Information for applicants
The 2021 MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowship funding round is open from Friday 26 February.
MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowships - Guidelines for Applicants
Amendment (19 March): “Note on Section 3-6: Applicants may use a MAXIMUM of three pages in total for sections 3-6” has been added.
Amendment (10 March): The note “unless otherwise approved by the Society” has been added to the description on who should be the applicant’s nominated referees.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the world economy and is likely to have long-term adverse impacts on the Research, Science and Innovation (RSI) workforce. Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has held discussions with the RSI sector and heard that most early career researchers (ECRs) planning to take up employment overseas have either had offers deferred or fully rescinded, and new positions require ECRs to be within the country before applying. For those planning to remain in Aotearoa New Zealand the number of available positions has reduced.
In response to some of these acute impacts being experienced by Aotearoa New Zealand ECRs, the Government is providing support by funding a new “one off” fellowship, the MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowship.
The intent of the Fellowship is to support up and coming researchers to rise and establish a career in their chosen field of research. This is captured in the name of the Fellowship “Te whitinga mai o te rā” which can translate to “the rising of the sun”.
The MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowship is to be administered by the Royal Society Te Apārangi (the Society) on behalf of MBIE.
The objective of the funding is to support ECRs with the potential to excel in a research career who may otherwise be lost from the system due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their career path.
Supporting excellent ECRs who demonstrate a passion for research, science and innovation will help Aotearoa New Zealand maintain its excellent, world-class research capability. This in turn will boost resilience in the Aotearoa New Zealand research workforce and contribute to the recovery from the effects of the pandemic.
About the Fellowship
The MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowship will award $75,000 (GST excl.) per annum towards the researcher’s salary, $75,000 (GST excl.) per annum towards the research organisations costs and $10,000 (GST excl.) per annum in research-related expenses.
Thirty fellowships of two years in length will be awarded by a competitive process for research undertaken in any field, including the humanities, mātauranga and social science at an eligible Aotearoa New Zealand research institution.
The Fellowship are awarded on an at least 0.8 Full Time Equivalent basis, unless otherwise agreed by the Society.
The Fellowships will support diversity in the Research, Science and Innovation system in line with MBIE’s Diversity in Science Statement. For this reason, it is intended that at least five researchers identifying as Māori (Māori Researchers) and at least three researchers identifying as Pacific Peoples (Pacific Researchers) will be amongst the cohort of funded Fellows. It is also intended that at least 50% of those funded will identify as female.
To support the objective of the initiative:
- Applicants must be either Aotearoa New Zealand citizens, or permanent residents.
- Applicants must have a PhD conferred on or after 01 January 2017.
- An exemption to this clause can be sought for applicants that have completed all requirements for graduating with a PhD and can demonstrate a graduation date before 30 June 2021.
- An extension to the eligibility period for PhD conferral may be sought under the following scenarios:
- Extended sickness leave.
- Part-time employment or career interruptions as a result of care giving responsibilities as agreed with the Society.
- Applicants should normally not currently hold a research role, unless that role is fixed-term and due to end before 31 December 2021. Those who are employed in a technical or teaching capacity would normally be eligible if the role requires at least 80% of their time to be spent on these activities.
- Applicants must be supported by an Aotearoa New Zealand-based host organisation. This would normally be located in Aotearoa New Zealand and able to provide supervision and training at a post-doctoral level that is suitable for advancing a research career.
- Hosts will support their applicants to undertake their research (supervision by good people, access to good equipment, other support and training).
- The host institution must agree to employ the applicant for the duration of the Fellowship.
- The host organisation must provide a suitable supervisor for successful applicants.
- The host and the proposed supervisor must confirm that the applicant has the potential to excel in a research career environment.
The award criteria must ensure successful proposals are consistent with the background and objectives of the Fellowship stated above. A strong application will include evidence of:
Academic and research excellence:
- As evidenced by referee comments, CV, academic transcript, and statement from applicant.
Potential for career development:
- As evidenced by statement from the applicant outlining how the Fellowship will have a positive impact on their career.
Appropriateness of the proposed research programme:
- Research project clearly articulates:
- The benefits that the research could deliver for Aotearoa New Zealand.
- The research programme is realistic and achievable.
Successful applicants must commence their programme of research within 6 months of the award notification unless otherwise agreed to by the Society.
