Report on the Meeting of the Hon. the Minister of Scientific and Industrial Research with the Royal Society's Finance Committee
The Hon R. M. Algie, Minister of D.S I.R., received the Finance Committee delegation on March 19, 1956. A statement of the financial position of the Society as at March 31, 1956, and of the estimated expenditure for the financial year 1956–57 was placed before the Minister, together with a resume of the demand for publication and the cost of publications. The attention of the Hon. Minister was drawn to the fact that the Society has been compelled for financial reasons to abandon from its activities the development of various functions such as supported representation of the Royal Society of New Zealand at overseas conferences, the development of grants in aid of research and other matters which had been included in earlier budgets placed before him. Even with this limitation to the expansion of the work of the Society, it has been unable to maintain its financial position.
The statutory obligation of publication has been a most rapidly increasing load on the Society's finances so that it has been compelled to lower the working balance on which the Society is dependent for running expenses during the period between the end of the financial year and the reception of the annual grant. At March 31, 1955, the working balance was £2,242 18s, at March 31, 1956, it was £1,090 1s 3d (estimated). The difference was utilised essentially in meeting the increased charges for publication.
The Honorary Editor produced figures showing that the Society printed 420 pages in 1953, 664 pages in 1954, 1,069 pages in 1955, and that on hand in MS. there was already an estimated 1,441 pages to be printed in 1956–57, which with the material still to come to hand would involve the Society in an estimated printing charge of £5,400 for the year if the Society is to properly comply with the statutory obligation Against this an annual grant of £4,000 from which £3,000 is available for printing is completely inadequate and our present position shows that the Society in its earlier budgeting, by allowing an increased grant for printing charges each year, had estimated correctly against this liability. The sources of the papers printed by the Society were given Of 147 papers printed in recent years 49 were submitted by University staff, 46 by private individuals, 42 by members of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, 3 by members of other Government Departments, and 7 from the staffs of Museums.
It was pointed out to the Hon. Minister that the publications of the Society are not competing or conflicting with the Journal of Science and Technology and that the Transactions and Bulletins offer the only general media for publication other than those of Government and other employing institutions so that the Society's publications are an essential factor in maintaining the freedom of science in this country. Further, if the Society cannot meet the demand for publication from the rapidly increasing active scientific community the fundamental work of scientists in this country will be either dispersed to overseas journals and we will depend on other countries to assume an obligation which the Society is by statute compelled to carry, or there will be an increased demand for the development of other media in this country. This will, in turn, lead to demands on the Government. In this connection, the Hon. Editor was able to point out that the cost of publication by the Royal Society is lower than for any other local scientific medium, that a number of papers have been declined, others drastically cut in text and illustration and various improvements have been made over recent years, all tending to lower the cost and to raise the standard. The Hon. Minister then expressed his understanding of the Society's problems and assured the deputation of his sympathy in the Society's attempt to secure its financial position.
Discussion turned then to the Fund which represents the balance from the grant to complete publication of the Proceedings of the Pacific Science Congress and the additional sum accruing from the later sales of these publications. It was pointed out to the Hon. Minister that the balance was evidence of the frugal and fair manner in which the grant had been handled, even to the extent that no administration charge had been made in handling of some £18,500 in connection with that Congress. The Hon. Minister considered that in view of the Society's difficulties he could fairly discuss with his colleagues the possibility of assisting the Society by reallocating the balance from the grant for publication for the Pacific Science Congress to the Society for publication purposes and that he would keep in mind that the Society had made no charge in that matter for administration purposes which would have equalled the employment of at least one person for the equivalent of a year.
The Hon. Minister brought the meeting to a close.
Members of the Finance Committee attending were Dr. Barnett, Vice-President, Mr. F. R. Callaghan, Professor L. R. Richardson, and Dr. J. T. Salmon.
L. R. Richardson,For the Committee.