$300,000 to study Tinder? Marsden Grants deserve greater scrutiny
The Taxpayers Union is questioning the cost of Marsden Grants awarded to academic research of dubious value.
The Marsden Fund was established in 1994 to fund "excellent fundamental research".
It's hard to see how some recently-funded projects are either ‘excellent’ or ‘fundamental’. We're exposing examples of the grants so that taxpayers can judge for themselves.
• $300,000 to prove it is “benevolently sexist” to believe that “men ought to protect and cherish women”.
• $842,000 to find out why there aren't many Asian people on New Zealand television or in cinema.
• $300,000 to examine how New Zealanders are using dating apps.
• $870,000 to find out whether multiculturalism harms indigenous people.
• $300,000 to examine the relationship between housing and security in Papua New Guinea.
• $870,000 to “re-imagine anti-racism theory in the health sector”.
• $842,000 to study ethnic women politicians in New Zealand.
• $300,000 to find out how religion affects inequality in Fiji.
Full abstracts of these examples and more can be found at the bottom of this piece.
Recommendations for funding are made by a council of 11 researchers hand-picked by the Minister for Research, Science and Innovation – Megan Woods.
Some Marsden Grants go toward tangible scientific research that will conceivably provide a return for New Zealand taxpayers. But the funding council seems to give equal priority to vague, navel-gazing treatises that will only ever be read by a handful of academics.
At the Taxpayers' Union, we take a simple view: taxpayer money should be spent on New Zealand's highest areas of need. How can Megan Woods possibly tell taxpayers that we need to spend $300,000 studying Tinder when we're facing problems like a housing crisis and a pandemic?
The Marsden Grant seems to deal in default funding figures, such as $300,000 or $842,000, which suggests there isn't much, if any, scrutiny of whether these projects actually need the full sum. Many of the projects involve international collaborations, meaning funds can easily be eaten up by overseas junkets.
We're asking Megan Woods whether she's actually read what grants her funding panel has approved, and if she seriously thinks that all these projects are worth the many millions they're costing taxpayers.
Interestingly, even hard-headed research proposals have been pitched in ideological terms – for example, an investigation of human impacts on Antarctic ecology was pitched as examining 'how vulnerable Antarctica's coasts are to colonization'. Funding applicants clearly understand that themes of intersectional politics are likely to win them taxpayer money.
Many Kiwis will support the principle of funding blue-skies academic research. But we're urging taxpayers and the media to take a closer look at where the money actually goes.
A selection of abstracts from questionable grants proposals can be found below.
Religious and Moral Fictionalism
When we are confronted with what appear to be competing theological or moral paradigms, must we always take sides? Many longstanding philosophical arguments about religion and ethics presuppose a choice among only three attitudes that people can take: belief, disbelief, or indecision. (In the context of religion, for example, we have words for each: one is either a theist, an atheist, or an agnostic.) But this traditional philosophical view misses something important: the possibility that our judgements about morality and religion need not express genuine beliefs, but nevertheless can amount to a kind of “acceptance” that commits us in significant practical ways to moral or religious frameworks. This view is called “fictionalism.” This project, first, articulates precisely what this additional possibility amounts to; second, it explores how fictionalism can be employed to help one engage respectfully with others who adopt an alternative religious or moral framework; and, third, it examines the relationship between morality and religion through a fictionalist lens. We will also show how fictionalism can help people to engage in meaningful cross-cultural moral and religious discussions. As a case study, we will consider the belief systems of indigenous groups, which fictionalism is well-suited to illuminate.
How do relationship needs promote sexist idealization and aggression?
The idea that “men ought to protect and cherish women” may seem romantic. But this belief is not protective. It is what psychologists term a benevolently sexist belief. Men who hold benevolently sexist beliefs are more likely to blame women who are the victims of violence. Where do these beliefs come from, and why are they counterintuitively linked with justification of aggression?
These questions are typically investigated by examining societal-level beliefs and inequalities, which overlooks the personal needs and contextual factors underlying sexism. I predict that heightened needs for a romantic relationship are one source of men’s benevolently sexist beliefs. However, these beliefs foster entitled feelings that women ought to reciprocate men’s romantic interest, fuelling aggression when men face rejection.
I test my predictions by studying how people’s gender beliefs change as they naturally initiate and dissolve dating relationships. I combine a two-year longitudinal study with lab-based experiments, providing real-life and causal evidence of the motives and consequences of men’s benevolently sexist beliefs.
