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Information for panellists

Information on being a panellist for selecting James Cook Research Fellows

The 2019 panellist guidelines are available as a PDF: 2019 James Cook Research Fellowship Panellist Guidelines


The James Cook Research Fellowships, administered by the Royal Society Te Apārangi on behalf of the New Zealand Government, are awarded to researchers who have the requisite qualifications and experience and are able to demonstrate that they have achieved national and international recognition in their area of scientific research. The Fellowships allow them to concentrate on their chosen research for two years without the additional burden of administrative and teaching duties. 


The Fellow will undertake a major piece of research that will benefit New Zealand and further research in the particular discipline. The funding package annually is $100,000 plus GST and up to $10,000 plus GST in relevant expenses.

The objectives of the Fellowships are:

•       The encouragement of sustained excellence within the particular discipline

•       The strengthening of research within the particular disciplines covered by the Fellowships


The Society offers James Cook Research Fellowships in each of the following categories:

•       Biological sciences (including biotechnology)

•       Engineering sciences and technologies

•       Health sciences

•       Physical sciences (including chemical, geosciences and mathematical and information sciences)

•       Social sciences (including research of relevance to peoples of New Zealand and/or the South-west Pacific)


In the 2019 round, the Society is offering Fellowships for:

•       Engineering sciences and technologies

•       Health sciences

•       Physical sciences (including chemical, geosciences and mathematical and information sciences)

  • Social sciences (including research of relevance to peoples of New Zealand and/or the South-west Pacific

These guidelines are intended to facilitate the smooth operation of the James Cook Research Fellowship Assessment Panel and Selection Committee.


Assessment Panels and Fellowship Selection Committee

The Royal Society Te Apārangi will establish an assessment panel for the Fellowships being offered for 2019 and will appoint conveners and members who cover a wide range of expertise. These panels are advisory and will provide recommendations on the relative merit of the proposals. The role of each panel is to recommend up to three candidates, in priority order, who are then referred to the James Cook Research Fellowship Selection Committee. This committee will be chaired by the Governor-General of New Zealand and will consist of the President of the Royal Society Te Apārangi and the Chair of the Academy Executive Committee of the Royal Society Te Apārangi. This committee will review the applications and the Minutes from the Assessment Panel meetings and select the Fellow in each category. 

Members of the Fellowship Selection Committee have the final responsibility for making allocations of Fellowships. They also provide advice to the Society on the allocation process.


Assessment of proposals

For assessing the proposals each member of the assessment panel will receive a PDF containing the applications for their panel.  Panel members are asked to read, assess and grade each proposal based on the five selection criteria, taking into account the referee reports.  Proposals are to be assessed by panel members exclusively on the information provided in the proposal and referee reports.

It should be noted that the collated grades from the panellists will be used to create a ranked list of applications.  The ranked list will be vetted by the panel and if needed a teleconference will be arranged for final recommendations to the James Cook Research Fellowship Selection Committee.

Each panel member will receive a spreadsheet on which to record their grades.  The spreadsheet should be completed and returned to the James Cook Research Fellowship Secretariat by 5pm, Friday 26 July 2019 (NZST).


Selection Criteria

The five selection criteria are the:

1.            Candidate's research and academic record, along with evidence of their national and international standing

                Information on the application and attached list of relevant publications can be used to assess the calibre of the candidate.

2.            Scientific and technological merit of the programme

                Assessment should consider the research topic, its objectives, methods, etc.  Attention should also be paid to the referees' comments and one's own assessment.

3.            Scope for intellectual and scientific development

                This criterion asks of the proposed research "is it challenging?" "does the programme indicate that the applicant is advancing his or her studies or breaking new ground?"

4.            Strengthening of existing and new research within the discipline

                Does the programme contribute to the development of research and research skills in New Zealand? Does it enhance specialist knowledge?

5.            Intellectual and logistical support offered by the host organisation

                This rating assesses the scientific and intellectual support offered by the host organisation. This is an important factor in determining the overall success of the research programme.

