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Research workforce issues

An important theme for the Society in 2020/21 is to address research workforce issues, with an emphasis on issues impacting early career researchers and those from under-represented groups.


The Society has adopted a multi-faceted approach towards addressing research workforce issues:

  • In her 2020 presidential address, President Wendy Larner addressed the growth of the academic precariat – tenuously employed researchers who move from short term contract to short term contract both nationally and internationally.  The issues confronting Early Career Researchers are systemic, not the result of individual choices and decisions. 
  • On 30 November, 2020 the Society hosted a research sector-wide workshop to look at the factors contributing to a significant mismatch between the fields of study and aspirations of those seeking to enter the research workforce and the actual employment opportunities.  Read the briefing paper (link coming soon) setting out the data, proposing a range of causative factors, and proposing some suggestions for change here, and the outcomes from the workshop (link coming soon). The Society intends to keep working with other organisations in the research community to advance the workshop outcomes.
  • The Society is aware of a growing body of evidence that, at least in universities, there are major career progression issues within even long term employment for under-represented groups, and in particular Māori, Pacific and female researchers. Useful links to recent publications include:
    • Tara G. McAllister, Jesse Kokaua, Sereana Naepi, Joanna Kidman & Reremoana Theodore (2020) Glass ceilings in New Zealand Universities: Inequities in Māori and Pacific promotions and earnings, MAI Journal, DOI:10.20507/MAIJournal.2020.9.3.8
    • Tara G. McAllister, Sereana Naepi, Elizabeth Wilson, Daniel Hikuroa & Leilani A. Walker (2020) Under-represented and overlooked: Māori and Pasifika scientists in Aotearoa New Zealand’s universities and crown-research institutes, Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, DOI:10.1080/03036758.2020.1796103
    • Sereana Naepi, Tara G. McAllister, Patrick Thomsen, Marcia Leenen-Young, Leilani A. Walker, Anna L. McAllister, Reremoana Theodore, Joanna Kidman & Tamasailau Suaaliia (2019) The Pakaru ‘Pipeline’: Māori and Pasifika Pathways within the Academy, The New Zealand Annual Review of Education, [S.l.], v. 24, p. 142-159, mar. 2020. ISSN 1178-3311.  DOI:10.26686/nzaroe.v24i0.6338.
    • Ann Brower, Alex James (2020) Research performance and age explain less than half of the gender pay gap in New Zealand universities, PLOS ONE, DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0226392 
  • The Society is progressively addressing under-representation in its Fellowship which is largely drawn from the research workforce. In 2020/21, there is an initiative to boost the representation of Māori researchers. In 2018 on the centenary of the selection of the first 20 (all male) Fellows in 1919, it commenced a strategy to improve gender balance in its Fellowship.