Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Going through the progress indicators in the Ministry of Everything's "Building Innovation"  progress report. Specifically in the section "growing the innovation workforce: - important to me because I'm going to want a job one day. Preferably one where I get to be a scientist. There's nine points, of which 4 are marked as completed:
  • Lift the profile of science through the appointment of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor
  • Institute the Rutherford Fellowships to provide greater opportunities for early stage researchers
  • Establish the annual Prime Minister’s Science Prizes to acknowledge and reward scientific achievement
  • Maintain internationally competitive personal tax rates that encourage highly-skilled workers to work from New Zealand
Can't say as I'm overwhelmed with optimism. Appointment of a science advisor. Cool. It's done some good - brought a little sanity to the discussion of some topics. How's it's meant to grow the innovation workforce though, I'm not sure. Maybe it's meant to have inspired some sprogs to take up science as a career. Maybe it has. who knows. the Rutherford Fellowships - grand for them that can get them. 10 per year. And it's for early/mid stage researchers. Competition will be - fierce. Same thing with the PM's Science prize - it's for a few people who have done particularly well and while that recognition is a good thing, I don't see how it's grow the workforce. And the last one just completely misses the boat. Very few scientist will look at the personal tax rate and decide that that's the thing that's going to stop them from working somewhere. They will go where the work is interesting. There are larger economic arguments for low tax rates (not saying they're valid arguments) - but it's not going to the thing that innovators will look at and decide to move country because of.
So what's in progress then?
  • Complete a stock take of post-PhD employment opportunities in New Zealand and make policy changes if required
  • Increase investment in engineering studies at tertiary institutions and lift graduate numbers by 500 per annum by 2017
  • Collect and provide better information on career prospects to students and the tertiary sector
  • Highlight the role of entrepreneurship in business innovation through annual Prime Minister’s Business Scholarships
  • Investigate highlighting innovation careers in science, design, engineering and maths to school students and their families
A stock take, that's good, it's easier to make changes when you know where you're starting from. I don't imagine the results of that stock take will be particularly encouraging though. Increasing investment at engineering faculties is probably the high point on this list. I would be nice to see a corresponding increase in the sciences so the scientists can give the engineers new and better things to play with. I don't see how providing information on the limited job prospects to students is going to make things better - surely that will only send more people to study law. Business scholarships - again for a few, the recognition may be nice but it's not something that any researcher is specifically going to strive for. And investigation of highlighting innovation careers? That's not even highlighting science/engineering/design to prospective students. Again it's sounds like they're attempting to take an evidence based approach to building things up, which is good, but I just don't see how anything is going to change that will keep me in New Zealand when I finish my PhD. I would like to stay and be part of an innovative workforce, but it will be availability of interesting work that keeps me here. It certainly won't be the tax rate.

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