Findings from these studies will help researchers to understand why sexist beliefs and dating violence exist in egalitarian countries like New Zealand and will pave the way for future intervention research on dating aggression.
Ngā Taonga o Wharawhara: The World of Māori Body Adornment
What makes a chief push a live bird through his earlobe and enjoy the spectacle of it dying? What makes someone wear a long feather through his septum? And why is the hei tiki so significant that they retain their ceremonial, political and economic roles over four centuries? Body adornment is a critical visual marker that can send out specific messages as well as reinforce social, economic and political status. Ngā Taonga o Wharawhara will offer the first comprehensive study of these adornments, and will address a gap in Māori art historical research to investigate the nature of adornments (types, materials), the practices of making, and the people involved (makers, wearers and kaitiaki/caretakers). By using Kaupapa Māori and art historical methodologies, this project will offer research models to address recent imperatives in Art History to understand it as a global discipline, and be made accessible through articles and a major book.
Asian New Zealanders on Screen: visibility past and present
This project examines why Asian New Zealanders, despite being a significant proportion of the national population, remain virtually absent from New Zealand screen culture. Few of their stories have been seen or heard in film, on television, or online and disproportionately few work in the culture industries. Those who do, struggle to find institutional funding and distribution for projects that reflect their identities and experiences. This lack of visibility is typically explained in terms of market forces (Asian New Zealand audiences are commercially unviable) and individual creative choice (their stories are immaterial to or unrepresentative of ‘New Zealanders’). Instead, we argue that racial marginalisation is a consequence of institutional and industrial ideologies and screen production practices. Our project will construct the first history of Asian New Zealand screen production (1980-2019) and trace several contemporary case histories (2020). These data enable us to analyse whether recent developments in Asian New Zealand screen production genuinely alter cultural politics and power or if they reiterate hegemonic tendencies to manage diversity. We study the dynamic relationship between national policy, social and economic production practices, ‘diversity’ initiatives, and everyday screen production cultures to interrogate how certain narratives are perpetuated and others are silenced.
#MeToo; A Cultural Shift?: Young New Zealanders' Exposure and Responses to Sexual Harassment Media
Can #MeToo lend momentum to a cultural shift around sexual harassment? #MeToo and related pervasive media discussions of gender and sexual harassment provide us with a key moment to explore what sense young people make of such content, which is often shared on social media. How do they understand it, what do they feel about it, and how do they respond to it in their everyday lives? Learning about boys is particularly important because lack of understanding and knowledge about gender equality directly relates to support for violence against women. A small literature exists about, mostly, white, middle class young feminists’ use of social media to resist sexual harassment, but research with boys/young men and minority groups is absent. We use multimodal qualitative methods to investigate with diverse groups of youth the sexual harassment media stories they see in their social media accounts, and how these affect them. We explore the meanings young people make of these texts and ways these meanings form and flow through their friendship and peer networks and wider contexts (e.g. schools, families, communities). Our work will contribute to identifying strategies for diverse groups of young people to challenge and shift inequitable gender and sexuality norms.
Double jeopardy or double advantage? Ethnic women in New Zealand politics
Although ethnic minority women are increasingly visible actors within mainstream politics in western democracies, there is little scholarship focusing on their experiences. This dearth is especially evident in the context of Aotearoa/New Zealand. Like elsewhere in the Anglo-European world, ethnic women in New Zealand are integral to politics – e.g., as MPs, councillors, party members, and political candidates – yet, they are overlooked in academic research. This research seeks, at one level, to understand the experiences of ethnic women as politicians within NZ’s political systems. Conceptually, however, their lived realities are a window to examining intersectionality and governance in NZ’s bicultural and multi-ethnic democracy. Drawing on a five-fold analytical framework, the study focuses on the politics of: (a) Representation (b) Symbolism (c) Governance (d) Identity, and (e) Discrimination. The study collates and uses ‘thick biographies’ of 20-25 ethnic women politicians for an array of qualitative and quantitative cross-cutting analyses. Uniquely ‘about and by’ ethnic women, this study is timely, contributing to emergent international scholarship on gender/ethnic minority politics while also providing insights for practical consideration for current and prospective ethnic women politicians in NZ.
