Monday, March 10, 2014

'What tumbles down': Message from Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith and others on Nga Pae...

Kia Ora,
Please forgive any spelling or grammar errors.

It takes years to develop a research infrastructure. It takes years to develop centres of research excellence. Firstly, it takes an excellent education system as researchers must succeed to the highest qualifications in their fields and new researchers need to be trained continuously. It takes the right synergies of knowledge as excellent researchers are trained and supported in diverse knowledge cultures.

It takes discipline, perseverance and tolerance as researchers learn as much through failure and elimination as they do from success. It takes insight to understand the implications of serendipity. It takes difference and determination to carve out new areas of knowledge that challenge current thinking. It takes a wide community and network of similar minds as researchers learn from each other. It takes vision and stamina to build novel programmes of research that can address complex and inter-related problems. It takes a dose of sheer doggedness to forge a research direction when others want to set out to someplace different or to stay put. It takes an alliance of related systems that review, fund and publish research, that translate it into public knowledge like curriculum, that apply research into other contexts, that produce new or improved practices and products. It takes collaborations across disciplinary, institutional, national and international boundaries to get the best minds and skills available to advance the research. It takes institutional support to provide the best working environment for researchers. It takes institutional and public patience to wait for the next chapter of life changing research. It takes massive investment by the public through education and by the public and others through the funding of research. It takes a certain kind of ambition to persist in the pursuit of knowledge that may not yield quick fixes, widgets and gadgets, or social transformation in this generation and it takes a certain kind of society that believes it important to invest in the continuous development of knowledge for its longer term well-being.

In my area of Māori research, it took decades to develop the foundations of a single national research infrastructure. It took decades upon decades for Māori to make their way, one by one, through an education system that was not excellent to gain the highest qualifications. It took persistence to survive in knowledge cultures that did not value diversity let alone Māori knowledge. It took vision to focus on producing a critical mass of Māori with the highest academic qualifications from New Zealand and international institutions. It took the largest and possibly the most novel and challenging of collaborations to build a strong network of researchers who would focus their minds and efforts on Māori development. It rounded up all the 'ones' and the 'twos' of Māori researchers scattered across institutions to create a critical community of researchers who could support new research. It established journals, created avenues of engagement with the most suspicious of communities, and stimulated intellectual engagements across disciplines, communities, and languages. It supported research that was explicitly focussed on creating change, on improving outcomes and on developing communities. It had to win institutional support by winning funding.

It created novel approaches that other centres of excellence borrowed and adapted. It created new methodologies for exploring social and cultural interfaces that are cited in international journals and applied in many other contexts. It's capacity development programme for PhDs is replicated in parts of Canada and the USA at top institutions.

So what tumbles down when Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga is informed it will no longer be funded? A centre? Some funding? Yes of course, but much more. What tumbles down will cut more deeply into the capacity, momentum, community, system of knowledge, networks, relationships, intellectual excitement that was emerging from this Centre of Research Excellence. What tumbles down is an infrastructure that was built from scratch, from ones and twos, that had no previous models to borrow from, that was truly internationally innovative, multi-disciplinary, that was producing exciting young scholars footing it internationally and in our own communities. What tumbles down is a national infrastructure that could support Māori development across a range of dimensions that simply cannot be provided for existing institutions. More importantly what tumbles down is a set of beliefs that the research system is genuinely interested in innovation, has a capacity to recognise or know how to support innovation outside its cultural frame, believes in its own rhetoric or actually understands the short term nature of its investments in research.

Linda Tuhiwai Smith

Pro Vice Chancellor Māori

Dean of Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao The School of Māori and Pacific Development The University of Waikato New Zealand

From Aroha Mead:

Kia ora,

As with others I am very disappointed with this decision. I was a member of the very first CoRE Selection Panel that selected Nga Pae o te Maramatanga (NPTM). NPTM' s bid was in a class of its own. It stood out from all others as it presented a bold vision of cultural and social transformation and the practical means by which to achieve this. At that time there were three Maori on the CoRE Panel (Sir Paul Reeves, Pare Keiha and myself).

Over the years NPTM have delivered ten fold on the goals they set and in so doing have forever changed the characteristics of what constitutes 'excellent Maori research'. Protocols such as FPIC, reciprocity, long-term relationships, capacity building of communities are now entrenched.

I remember reporting to the Commerce Faculty Board about NPOTM's vision to achieve 500 Maori PhDs in five years. Colleagues scoffed and chuckled and someone said why set such an unrealistic goal, surely it would be better to aim for something achievable like 5 PhDs to which I responded," 5 is status quo, it's business as usual - 500 requires radical change." The precise number was never the point, it was to radically transform the tertiary system in order to prepare Maoridom,  NZ society and academia for 500 internationally benchmarked Maori experts. To reclaim Maori expertise in the telling of our stories and analysis of issues impacting on our whanau and communities.

Funders tend to lose sight of the fact that it takes a long time to build and grow collaborative networks such as that envisaged in the CoRE. It takes years to build the critical mass of researchers that NPOTM amassed, to gain the national and international credibility that NPOTM achieved, to establish and sustain the AlterNative peer-viewed journal which is now a standard indigenous researchers aspire to publish in, to convene leading scholars for the NPOTM Conferences and to maintain the MAI network in order to keep the vision of Maori PhDs achievable. 10 years ago a PhD was generally regarded as a mystery - something unobtainable to most, but now, it seems that Maori of all ages and backgrounds have embarked on their PhD journey. It is truly remarkable. NPOTM played a big part in de-constructing the notion of a PhD as 'out of reach' to Maori.

It is incredibly disappointing that all of this was set aside by the Selection Panel, and that those entities who have been short-listed don't include strong Maori streams within them. The Panel therefore has chosen to disinvest and abandon something proven to have worked in favour of 'new' entities with no strong Maori research components.

Sorry for the rant - am very sad for the impacts this will have on Maori researchers.


 From Melanie Shadbolt:
..... other CoREs also missed out on the site visits and those CoREs also have Maori staff. My CoRE the Bio-Protection Research Center housed not only two Maori staff but supported other Maori PG students and researchers (15 on our last list) and had as part of its rebid a very extensive Maori research component. Alas we didn't make the short list either.  The decision to not support Nga Pae is concerning but the wider decisions have huge ramifications for Maori researchers in the fundamental and applied science arena.  

(Lincoln University)

From Lynne Russell

Nga Pae o Te Maramatanga have not only invested so much into Maori health researchers like myself over the years, but more importantly have HUGELY supported the research kaupapa identified by our communities to be important in the advancement of Maori health.  So the announcement that they will not be funded in the next national funding round, and that in fact, for the 2013/2014 round there are NO Maori Centres of Research Excellence in the final round for consideration, is hugely significant. That there are no identifiable Maori on the selection panels, making the ability to assess research using Kaupapa Maori frameworks non-existent, highlights how poorly Indigenous health research now rates. This is such a significant step backwards for Maori health research, for Maori health, and for Maori. I commend Dr. Leonie Pihama on this response.

Ngā mihi nui
Dr. Lynne Russell  (Kāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu, Kāti Māmoe, Rangitāne, Ngāti Porou)

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