Interesting science investments

From last week’s McCcully newsletter:

The Government’s gimmicky “Fast Forward Fund” science announcement has placed the Election Year spotlight on the whole area of science research and development.  There will now be greater interest in Party’s response closer to the election.  But what a pity that more focus has not been given to ensuring that we get value for money out of the existing budget.

The word ‘science’ will no doubt conjure up pictures of pasty-looking individuals in white coats shuffling around laboratories with Bunsen burners and test tubes. But a quick look at some of the projects currently being funded out of the Science/Research budget suggests that such is not the case.

Take, for example, a $96,000 grant for a study of Boganology.  No, this is apparently not a poorly selected term for some exciting new microbial organism. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a study of bogans. That will really get our export industries humming.

Then there’s the interesting little number entitled “More than Bricks and Mortar,” a study of social networks amongst homeless people.  All of that for a modest $795,000 (no, no typographical error – $795,000 out of the SCIENCE fund).

And how about a study of “The impact of economic shocks on the well-being of New Zealanders”.  A snip at $600,000.  All to ascertain the previously unknown and obviously elusive truth that economic shocks are bad for people’s well-being.

But for studies into the blindingly obvious the prize would have to be awarded to the report “How do positive events lead to greater happiness and wellbeing?” A modest $600,000 experiment that clearly involved giving someone a $600,000 grant and checking that he or she was very very happy indeed.

There is, of course, the usual display of rampant political correctness: a $427,000 grant for a “Dictionary of Loanwords in the Maori Language Newspapers”.  A $495,000 study of “The Impact of Sound Change on the Rhythm of Maori”.  And a $955,000 study “Ecosystem Services in Terrestrial Ecosystems for Iwi”, a report that will obviously shoot New Zealand immediately to the international forefront in this critical area of scientific endeavour.

That’s right folks. This is cash out of the SCIENCE budget we are talking about here.  Cash that has been confiscated from taxpayers under the pretence of investing it in maintaining world leadership in our primary industries.  Makes you yearn for a few more test tubes and Bunsen burners, doesn’t it?

I the good farmers of NZ check carefully what the Fast Forward Fund will actually be spent on!

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