Science funding up for grabs

MICHELLE ROBINSON
Last updated 16:34 08/10/2012

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School pupils, scientists and everyone in between will be able to have their say on what projects deserve to get a share of $60 million in new funding.

The public has been invited to nominate a research topic of choice for the National Science Challenges programme which is being launched next month.

A $1 million TV and web based campaign is being launched by the Government to encourage ideas.

The aim is to identify 10 or more big challenges crucial for New Zealand's future, science and innovation minister Steven Joyce said this afternoon.

''We tend to place every science project contract by contract.''

It's hoped a more collaborative approach would be undertaken for challenges in public health, ocean sustainability, agriculture and natural disasters.

''What is our key focus, what are we trying to solve?

''We don't have an over arching theme of what we need to tackle.''

Joyce spoke aboard NIWA's research vessel MV Tangaroa which has stopped in Auckland before heading to the Kermadec Islands.

''If we were able to talk about science more there would be a lot more solutions coming forward balancing science and the economy.''

He said a big challenge for New Zealand was sustainable agriculture. ''It's really important to have a science based approach. It's important we actually get that right.''

Auckland University deputy vice-chancellor of research, Jane Harding, said she hoped the iniative would see project targets mapped out more clearly.

''Most science projects are small and the funding is small, with about one to two years or three to five years available for bids.

''I hope there will be a longer term focus.''

Sustainability issues which attracted a lot of attention could do with more publicly available research, she said.

''There's always going to be conflicting voices, so what we need is a research basis on which to base policy.''

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