ED's Letter

September 2013


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From competition to collaboration

Researcher Dr Jonathan Stanger’s story (p12) is inspiring. Battling clinical depression, and in the face of financial hardship and the occasional academic setback, he reached the final year of his BSc and started looking for lab experience. He was offered a position at Plant & Food Research where he began to focus his research on electrospinning, a method of producing nanofibres from polymer solutions. He completed his Masters and PhD in this area, and his work has now resulted in the formation of three small companies, seven journal articles, and a book. Unfortunately, he now must turn to overseas for post-doctoral positions as he says the funding for young researchers in New Zealand is inadequate.

Dr Stanger is certainly not the first researcher to bemoan the harsh realities of research funding in New Zealand. Contestable processes for accessing Government funding for research has driven a culture of competition between institutions. However, with funding increasingly being directed to research consortia like KiwiNet and the newly established Crown Agency Callaghan Innovation, a new culture of collaboration between researchers is starting to dawn.

Dr Stanger’s dream is for New Zealand to become an international centre of research. KiwiNet and Callaghan Innovation share this vision. Both hope to translate research performance into commercial outcomes that will boost the New Zealand economy.

In this issue, we look at KiwiNet, Callaghan Innovation, and we peer into the lives of researchers like Dr Stanger to glean some of the realities of New Zealand research.

We also have a strong focus on thesis writing in this issue, and we turn to the experts for their no-nonsense advice. World-famous ‘Thesis Whisperer’ Dr Inger Mewburn and Tertiary Teaching Excellence awardee and supervisor superstar Professor Alison Jones share their top tips for postgraduate writing success. Personal performance and development coach Brian Johnson tells students how they can turn from procrastinators into productive postgrads.

The internet is both indispensable and a hindrance to the aspiring postgraduate; social media is becoming a necessary tool for researchers to connect, share, and discuss their work, but it also can be a huge distraction. The online environment is also changing the face of course delivery for tertiary institutions. Dennis Viehland discusses the threats and opportunities of massive open online courses (MOOCs) to the traditional university set-up.

Of course, technology will be the big focus in our next issue, ICT & Procurement ─ keep an eye out for it; and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

Jude Barback Editor
Twitter: @EdReviewNZ

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