It looks grim: The future of Māori academics in New Zealand universities
The future looks grim for Māori academics and for the New Zealand universities hoping to recruit them. Māori academics are 'underrepresented' in New Zealand universities, making up only 6% of the university academic workforce despite being 14.9% of the New Zealand general population. Although often well meaning, New Zealand universities have at times worked to ‘exclude’ Māori academic intellectualism from the mainstream; at other times they have worked to ‘exploit’ Māori academics for their cultural knowledges to further advance university agendas. While these observations give reason to be concerned for the future of Māori academics and New Zealand universities, a look to New Zealand’s historical past reveals it even more so, suggesting an orchestrated series of institutional effects which warns the grim future won’t be so easy to avoid. This study draws on an institutional framework utilising self-correcting induction, conversational and archival inquiry, and narrative analysis to examine the political power relations between the New Zealand university sector and Māori academics between the 1990s and 2021. Our ultimate purpose is to subvert this deep-seated grim looking future for Māori academics and New Zealand universities, as well as open up new conversations about indigenous exclusion and exploitation in other postcolonial contexts.
Growing old in an adopted land: Redefining 'ageing well' in the context of migration
Growing old involves complex developmental and social changes for all individuals. However, navigating the ageing process can be especially challenging for migrants because of their dual cultural and transnational contexts that often present contradictory expectations. In the Western, individualistic world, health and independence are the yardsticks by which successful ageing is measured. Collectivistic societies value harmonious relationships, and indigenous communities further emphasise multi-generational reciprocity. For migrants, however, ageing well may be more than maintaining health, remaining independent, having strong family ties, or community involvement; it lies in the ability to negotiate expectations of multiple cultures effectively throughout the lifespan. Complicating this further, cultural diversity in ageing is underpinned by the opportunities and freedom people have to access resources and make choices as they grow older. Migrants’ capabilities to age well are hindered by social and institutional factors that create systematically different access to resources over the lifespan. By integrating scholarship on life-course inequalities and cultural gerontology, my research draws on narrative interviews, survey, and life history data to explore what ageing well means for migrants and how it is achieved over the life-course. This will produce a culturally sensitive and ethical framework with a life-course focus for understanding multicultural ageing.
Listening to the Voices of our Harbours: Kāwhia, Manukau and Whangarei
This project investigates kaitiakitanga over Aotearoa’s harbours, emphasising the work of Māori activists at multiple levels, from the shores and waters of their harbours to the steps of Parliament. The word ‘kaitiaki’ has entered our legal system, but in practice it is often used as a convenient Māori shorthand for ‘stakeholder,’ without recognition that the term is deeply embedded in the culture from which it comes. The voices of kaitiaki are seldom heard beyond their local communities. Our research is a collaboration with flaxroots Māori, using Kaupapa and Tikanga methods, and provides a platform for their understandings and experiences of kaitiakitanga to be widely known.
Māori activists mobilised the word kaitiakitanga in the 1980s, particularly in the Manukau Harbour claim led by Dame Nganeko Minhinnick. Our project also explores how kaitiakitanga has evolved since then, in the context of increasing neoliberalisation in environmental management.
Harbours are historically significant and environmentally threatened sites of kaitiakitanga. Our project centres on the varied Kāwhia, Manukau and Whangarei Harbours, building from our existing relationships with these communities. Ultimately our project aims to develop new ways of envisaging harbours, promoting mātauranga Māori as instrumental in the past, present, and future wellbeing of our harbours.
Languaculture within Te Ao Māori: Learning from infants, whānau and communities
Effective communication is key to one’s lifetime participation as a literate local and global citizen. However, within many colonised societies, the interrelationships and subtleties of language, culture and identity generated from Indigenous epistemologies have been eroded, belittled and overlooked by an education system that has favoured Eurocentric models. Associated education policies, grounded in racial hierarchies, continue to promote assimilation into the worldview of the coloniser, which features at all levels of education systems. In New Zealand, this situation has continued to detrimentally influence how Māori have viewed their own language, culture and identity across successive generations, and how it is viewed by others.
The proposed research seeks to understand the implications of intergenerational loss while unlocking important interrelationships between language and culture (‘languaculture’) for infants, their whānau (families) and communities across a range of Indigenous/Māori sociocultural settings. Learning from Māori epistemologies about conception, birth and infancy will help us to understand the experiences of babies learning to speak into their world. This research supports more effective social interactions, literacy development and improved hauora (wellbeing) across diverse communities by better understanding the socialisation of tamariki/mokopuna (children/grandchildren) within whānau, and their sense of belonging, emerging identities and language acquisition.
