Dr. Ron Smith
Has the war on Islamic extremism got anything to do with us? Specifically, should we contribute to any military action against the so-called Islamic State and its outliers? This, of course, is a multi-faceted question.
There can be few New Zealanders who have been following the news over the last few months, who do not know that there are persons out there, beyond our borders, who mean us ill. They have been variously described as ‘Islamic extremists’, ‘jihadists’, terrorists, ISIS militants, and, in the Middle East, they have been responsible for a positive tsunami of atrocity.
As 2011 begins, academic staff at New Zealand Universities will emerge from all the ‘formative exercises’, ‘mentoring’ and ‘coaching’ sessions of recent years, to get straight into the real thing: the 2012 round of Performance Based Research Funding. This will be the third (and, dare one hope, the last) in a sequence of formal evaluations of the value of academic research, which began in New Zealand in 2003 and was repeated in 2006.
New Zealand Universities are now well into a third round of Performance-Based Research Funding (PBRF) evaluations which on present trends will be even more protracted and time-wasting than the previous two. Having regard to the manifest defects of the process, both conceptually and practically, and to the likelihood that it has produced no net financial benefit to the universities, this is altogether to be regretted.
Here’s an idea to address our continuing power generation anxieties: a nice new floating nuclear reactor. Minimal infrastructure required; just tie it up in a convenient harbour and plug it in. The first of these is being built in St Petersburg, Russia, and they will ultimately be available to tow to anywhere in the world. The present design offers 70MW of low maintenance, environmentally-friendly power (enough to supply a city of 200,000) and on a platform about the size of a football field. Just the thing, one might think, when the rain hasn’t fallen and the wind doesn’t blow, and the Cook Strait link is uncertain and the Waikato River is too warm to cool Huntley. Power when you want it, with zero greenhouse emissions.
The Finance and Expenditure Select Committee inquiry into the emissions trading scheme will be mainly concerned with examining the potential impact of envisaged climate change mitigation measures on the New Zealand economy and the future well-being of New Zealand citizens, as well as the likely effect of any ‘breaking-ranks’ on our diplomatic and trade relations. But it cannot avoid also addressing the extent to which the underlying scientific assessments are in doubt.