Tuesday, June 15, 2021
Times of Georgia
HomePolitical$300,000 To Study Tinder? Marsden Grants Deserve Greater Scrutiny

$300,000 To Study Tinder? Marsden Grants Deserve Greater Scrutiny

The Taxpayers
is questioning the cost of
Marsden Grants awarded to academic research of dubious

259 grants were awarded in the last
two years, accounting for $158 million of public money. The
full list of Marsden Grants awarded in 2019 and 2020 can be
found here
and here.

Marsden Fund was established in 1994 to fund “excellent
fundamental research”.

Union spokesman Louis
Houlbrooke says, “It’s hard to see how some recently-funded
projects are either ‘excellent’ or ‘fundamental’.
We’re exposing examples of the grants so that taxpayers can
judge for themselves.”

  • $300,000 to examine how
    New Zealanders are using dating apps.
  • $300,000 to
    prove it is “benevolently sexist” to believe that “men
    ought to protect and cherish women”.
  • $842,000 to
    find out why there aren’t many Asian people on New Zealand
    television or in cinema.
  • $870,000 to find out
    whether multiculturalism harms indigenous
  • $300,000 to examine the relationship between
    housing and security in Papua New Guinea.
  • $870,000
    to “re-imagine anti-racism theory in the health
  • $842,000 to study ethnic women
    politicians in New Zealand.
  • $300,000 to find out how
    religion affects inequality in Fiji.

abstracts of these examples and more can be found on the Taxpayers’

Recommendations for funding are
made by a council of 11 researchers hand-picked by the
Minister for Research, Science and Innovation – Megan

“Some Marsden Grants go toward tangible
scientific research that will conceivably provide a return
for New Zealand taxpayers. But the funding council seems to
give equal priority to vague, navel-gazing treatises that
will only ever be read by a handful of academics,” says Mr

“At the Taxpayers’ Union, we take a
simple view: taxpayer money should be spent on New Zealand’s
highest areas of need. How can Megan Woods possibly tell
taxpayers that we need to spend $300,000 studying Tinder
when we’re facing problems like a housing crisis and a

“The Marsden Grant seems to deal in
default funding figures, such as $300,000 or $842,000, which
suggests there isn’t much, if any, scrutiny of whether these
projects actually need the full sum. Many of the projects
involve international collaborations, meaning funds can
easily be eaten up by overseas junkets.”

asking Megan Woods whether she’s actually read what grants
her funding panel has approved, and if she seriously thinks
that all these projects are worth the many millions they’re
costing taxpayers.”

“Interestingly, even
hard-headed research proposals have been pitched in
ideological terms – for example, an investigation of human
impacts on Antarctic ecology was pitched as examining ‘how
vulnerable Antarctica’s coasts are to colonization’. Funding
applicants clearly understand that themes of intersectional
politics are likely to win them taxpayer

“Many Kiwis will support the principle of
funding blue-skies academic research. But we’re urging
taxpayers and the media to take a closer look at where the
money actually goes.”

A selection of abstracts from
questionable grants proposals can be found on the Taxpayers’


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