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17 January 1997
Information specialists are needed to transfer information and technology research results from science to industry, which is not happening sufficiently in New Zealand, even thugh research results can be applied to enhance the productivity of the agricultural sector. This is one of the issues raised in the Ministry of
Agriculture’s Post Election Brief.
With the restructuring of the former MAF Consultancy Services into the commercial Agriculture New Zealand, there is no single body solely responsible for providing a link between science and industry.
The transfer to industry of information and technology is currently a requirement of successful Public Good Science Fund recipients but is largely ineffective in practice. While researchers take every effort to communicate their research results to the relevant industries, time and adherence to Public Good Science Fund constraints restrict information transfer to presentations at conferences or industry field days, or articles in scientific or popular publications.
Effective information transfer could be achieved by allotting a percentage of any funding increase to a dedicated technology transfer fund (administered by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology) which would be distributed back to science providers to then employ information transfer specialists who could dedicate the time required to interact with industry in an effective and efficient manner. This would allow industry to benefit from targeted research and developments at an early stage.
The Post Election Brief outlines policy issues and the current status of the agriculture sector likely to need the attention of the Agriculture Minister in the next three to six months.
In preparing the brief MAF staff consulted sector leaders representing farmers, farm organisations, bankers, processors, marketers, companies, farm inputs suppliers, producer boards and local and regional councils. The information obtained is valued because collectively it highlights views, expectations and concerns that are held across the agricultural sector.
The brief also predicts a shortage of scientists early in the next century due to a science arena of fixed funding, lack of affirmative career structure, apprehension about motives of science managers, and the comparative attractiveness of other professions requiring less tertiary training and greater financial rewards.
Morale amongst many Crown Research Institute staff is low, as a consequence of ongoing restructuring as CRI’s seek to position themselves within the contestable science arena of fixed funding, and in an era of fiscal restraint where there is the temptation to replace more experienced with less experienced staff. Retaining key staff is essential to provide not only the training but clarity of vision required to maintain New Zealand at the forefront of agriculture science internationally.
For further information or a copy of the brief contact:
Jocelyn Brown, MAF Policy,
Phone:(04) 4744100 ext:8454.