Original article published on Stuff
OPINION: Since the first case of novel coronavirus in late 2019, researchers around the globe have worked hard to understand the globally ravaging virus and identify its potential weaknesses to develop a vaccine or treatments.
In New Zealand our researchers are providing the evidence and advice the Government uses to decide alert levels and accompanying public health measures and messages.
They have developed models to predict the course of the pandemic and shared their knowledge with the public by explaining the ever-changing science. Now they are joining the race to develop vaccines or treatments, better tests, and better ways of tracking spread in the community.
Never before has the importance of health research been more obvious. But in a sad irony, because of Covid-19, the sector faces unprecedented challenges.
In Australia, a group of researchers led by the country’s chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel produced a report estimating more than 10,000 research jobs could be lost from universities and medical institutes as a result of Covid-19.
They also predicted a significant imminent drop in Government and private funding. The authors said the bad news was set against declining Government investment in health research over recent years.
The situation in New Zealand could be similar. Our state investment in research is already low compared with comparable OECD nations. On average only about one in five health researchers who apply for funding from the country’s major Government funding bodies are successful.
This demonstrates the large group of researchers already applying for a limited pool of money.