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Published 10 November 2020

Marsden Fund supports world leading research

Te Pūtea Rangahau a Marsden, the Marsden Fund, has allocated $84.751 million (excluding GST) to 134 research projects led by researchers in Aotearoa. These grants support excellent New Zealand research in the humanities, science, maths, social sciences and engineering


This year, one large interdisciplinary project received a Marsden Fund Council Award worth $3 million (excluding GST). The project will investigate the links between asthma in young children in Aotearoa and biodiversity, providing valuable insight into the role biodiversity plays in children’s respiratory health, and whether  areas containing native plant species are even more beneficial.

Marsden Fund Fast-Start grants support early career researchers to develop independent research and build exceptional careers in New Zealand. In 2020, there were 59 recipients of Fast-Start grants for a total of $17,700,000 (excluding GST). The success rate was 13.3% for these awards. Projects include topics such as the impacts of transracial adoption on identity and wellbeing for Māori adoptees and their descendants; how toxic metal accumulation affects the brain of honeybees and hive health; the causes of the dramatic decline of smoking, drinking and drug use among New Zealand teens; and what the patterns of trade and husbandry of domestic animals tell us about the interactions and movements of people throughout the Western Pacific.

Established research leaders and their teams were awarded 74 Marsden Fund grants with a success-rate of 10.3%. The research projects address a range of issues of both local and international importance including studying the impacts of Australian bushfires on New Zealand glacial environments; understanding the early universe through newly developed computational techniques; investigating whether ‘upzoning’ will make housing more affordable; using MRI to measure pressure on the brain; and transforming the Sport for Development field through the inclusion of Indigenous and feminist voices.

The research projects have undergone a highly rigorous selection process, including substantial international peer review, and are consequently of world class standard. Marsden Fund Council Chair Professor David Bilkey says, “it is always humbling to see both the quality and breadth of excellent research that is being conducted within New Zealand. I congratulate those that have received funding, but I am also aware that these are highly competitive funding rounds, and that there are many excellent proposals that we are unfortunately unable to support. New Zealanders are world leaders in many research areas and the Marsden Fund plays a critical role in ensuring that we continue to have expertise available in these fields. Furthermore, Marsden Fund support enhances connectivity between researchers, both nationally and internationally whilst also facilitating the engagement between researchers and their communities”.

“The engagement with mātauranga Māori has been recognised across discipline areas,” notes Professor Bilkey. Some examples include investigating how Māori food realities, values and principles (kaupapa) can shape discussions about what we eat, how we obtain it, and how we value it; finding out why Māori make their electoral roll choice and exploring Māori views on whether they see Māori electorates as a means of asserting Māori sovereignty or as a legacy of colonial rule; and developing a theory of anti-racism based on both kaupapa Māori theory and Western paradigms to address racism and Māori health inequities in New Zealand’s health system.

The overall success rate for applicants is up slightly from last year (10.7%) to 11.5% this year. However, of the six proposals submitted for this round, only one Marsden Fund Council Award was funded, as opposed to two last year.

The grants are distributed over three years and are fully costed, paying for salaries, students and postdoctoral positions, institutional overheads and research consumables.

See more on some highlighted projects receiving funding this round.

Te Pūtea Rangahau a Marsden is managed by Royal Society Te Apārangi on behalf of the government.

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi