Thursday 24 November 2016

Nobel Visas

Sir Clive Granger won the Nobel Prize in Economics while a visitor at the University of Canterbury's Economics Department. He loved visiting us. And we loved having him visit us.

One of my favourite Sir Clive stories, which predated my joining the Department, was of a departmental seminar where he, as usual, sat quietly at the back of the room. The visiting economist presenting didn't know he was there. But when the seminar speaker claimed that something had Granger-caused something else, Clive piped up from the back of the room, "No it didn't!"

He considered moving to New Zealand more permanently. But he didn't go ahead with it. Why? Our points system would have turned him down on the basis of his age.

Richard Dawkins has called on New Zealand to invite eminent scientists, fed up with the US or UK, to take up New Zealand citizenship.

I can't imagine the government issuing letters of invitation of that sort - especially as it would seriously annoy the American and British governments to frame things that way.

But I can totally imagine a great new skilled migrant immigration category. Applicants holding a Nobel Prize, a Fields Medal, the Kyoto or Crafoord Prize, the International Cosmos Prize, Fellowship in the Royal Society, membership of the National Academy of Sciences, or Fellowship of the British Academy would be considered for immigration to New Zealand under this category, subject only to meeting the good character requirements established by Immigration New Zealand.

We should warn them that science funding here is a bit more limited than they might be used to. And we shouldn't get our hopes up either: research productivity depends on having a great team with you, and I'd be surprised if many Nobellists would leave their teams behind.

But we could have had Sir Clive, and we didn't.

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