Monday, November 14, 2005

The collapse of IRL

Strange things afoot at yet another CRI or whatever the hell their acronym'd with these days. Thanks to the 'censorship is just damage' crew i can even link to the herald editorial thats wails and moans about our poor scientists (is it 10 months since the last one already? how quickly the time goes...) and the IRL press release is here.
I have had the pleasure of interviewing with IRL for a position a couple of years ago. When the scientist who had been working for 20 years introduced his earstwhile colleague fresh out of uni with the ink still wet on his BCom who then stated his interest was 'in the business of science', even i noticed that things could be going downhill (free hint: don't lose your temper in job interviews or imply that half of the people interviewing you are idiots, regardless of the evidence presented...).
I haven't looked this up deeply yet but based on the editorial, things look grim for the same reasons i indicated about GNS. Why close the research centres in NZ's largest city? Do you think everyone around the world wants to work in the sticks? What support services are available on a moments notice? Don't you think there'd be more chance of finding those services in a bigger city? Is their any coherency to science policy in this country?
Commercialisation is a noble goal for scientific research but it is a possible end result of good basic research. You can't just sell off the intelletual property that the crown has accumulated since the 60's without continuing to generate the IP that we'll need in 2020 - come on people it's not rocket science!! NZ science and technology is woefully underfunded and what funding there is chaotically distributed with no thought as to investment.
One of the things that really bugs me about people that hand out other people's cash is that they start thinking it can't be too hard to do my job (every time you hear 'ivory tower' or 'academic' it's likely to be disparaging, not complimentary), however, while i think any scientist who cares to can learn the basics of business in a few months, i doubt you'll find many business types asking around a lab to spend 10-15 years of their life learning my discipline so they can really start doing 'the business of science'.


Blogger Craig Shepherd said...

Are you sure havent underestimated the impact of economics in your argument

Craig Shepherd, Melbourne, Australia

8:39 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

craig!!!, i'm touched that you stopped by.
after extensive thought i've decided that economists are like lawyers "find one that'll say what you want to hear for the amount of money you're prepared to pay and then stop looking" ;-) what else can explain a discipline where 10 experts have at least 12 diametrically oposed opinions?
as to the economics of IRL, two options 1. the death-throws of a research organisation that can't find enough external funding in a tiny country and is prolonging the inevitable 2. an organisation that is shedding lots of historical baggage and after bunking down for a while is able to leap phoenix like from the ashes when the good times start to roll again.
based on nothing but my memory that they spent millions developing a robotic sheep shearing machine and refused to give me a job, i'm betting on 1 while desperately hoping for 2.

2:10 PM  
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