Housing and Everyday Security in Papua New Guinea
This project explores how landowners and settlers in urban Papua New Guinea (PNG) can work together to create safer homes. Towns in PNG are considered dangerous places. A shortage of safe and affordable housing contributes to this perception. In response to housing shortages, customary landowners may informally lease plots to outsiders, leading to inter- and intra-community tensions. In the context of often-troubled relationships between customary landowners and migrant settlers, my research asks: What does security mean for people in PNG’s growing towns? How do residents understand the risks and opportunities associated with a changing housing landscape? How do both tenants and landowners try to create safe homes? How are these practices transforming ideas about risk, well-being, and agency? Using ethnographic methods in two towns and bringing together theoretical frameworks from housing studies, the anthropology of security, and medical anthropology, this research will generate new insights on the cultural consequences of a rapidly changing housing landscape. As urbanisation accelerates in the Pacific, it is important to understand how customary owners and tenants frame their mutual responsibilities beyond the cash nexus.
Sleep loss in children: perchance to eat?
The literature strongly suggests sleep loss in children promotes unhealthy eating, but 'how' this occurs is largely unknown. We propose a randomised, crossover experimental design (home setting) to determine how sleep loss influences energy intake. Specifically, we will manipulate individual sleep patterns of 110 children aged 8-12 years so each child receives one week of sleep restriction (1h less time in bed than usual) and sleep extension (1h longer), with one week washout in between (resume normal sleep) whilst undertaking repeated assessments of outcomes of interest: eating in the absence of hunger within an ad libitum feeding experiment (primary outcome) at the end of each experimental week; eating behaviours (appetite regulation, eating for reasons other than hunger); type, quantity and timing (24 hour recalls); context of eating including hidden eating (using novel wearable cameras) and desire for treat foods (computerized task). We will also determine if sleep loss changes energy balance through promoting more sedentary behaviour and less physical activity (7 day actigraphy/motion sensor). Collectively, this data will advance our understanding of the pathways by which sleep loss may change eating behaviours and appetite in children, leading to a cascade of effects on food choices, energy intake and weight gain.
Exploration of Pāsifika funds of knowledge in mathematics
Equity in schooling can only be achieved when educators develop understandings of the identities of diverse learners and their ‘funds of knowledge’. New Zealand’s population includes the largest group of Pāsifika people in the Western world. Our Pāsifika communities are woven from many threads of diverse ethnicities, nationalities, languages, and cultures. However, while schools are culturally and ethnically diverse, the cultural knowledge of many Pāsifika learners is excluded from the classroom. This project will explore the culturally embedded ways of knowing and successful mathematical experiences of Pāsifika learners outside of school, in their everyday settings in the home and community. The aim of this 3-year study is to describe Pāsifika mathematical funds of knowledge by actively involving participants (aged 7 to 15 years old) and their families in documenting their out of school experiences with mathematics through photography and video recording and then describing this during interviews. The project will raise awareness of the strengths of Pāsifika learners and address current equity issues in education.
Te whai wawewawe ā Māuitikitiki-ā-Taranga: Revitalisation of Māori string figure knowledge and practice
Māori string figures are known as “whai”, from “te whai wawewawe ā Māuitikitiki-ā-Taranga” - to follow in the deft footsteps of the mythical hero Māui. Whai are a unique method used by many indigenous and Pacific Islands cultures to store, record and transmit cultural knowledge. Whai requires patience, focus, discipline, mental agility and dexterity. It develops memory, involving extraordinary imagination to create numerous patterns from a simple looped string. There are over 500 whai patterns yet most current practitioners would struggle to produce 20, let alone know the individual chants, prayers and associated narratives embedded within whai.
Today, whai is a culturally important art and knowledge system close to extinction. It was documented in 1927 that whai knowledge and practice was suffering significant loss. Since then, there has been no extensive examination of whai, let alone widespread use of it. Employing a kaupapa Māori approach, our all Māori research team will examine the knowledge system and practice of whai, develop best practice intergenerational transfer of whai knowledge and appropriate storage of whai knowledge for Aotearoa and the Pacific. Our work will be vital in revitalising this unique, complex mnemonic system that documents and transmits Māori knowledge and practice.
The Longitudinal Study of Cohesion and Conflict: Testing Hypotheses of Social and Religious Change in Fiji
Religion is ubiquitous, yet the fundamental question of how religion affects people remains unclear. Some see religion as social glue; others view it as a mechanism for social control. Existing datasets cannot settle these enduring debates. We will collect longitudinal ethnographic and cooperative network data from individuals living in Fijian villages and squatter settlements undergoing intense social change, creating the Pacific’s first longitudinal ethnographic study of religion and society. By simultaneously measuring individual and community units over time, these social conditions will function as “natural experiments,” affording an understanding of the dynamic interplay between religious institutions, cooperation and inequality. Published datasets, data analysis scripts, and data visualisations will furnish an enduring and fully open scholarly resource; five peer-reviewed articles in high impact journals, four conference presentations, a workshop, and a new methodological textbook will advance a pioneering quantitative approach to the ethnographic study of cultures among the next generation of social researchers. Dissemination of findings will involve local communities in applied policy recommendations.