Applications must be supported by three applicant-solicited referee reports. Applicants must include the supervisor of their Doctoral programme as one referee. If applicants have already undertaken Postdoctoral research, the supervisor of this research should comprise the second referee.
The selection process will comprise eligibility screening, excellence filtering, a stratified selection ballot, and a final review as set out in the following process diagram.
These processes are briefly described in more detail below.
Applications will be checked against the eligibility criteria set out above. Applications will also be checked for completeness.
Referees will be asked to score applicants on a Likert scale indicating the extent to which the applicant demonstrates the following attributes:
- Research capability.
- Problem solving.
- Potential to advance knowledge.
- Impact on others.
Excellent performance against each attribute is set out in the following table:
|Description of Excellence (relative to opportunity)
|Potential to advance knowledge
|Impact on others
The scoring indicators are:
- Outstanding (5) – Performance is extraordinary with no gaps or weaknesses.
- Excellent (4) – Performance is clearly strong or exemplary. Gaps or weaknesses are insignificant and managed effectively.
- Good (3) – Performance is generally strong. Gaps or weaknesses are mostly insignificant and are managed effectively.
- Adequate (2) – Performance is average. There are gaps or weaknesses which are mostly managed effectively.
- Below standard (1) – Performance is below average to poor. Some gaps or weaknesses may not be managed effectively.
- Insufficient evidence/knowledge (0) – unable to score.
Average scores for each excellence attribute will be combined, and a cutoff threshold supporting the Fellowship objectives will be applied. Subject to the submitted scores, it is anticipated that approximately 50-60% of applications will move to the ballot stage.
A stratified ballot will be used to select recipients. The Māori researcher ballot will be drawn first, until five are selected. Unselected Māori applicants who also identify as Pacific Peoples will be added to the Pacific researcher ballot. Other unselected Māori applicants will be added to the General ballot.
The Pacific researcher ballot will be drawn next and will select three applicants. Unselected Pacific applicants will be added to the General ballot.
The remaining 22 recipients will be drawn from the General ballot. The process will ensure that of the 30 total recipients, at least 15 recipients will identify as female.
The review will be undertaken by a Panel of three to five members with a Chair appointed by MBIE. The Panel will be appointed to ensure diverse ethnic and gender representation, including at least one ECR. At least one other panellist will be appointed by MBIE.
The Panel will:
- review each balloted application to ensure that the applicant has demonstrated the potential to excel and undertake research, which is likely to positively impact Aotearoa New Zealand, in accordance with the Terms of Reference.
- assess that the balloted applicants have clearly articulated the benefits that their research project could deliver for Aotearoa New Zealand, and that the research programme is realistic and achievable.
- assess the total evidence for academic and research excellence from referees’ reports, academic transcripts, CV outputs and other material in the application.
Applications that are assessed as not fulfilling the selection criteria will be disregarded and replaced by a new application selected by ballot.
The Panel will recommend recipients to MBIE. Please note that MBIE is the final decision maker and will consider the recommended proposals to ensure they have the potential to deliver benefit to New Zealand. As a result of this, MBIE may:
- Seek additional information.
- Set pre-contractual conditions that must be met before contracting occurs.
- Add additional terms and conditions to the contract.
- Decide not to fund the applicant.
Successful applicants will be notified in June 2021.
Closing date and timetable
Applications and supporting information must be submitted to the Royal Society Te Apārangi on the on-line portal by the closing date of Tuesday 20 April 2021 at 5 pm (NZST).
A tentative timeline of the round has been indicated below.
|Friday 26 February, 2021
|Proposals On-Line Web-based application portal opens.
|Tuesday 20 April, 2021
|Application deadline. On-Line portal closes at 5 pm.
|01 July, 2021
|Earliest contract start date.
|31 December, 2021
|Latest contract start date (unless otherwise agreed to by the Society).
For any enquiries, please first seek clarification from your research office.
Please address enquiries for the MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowship Secretariat by email to:
phone + 64 4 470 5764
How to submit your application
Proposals must be submitted on the web-based portal, ‘Proposals On-Line’.
- Researchers must contact their host institution’s research office coordinator to obtain their login details for the Proposals On-Line system.
- Research organisations without access to the web-based application portal can request access from the Society.
