The Marsden Fund supports excellence in research and researchers, and funds investigator-initiated research in all areas of natural science, mathematics, engineering, social science and humanities. The Fund’s objectives are to:
- enhance the underpinning research knowledge base in New Zealand and contribute to the global advancement of knowledge;
- broaden and deepen the research skill base in New Zealand, and;
- enhance the quality of the research environment in New Zealand by creating increased opportunities for excellent investigator-initiated research.
It has grown in size from $5.5 million in 1995 to just under $33 million in 2003.
A bibliometric analysis of publications funded partially or fully by the Marsden Fund was undertaken, to assess the quantity and impact of Marsden research, and to characterise the collaborations associated with Marsden funding. This is the first study of its kind for the Marsden Fund.
A database containing New Zealand-authored articles published in the years 1997-2001 was purchased from the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI), and the subset of Marsden-funded publications within the collection was identified. This enabled findings for Marsden publications to be benchmarked against findings for the total pool of New Zealand publications.
The number of publications attributed to the Fund rose 20-fold between 1994 and 2001, and the Marsden-funded share of New Zealand-authored publications rose from 2.6% in 1997 to 7.7% in 2001. Between 1997 and 2000, there was a 2.5-fold increase in Marsden articles published per million dollars of funding, rising from just over 5 articles per million in 1997, to 13 in 2000.
Marsden-funded research articles are published in the entire spectrum of subject fields, but as compared to all New Zealand-authored articles, proportionately more are published in fundamental areas such as chemistry, mathematics and physics, and less are published in applied fields such as agriculture/vet/environment, engineering & technology, and medical & health sciences.
Across all fields, Marsden-funded publications accounted for 5.6% of 1997-2001 publications. In some fields, however, Marsden-funded articles accounted for a much higher percentage, e.g. 25-30% of publications in mathematics and physics.
As judged by citation counts, Marsden-funded publications have a significantly greater impact than other New Zealand-authored publications. Marsden-funded articles are cited, on average, 1.7-fold more often than the total pool of New Zealand-authored articles. This elevated citation rate holds true for almost all subject fields.
Marsden-funded articles are more likely to receive high numbers of citations than New Zealand-authored articles; 1.6% of New Zealand-authored papers received greater than 20 citations in their first three years after publication, while 6.9% of Marsden-funded publications received the same. Marsden-funded articles are less likely than New Zealand-authored articles to receive no citations in their first three years after publication: 32% of New Zealand-authored articles were uncited, as compared to only 16% of Marsden-funded articles.
The great majority of Marsden-funded articles arise from tertiary institutions, reflecting the high proportion of Marsden Fund contracts that are awarded to this sector. Authors from CRIs, government and private sector institutions, are however, under-represented on Marsden-funded articles as compared to the number of contracts awarded to them. This may result from differing productivity between sectors, differing pressure to publish, or it may be a natural consequence of the sectors’ different research foci.
Marsden-funded articles have a higher rate of international collaboration than New Zealand-authored articles, but a comparatively lower rate of inter-sectoral collaboration within New Zealand. Both phenomena are consistent with the high proportion of tertiary sector publications funded by Marsden. Tertiary sector publications also have increased international, and decreased inter-sectoral collaborations as compared to New Zealand-authored publications as a whole (MoRST et al., 2003).
48% of Marsden-funded articles (compared to 38% of New Zealand-authored articles) have co-authors from overseas.
Analysis of the extent of coverage of Marsden-funded publications by the ISI database purchased for this study confirmed reports that the database’s coverage is uneven across subject areas, and showed that for humanities research in particular, bibliometric analyses are likely to be of limited use. In addition, the database had fairly limited coverage of Marsden publications in the fields of social sciences, IT, engineering and technology and earth sciences, while its coverage of physics, biology, agriculture/vet/environment, chemistry, and medical & health sciences was fairly good.