November 30, 2020

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NZ science research, big data gets $84m boost

The New Zealand government is investing $84.7 million in innovative research projects including those focusing on health, climate change, astronomy and the impact of big data on social equality said Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods.

This year’s Marsden Fund will support 134 new projects including explorations of the connection between heart failure and diabetes, the financial risks of climate change and the complex interplay between Maori settlers and ecosystems through the history of mahinga kai (traditional foods).

The minister said that they have designed the funding so it can address real-world problems, while also giving researchers the freedom to innovate and come up with new ways to solve problems. problems. Health issues like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease are wide-ranging problems and require innovative thinking. Healthtech is the biggest secondary technology sector in New Zealand, generating NZ$1.8 billion of revenue and a five-year compound annual growth rate of 10% in 2018. With deep scientific and commercial expertise, New Zealand’s healthtech sector is strong and will continue to contribute world-leading technologies to address the health needs of citizens across the globe.

Research needs to look at these issues from different angles to ensure that the best is being done for the future of the country. She felt that successful applicants were doing significant work in their areas of science that would benefit New Zealand’s long-term future.

Marsden Fund research benefits society as a whole by contributing to the development of researchers with knowledge, skills and ideas. The Fund supports research excellence in science, engineering and maths, social sciences and the humanities. 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 Marsden Fund Council. The research is not subject to the government’s socio-economic priorities but is investigator-initiated.

New Zealand has an established and clear data strategy and roadmap for the nation. The strategy and roadmap are intended to provide a shared direction and plan that organisations within and outside government can collectively work towards and align their efforts to generate maximum impact. It acknowledges that there is a need for greater alignment and coordination of effort across the system. The government understands that global data growth enables innovative data uses that are transforming the world and that In New Zealand is uniquely positioned to maximise the value of data

The government agrees that it has a unique role to play in laying the groundwork for the future data system. The roadmap envisages a future where data is regarded as an essential part of New Zealand’s infrastructure and where data use is underpinned by public trust and confidence. As such, greater data use needs to be balanced with the protection of privacy rights and ethical use.

The strategy is designed to unlock the value of data for the benefit of New Zealanders. It will start by directing activity in focus areas to deliver the most impact:

  • Focus area 1: Invest in making the right data available at the right time
  • Focus area 2. Grow data capability and support good practice
  • Focus area 3. Build partnerships within and outside government
  • Focus area 4. Implement open and transparent practices

In other data-related developments, the Open Government Information and Data Programme ended in July 2020. However, this did not signal the end of the government’s commitment to open data. Instead, it marked the transition from a time-boxed programme into on-going government-wide coordination of efforts, led by the Government Chief Data Steward.

The programme is a cross-government programme designed to accelerate the release and reuse of open government data to maximise the value of that data.

At the closing of the Open Government Data Programme, Stats NZ commissioned an independent reviewer to produce an Independent review of the Open Data Programme. The report focused on two key things:

  • an assessment of the programme’s operation and performance against its expected outcomes
  • recommendations based on lessons learnt that may inform the work of future cross-government data programmes.

The closure report is an output from direct comments and feedback from the interviews and analysis from the independent reviewer.