also highlights the need for a long-term vision for science.

If the newly-formed MSI is to be subsumed into MED, then environmental science management should become the purview of the Ministry for the Environment, and health research should be managed by the Ministry of Health, with suitable allocation of funding, according to the NZAS.

An explicit focus on science purely for economic growth would only further destabilise an already splintered New Zealand science sector. The creation of MSI has had some positives for New Zealand science, but it has not been in place for long enough to establish a coherent strategy for the sector. “Further change such as this is likely to add more uncertainty to funding structures and to science career paths, especially for younger scientists” said Prof Hendy.

NZAS is hosting a conference on 16 April to address the issue of career paths for early-career scientists (http://www.scientists.org.nz/event/2012/2012-nzas-conference). Confirmed speakers include the Minister for Science and Technology, the Hon. Stephen Joyce, and the leader of the Labour Party and Labour spokesperson on Science and Innovation, David Shearer.

New Zealand Association of Scientists (www.scientists.org.nz) is a nationwide association of practicing research scientists spanning the universities, technical institutes, Crown Research Institutes of Science NZ, government departments, industry, museums, other science institutions, and independent researchers.

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