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Frequently asked questions

A collection of questions commonly asked about applying to the Marsden Fund

Changes for 2022

How have Marsden Fund postgraduate student scholarships changed for 2022?

Postgraduate scholarships increased to $35k / year plus fees for three years PhD students, and $22k plus fees for one year for Masters students.

What should I consider in my “Fallback Plan” in the case of COVID-19 interfering with my proposed research?

Over the last two 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.  In the 2022 Marsden Fund 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.

Applications

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. More details are available in the Guidelines.

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 (please see guidelines).

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.

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.

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.

Can I include supplementary media in my application (e.g. weblinks to videos)?

No.  All information required to assess your proposal should be presented within your application.

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.

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. 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.

Please note:

  • 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.

Fast-Start Eligibility

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.

Please note:

  • 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. 

Proposal Teams

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.

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.

Track Record

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.

Budgets

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…

Proposal Assessment

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.

Vision Mātauranga resources for applicants can be found in the guidelines and here.  

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 2021 Marsden Fund round is here.