It’s World Science Week. So, where are we in the science world? One measure showing our commitment to science is our expenditure on R&D. If we compare ourselves to the other OECD countries, we see that we are right at the bottom of the pile at 1.27% of GDP and have recently been overtaken by Hungary.
OECD countries Research and Development expenditure as a function of Gross Domestic Product
You can explore this graph for yourself by clicking the link here.
In four weeks we will vote for a new government. I blogged a link to party policies about health research last week. Labour have just released their policy and National are yet to. In the meantime, the Green party says we need another $1bn invested in R& D, which would add about 0.5% (based on a ~$200bn GDP) and United Future and Labour wish us to have at least the OECD average which means another $2bn or so investment. In the meantime, UF, Greens, and Labour all want to re-establish tax credits for R&D which is intended to stimulate private investment in R&D. If anyone knows the answer, I’d be interested to hear how many of the other OECD countries have R&D tax credits and what difference that has made to investment in R&D.
Alas, not in New Zealand, but close … our Australian counterparts in medical research appear on the face of it to have scored big in what appears otherwise to be a grim Australian budget. An AUD$20bn medical research “future fund” is to be established. This effectively means that by 2022-3 there will be twice the current budget available for medical research per annum (i.e. about $1bn). How this will be divided up remains to be seen, but I note that Prof Mike Daub of Curtin University is suspicious that it is “Medical Research” not “Health and Medical Research.”
If this truly is a massive boost to medical research in Australia, what could it mean to New Zealand?
A negative possibility is that because there are already issues with recruiting medical specialists who wish to undertake research in New Zealand and because the Australian NHMRC already has successful contestable grant funding rates about twice that of New Zealand’s HRC (~16% cf ~7%), I expect there would be more one-way traffic of scientists to Australia. It is imperative that this be avoided, for all our health’s sake.
If, though, the funding recognises the value of collaborative research then it may be possible for New Zealand scientists to work more closely with their Australian counterparts on projects of mutual interest. To that end, the New Zealand Government has (now) a great opportunity under CER to facilitate collaboration. Perhaps, a dedicated fund that would support New Zealand researchers financially to play a role in Australian led research. Apart from the high quality of NZ researchers (!), New Zealand should appeal to Australia because of the better integration of our health systems, especially with respect to tracing patient hospital events nationally, and because of the lower costs of doing research here. Furthermore, health consumers in New Zealand demand the best (I know I do!) and the best is only available through research – ultimately more research across the ditch will benefit us here. Thanks Tony.
ps. Catching the early flight to Sydney tomorrow to share some Trans-Tasman love and collaborate with my medical research colleagues at the Prince of Wales Hospital and the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital.
Dear District Health Board Candidates
Soon I and thousands like me will cast our votes to choose our District Health Boards. Given the huge budgets of DHBs and the huge potential to influence health outcomes I want more information from you than a couple of paragraphs I received with the voting packs. Below are two questions I think are important. As this is an open letter on a blog site, I invite others to submit their questions too. I also invite you, the candidates, to state your name, the DHB you are running for and your response to my or other posted questions (ie not just the blurb from your pamphlets).
1. What single health intervention do you want to see implemented and what evidence do you have that it would be efficacious?
2. What plans have you for increasing patient participation in research?
Dr John Pickering