Pacific research needs Pacific control
A Pacific academic says research needs to contribute to community development in the Pacific instead of catering to funding requirements.
The director of the Pacific Research and Policy Centre at New Zealand's Massey University, Malakai Koloamatangi, says plenty of research is going on but the practical dimensions are often ignored in favour of securing funding.
He told Daniela Maoate-Cox more governance of the Pacific research agenda is needed.
MALAKAI KOLOAMATANGI: People tend to work in silos and compartments so there needs to be a greater collaboration beyond and across borders, and that's I think how you build up the critical mass and capacity to obviously to create and construct more knowledge but also to attract more funding. The problem is people will fund certain things and not others and I'm afraid they fund the wrong things, well not the wrong things, but they fund the things that are less important for community development.
DANIELA MAOATE-COX: Would it be beneficial to have one organisation that handled research in the Pacific or would that just create another bureaucratic step that could slow it down?
MK: There is one of course, there's the New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research, but again, it's government controlled and the research agenda is largely set by government and I think there is some academic freedom for the institute to seek other areas to do research but at the end of the day, the government will fund certain things and it won't fund others so it's difficult to try and get the all important research dollar to follow what's important for the Pacific.
DM-C: What's the solution to satisfying those who control the money for the research and also satisfying the research that is needed?
MK: I think that's a really important question and a difficult one too. I think there needs to be a body, whether it's an institute or part of a university, that caters for a Pacific group, that doesn't mean of course that non-Pasifika are not included, I'm saying that group, or that unit, or institution, should focus on specific Pacific research. The Government, New Zealand government and other governments and other funding bodies need also to be a part of that discussion with that group because it gives integrity, and it gives freedom to their research, and give them some leeway not to worry about funding dollar, the research funding that all researchers want.
DM-C: Is that research centre in Auckland not meeting those requirements?
MK: Yes and no, I'm guessing that the government has got its own agenda and that it wants certain things to be researched and it's tagging money to those objectives, and of course, government is free to do whatever it likes and then it gives that agenda to the Institute of Pacific Research but then of course there's no reason why the institute cannot go beyond the parameters set by the government but at the end of the day, the research will follow the funding, so what I'm saying is give Pacific and non-Pacific researchers the opportunity to come together, decide on the agenda and then give them the money to research in those areas where they think it's important, at the moment research is being driven politically and that's not healthy.
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