How to become a world-beater

Is becoming a world-beater simply a matter of money? Or is some other ingredient essential?

Alf poses those questions on learning that Massey University will fund three PhD scholarships “to ensure” that a newly appointed professor “can establish a world-leading research programme.”

“Ensure” is the magic word. It means “to make certain” or “guarantee”.

If this be so, pouring money into other professorships will ensure we establish world-leading research programmes in a raft of things.

We could set up a professorship of rugby and maybe the resultant world-leader rugby research will help us build a world-beating rugby team, for example.

Alf was alerted to the power of funding when Agriculture and Forestry Minister David Carter announced New Zealand’s first professorship in the carbon footprint and environmental impact of New Zealand’s primary industries.

It will be based at Massey University, which won a competitive tender process to host it, but will work with key Crown Research Institutes.

The Minister says:

“This is a significant step in New Zealand’s bid to lead international efforts in this area, and will help position us at the cutting edge of life cycle assessment practice…”

Thankfully, his media statement explains what this life-cycle malarkey is all about – it’s the study of the environmental footprint of products across their entire life cycle, from the farm, orchard or forest through to processing, transportation, sale, consumption and disposal by the consumer.

Oh, and we are to have something called the New Zealand Life Cycle Assessment Centre – Carter says this “will be the engine room of New Zealand’s scientific work in environmental footprinting.”

The rationale – it’s fair to suppose – has much to do with meeting the demands of greenies and the increasing numbers of customers in overseas markets who are falling under the influence of greenies.

“Overseas consumers increasingly want to know the environmental impact of the products they buy. Our export markets need assurance that our reputation for efficient and clean production of goods is deserved.

“It is also critical for our primary producers to understand and identify opportunities for productivity gains across supply chains. Life cycle assessment and management can help achieve this.”

It’s fascinating to find it doesn’t take much to get Carter’s adrenalin pumping, by the way.

He says “it is exciting” to see the pooling of considerable expertise across Massey University, Plant & Food, Landcare, AgResearch and Scion, as well as primary industries and the work of other universities .

“The Centre will be responsible for training experts who can work with the primary sector to enhance their overseas reputations, improve their production processes, and help further promote New Zealand as a world leader in agriculture, horticulture and forestry.”

Getting to the nub of things – which is the dosh – the professorship will be 95 percent government-funded in 2010, reducing to 25 percent by 2015. From 2016, the initiative will be self-sufficient.

This is intended to ensure it will continue to meet the needs of industry and remain relevant and focused (although Alf really does wonder if money, even if there’s lots of it, can ensure anything).

The cost is approximately $1.3 million over five years, and all government funding will come from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Massey University will also be funding three PhD scholarships (here comes that word again) “to ensure that the newly appointed professor can establish a world-leading research programme.”

Good luck to them.

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