About Us‎ > ‎Greg Bodeker‎ > ‎

SPARC-co-chair

I have made the decision to resign as SPARC co-chair effective 31 January 2014. This has been a very difficult decision for me to make because I am totally committed to seeing SPARC perform as a successful core project of World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). The main driver for my decision is that over the past four years and more, I have been unable to gain any New Zealand government funding to support either my SPARC related research, nor my position as SPARC co-chair. Over the years I have had many meetings and discussions with various people at the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) which disburses government research funding. MBIE's officially stated reason for not supporting me in the SPARC co-chair role is:
In regards to your first point, MBIE provides core funding, a form of institutional funding, to NIWA, which is delivered under a five year contract. At the time core funding was implemented, existing ozone research was placed into NIWA's core funding. Under the core funding agreement, NIWA may alter the amount of core funding provided to specific projects, including ozone research, however, it is held accountable to its guiding documents – especially the Statement of Core Purpose. The latter part of your statement is a conclusion you have drawn and is not MBIE’s position. We have several investment mechanisms outside core funding. Our competitive investment processes are open to any research organisation who can provide the appropriate skills and capabilities within the research topic that we set. This is not an issue of favouring one organisation; it is a function of the priority that ozone research has relative to other topics within our competitive funding processes. The topics that we are seeking research to address are determined when funds become available for investment each year.

MBIE’s investment funds are limited, so it is crucial these funds are prioritised cognisant of multiple factors. At this time, ozone research, like many other topics that might also be deserving of funding, does not make the top list of priorities for investment. It may do so in future and will be considered along with others prior to the commencement of any investment process.

Regarding your second point, you should be aware that the Government is actively supporting the Business Growth Agenda so economic growth is an important consideration. It is not the only consideration. MBIE is approached for funding for numerous initiatives and support is determined on the basis of numerous factors including: funding availability, likely benefits and costs, strategic fit. Even then, not all worthy initiatives can be supported. 

and yes, I am acutely aware that they seem to think that SPARC research is nothing more than ozone research but I have no idea what to do about that. At the time that I took on the co-chair position, around 2 years ago, I still had some hope that I would be able to turn this situation around. I have not been successful and it appears unlikely that I will be successful. As a result, I have been undertaking my SPARC co-chair responsibilities pro bono. Because my SPARC co-chair position is unfunded, and because I am self-employed, it is therefore also unsalaried and becomes a choice between spending time on SPARC related work and spending time with my family, both of which earn me no income. Effectively I undertake my SPARC co-chair tasks, including attending SSG meetings, JSC meetings, organising and attending the SPARC General Assembly etc., during my holidays.

Back in March, in large part as a result of work related stress, I experienced some trouble with my heart. My heart stopped beating (syncope), sometimes for 40 seconds or more, on seven different occasions, and I would pass out. Within a few hours of being diagnosed I had a pacemaker fitted which is keeping me alive. My doctor has made it clear to me that I need to cut back on my workload and take more time off. At the top of my list for reducing my workload are those activities which earn me no income. This may sound a little mercenary but, being self-employed, it is the only rational decision.

As I have said, this has not been an easy decision. I had considered persevering until at least the end of my three year term i.e. 31 December 2014 but that won't be possible. If anything, I probably should have made this decision sooner. I have therefore decided to set my resignation date shortly after the SPARC General Assembly and SSG meeting. I think it would be better for SPARC to have a co-chair who can fully commit to the role in a way that I simply cannot. Fortunately SPARC is in a very strong position with Joan Alexander as co-chair and with a well-functioning Project Office, and so I don't see my decision as being too disruptive for SPARC. 
Comments