After each candidate is scored on a scale of 1 to 10 on each criterion, weights as follows will be applied to derive a weighted total score:

35% research record, and national and international recognition;

25% scientific and technological merit of the proposed research;

20% strengthening of existing and new research within the discipline;

10% scope for intellectual and scientific development of the researcher;

10% intellectual and logistical support offered by the host organisation.                                                                                                                                                          

These categories and the descriptions following each should be read to be inclusive rather than exclusive. The intention is for the categories to cover all areas of scientific and technological research.

Grading and Ranking

There are three parts to this process:

  • Each application will be graded against the five common criteria. These gradings provide a key to the absolute value of the application in terms of selection criteria and are entered on the assessment sheet in the appropriately labelled column.
  • Each application being fully considered will be awarded a total score which reflects the merit of the application and takes into account its relative value in relation to others being considered.
  • The total score will be used to rank the applications.

Grading the Selection Criteria

For each of the five selection criteria the following 10 point grading scale is to be used.    

(outstanding)       10       9       8        7        6        5        4        3        2        1      (not suitable)

By following this scale an application which is outstanding in each of the five selection criteria would score 50 as a Total Score.


Vision Mātauranga

Where research projects are of particular relevance to Māori or involve Māori, the Royal Society Te Apārangi expects that applicants are in consultation with Māori to ensure that the research is well planned, that appropriate etiquette is observed when access to Māori sites, culturally sensitive material and knowledge is sought from their owners, and that Māori intellectual and cultural property rights are respected. Cultural understanding is required to ensure good quality research. As a first step it is expected that researchers will have sought advice from their institution, many of which have established processes for consultation with Māori.

Consultation with Māori is not expected, and may not be appropriate, for proposed projects where no specific interest for Māori can be identified. In this case, the relevant section in the proposal will be left blank.


Royal Society Te Apārangi Staff

The staff of the Royal Society Te Apārangi are not involved in making allocation decisions. Their role is one of facilitation and advice to conveners and panel members. The staff will:

•    organise all logistical aspects of the process;

•    assist the conveners in determining realistic timetables for meetings;

•    provide a framework for assessments;

•    record decisions;

•    identify problem areas;

•    convey Fellowship decisions to applicants; all discussions relating to a decision should occur through Society staff;

•    negotiate contract details with successful applicants and their host organisations.



The Royal Society Te Apārangi has obligations under the Privacy Act to keep confidential certain information provided by individuals. The discussion within panel meetings is regarded as confidential.

•    Panel members should ensure safe keeping of all applications and related material;

•    At the conclusion of the meetings, members should destroy documentation;

•    There should be no correspondence or discussion of the applications with referees, third parties or the applicants;

•    The intellectual property of the ideas and hypotheses put forward in applications should be treated in confidence.


Conflict of Interest

The Royal Society Te Apārangi takes the issue of conflict of interest very seriously. A rigorous position must be taken to maintain the credibility of the selection process and to assure applicants that proposals are subjected to fair and reasonable appraisal. Where these occur for panel members, the following rules will apply:

  • All conflicts of interest must be declared in writing to the Royal Society Te Apārangi.  Society staff will minute all conflicts of interest and actions taken.
  • Where a panel member is a family member or close friend of any applicant(s), that person will not assess the proposal and take no part in the consideration of that proposal.  They will hear about the outcome of that proposal when official letters are sent to all applicants.
  • If a panel member has an interest in an application, such as collaborating with an applicant or an applicant’s group, then that member shall not assess the proposal.
  • A panellist cannot be a referee for an application.


2019 Timetable

Tuesday, 21 March

Online portal opens

Thursday, 9 May

Online portal closes, 5pm

Thursday, 13 June

Deadline for referee reports to be submitted, 5pm NZST

Tuesday, 25 June

Proposals & referee reports sent to panellists

Friday, 26 July

Deadline for panellist’s scores to be submitted, 5pm

Early to mid August

Teleconference for panels, if scores are variable

September/October (TBC)

Fellows announced



If you require further information about the James Cook Research Fellowships, please email us at james.cook@royalsociety.org.nz or phone 04 470 5764.

Additional information about the James Cook Research Fellowships is available on the following website: https://royalsociety.org.nz/what-we-do/funds-and-opportunities/james-cook-research-fellowship/