Impossible to separate 'good science from spin'

A former agricultural science leader has delivered a broadside at what he sees as a lack of objectivity in the science structure, saying there is little technology transfer and it is impossible to separate "good science from company spin".

Jock Allison, the former director of the Invermay Research Centre, told the Clutha Agricultural Development Board annual meeting last week that scientists no longer talked to farmers and the competitive funding model for science did not allow for research results to be passed to farmers.

"Often, useful technologies are not promoted to industry as there is no financial allocation to ensure that happens," he said.

"The research bodies are just ticking off the contracts and moving on to apply for the next two- or three-year period of funding."

Dr Allison was also scathing about the impact on technology transfer of crown research institutions entering commercial alliances in which companies invest in and own the results.

AgResearch's joint ventures with rural servicing company PGG Wrightson meant they were not as independent as could be expected.

"For example, AgResearch will only talk about their own grass cultivars which are commercialised through PGG Wrightson or cultivars which PGG Wrightson has bred itself.

"They aren't allowed to talk about other cultivars which may be superior," Dr Allison said.

"Farmers should not assume they are getting the whole story from AgResearch."

Scientists needed to talk to farmers more than they did. There needed to be other ways of getting their findings out to farmers, he said.

Independent organisations such as the Clutha Agricultural Development Board could have a role overseeing more objective science projects with farmers, he said.

AgResearch declined to respond to Dr Allison's criticisms.

 

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