Shifting intimacies: Navigating the 'game' of mobile dating
In this digitally-mediated world, initiating sexual or romantic intimacy now frequently occurs on mobile dating apps. This requires people to navigate new technologies and enables them to explore different possibilities for intimacy. The opportunities that mobile dating holds for creating intimacy, and how people take these up, is particularly relevant in light of the global pandemic of COVID-19, when human connection and contact is intertwined with worries about viral contamination, risk, and future uncertainty. This timely research will offer up-to-the-minute insight and understanding into how people from various backgrounds are finding ways of creating and experiencing intimacy, through mobile dating, in the context of an unfolding pandemic. This research will involve people who vary in age, ethnicity, sexuality, and other backgrounds across Aotearoa New Zealand – a country that has successfully emerged from immediate crisis. Using novel, interactive and in-depth methods, we will explore meanings, activities, and stories attached to using dating technologies while living through this pandemic. Findings will contribute empirical evidence and extend theoretical understandings of how people engage with digital technologies and navigate intimacy, risk, and emotion across different living conditions in a COVID-19 world.
Our game by our rules: Bringing an Indigenous perspective to the Sport-for-Development (SFD) field
Despite 20 years of dedicated Sport-for-Development (SFD) theorising, research and practice, Indigenous worldviews remain silenced and positioned at the margins. This is deeply concerning as Indigenous people are frequently the target of deficit-focused SFD initiatives, while at the same time being excluded in decision making. In transforming the field of SFD, our project will probe, deconstruct and contest current SFD discourse in order to develop a co-constructed, Indigenous-centred, gendered, re-theorised understanding of SFD. Using Kaupapa Māori Methodology and the Fijian Vanua Framework, case studies will be conducted in Aotearoa and Fiji to shine light on SFD initiatives which are informed by Indigenous viewpoints, and align with Indigenous aspirations. Along with observations and in-depth interviews with groups involved in rugby, Iron Māori and outrigger canoeing, we will engage in hui and talanoa and collect thick, deep, narratives. An international survey will provide us with rich quantitative data, while the cases will build a nuanced understanding of different contexts of SFD Indigeneity for the purpose of theorising upwards. We will make an original contribution to Indigenous and feminist scholarship, SFD and sport management knowledge, by creating a space for new conversations, and thus new opportunities for innovating SFD concepts, methods and applications.
Re-imagining anti-racism theory in the health sector
Racism and dishonouring of te Tiriti o Waitangi are significant contributors to Māori health inequities in Aotearoa New Zealand. While there is growing acknowledgement of this situation and some improvement in individual practice within various disciplines, few initiatives have attempted to engage with racism in the health sector at an institutional level. We propose to develop a transformational theory and practice of anti-racism that is relevant to all levels of the health sector. The current study draws on existing research by the team around cultural safety, health inequities and mapping racism that identifies the need for a cohesive approach to addressing racism in the health sector. The study is underpinned by Māori health aspirations, and focuses on the nexus of Māori and Tauiwi knowledges. Our novel methodological approach is based on kaupapa Māori theory, Western change theories, Critical te Tiriti Analysis and informed by Te Ara Tika ethical principles. The study comprises four iterative stages over three years which will generate, refine, test, and disseminate a theory of anti-racism in collaboration with health sector partners. Governance will be provided by a Kaitiaki Rōpū complemented by an expert Advisory Rōpū to construct an equitable relational space for the project.
Psychology of Pacific Peoples or Pacific Psychologies? How Pacific psychologists are changing the discipline
This project will identify how Pacific psychology academics, post-graduate students, and practitioners adapt psychology to meet the needs of Pacific communities in Aotearoa. Understanding how Pacific psychologists re-centre their discipline on Pacific epistemologies and challenge Euro-American dominance in psychology can provide innovative and ground-breaking advancements across research, teaching, and practice. By drawing connections on what Pacific psychologists do and what universities teach, it may be possible to establish a broad platform of “Pacific Psychologies” as a paradigm within Indigenous Psychology. Furthermore, this project will illuminate how Pacific research and researchers are bringing in Pacific knowledge and practices across other all of psychology (such as developmental, social, educational) highlighting innovative ways in which Pacific research can enrich and enhance the psychological education and training of Pacific and non-Pacific psychologists alike.
