A FIJIAN academic at the University of Auckland, Dr Steven Ratuva, a political sociologist who is on the editorial board of Pacific Journalism Review, has been awarded a Marsden Fund grant worth $NZ600,000 ($850,000) to lead a major research project on Pacific regional security.
According to a report by Pacific Media Watch, Dr Ratuva, of UOA's Centre for Pacific Studies, was the only Pacific Islands scholar to win a 2012 Marsden award.
The Marsden Fund is New Zealand's major research award provided by the New Zealand government and the Royal Society of New Zealand to New Zealand's top scholars to pursue high level research to advance the knowledge and innovation of the country internationally in the areas of science, technology, medicine, arts and social science.
"The Marsden Fund supports the very best investigators to do world class basic research," said Marsden Fund Council chairperson Professor Juliet Gerrard in announcing the funding results.
"It is widely accepted worldwide that the most important breakthroughs are made when the best researchers are funded to work on their most exciting ideas. This is what makes the Marsden Fund so vital for the long term success of New Zealand and makes Marsden researchers such an inspiring community."
Dr Ratuva, who is also president of the Pacific Islands Political Studies Association (PIPSA), an international body of political scientists and diplomats, will focus his research on the interface between state-based and culture-based security systems in the Pacific and the potential of a new synthesis in addressing local, national and regional conflict.
The case studies are Fiji, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Tonga — four countries and territories with different conflict dynamics and security configurations.
Dr Ratuva, who holds a PhD from Britain, is member of a research team of international experts on ethnic conflict and affirmative action commissioned by Duke University in the US.
He is a member of an international team of experts on affirmative action and labour market funded by the British Academy and facilitated by Oxford and Cambridge universities.
He previously taught at the University of the South Pacific, Australian National University and visiting fellow in a number of international universities as well as adviser and consultant for a number of international organisations.
Last year, he chaired a seminar marking the UNESCO Media Freedom Day in the Pacific at AUT University.
He has also contributed articles to Pacific Media Centre Online.