28 Jul 2014

Government defends science challenges

12:30 pm on 28 July 2014

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce has defended the Government's $133.5 million National Science Challenges after criticism from the scientific community.

The aim of the challenges, which were launched in 2012, is to find innovative solutions to some of the most fundamental issues facing the country.

But some of the country's scientific research leaders have warned the challenges could be a major flop.

AgResearch is shifting 150 science staff to new hubs.

The National Science Challenges aim to tackle the most important problems facing the country. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Emails between scientists and the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment obtained under the Official Information Act show 19 complaints between October 2013 and May of this year.

In one, Callaghan Innovation's then-group manager Bob Buckley said there was a complete lack of challenging science and it was going to waste valuable and limited resources.

An email from Auckland University vice chancellor Stuart McCutcheon to the ministry expressed concern about the high cost to the university in being involved.

And one scientist early in their career expressed frustration about getting involved in the challenges, and the lack of transparency.

Mr Joyce said that was an average of two email complaints a month, which he believed was not an indication of a widespread problem.