- Researchers should write their proposals directly into Proposals On-Line using the forms and templates provided with the original formatting retained. The templates can be downloaded directly from Proposals On-line.
- Please note that paper copies (including declarations) are not required when submitting a proposal through the Proposals On-Line portal. Proposals On-Line has a document printing facility which can be used to view and print the application for checking and your own records.
- The layout of the entire application on Proposals On-Line is automatic. The limit on space in all sections of the templates should be adhered to and the typeface should be 11 point, Times or similar type font, single spacing (11 point), with margins of 2 cm on the left and 2 cm on the right sides of the page. Instructions in italic may be removed, but not the margins. No additional pages or attachments will be accepted other than where requested or required.
Assistance with filling out the on-line application form
The on-line application consists of information entered directly into the portal in combination with the upload of specific templates and documents. The following is an overview of all the sections of the application, an explanation for each section, and information on how to enter the information on the online application portal.
|Type of entry
|Applicant details, research classifications and eligibility.
|Qualification(s), employment history and career disruptions, awards, publications and other notable contributions.
|Download the “Qualifications and career” template. Upload completed form when finished.
|Project title and summary.
|Evidence of excellence.
|Download the “Evidence of excellence” template. Upload completed form when finished.
|Download the “Proposed research” template. Upload completed form when finished.
- Academic transcript(s) including undergraduate and PhD studies.
- Proof of citizenship or residency.
- A declaration form signed by you, your supervisor, and a duly authorised agent at the host organisation.
- Upload copy (1 file for all transcripts).
|Ethnicity, Gender, Date of Birth, Career Stage
The Society encourages applications from all eligible members of the Aotearoa New Zealand research community. Demographics data will be used to fulfil the Fellowships diversity expectation as explained under “About the Fellowships” and “Selection Process” sections above. The data will additionally be used for statistical purposes to monitor the profile of different groups of applicants and identify funding trends and gaps.
Sections of the application
1. Applicant’s details
This section is for personal details. It identifies who you are and where you can be contacted most readily. Complete this section, providing all details. If any of your contact details should change at any stage after the application is submitted, please inform the Society as soon as possible.
There is a facility in this section of the portal for applicants to add or create an ORCID ID (https://orcid.org/). An ORCID ID is preferred from all applicants, but is not mandatory. Please click on the "Create or Connect your ORCID ID" button on the top right of the "Contact Details" section and follow instructions.
2. Eligibility and research codes
Type of Research Activity
Collection of research activity data for Fellowship proposals will form part of our reporting obligations for NZRIS.
The four activities are:
- Pure basic research (default setting): is experimental and theoretical work undertaken to acquire new knowledge without looking for long term benefits other than the advancement of knowledge.
- Strategic basic research: is experimental and theoretical work undertaken to acquire new knowledge directed into specified broad areas in the expectation of practical discoveries. It provides the broad base of knowledge necessary for the solution of recognised practical problems.
- Applied research: is original work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge with a specific application in view. It is undertaken either to determine possible uses for the findings of basic research or to determine new ways of achieving some specific and predetermined objectives.
- Experimental development is systematic work, using existing knowledge gained from research or practical experience, which is directed to producing new materials, products, devices, policies, behaviours or outlooks; to installing new processes, systems and services; or to improving substantially those already produced or installed.
Fields of research (FOR)
The FOR classification allows research and development (R&D) activity to be categorised according to the field of research. In this respect, it is the methodology used in the R&D that is being considered. Please enter up to FIVE codes from the list of research codes supplied in “Fields of Research Classification Codes” here. For a list of codes, please refer to the Field of Research Calculator at: https://royalsociety.org.nz/what-we-do/research-practice/field-of-research-calculator/. Please use codes that are as specific as possible, i.e. 6 digits.
As part of our NZRIS obligations, we will be required to report the share of each FOR code to the proposed research. Please indicate the % share of each FOR code to the proposed research. The shares should add up to 100%.
