5 Aug 2013

AgResearch restructuring not tackling real issue - scientist

6:36 am on 5 August 2013

An independent soil scientist and fertiliser consultant has likened AgResearch's latest restructuring plans to shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic.

The Crown Research Institute has drawn support as well as criticism for its plan to shift about 250 staff to expanded science hubs at Palmerston North and Lincoln, at the expense of its Invermay and Ruakura campuses.

But Doug Edmeades, a former AgResearch science leader who now heads his own consultancy, agKnowledge, says the reorganisation is just tinkering with a basically flawed science system.

He said the real issue that needs to be sorted out is with the two-headed CRI Act, which requires the research institutions to make a profit and pay a dividend to the Government.

Dr Edmeades said corporate management has been introduced to achieve a dividend payment to Government, but this should not apply to science.

Dr Edmeades said he is not advocating a return to a public service model of science funding because he accepts that also contained inefficiencies.

"But there is a management organisational model called not-for-profit and we have them in New Zealand, Cawthorne Institute in Nelson is a good example."

Dr Edmeades said if that model was adopted and the requirement for scientists to make money removed it would overcome a lot of the problems.

He said all the AgResearch plans will do is further erode the morale of already demoralised scientists.