Friday, November 6, 2015


It's fair to say that eyebrows have been raised at the news that the Marsden Fund is to grant Professor Jane Kelsey $600k to investigate 'transending embedded neoliberalism in international economic regulation: options and strategies' ... translated ...  'new ways to oppose free trade agreements'.

Marsden Fund grants are government funded so it seems somewhat strange that government appears to be funding Kelsey to oppose what has been, up to very recently, a bi-partisan policy (National and Labour) on free trade.

The reality is somewhat different.   The Marsden Fund was established by the government in 1994 to fund 'excellent fundamental research.   It is a contestable fund administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the Fund.   The research is NOT repeat NOT subject to government's socio-economic priorities but is investigator initiated.   Competition for grants is intense.  Marsden is recognized as the hallmark of excellence for research in New Zealand.   Applications are ranked by one of ten 'expert panels' and the recommendations of each panel are confirmed by the Fund Council comprising eleven eminent researchers chaired by Professor Juliet Gerrard and ratified by the Royal Society.

The Minister of Science and Technology has no part in the decision process.

I guess the alternative would be to restrict the fund to research broadly in line with government policy objectives.   Many might say that would be against the very principles that underline research.

In North Korea this wouldn't be an issue.


Ross said...

This is not Kelsey's first Marsden fellowship. She got #336,000 in 1999 to research "Confronting the contradictions of New Zealand’s embedded neoliberalism in a post-neoliberal era".

Whatever your opinion of what she does, from an academic viewpoint she does it well.

Anonymous said...

Marsden funding is three times as hard to get as the equivalent Australian funding, and ten times as hard to get as US or Euro funding. The real question for Kelsey or anyone else doing this is - why not go anywhere else where they could get rather more money rather more easily.

Whatever your opinion of what she does, from an academic viewpoint she does it well.


Anyone getting a Marsden in NZ is damn good - whatever their politics.

Anonymous said...

Anyone getting a Marsden in NZ is, scientifically speaking, well connected in political loops.
The same people keep getting them over a 5-6 year cycle. Its the Marsden panel and their sub-panels, not peer review, that determines who puts in a full application. That process cuts 2/3 of new applicants out, year in, year out. And panellists are chosen CAREFULLY from recipient organisations, every 3 years, from the "right" people.

All of which derives from the Fund being 3x underfunded. This results in a process that's 1/3 science, 2/3 politics in my opinion. And yes, I have received Marsden funding.

JC said...

When I saw the Royal Society had a hand in there I knew what I'd find.

I checked all the 1995 grants and found what I knew I'd find.. good solid science stuff and of course when I checked the 2015 grants I found about half of them are for socio-economic babble.

One project which could be quite good also had an appealing description of the RS and the general direction of modern science "Climate dipsticks"...


Howie said...

"When I saw the Royal Society had a hand in there I knew what I'd find."

I'm guessing a horde of embedded ISIS fighters posing as scientists and awaiting their opportunity to wreak havoc. That's how you roll right? The scary muzzies are everywhere!

Ross said...

JC. The grants are awarded roughly in proportion to the number of applications in each of the 10 subject groups that the Marsden Fund Council uses. The increased allocation of funding to social sciences and humanities reflects the universities' demanding their researchers apply for a Marsden grant regardless of talent.

Universities are incentivised to produce more and more PhDs because that is a major part of how the PBRF funding is allocated. So we have more and more people deludedly thinking they are going to have a career in research.