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) classification
The Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC) and SEO classification allow R&D activity in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand to be categorised according to the intended purpose or outcome of the research rather than the processes or techniques used in order to achieve this objective. The purpose categories include processes, products, health, education and other social and environmental aspects in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand that R&D activity aims to improve. Please enter up to THREE codes from the drop-down field, using codes that are as specific as possible. For a list of codes, please refer to the Socio-Economic Objectives Calculator at: https://royalsociety.org.nz/what-we-do/research-practice/socio-economic-objectives-calculator/
As part of our NZRIS obligations, we will be required to report the share of each SEO code to the proposed research. Please indicate the % share of each SEO code to the proposed research. The shares should add up to 100%.
Please select one of the following categories that best fits the theme of the proposed project: Humanities and Social Sciences, Life Sciences, or Physical Sciences and Mathematics. This information will be used for statistical purposes to track application numbers and success across different fields of research. Please use the following information as a guide:
Humanities and the Social Sciences (HSS)
Research related to the human condition or aspects of human society.
This includes, but not limited to: English; languages; history; religion; philosophy; law; classics; linguistics; literature; cultural studies; media studies; art history; film; economics; education; psychology (cognitive, social, developmental, organisational, community and health); cognitive science; linguistics; archaeology; anthropology; sociology; social, cultural and human geography; social anthropology; architecture, urban design and environmental studies; public health; nursing; public policy; marketing; political science; and business studies.
Life Sciences (LFS)
Research related to understanding the activities that occur in cells and tissues and the interrelationships between organisms and their environment.
This includes, but not limited to: physiology (plant or animal), pathology (animal or plant), pharmacology, molecular biology, genetics, cell biology, microbiology; neurobiology and neuropsychology (including animals as a model species for humans); animal behaviour; population biology genetics; functional genomics and related bioinformatics; biostatistics and modelling; animal, plant and microbial ecology; biogeography; biodiversity; phylogenetics; systematics and evolution; biophysics, chemical biology; and biochemistry.
Physical Sciences, Engineering and Mathematics (PEM)
Research related to the physical world and mathematics.
This includes, but not limited to: physics; physical chemistry; organic chemistry; analytical chemistry; inorganic chemistry; pure and applied mathematics; statistics; logic, theoretical and engineering aspects of computer and information sciences; complexity theory; operations research; nanotechnology; software and hardware engineering; applications and robotics; materials science; engineering (including bioengineering and other cross-disciplinary research activities); geology; geophysics; physical geography; oceanography; hydrology; meteorology; atmospheric science; earth sciences; astronomy; and astrophysics.
Please select from the drop down menu whether you are an Aotearoa New Zealand Citizen or a Permanent Resident. Proof of citizenship or copy of a permanent resident visa must be scanned and uploaded to Proposal On-line (see supporting information). Original or certified copies of the documents may be requested by the Secretariat.
Proposed host institution and supervisor.
Please enter the name, department and email address of your proposed supervisor.
Eligibility exemption (if applicable)
Please enter the reasons for why you are asking for a PhD exemption (e.g. you have completed the requirements to graduate but have not yet graduated, you have had periods of parental leave, extended sickness leave, or leave due to other caring responsibilities). Note that this requires prior approval from the Society.
Date PhD conferred
Enter the date that your PhD was conferred. You also need to scan and upload a copy of your academic transcript, and a copy of your PhD Certificate/evidence (max 1 page) of when your doctoral degree was conferred (see Supporting Information).
The Society reserve the right to request original or certified copies of the documents prior to announcing short-listed applicants.
Years of Research Experience Post PhD
Please provide the number of years of research experience you have attained after conferment of your doctoral degree. This should be a whole number (round where needed) between zero to four years and exclude any agreed career interruptions for parental leave, extended sickness leave, or other research breaks. This will aid panellists in assessing your proposal, under the selection criteria, relative to the opportunity you have had. Note that periods of part-time work can be factored in by multiplying the length of time with the FTE component for the period, e.g. 1 year working at 0.5 FTE counts for half a year of research experience etc. Any applicants who have had career interruptions (due to parental leave, illness, longer periods of part time work, etc.) should additionally list these interruptions under section 4 in the CV template, “Current and previous employment history and career interruptions”. The information included here will further aid panellists in assessing your research relative to opportunity. The Society reserves the right to request further documentation supporting your stated years of research experience.
Note on Sections 3-6
Applicants may use a MAXIMUM of three pages in total for sections 3-6.
3. Qualifications and Career
Please enter the date the qualification was granted, the type of qualification, and the institution from which it was granted. You can add additional rows if needed.
