CRI taskforce: Shake it up baby

By Daniel Collins 03/11/2009

Pithy though a haiku is, 17 syllables is not enough to describe the CRI taskforce announced last week by MoRST. The Terms of Reference are brief enough. Here are a few snippets, emphasis mine, with thoughts interspersed.

Government wants CRIs that respond strategically to the needs of their end-users in a way that will drive future economic growth.

Right. Bring home the bacon.

The CRI Taskforce will provide advice on the following:
1. Recommendations and assessment of any alternative or additional initiatives that could be taken to strengthen the CRI model, including the merits of reconfiguring the number and scope of CRIs.

This could mean the end of CRIs as we know them, a kin to the reconfiguration of 1992. It could also mean a merger of CRIs or of CRIs capabilities. More on that in a later post.

2. Guidelines for developing ‘statements of core purpose’ for each CRI, including how stakeholder views should be incorporated and how often such statements should be issued.

The “core purpose” phrase is reminiscent of the shake-up proposed for local government bodies. Will the new CRI model accommodate activity outside the “core”, just as a university performs duties outside granting degrees?

5. Recommendations that will ensure CRIs partner with other research providers and with the private sector, …

Sounds good, but creative cats are hard to herd.

6. Assessment of the current method of measuring financial performance and viability, any views on alternative methods of ensuring financial performance and viability, and any suitable non-financial performance measures for individual CRIs.

A challenge here will be how, assuming they take up the issue, to quantify the benefit of basic or long-term research.

9. Relationships with international research organisations and other international linkages.

An MOU with CSIRO? Does this also mean a recognition of (i) the need to travel, and (ii) the need to advertise the research staff?

The Taskforce should provide an interim report to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology and the Minister of Finance by 27 November 2009. A final report is due in early 2010.

November 27? That’s rather quick, isn’t it? At least we don’t have to wait long until I cover the outcomes.