Want more? Be specific! AND explain why

Want more? Be specific! AND explain why

More of everything no matter what it is? And while we generally place boundaries on our own demands ourselves or they are placed there for us, in the end if there were no consequences would we ever stop? But in wanting or asking for more shouldn’t we know what the more will be used for; what benefit it will create; and perhaps most importantly what the consequences will be, good, bad and great? Shouldn’t we be specific about what we want?

We often hear that scientists are always asking for more money; the generic cry of the sector to the government. There is insufficient funding of scientific research. Maybe this is true that we just cry for more – but if it is – is this the right message? Is it even the main message?

If you had the chance to talk to the Prime Minister John Key or the Minister of Finance Bill English or the Minister of Science Steven Joyce; the chance to put forward to them the one thing that was needed for the sector or even just your part of the sector, what would it be? Clearly just saying more money won’t convince them. What would be your long game and what is your short? What are your reasons for each? What is the outcome that will mean something to anyone else other than you?

What would you ask for that would make a difference in the short term, give a clear outcome and allow you to move closer to your end game? And how would you ensure that you also left an opening for your next move?

David Williams our Deputy Director Commercialisation and Industry Engagement, and Chair of the Physics, Chemistry and Biochemistry Panel for the Marsden Fund – for example has said that he would ask for the ability to approve one more proposal submitted to his panel.

The Marsden Fund is celebrating 20 years this year and thinking about David’s approach, one more grant being funded in each of the ten panels corresponds to roughly $3 m more funding in Marsden per year, or an additional 5% of the current total fund. Factor in some reasonable inflation (noting that reasonable scientific research inflation is higher than normal inflation, ~2.7% since 2000 based on the CPI average), say twice the CPI, and you will want the fund to grow by just over 10% annually to make each individual grant and the number of grants grow.  Historically the fund has grown by about 13% annually. Hence David’s request of the Minister equates to asking him to continue to have the Marsden fund increase at similar levels to the past – of course the fund has not grown uniformly over that 20 years – far from it – but if we could guarantee that over the next 10 years the fund was supported to grow by the same annual average historical amount (~13%) the fund would reach ~$200 m by 2024 and we would see almost twice as many Marsden grants being awarded per year; ~125 per year across the ten existing panels.

Minister Joyce noted the significance of the Marsden Fund and its importance in the advancement of New Zealand in his speech at the 20 year Marsden Fund celebration on Tuesday 18 February, so the above request might be seen to be reasonable. The value of the fund is recognised, growth has occurred previously and we are just asking for that growth rate to be maintained.

So Minister Joyce we would like the Marsden Fund to grow at the historical growth rate (or higher ;-)) for the next – let’s be conservative, 5 years.

What about other parts of the sector or the sector as a whole?

What would you ask the Prime Minister or Ministers to do to support deliverance of a science-based strong economy if you had the chance? Let me know and we can develop a case.

Enjoy your weekend