Research, Science & Technology

Science is a critical element underpinning biosecurity. It can have an enormous input to managing risks and uncertainties, and ultimately the effectiveness of any decision. It can provide key information for many questions and can help determine which questions should be asked. In the Biosecurity area MPI employs scientists throughout the business, from plant and animal diagnosticians to social scientists.

MPI’s Strategic Science Team provides oversight, focus and coordination for biosecurity and animal welfare science. The key areas that the science team works on are:

A Biosecurity Science Strategy for New Zealand –

A Biosecurity Science Strategy for New Zealand - Mahere Rautaki Putaiao Whakamaru Link to PDF document (1477 KB) (the Strategy), launched in October 2007. The Strategy addresses the science expectations of the Biosecurity Strategy for New Zealand (2003) and was developed with valuable input from the biosecurity science community including science funders, providers and users.

The Strategy highlights the complexity of biosecurity science and the broad range of outcomes it needs to support. It identifies science needs and priorities and also outlines a new biosecurity science system which provides for a fundamental change in the way science needs are prioritised on an ongoing basis.

Implementation of the Strategy is underway and the new biosecurity science system is working well. Three sectoral based advisory groups (plant, animal and aquatic focused) and a cross sectoral advisory group bring together a range of biosecurity expertise. The figure below illustrates how this new system works.

Link to PDF document (124 KB)

As part of their role, the science advisory groups undertake an annual prioritisation process to produce a list of priority biosecurity research needs. The priorities developed are not MPI priorities but priorities for New Zealand’s biosecurity system as a whole, providing a guide for investment by identifying areas where additional or new research effort is needed.

In the first prirotisation process, conducted in 2009, the advisory groups considered a number of research needs which had been identified by the wider biosecurity community. The current list of priority needs is a refresh of the first list.

Priority Biosecurity Science Research List 2010/2011 Link to PDF document (100 KB)

Prior to the next round of prioritisation (2012) MPI will again be seeking input from across the biosecurity community on research needs.

Continuing to implement the Strategy requires input from across the biosecurity system. The MPI Strategic Science Team has an ongoing programme for working with people throughout the system, including MPI staff, science funders, science providers and science end-users, to further the aims of the Strategy.

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Engagement with Science funders, providers and end-users

The Strategic Science Team coordinates MPI's engagement with the many other organisations that have a role to play in biosecurity science. Some examples include:

Outcome-based investments (OBIs)

OBIs are long-term research programmes, funded through the Foundation for Research Science and Technology (offsite link to In these up-to-12-year programmes, a number of research organisations work collaboratively to achieve agreed outcomes.

There are four biosecurity-related programmes funded through the OBI process:

  • Better Border Biosecurity (B3) – prevention of establishment of new terrestrial exotic plant pests.
  • Possum Biocontrol – possum control research
  • Defining New Zealand's Terrestrial Biota – terrestrial taxonomy and systematics
  • Marine Biodiversity & Biosecurity – marine biosecurity research and marine taxonomy and systematics, and marine protected area research


Operational Research

MPI's Operational Research Fund is used to purchase research to address operational and policy development questions in biosecurity and animal welfare. All MPI staff members are invited to identify research topics and develop proposals which are prioritised using MPI's decisions framework Link to PDF document (92 KB). Although the work aligns with and contributes to the achievement of strategic outcomes for biosecurity and animal welfare in New Zealand, this internal fund focuses on applied research with defined pathways to implementation where, in most cases, MPI will be the major end user. It supports projects with a one to three year time frame.

Technical reports for MPI funded Operational Research Projects dating back to 2006 are available here

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Page last updated: 30 April 2012