A former AgResearch principal scientist, who resigned
over its restructuring plan, says morale is bad and there is a
general sense among staff at the organisation of ''being very
When contacted in Palmerston North yesterday, where she
previously worked at AgResearch's Grasslands campus, Dr
Susanne Rasmussen said she was preparing to move back to
''I need some time to rethink my life, basically, because I'm
very gutted. It's just a terrible situation,'' she said.
Dr Rasmussen painted a bleak picture of morale at the Crown
research institute as its board and management pushes ahead
with its Future Footprint plan.
The restructuring has attracted considerable opposition in
the South with its plan to slash jobs at Invermay.
''No-ones dares to speak up, dares to say a word of criticism
or utter a different opinion ... Management has a lot of
power,'' she said.
AgResearch was approached to comment on the points raised by
A spokesman said AgResearch did not comment on the decisions
or motivations of existing or former staff members but wished
her well for her future endeavours.
Dr Rasmussen, who has been described as a world leader in
metabolomics, worked at AgResearch for 13 years.
She was appointed a principal scientist in 2010, the highest
level a scientist could reach at AgResearch, and has
published more than 50 papers.
Information supplied to the Otago Daily Times said a globally
recognised database called Scopus, used to assess scientific
performance, showed she was the highest-performing scientist
Dr Rasmussen said the decision to split the metabolomics team
and relocate parts of it to Lincoln, leaving her at
Grasslands, was her main reason for leaving.
She believed the decision ''made no sense'' and had the
potential to ''effectively destroy'' AgResearch's
Despite a large number of submissions to the change
management team and a recommendation to the executive and
leadership teams to leave the team intact and on the
Grasslands campus, the decision was maintained, she said.
The team had lost three of its members because of the planned
relocation and there was a possibility no-one would be left
to relocate, she said.
In a parting email to AgResearch staff and to chairman Sam
Robinson, she asked the executive and leadership teams and
the board to revoke their decision.
She was concerned about the ''almost complete lack of
transparency'' around executive and leadership teams'
It was unacceptable that decisions were made about the future
of scientific teams without involving the scientists
affected, she said.
As a leading scientist, she had ''never felt as powerless''
and with no means to influence decisions as in the past three
Dr Rasmussen acknowledged those three years had been very
hard and she felt ''very sad it has come to this stage''.
She had accepted a part-time position at Massey University as
professor in grasslands technology, which would enable her to
return to New Zealand annually.
She said she had always been outspoken and loyal to
AgResearch ''but not necessarily to the management''.
She believed morale was at the lowest point of her time at
the organisation and staff had been told they could not to
speak to the media.
They were scared to be critical because distribution of
funding was directed by the executive team, in consultation
with the leadership team, she said.
Anyone critical of management could be ''very, very sure'' no
core money would ''be going in the direction of that
''That's my personal experience,'' she said.
Dr Rasmussen said she was ''baffled'' about some of the
Future Footprint decisions.
She suggested the $100 million AgResearch planned to spend
upgrading its facilities - of which more than half would be
spent at Lincoln - would be better spent on improving the
The cost of the Future Footprint process, which also included
hiring five additional managers, was ''amazing'', she said.