The major prize, worth $500,000, is presented to an individual or team whose research has had significant impact in New Zealand or internationally. Previous winners have been recognised for research in areas ranging from health to climate change to new energy technologies.

In 2016, the Prime Minister’s Science Prize was awarded to a team of University of Otago researchers, led by Professor Richie Poulton, which is behind the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, credited with providing the most detailed data on human development ever amassed.

The study, based on researching the lives of about 1,000 children born in Dunedin in 1972 and 1973, has enabled evidence-based health and social policy-making and changed the way policy makers, clinicians and practitioners think and act, both in New Zealand and overseas.

Professor Poulton says winning the Prize has been a tremendous boost, both in terms of financial support and team morale.

“I strongly recommend other research groups consider submitting an application. Winning was a milestone achievement in the history of the Dunedin Study,” he says.

Other categories include the MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist prize, worth $200,000, which is open to outstanding scientists who have completed their PhD in the previous years, and the Prime Minister’s $150,000 Science Teacher Prize. Last year that prize was won, for the first time by a primary school teacher, Dianne Christenson, who is the curriculum leader for science at Koraunui School in Stokes Valley near Upper Hutt.

Dianne says winning the prize has opened a variety of opportunities for staff and students to work with scientist.

“From learning about the lifecycle of brown trout by growing them from eggs until ready to release in the Hutt river to participating in a Victoria University study on the effectiveness of citizen science in primary schools, our tamariki are benefitting from these options.

“Our children also have enormous pride in this achievement and share it with all who visit our classroom.  They really see themselves as scientists and see a future for themselves in this field.  That has really been the benefit of winning the prize,” says Dianne.

In addition, nominations are being sought for the Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize, worth $100,000 and the Prime Minister’s Future Scientist Prize, worth $50,000.

Entries close on 20 September and the Prizes will be presented in early 2018.


The Prime Minister’s Science Prize categories are:

The Prime Minister’s Science Prize, $500,000

This will be awarded to an individual or team for a transformative scientific discovery or achievement, which has had a significant economic, health, social and/or environmental impact in the past five years on New Zealand or internationally

The Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize, $200,000

This will be awarded to an outstanding emerging scientist who has had their PhD conferred, within the past eight years (i.e. from 1 January 2009 onwards)

The Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize, $150,000

This will be awarded to a registered teacher who has been teaching science, mathematics, technology, pūtaiao, hangarau or pāngarau learning areas of the New Zealand curriculum to school-age children in a primary, intermediate or secondary New Zealand registered school.

The Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize, $100,000

This will be awarded to a practising scientist who can demonstrate an interest, passion and aptitude for science communication and public engagement, or to a person who has developed expertise in public engagement with, or communication of, complex scientific or technological information to the public or science community.

The Prime Minister’s Future Scientist Prize, $50,000 tertiary scholarship

This will be awarded to a Year 12 or Year 13 student for outstanding achievement in carrying out a practical and innovative science, mathematics, technology or engineering project.


To find out more and to lodge entries visit:

or contact:     The Secretariat

Royal Society of New Zealand

The Prime Minister’s Science Prizes Secretariat

Tel 04 470 5762