New Zealand Science Review Vol 71 (1) 201416
The Request for Proposals for New Zealand’s National
Science Challenges (NSCs) emphasises that successful
undertaking research and delivering impact’ (MBIE 2014).
How can a ‘step change’ be achieved within NSCs where
new funding is small compared to realigned funding?
In a video released on 4 February 2014, the Minister
for Science and Innovation suggests an expectation that
‘additionality’ will play a key role, with ‘collaborative’
and ‘multidisciplinary’ endeavour as important compo-
nents of these ‘mission-led’ Challenges (Joyce 2014).
This brief communication reviews and describes a timely
synthesis of two important components of the science and
innovation literature relevant to the ‘step change’ and
‘additionality’ expectations in NSCs.
Figure 1A shows the Diffusion of Innovations model
(Rogers 2003). The model originated from data on the
adoption of hybrid corn in Iowa in the 1930s and 40s,
in successful innovation. In an obituary inserted in a chapter
published posthumously, Diffusion of Innovations was described
as the second most cited book in the social sciences (Rogers et
al. 2009). Google Scholar currently attributes 55,246 citations.
The diffusion of innovations model in Figure 1A describes an
S-curve of cumulative success – a step change commonly meas-
ured in the level of adoption. The contributing rate of change
more clearly depicts the push or impulse of adoption (Figure
1B), which represents a sequence from more cosmopolitan
early adopters to less-connected late adopters. Mathematical-
ly, various forms describing an S-curve have been used, but a
cumulative normal distribution (Figure 1A), and its derivative
(Figure 1B), describe how a push of activity leads to change, in
a manner familiar to most scientists and identical to the physics
of diffusion (Crank 1975).
Rogers (2003) describes many nuances that can be related
to the model in Figure 1. For instance, up to a dozen events
Figure 1B shows how a series of pushes may contribute to
overall change. In addition, adoption is the critical step often
measured as a signal of successful innovation. However, a focus
on adoption may fail to identify successful reinvention by users
during implementation that greatly expands the magnitude of
the innovation’s eventual impact. And while users may play an
essential role in reinvention, science and technology normally
have an important role in the generation of innovations.
integration to user-driven implementation align well, collab-
oration and multidisciplinary linkages will successfully yield
‘additionality’, a multiplier effect on overall success that would
not have occurred otherwise. The mission-led nature of NSCs
implies that investment should be targeted toward efforts that
maximise the likely magnitude of the individual and combined
Achieving ‘step changes’ in science and innovation:
Towards ‘Pasteur’s paddock’?
W. Troy Baisden*
GNS Science, PO Box 30312, Lower Hutt
* Correspondence: firstname.lastname@example.org
Figure 1. Adaptation of the Diffusion of Innovations model from
Rogers (2003) to achieve a ‘step change’ in mission-led research.
Cumulative change to a step change objective (a) can be related to
the rate of change (b), which itself may be an overall push (impulse)
composed of many smaller pushes.
Dr Troy Baisden is a senior scientist at the National Isotope Centre, Lower Hutt. He investigates
large-scale biogeochemical cycles and isotope studies involving water, carbon and nutrients, with a
focus on studies of global change.
New Zealand Science Review Vol 71 (1) 2014 17
pushes in Figure 1B. The sequence in Figure 1A shows that,
at initial stages, this involves incentivising many collaborative
efforts involving discovery and integration based on potential
– using probability-driven frameworks. As potential transforms
into promise, work can be more precisely planned and targeted
to optimise the timing, sequence and magnitude of adoption and
implementation, resulting in an overall impact or step change.
Importantly, the relationship between the cumulative func-
tion (Figure 1A) and the push function (Figure 1B) suggests that
it will be more useful for stated programmatic goals to target the
maximum rate of change in Figure 1B, rather than the eventual
level of cumulative step change in Figure 1A. In addition to
being a more direct measure of change, goals associated with
maximum rates of change will occur during the timeframe of
the programme, which in the case of NSCs is 10 years. In con-
trast, cumulative impacts should extend beyond this planning
timeframe, but will include a potentially asymmetric segment
or government to control.
Thus, the model in Figure 1A and B provides a useful and
tested framework for describing and managing a ‘step change’.
