The Royal Society of New Zealand’s vision is to offer a unique contribution to research and scholarship by cultivating positive relationships with the public, the media, youth and their teachers, as well as emerging and established scientists and researchers, governmental agencies and international academies. To fulfil part of this vision, the Society acts as a funding and investment agent administering the Marsden Fund and the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship on behalf of Government.
In this report we highlight our delivery of support for the Marsden Fund Council, and our administration of the nascent Rutherford Discovery Fellowship. We present outcomes of the administration of these research funding schemes over the past two years. Highlights described in this report include:
- The two highest award rounds to date occurred in FY09/10 and FY10/11 with allocations of $58.8M and $52.5M of the government’s investment in the Marsden Fund.
- Examples of excellent research funded detailed over the past two years by the Marsden Fund, showing the diversity, depth and quality of the research conducted by Marsden Fund recipients.
- The increase in high impact journal publications per year by researchers funded by the Marsden Fund. (8 in 2001–03 up to 28 in 2009–11). The Fund continues to produces highly cited publications; within New Zealand’s research output, Marsden-attributed publications achieve ~60% higher average citations, and are ~20% more likely to be cited than non-Marsden items.
- Reiteration of the findings of the Focus on Research Excellence (FoRE) project. The study has shown that the direct opportunities arising from investigator-initiated research projects, many of which are Marsden Fund projects, is estimated to exceed $120 million per annum.
- The number of Principal Investigators (PIs) and Associate Investigators (AIs) in 2010 increased by 20% and 27% over 2006. However, the number of Post-doctoral researchers the Fund supported over this timeframe remains low with an increase in, much cheaper, Post-graduates FTE on contracts.
- The Fund continues to foster an extraordinarily high level of international collaborations, both as contracted investigators and through linkages formed as a consequence of the supported research programme. National collaborations however remain relatively modest.
- The initial rounds of the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship have been successfully completed selecting a total to 20 Fellows to date. In the time period of this IIR, no Fellow has been contracted long enough to provide an annual report, however early signs of positive impact on the Fellows and their research programmes are described; notably in terms of retention of exceptional researchers in New Zealand, and the Fellows achievement in having already leveraged an additional $2.3M in external research support.
- Emerging issues include an analysis on the rising costs of research contracts putting pressure on the Fund and a proposal to add value to the Marsden process through efficient and effective use of the information gained through the proposal and assessment stages to inform future investments. For the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship, the workshop/networking aspects of the programme appear to be working even better than envisaged; any decrease in the number of Fellows would put the value of this activity at risk.