Is Multiculturalism Helpful or Harmful to Indigenous Peoples?
Is multiculturalism helpful or harmful to indigenous peoples? Does it offer opportunities or lead to marginalisation? Close the gaps in social, economic and health disparities or threaten indigenous rights and resources? Although research shows that multiculturalism benefits many immigrant and ethnic minorities, little is known about its impact on indigenous communities either in Aotearoa or overseas. We adopt an innovative approach in collaboration with Māori and Native American tribes to address these controversial questions. The project: 1) explores indigenous understandings of multiculturalism, including its perils and promises; 2) combines this indigenous knowledge with current psychological theorizing to examine the impact of multiculturalism on physical, social, psychological and spiritual dimensions of well-being; and 3) investigates the extent to which socio-political and historical context affects the relationship between multiculturalism and well-being in these indigenous communities.
Retracing the Storylines of Pacific Women Voyagers and Navigators
Retracing the Storylines of Pacific Women Voyagers and Navigators aims to re-narrate Pacific ‘her-stories’ to articulate the complex roles that women have played in voyaging, migration, movement, identity, places and displacements, diasporas and connections to imagine a future for Pacific Islands women, peoples and islands that forges new possibilities for Pacific women leaders and activists. This project re-navigates moʻokūʻauhau, whakapapa, genealogies and storylines of Pacific women voyagers and visionaries, past and present, to investigate what this body of knowledge reveals about mana wahine, feminine epistemologies, ontologies, women in leadership, gender and Pacific women’s power. The research aim is to restore the legacies of legendary Pacific Island women voyagers and navigators by retracing the voyaging storylines of Pacific women with a commitment to researching the connections between Hina/Hine/Ine/Sima/Sina and Nimʻanoa throughout Oceania. The research will explore her centrality to leadership, continuity, and her role as a voyager and navigator. Despite a long-term career interest in sites across Oceania, the research will be limited to three geographical locations in Aotearoa-New Zealand, Tahiti, and Hawaiʻi gathering, examining and analyzing the Indigenous archive and conducting interviews with Pacific Island women.
Wellbeing through Nature-based Urban Design: Co-designing Climate Adaptations in Oceania
The pressures of climate change and urbanisation in Aotearoa and the Pacific islands are detrimental to ecosystems and human wellbeing, particularly of vulnerable communities. This must be urgently addressed. This research co-designs, with communities, urban design strategies that are centred in Indigenous ecological knowledge and nature-based solutions (NbS) as a means to adapt to climate change impacts. It generates five case studies: two in Aotearoa, and one each in Kiribati, Vanuatu, and Samoa, in order to determine how to effectively forefront Indigenous knowledges and solutions that work with nature in urban design, so that both human and ecological wellbeing are simultaneously increased as a response to the impacts of climate change. The methodology draws out the specificities of each context, and then breaks new ground by working alongside mana whenua (people of that place) to centre their knowledge, thus developing a unique place-centred Oceanic urban NbS climate change adaptation strategy. The overall aim is to develop nature-based urban design solutions, rooted in Indigenous knowledges that support climate change adaptation and individual and community wellbeing in different contexts across Oceania.
Nursery Crimes: Does the popularity and pricing of alien plant species traded in New Zealand ornamental horticulture markets determine the risk of introducing environmental weeds?
Ornamental horticulture is the primary source of environmental weeds worldwide, and particularly in New Zealand. Yet, predicting why only some species escape from cultivation to become environmental weeds is a major challenge. Our research will, for the first time, integrate economic variables, human behaviour and biological attributes to forecast future biological invasions by non-native ornamental plants. We will test the novel hypothesis that the likelihood that a non-native ornamental plant species will become invasive can largely be explained by the factors that affect demand for garden plants: gardener preferences for particular biological attributes and plant prices. Using an extensive collection of historical nursery catalogues, we will assess how the risk of plant invasions is shaped by the price, permanence, prevalence and popularity of non-native plants relative to their biological attributes. Our results will have a major impact on how the risks of plant invasions are assessed and we will generate new risk assessment tools that also integrate the social dimension of biological invasions. A clearer understanding of the behavioural and economic drivers of ornamental plant invasions will underpin development of broader and more successful methods to manage potentially invasive plant species than current approaches based on sales and import bans.