But the body of work on the diffusion of innovations offers
only broad generalisations; it does not describe a ‘silver bullet’
directing how innovation can be enhanced and ‘additionality’
additionality, as used here, represents a multiplier effect, as
opposed to an additive effect capable of being separated from
a baseline. In support of this type of additionality goal, Hendy
& Callaghan (2013) suggest that larger and more successful
centres of innovation often have such a multiplier. Identifying
ways to increase the multiplier in selected areas of the New
Zealand science system is therefore a sensible goal for science
and innovation policy.
A strong yet simple prospect for enhancing additionality
through NSCs emerges from efforts to dissect the lessons of
science and technology policy in the USA 50 years after Van-
Research and Development, launched a 1945 blueprint for what
would become the National
Science Foundation (NSF) in
1950. Stokes (1997) argues
that NSF’s proud insistence
on funding ‘basic research’
originates from a wartime
experience that led Bush to
declare, ‘applied research in-
variably drives out the pure.’
This experience was articulated
by J Robert Oppenheimer in
…the things we learned
[during World War II] are
not very important. The real
things were learned in 1890 and 1905 and 1920, in every
year leading up to the war, and we took this tree with a lot
of ripe fruit on it and shook it hard and out came radar and
atomic bombs…. The whole spirit was one of frantic and
rather ruthless exploitation of the known; it was not that of
the sober, modest attempt to penetrate the unknown.
Such a view held power and immediacy in the post-war
period, with the nascent cold war with the Soviet Union looming.
a sole focus on funding ‘basic research’ is a poor option in a
globalised world of tight government budgets. Strong evidence
emerged from the Japanese ability to commercially apply and
exploit fundamental understanding of science and technology
discovered in the USA. In the USA itself, the mission-led fund-
ing model at the National Institutes of Health has demonstrated
greater promise than the NSF in growing both its allocation of
government funding, and the health sector in the US economy.
Stokes therefore argues, based on contemporary experience, that
any democratic society will demand accountability for invest-
ment in science and technology, and the best policy choice for
funding should target the dual payoff of both application and
In doing so, Stokes (1997) compels us to understand that
the widely used differentiation between basic and applied re-
search is a false choice rooted historically in Vannevar Bush’s
design of the NSF. In contrast to the Frascati Manual’s (OECD
2002) differentiation of ‘basic’ and ‘applied’ research, and the
related fallacy that technology and innovation always emanate
sequentially from basic to applied research and then develop-
(1) is there a drive toward fundamental understanding; and (2)
and Thomas Edison occupy quite separate regions, the former
focused solely on fundamental understanding and the latter on
immediate application (Figure 2). But other great scientists have
succeeded by combining the quest for fundamental knowledge
with questions of practical uses. Stokes chooses Louis Pasteur
Figure 2. The two-dimensional
classification of research
motivation (Stokes 1997),
superimposed on the New
Zealand research landscape,
where we might refer to the
upper right dual-purpose region
as ‘Pasteur’s paddock’.
New Zealand Science Review Vol 71 (1) 201418
as most exemplary for greatly advancing microbiology and
biochemistry driven by practical applications in health and
food chemistry. Stokes also cites Irving Langmuir’s surface
chemistry and John Maynard Keynes’ macroeconomic theories
as classic advances driven by needs, and New Zealanders may
equally wish to include Paul Callaghan’s application of physics
rived from Stokes (1997) superimposed on the New Zealand
research landscape, we can imagine two familiar paddocks that
are well occupied (Figure 2). The universities and Marsden Fund
strive to occupy the paddock devoted to fundamental under-
standing, while the Crown research institutes (CRIs) dominate
the zone of application and use. The most logical path between
or extending from the well-occupied paddocks enters ‘Pasteur’s
paddock’ – the joint zone of fundamental understanding and
consideration of use. Mission-led research in Pasteur’s paddock
therefore seems a very logical investment to maximise both
short- and long-run gain. Yet in the present landscape, Pasteur’s
paddock remains a rougher, more challenging and more diverse
motivation to extend into it from the adjacent zones.
Several factors in the New Zealand research landscape
appear to limit and enhance activity in Pasteur’s paddock.
