I'm going to leave commentary about most of the budget to those who are more qualified and just have a quick comment on the bit that mostly affects me directly. Mostly, the bigwigs are being somewhat ... optimistic isn't really the right word, upbeat? There's a couple of voices sounding words of caution but mostly they appear pleased. I'm not with them on this one to be honest. And the mood around the tea table is subdued, disappointment tinged with relief that science didn't lose any money. So, what's the breakdown.
A total of $326 million. Over four years. So $81 million/year. $76 million or ($19 million/year) is capital expenditure, building machines which might sound a lot, but try splitting that over the 6 or 7 CRI's and see how far that gets you. That's maybe one new properly outfitted building per year. Not each. One building.
The other $250 million ($62.5/year) again sounds impressive. $90 million of that is going straight away to the newly renovated Industrial Research Ltd, Now the Advanced Technology Institute. Which is fine, probably needed. Which leaves $160 million. $60 million of that is apparently going into National Science Challenges. $15 million a year. National Science Challenges are contestable. Like the Marsden Fund. The Marsden fund dished out almost $55 million last year. Or about 8 percent of the applications. Another $15 million would have enabled another 25 proposals bringing us back up to somewhere near the average from the last 15 years. In other words, treading water at best.
There there's that last $100 million. That'll get us ahead right? That $100 million, or $25 million a year gets split between Universities, technical institutes, wananga and private training institutes. There's quite a few of those. The big players like Auckland uni will probably be able to get a few million, but the rest will be spread pretty thin.
One of the more cautious bigwigs from that sciblogs post mentioned that nothing had been done to address the post-doc problem - we have graduates coming out of university and leaving science or going overseas because there's no work for them, either in academia or industry. I can't see this changing. Another $15 million a year won't employ that many more. And even more depressing we have the so called average family thinking that this is a positive budget for science.
At the same time as suggesting we need more scientists, there's sod all support for early career scientists and in education they're cutting allowances for people wanting to to post graduate work (a Masters degree is probably the minimum requirement to get a job as a lab technician these days). It just doesn't make sense.
And science is one of the aspects of this budgets that isn't heinous. The fact that compared to the rest of the world, we're going backwards slower than we were before is being presented as a positive. They're dumping on the poor, selling assets and the promises of growth ring hollow.