The Impact and Contribution of Indigenous Centres of Research Excellence


Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga is the National Institute of Research Excellence for Māori Development and Advancement and is one of seven national Centres of Research Excellence that were selected for funding by the New Zealand Government in 2002 and subsequently, established as an Institute on 1 July 2002.

This Guest Blog continues the commentary begun yesterday by Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith in regards to the decision to not continue funding to the Māori Centre of Research Excellence  ‘Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga. The intention of this piece is to highlight the significance of the impact of an Indigenous Centre of Excellence such as Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga and how it contributes to wider Indigenous Development aspirations both within Aotearoa and internationally.

Commentary Part II: Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga

You may well ask what difference an Indigenous Centre of Research Excellence makes in the larger scheme of research?

New Zealand is just one of several countries that fund different kinds of research groups, programmes, clusters, entities and institutes. They generally do this to accelerate new knowledge, strengthen particular kinds of research, provide concentrated and longer term funding comfort for research of strategic importance, and provide deep focus of intellects on specific research questions. Some are funded from their government science budgets or health budgets. New Zealand CoREs are funded from the Education budget. Science research is funded from the Research, Science and Technology budget. The science budget funds the science challenges and health research.

I have reviewed CoRE proposals for other countries and been an external reviewer of an indigenous institute of health research in Canada. I have also referred international proposals and provided expert advice to funding agencies on indigenous and education research. In my experience and reading most CoREs are science focused but see themselves as multidisciplinary. All are led by the very best researchers in their fields. Most draw on collaborations across institutions. Many have very extensive outreach programmes to schools, communities to international colleagues. Some have developed innovative training programmes that send students to different institutions around the globe. They all build capacity. They all undertake multiple research projects. Many of them foster new research programmes with fledgling entities or NGOs or businesses. They publish a range of resources, they run conferences, they host visiting scholars, they stimulate debate, they advocate, they share practices, they fund scholarships. They produce researchers with skill sets in areas that did not exist before. They provide a deep well of research. Their countries are proud of them.

Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga has worked hard to carry out all those things. Unlike all other similar type entities Ngā Pae has been the only Centre in the world to be focused on the complex issues of Indigenous Development, on exploring the potential of different knowledge systems and paradigms to produce new knowledge, on engaging Indigenous researchers and Indigenous communities in development projects across a spectrum of social, environmental, economic and cultural domains and on creating new capacities in research, in publishing and translation, in institution building, in the application of Indigenous knowledge alongside other methodologies.

Individuals and small groups of indigenous researchers from the Arctic to Latin America, from Africa to Australia and from North America to Aotearoa plug away at this stuff by themselves. Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga scales that up several notches. It reaches and engages researchers across the world. Top and emerging international Indigenous scholars serve alongside Māori researchers on editorial boards, act as journal reviewers, assess the quality of research, review research proposals, attend Ngā Pae conferences, co- supervise Māori doctoral students, mentor Māori post doctoral fellows, collaborate on research projects here and abroad.

There are many Māori researchers across all the universities whose careers have been supported in some way by Ngā Pae through travel and conference grants, through having an article published, through research funding, through conference presentations. Ngā Pae is a collaboration of a broad range of scientists, social scientists, health and education researchers, engineers and architects, arts researchers and development specialists.

Many of the doctoral students who participated in the MAI support programme have gone on to win prestigious grants, have had their work published, and have got established research careers. Many of our researchers owe much to Ngā Pae for their research performance outputs, for the opportunities they have had and for the mentoring and service that senior researchers have provided. Of course not all Māori individual researchers have been involved in Ngā Pae but all universities, two wānanga, one Crown Research Institute and iwi and community based research organisations have been formally involved as participating entities. Open research rounds have facilitated an even wider group of researchers to apply for funding.

So, what difference does Ngā Pae o Te Maramatanga make?

Ngā Pae scales up the efforts that many of us have made in our own little silos to develop Māori research excellence. There are smaller centres of Māori researchers in institutions but Ngā Pae connected them to a national network and enabled them to expand their research. It enabled an inspiring education intervention at the higher education level. It established research programmes that focused on strategic areas of Māori and Indigenous development. It lifted the research performance of researchers. It trained research leaders. It mapped and tracked research capacity. It established innovative collaborations such as with the Fulbright Scheme to expand researcher opportunities. It was beginning to achieve for Māori what New Zealand governments have wanted from research more broadly, a massive joined up network of researchers working purposefully towards improving New Zealand.

So, why would that be deliberately undone? Mmmmm

Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou)
CNZM BA Dip Tch MA (Hons) PhD Auckland
Pro Vice-Chancellor Māori
Senior Advisor – Te Kotahi Research Institute
Dean – School of Māori and Pacific Development
Professor of Education and Māori Development

Professor Linda Smith is a leading international authority on indigenous education and health, and is particularly well-known for her book “Decolonising Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples”. She is a member of the Marsden Fund, serves on New Zealand’s Health Research Council, chairing the Māori Health Research Committee, and is past president of the New Zealand Association for Research in Education. She has extensive experience in building Māori and indigenous research capacity, and has helped establish three research institutes – including Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga, New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence. Professor Smith was awarded was awarded Te Tohu Pae Tawhiti, the New Zealand Association for Research in Education (NZARE) Inaugural Award for Research Excellence in Māori Education. She also received the NZARE 1998 Jean Herbison Lecture Award and a Churchill Fellowship in 1991.She has held key positions such as the Deputy Chair of the Council of Te Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, was a member of the Advisory Committee for Official Statistics New Zealand, and a member of the Māori Reference Group for the Tertiary Education Commission. From 2001-2004, she chaired the Māori Tertiary Education Reference Group responsible for advising the Ministry of Education on operational strategy for Māori tertiary education. She has served on many other bodies, including as a member of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission (TEAC), advising the Minister of Tertiary Education on the shape of the tertiary education system for New Zealand. Professor Smith was a member of the Constitutional Review Panel 2011 -2013 and was awarded the 2012 Dame Joan Metge Medal for excellence and building relationships in the social science research community, for inspiring, mentoring and developing Māori researchers and has been made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2013 New Year Honours for her contribution to Māori Research.

Author: Te Wharepora Hou

Te Wharepora Hou is a collective of wāhine who are mainly Tāmaki Makaurau based, but we have strong participation from wāhine based elsewhere in Aotearoa and the world. We have come together to ensure a stronger voice for wāhine and are concerned primarily with the wellbeing of whānau, hapū, iwi and all that pertains to Papatūānuku and the sustenance of our people.

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