Foremost limiting factors are the institutional tendency of uni-
versities to focus on degrees and publications, and that of CRIs
to work to a funding system favouring immediate application
and user relationships generating further contracts. In a system
where funding and competition are tight, the extra work to cater
to multiple purposes will tend to falter unless incentivised to
create valuable, but often unpredictable, spinoff and spillover
scientists, who chose their careers to pursue a joint focus on
practical applications and fundamental understanding, and still
aim to do so. Indeed, use-inspired fundamental research also
serves as motivation for our best young minds to choose careers
in science, technology and engineering that will encourage them
to stay in New Zealand and improve our society, economy and
environment (Leibfarth 2013).
Within our present funding system, small individual re-
search fellowships linked with large mission-led ventures
appear to hold considerable promise for clearly and simply
making the most of research investment by advancing both
fundamental understanding and practical applications. In this
respect, the university-led Centres of Research Excellence
(CoREs) already have a strong record of achievement, and are
often notable for linking excellence in CRIs and universities.
The NSCs have their foundation in the CRI Taskforce report’s
(Jordan et al. 2010) promotion of ‘inter-institutional collabora-
tion’ and ‘multi-disciplinary areas of research’ such as CoREs
through Recommendation 9, which stated:
The CRI Taskforce recommends that Government include,
as part of its open access investment programme, funding
to support inter-institutional, collaborative research. This
should be managed by nominated research directors from
within research organisations across the RS&T system, in-
cluding universities. This funding can be awarded through
negotiation or contest.
Achieving Recommendation 9 within the NSC context will
2 to direct the structures and incentives within new and aligned
research. Seeking excellence in both fundamental understanding
and considerations of use will tend to generate additionality in
the form of a multiplier effect, and therefore enable multiple
coordinated pushes that generate a step change. The cross-
fertilisation of ideas that comes with the discovery and integra-
tion steps of a mission-led quest for fundamental understanding
has substantial potential. It is likely to be the most effective
means to access and translate global advances in basic under-
standing to our nation’s practical needs. Our national strengths
in the management of applied science can be brought to bear as
the research moves along the path from potential to promise, and
on to adoption and implementation. In doing so, we may hope to
move beyond bickering about applied versus basic allocations.
Indeed, we may hope to rebuild a virtuous and inspiring compact
between science, society and government within New Zealand,
that lives up to the naming of the National Science Challenges,
even if there are some missteps along the way.
This work has emerged from proposal development for the NSC
Our Land and Water. I thank Adam Jaffe for pointing to the
relevance of Stokes (1997), and Liz Keller and Rich McDowell
for helpful reviews and comments.
Crank, J. 1975. The mathematics of diffusion. 2nd edn. Oxford,
Clarendon Press. viii + 414 pp.
Hendy, S.C.; Callaghan, P.T. 2013. Get off the grass : kickstarting New
Zealand’s innovation economy. Auckland, Auckland University
Press. ix + 238 pp.
Jordan, N.; McKenzie, J.D.; Carr, R.; Kibblewhite, A.; Little, S.;
Anderson, H.; Bain, M.; Sandland, R. 2010. How to Enhance the
Value of New Zealand’s Investment in Crown Research Institutes.
72 pp. http://www.msi.govt.nz/assets/MSI/CRI/Report-of-the-
Joyce, S. 2014. Hon Steven Joyce discusses Tranche 2, National
Science Challenges. Retrieved 29 April 2014 from https://www.
Leibfarth, F. 2013. Speaking Frankly: The allure of Pasteur’s
quadrant. Retrieved 29 April 2014 from http://blogs.nature.com/
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). 2014.
National Science Challenges Request for Proposals (Tranche 2).
51 pp. http://www.msi.govt.nz/assets/MSI/Update-me/National-
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Research and Experimental Development: The Measurement of
for Economic Co-operation and Development. 255 pp. http://
Stokes, D.E. 1997. Pasteur’s Quadrant: Basic Science and
Technological Innovation. Washington, DC, Brookings Institution
Press. xiv + 180 pp.
Rogers, E.M. 2003. Diffusion of Innovations. 5th edn. New York, Free
Press. xxi + 551 pp.
Rogers, E.M.; Singhal, A.; Quinlan, M.M. 2009. Diffusion of
innovations. Pp. 418–434 in: Stacks, D.W.; Salwen, M.B. (eds)
An Integrated Approach to Communication Theory and Research.
2nd edn. New York, Routledge. xiv + 576 pp.