Te Ara Paerangi - Future Pathways Green Paper Launch - Minister Verrall

Tēnā koutou e ngā mātāwaka.

Tēnā koutou e te hau kāinga Te Ātiawa, tēnā koutou.

Ko Ayesha Verrall ahau, Minita o te Karauna.

Tēnā koutou i runga i te kaupapa o te ata.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa.

Acknowledgements

I would like to start by acknowledging recipients of the Whitinga Fellowship for early career researchers, who are here with us virtually, Dame Juliette Gerard who brings a wealth of experience and expertise to this conversation, and Dr Willy-John Martin and the team from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Introduction

This Government has ambitious goals to transition to a low-emissions economy that’s diverse, innovative, resilient, productive and inclusive. We want a rich and protected environment we can be proud of; to support healthier, safer communities; and to make Aotearoa New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child.

To achieve these goals, we need ambitious research.

Already, we have committed to increasing spend on research and development to two percent of GDP.

But beyond more funding, we need to ensure the research workforce is primed for success - and able to make fruitful connections across the sector. This is one of the major objectives of the Future Pathways programme.

RSI workforce

People are the core of the Research, Science and Innovation system. Excellent people conduct excellent research when they have access to the right resources - including tools, data sets, facilities, and infrastructure … and equally as important - when they have opportunities for growth.

We know our research sector is not representative enough of New Zealand, and the nature of these jobs is often precarious - especially for early-career researchers.

Professor Wendy Larner said in her final speech as President of Royal Society Te Apārangi - “The PhD is no longer an apprenticeship for a guaranteed university career.”

She said, “To be blunt, there are now too many PhD graduates for too few academic jobs.”

I agree with Professor Larner, that we must work differently, to connect the large number of doctoral graduates with more diverse careers outside academia.

There are simply not enough traditional permanent positions available in universities, so many early-career researchers are forced to take on one short-term contract after another.

We also know only five percent of researchers identify as Māori, 1.7 percent as Pasifika - and only 25.7 percent of professors and deans are women.

We are taking action to address these issues. One example is this year’s MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowships, which supported 30 early-career researchers. As well as criteria which included factors such as the potential for career development, the selection process involved a ballot with a focus on equity, diversity and inclusion - it ensured a minimum number of women, Māori and Pacific recipients.

Similarly, our recent investment of $36 million in a new Infectious Diseases Research Platform, will build a pipeline of researchers in this field. It will include opportunities for early-career researchers to play a part - or lead research programmes. And research programmes will target health inequities in New Zealand, ensuring researchers represent a diverse range of communities.

But there’s more to do. How can we ensure we have the best workforce? I am confident the sector will have innovative ideas on how to better attract and develop talent, widen participation, and address retention issues. Te Ara Paerangi - Future Pathways will bring this to light.

Alongside this consultation, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is conducting detailed workforce surveys - to determine key attributes of the RSI workforce, problems faced by institutions and individuals, and opportunities to improve connections and collaborations.

Conclusion

Our research system is most successful when its people, the organisations they work for, and the resources they use are well-connected. The importance of staying connected has been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Green Paper for Te Ara Paerangi - Future Pathways kicks off the conversation around how we can address workforce issues, and improve connectivity across the system.

We look forward to hearing your views and embarking on this journey together.

Ngā mihi nui kia koutou katoa.