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Published 28 March 2019

Celebrating 25 Years of the Marsden Fund Te Pūtea Rangahau a Marsden

A special event was held in Rotorua this week to celebrate 25 years of the Marsden Fund Te Pūtea Rangahau a Marsden. The event acknowledged the achievements of excellent researchers and affirmed ngā matawhānui our vision for the fund as we look to the future.

The evening started with manuhiri guests being formally invited into Te Puia with a mihi welcome.

Manuhiri could look out on the beautiful Te Puia thermal reserve, including the Pohutu Geyser.  

Te puia

Royal Society Te Apārangi Councillor Associate Professor Melinda Webber was the MC for the evening. 

MCProfessor Juliet Gerrard FRSNZ, Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor and former Marsden Fund Chair spoke first, and acknowledged both Hon Dr Megan Woods, Minister of Research, Science and Innovation and Simon Upton FRSNZ, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, who established the fund, who were unable to attend. She said the Marsden Fund allows New Zealand researchers to follow their best ideas and notes that it is a fund where, as applicants, women do as well as men and Māori are as least as successful as other groups.  She said that the fund supports scholars in all disciplines, including those with expertise in how we deal with highly relevant challenges of the day such as hate speech. 

Marsden Fund Chair Professor David Bilkey thanked all those who had contributed to the fund's success over the years, especially those who had served on assessment panels. He said they needed to predict the future in order to fulfill their role in selecting excellent and impactful research.

Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith FRSNZ started her speech with a snippet of a song including the lyrics 'blue skies' to match the fundamental blue skies nature of Marsden Fund research. She said the Marsden Fund had nurtured her as an early career academic, even if she did take on too many students to supervise at the time. She then reflected on her time as chair of the social science assessment panel when she had had to answer questions on projects some deemed unworthy, such as grants to study rape and porn in New Zealand. She said that if we had a better understanding of challenges facing our society through such research, perhaps we could have avoided the recent Christchurch mosque shootings. 

After the buffet dinner, some past recipients of the Fund shared what receiving a Marsden Fund grant had meant to them:

  • Dr Janet Wilmshurst FRSNZ, Ecosystems (Maanaki Whenua Landcare Research)
  • Professor Phil Lester, Insect Ecology (Victoria University of Wellington)
  • Professor Rangi Matamua, Ko Matariki e ārau ana The gathering of Matariki (Māori and Indigenous Studies at the University of Waikato) 
  • Professor Marston Conder FRSNZ, Mathematician (University of Auckland)
  • Dr Natalie Robinson, Marine Physicist (NIWA) 

The evening wrapped up with the cutting of the cake by Marsden Fund Chair and Deputy Chair, Professor David Bilkey and Professor Gill Dobbie.  

Cutting the cake

View photographs and live tweets #MF25 from the evening.

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi