Frequently asked questions
A collection of questions commonly asked about applying to the Marsden Fund
Changes for 2023
Are there any plans to increase the amount of funding?
The Marsden Council can decide to increase the caps of each panel, but unless the Fund increases in size, this would result in a decrease in overall success rate. They have not chosen to do so for the 2023 round. We haven’t received any signal from the Ministry about plans to increase the fund size at this time. The Marsden Council have made a submission to Te Ara Paerangi to state the importance of the Fund.
Compared to last year's application criteria, could you indicate what the main changes are this year (if any)?
The 2023 criteria are the same as the 2022 round. For applications, the Vision Mātauranga section has been moved earlier in the proposal, and there is more space to provide a justification (200 words)
What should I consider in my “Fallback Plan” in the case of COVID-19 interfering with my proposed research?
Over the last few years COVID-19 has disrupted many aspects of research including travel, collaborations, shipping delays, reagent shortages, personnel and participant recruitment, access to laboratories, equipment, archives, field sites etc… It is likely that these uncertainties will continue well into the future.
As for 2022, for the 2023 round the Marsden Fund Council has decided that applicants should consider ways in which such disruptions could be mitigated. This should be included in the Roles and Resources section of the application. The Fallback Plan should be contained within the normal page allocation for the Roles and Resources section.
Who is eligible to apply for a Marsden Fund Grant?
The Marsden Fund is fully contestable and is open to applicants who meet the Fund’s eligibility criteria which can be found in the Expression of Interest guidelines for Fast-Start and Standard applicants. The criteria are determined by the Marsden Fund Council. Eligibility to apply for funding as a contact Principal Investigator (PI) is restricted to Aotearoa New Zealand-based researchers. The research should be carried out in Aotearoa New Zealand, except in cases where its nature demands that it be carried out elsewhere.
Fast-Start applicants must have a PhD degree and be within 7 full-time years (or 10 years for track B) of their PhD to apply. There is no PhD requirement for Standard contact PIs. More details are available in the Guidelines.
Are there any visa regulations?
We don't have visa requirements within the Marsden Fund guidelines, but we do have the requirement that you are employed at the institution for the duration of the grant. It is the responsibility of the institution to ensure that you are able to be employed in New Zealand for the duration of the grant. That may require some visa requirements for those coming into the country. We are not able to provide any Immigration New Zealand advice.
How many applications can I be on each year?
For each annual funding cycle, eligible applicants must:
- Be involved in no more than ONE proposal as a Principal Investigator (PI) per funding round.
- Be involved in no more than TWO proposals in total per funding round; either as a PI on one and an Associate Investigator (AI) on another, or as an AI on two proposals.
Applicants can also be named as mentors on Fast-Start proposals in addition to the two-proposed limit described above.
Please note there are exclusions for successful applicants in prior years:
What is the PI exclusion rule?
The ‘PI exclusion rule’, means that, if you have been successful as a PI in a particular funding year, you will be excluded from applying for another Marsden Fund grant as a PI for the next two funding years. For example, if you are a PI on a Marsden Fund grant that was awarded in 2022, then you can't apply as a PI, regardless of grant category, for 2023 or 2024. For this example, you may still apply as an AI, and you may apply again in 2025, even if your previously awarded grant is still active.
What constitutes a ‘Marsden Fund’ research question?
According to the Marsden Fund Terms of Reference:
- The Marsden Fund invests in excellent, investigator-led research aimed at generating new knowledge, with long-term benefit to New Zealand. It supports excellent research projects that advance and expand the knowledge base and contributes to the development of people with advanced skills in New Zealand. The research is not subject to government’s socio-economic priorities.
- The Marsden Fund encourages New Zealand’s leading researchers to explore new ideas that may not be funded through other funding streams and fosters creativity and innovation within the research, science and technology system.
How should I pitch my proposal?
Marsden Fund Panels can cover a wide range of disciplines. Panellists have been selected to cover the broad range of disciplines within a specific panel, however, there may not be an expert in your specific field to assess your research. Your proposal should therefore be aimed at a research literate audience, that may not be specifically in your field. Avoid using field-specific jargon as not all panellists may be familiar with it.
Are projects with things like: an applied outcome, implementation studies, or software development considered suitable for Marsden Fund applications?
A proposal wouldn’t be penalised for being applied, as long as the research question is good. The proposed research must have scholarly impact and is expected to generate new knowledge. A secondary focus can be on application or implementation. Software or tool development should also be driven by a good research question; the development of the tool is not enough in itself.
Do we need to have preliminary results to apply for a Marsden Fund grant?
No; however, it is a good idea to have preliminary results if you can. This will help convince the panel members that your brilliant idea is feasible.
How detailed does the methodology need to be at the EOI stage?
Allowing for the fact that you will only have one page, we advise you to make sure to be informative and to reference your methods. This needs to balanced together with the proposed research.
For the EOI we can include a figure (e.g. conceptual diagram), does this count towards the 1-page limit?
Yes, you can. It needs to be contained within the one-page abstract.
Are applications ever ruled ineligible after submission?
Provided that you meet the eligibility criteria in the guidelines you are welcome to apply to the Marsden Fund.
Please use the templates provided on the application portal and follow the format of proposals as detailed in the guidelines. Please include the requested information under the relevant heading (e.g. you would not put additional methods information in the ‘roles and resources’ section of the application). Please note panellists do notice "deviations from the norm" and do not look favourably upon them.
If a proposal is incomplete at the time of submission (eg. missing abstract) so that the panel cannot assess it, it may be deemed ineligible. In this case, you will be informed in your EOI outcome letter.
Is it possible to switch between a Fast-Start and a Standard type of application between rounds?
How do I know which panel to apply to?
We recommend that if you are unsure of which panel to apply to that you seek advice, for instance from your research office or colleagues. You may also want to consider which journals you plan to publish in, and what fields those are in, or which fields your research seeks to advance. You can also view who is on each panel and get an idea of the expertise each panel covers on our Marsden Fund panels page.
Is there a process for registering a Mātauranga Māori concept and aligning to a panel that is suitable to assess the project?
There is no formal mechanism. In terms of a panel choice, it will depend mainly on what your research involves.
Interdisciplinary research: 1) How do I choose the right panel for interdisciplinary research? 2) Can the panels cross-reference proposals to other panels in the case of cross-disciplinary research?
1) It’s a good idea to consider where the novel question of your proposal comes from. A way to think about this might be to ask yourself which journals will the research be published in. Another consideration might be the makeup of the panels, i.e. if there is expertise which you feel covers some aspects of the disciplines, that may influence your decision.
2a) The option is available for convenors to suggest to an applicant that they move their proposal to a different panel, however the applicant makes the final call on this.
2b) If a panel feels they do not have the expertise to assess a particular proposal, that panel can ask for input from a different panel.
Can I include supplementary media in my application (e.g. weblinks to videos)?
Not in the proposed research section. All information required to assess your proposal should be presented within your application.
Links may be listed in the “References” section (3b) if they are publicly accessible.
If this is my second of third time submitting a proposal, how different does it need to be from the previous submission?
This is impossible to answer definitively. We do recommend that it is worth resubmitting. Before doing so, we recommend looking at what score your proposal received, if it got through to the full proposal round, and using that as a guide of how competitive your application was. You should also consider any feedback, including reviewer feedback and Convenor feedback, as well as feedback from your colleagues and any other sources you may have.
How can I improve my proposal from last year?
Full Proposals: It is recommended that you reflect on any feedback from the convenor and referees that you have received with your prior application.
You should also seek feedback from colleagues, collaborators, or other experts you might have access to.
What references are allowed?
Anything cited in references needs to be accessible to panellists. Published and in-press are fine to use. Pre-prints are allowed if they are accessible (see below)
Can I cite and/or discuss pre-print articles in my Marsden application?
Yes. You can cite and/or discuss results from pre-print articles in your proposal, as long as the panel can access them. Please note the panel may take into consideration that this work is yet to be peer-reviewed.
If the preliminary work is yet to be published or non-publishable due to IP constraints, could we still refer to that in our application without citation? If yes, what evidence are we expected to provide then?
It is worth describing such outputs to provide evidence of prior work.
- except for the Summary of full proposals that are eventually funded, the content of Marsden Fund applications is confidential.
- the Panel members may take into consideration that this work is yet to be peer reviewed.
How do I work out if I am eligible to apply for a Marsden Fund Fast-Start? Does the type of work I have been doing matter?
There are two different ‘Tracks’ for Marsden Fund Fast-Start eligibility.
For Track A: It doesn’t matter what role you’ve had since your PhD. The clock starts as soon you have completed the requirements for your PhD.
For Track B: If you conducted research before your PhD, the clock starts from the start of that position. Types of research employment can include: private sector, university, CRI or research institute.
- Time spent on sickness leave is excluded from the year count.
- Parental leave is not excluded from the year count, as this is accounted for separately in the eligibility extension for dependent children.
For more information see the EOI guidelines.
For a calculator, if you have worked part-time or been a primary caregiver for children born since your PhD, there is a handy resource here https://www.royalsociety.org.nz/what-we-do/funds-and-opportunities/marsden/marsden-fund-application-process/submitting-a-proposal/career-gaps-calculator/
If you really are not sure about your eligibility after going through this material, please contact your Research Office. They will contact our office on your behalf if there are still questions about your eligibility.
If you have been a Principal Investigator (PI) or an Associate Investigator (AI) on a Marsden Fund grant previously, can you still apply for a Fast-Start?
PI: Generally no, but there is one rare exception. You are eligible to apply if you’ve previously been a caretaker PI, e.g., if you’ve taken over the PI role on a grant because the original PI became unavailable.
AI: Yes you can.
Can you apply for a Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant if you are on a fixed-term contract? (i.e., you are on a three-year, fixed-term contract?)
Talk to your line manager or Head of Department. If awarded, your institution must support you for the duration of the Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant.
How should I choose the team for my proposal?
You should assemble a team with the appropriate knowledge, skills and expertise to meet the research goals of your project, including Mātauranga if required. Ensure that you provide sufficient resources in your budget to enable all team members to fulfil their role on the project (i.e. plan your project appropriately for the budget). Note that international team members cannot receive a salary from a Marsden Fund Grant.
One of the secondary objectives of the Marsden Fund is to “contribute to the development of advanced skills in New Zealand including support for continuing training of post-doctoral level researchers, and support for the establishment of early careers of new and emerging researchers.” When building your research team, you should consider how your proposal meets this secondary objective.
Do the Associate Investigators (AIs) need to have FTEs for all three years for a Marsden Fund grant?
No, AIs don’t need to have FTEs for all three years.
Would it be okay to have one AI for the first year and another AI for the last two years?
Yes. What is important is having the right team members committing to do the work for your project at the right time. If the contribution of the AI is only needed for one or two years, then that is fine.
Is there a minimum AI FTE required for a Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant?
For a Fast-Start grant the recommended minimum contribution for the AI role(s) is 0.05 FTE for each year that the AI is involved with the research.
Can I change FTEs at the full round stage?
Yes, this is possible, and small changes can be made on the portal. Major changes to FTEs should be approved through the Marsden Fund office. Note: It is not possible to remove a team member by decreasing their FTE to zero.
Can I have more than one Principal Investigator (PI) on my Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant?
No, you can only have one PI (refer to the EOI Guidelines). However, you can have AIs and/or a mentor. If you wish to co-lead a research project then the Marsden Fund Standard and Council Award categories might be worth your consideration. These give you larger scope/resources and allow you to have more people involved in the project.
What role do mentors play in my Marsden Fund Fast-Start proposal?
For Fast-Start proposals, there is an option to name a Mentor, where no funding/FTE would be sought for that person. This person would play a role in advising the applicant on various aspects of project management, career guidance and professional development; they would not have a scholarly input into the proposed research. While CVs are not required for Mentors, their expected contribution should be outlined in the Roles and Resources section. Mentors should ideally be based at the applicant’s institution.
If a researcher is to act as a Mentor and also plans to have an input into the proposed research, they should be listed as an Associate Investigator (AI) instead. Any mentoring done by an AI should be detailed in the proposal under the Roles and Resources section along with their other contributions. They should NOT also be listed in the “Mentor” category. CVs need to be supplied for any AI, and FTEs sought for them.
A researcher can be named on a Fast-Start proposal as a Mentor or an AI, but not both.
If Fast-Start applicants do not have an AI on their proposal, it is advised that they have a named Mentor.
No more than one Mentor can be named for each Fast-Start proposal.
If you have a current research supervisor for a PhD/Postdoctoral position, can they be listed as an AI or mentor on my Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant?
Yes, you can. Though you are required to demonstrate to the Panel members how Fast-Start funding will launch your independent research career (within the Roles and Resources section of the application).
Can I have both a mentor and an AI in a Marsden Fund Fast-Start proposal?
Yes, though they can’t be the same person.
How should I build my CV for the Marsden Fund?
Try to build a narrative around your research and expertise i.e. what makes you the best person to conduct the proposed research.
Consider the full diversity of research impacts including: professional distinctions and memberships, publications, presentations, reports, community relationships and outreach, wānanga, conference organisation, patents, policy contributions, collaborations, mentorship roles, public/media engagement, industry contributions, exhibitions, software and analysis tools etc…
Your CV will be judged relative to opportunity, with career achievements assessed in the context of career history, allowing for breaks for family or other responsibilities. Any career breaks should be listed under ‘total years research experience’ (section 1e).
Do panels consider an applicant's record of previous grant applications?
The panel only have access to what is explicitly stated in your application. If you want to highlight past success in this area please include this.
Does my track record need to be in a similar topic to my proposed research? Or could my proposed research be in a new area?
If your proposed research is moving into a new area for you, it is important to consider the team you have assembled around you. You need to convince the Panel that your proposed research is feasible. It is also worth considering how your previous research area has prepared you to enter this new area.
In Section 5 (CV), q. 1e, does the ‘Total years research experience’ include my PhD?
This will depend on what Marsden Fund Fast-Start Track you are applying under.
For Track A: Count the years post-PhD
For Track B: Count total years of research, including your PhD.
If you’ve had research breaks due to sickness or as a primary caregiver for a child, subtract these from your year count and detail them underneath this section.
Do the Panel members look favourably on applicants that have first author publications?
To have first author paper(s) demonstrates that you can lead a body of research. Panellists do look for evidence of research leadership in your CV. This is, of course, considered in relation to the opportunities you have had. Those in the very early stages of their careers have not necessarily led their own projects or had the same opportunities to those in the end of the Fast-Start eligibility timeframe. Panellists will look to balance these considerations.
What is the Marsden Fund’s position on journal publication fees?
You can include journal publication fees in your "expendables" budget. However, it is worth considering where you intend to publish as different publishers have different fees.
What financial resources can be used towards supporting an overseas AI (i.e. travel costs, FTE)?
Unfortunately, the Marsden Fund is unable to support International PI/AIs with a salary (FTE) component.
However, you can support international collaborations in several other ways, such as: travel and MIQ costs, expendables, koha, funds for accessing equipment, casual research assistance to access overseas archives etc…
How should I choose which panel to apply to?
When considering which Marsden Fund panel to apply to, you should consider the field(s) involved in your project. You might what to consider things like the approaches or methodology used, technology required, team expertise, and where the outputs of your research will most likely be published. This may mean that your research could still be submitted to more than one panel. Therefore, you might also want to consider the expertise of the individual panellists on each panel to decide where your proposal might best be assessed.
Marsden Fund panel descriptions and the names of panel members can be found on the Royal Society Te Apārangi website.
Can I exclude people from reviewing my proposal?
Marsden Fund Panel members are active researchers with an excellent background in research. As these researchers will invariably have connections with some applicants, conflicts of interest will arise. Royal Society Te Apārangi takes the issue of conflict of interest very seriously. The rules surrounding conflicts of interest for panellists can be found in the Guidelines for Council and panel members.
Following the submission of the full proposal you will have the opportunity to name up to three people you wish to be excluded from acting as referees on your proposal (due around 19 May 2022).
It is not possible to exclude anyone in the panel from reviewing your proposal.
Does each panel assess Vision Mātauranga, and how?
Yes. The relationship of the research to themes of Vision Mātauranga is a key assessment criterion for the Marsden Fund, where it is relevant to the proposed research. We support convenors and panellists in this space by providing ongoing training.
Vision Mātauranga if included in a proposal is not assessed separately, but along with the other Marsden criteria to give an overall grade.
When assessing proposals do the panellists prioritise creation of new knowledge or the practical impact the research might have?
One of the key assessment criteria is that proposals must have the potential for significant scholarly impact because of the proposal’s novelty, originality, insight and ambition. Scholarly impact is considered as a demonstrable contribution to shifting understanding and advancing methods, theory and application across and within disciplines. Other assessment criteria can be found here.
It is also worth detailing if there could be any practical impacts from your proposed research, however this is not an assessment criterion.
With respect to panel assessment, what value is placed on including a mentor?
If you don’t have any AIs on your team, then it is a good idea to have a mentor as they can help you with establishing your independent research career. This person would play a role in advising the applicant on various aspects of project management (helping navigate the systems and processes at your host institution), career guidance and professional development; they would not have a scholarly input into the proposed research.
Approximately what percentage of applications go from EOI to full proposal and then to successful funding?
Approximately 20 % of EOIs go through to the Full round. About 50 % of full proposals get funded. Therefore, there is about a 10 % chance of success overall. The statistical information for the 2022 Marsden Fund round is here.