4. Employment history and career interruptions (if applicable)
Please include current and previous positions you’ve held. In addition to positions held, please also add periods of career interruptions (e.g. maternity leave, periods of part time work, caring for family, etc.) if applicable. This information will further aid panellists in assessing your application relative to opportunity.
Please enter the type of award and the year you received the award.
6. Peer reviewed publications and other notable contributions
Please list published peer-reviewed publications (e.g., journal articles, book chapters, books edited, etc.), patents and other notable contributions that demonstrate your capabilities as a researcher (e.g. awarded research or travel grants, patents, conference chairs, speaker invitations, editorial boards, conference committees etc.).
7. Title of proposed research
Please provide a title that describes the nature of your proposed programme of research. Keep the title brief and to the point.
8. Research project summary
Please provide a summary of the planned project suitable for a lay audience with some limited science knowledge, and using a maximum of 300 words. It may be used for reporting and public information.
9. Evidence of excellence
Using the template provided and a maximum of one page, please provide your responses to the following two questions:
- Why are you an excellent researcher/have the potential to become an excellent researcher?
- How will being awarded an MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowship impact your research career?
10. Proposed research
Using a maximum of one page, please describe the proposed research for the Fellowship period. You must include clear objectives of what you aim to achieve and a timeline for when each of the objectives will be achieved. In addition, you must clearly articulate the benefits that your research project could deliver for Aotearoa New Zealand (see page 6 – Final review).
11. Vision Mātauranga
Vision Mātauranga is a policy about innovation, opportunity and the creation of knowledge that highlights the potential contribution of Māori knowledge, resources and people.
Applicants should identify which, if any, of the four Vision Mātauranga themes below are associated with the proposed research. A Vision Mātauranga theme must be included for all research that has relevance for Māori. If this is not applicable to your proposed research, you should tick N/A.
The four themes are:
- Indigenous Innovation, which involves contributing to economic growth through distinctive research and development;
- Taiao, which is concerned with achieving environmental sustainability through iwi and hapū relationships with land and sea;
- Hauora/Oranga, which centres around improving health and social wellbeing; and
- Mātauranga, which involves exploring indigenous knowledge.
How do I decide whether Vision Mātauranga applies to my proposed research?
The five ways of conceptualising Vision Mātauranga in your research (see below) may help you decide if this applies to your project. The categories have been adapted from those on the National Science Challenge, Biological Heritage website https://bioheritage.nz/about-us/vision-matauranga/ hosted by Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research. Please note, however, that these categories are fluid. There may well be overlap between them as in categories b and c in terms of the nature and degree of relevance to Māori, and not every point in each category need apply. The original categories were set out by MBIE in information for the Endeavour Fund c. 2015.
Ways of conceptualising Vison Mātauranga in your research
- Research with no specific Māori component
- No mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) is used.
- Māori are not associated with the research process (e.g. not on any research management / advisory / governance panels, it is not inclusive of Māori land or institutions, nor the subject of any component of the research).
- Work is not likely to be of greater direct relevance to Māori than members of any other group.
- Research specifically relevant to Māori
- There is specific relevance to Māori.
- Mātauranga Māori may be used in a minor way to guide the work and its relevance to Māori.
- It includes work that contributes to Māori aspirations and outcomes.
- Research involving Māori
- Mātauranga Māori may be incorporated in the project, but is not central to the project.
- Research is specifically and directly relevant to Māori and Māori are involved in the design and/or undertaking of the research.
- The work typically contributes to Māori (e.g., iwi / hapū, organisations) aspirations and outcomes.
- Māori-centred research
- The project is Māori led, and where Mātauranga Māori is used alongside other knowledges (e.g. through frameworks, models, methods, tools, etc.).
- Kaupapa Māori research is a key focus of the project.
- Research is typically collaborative or consultative, with direct input from Māori stakeholders.
- There is alignment with and contribution to Māori (e.g., iwi / hapū, organisations) aspirations.
- Kaupapa Māori research
- Mātauranga Māori is incorporated, used and understood, as a central focus of project and its findings.
- Research is grounded in te ao Māori and connected to Māori philosophies and principles.
- Research typically uses kaupapa Māori research methodologies.
- Te reo Māori may be a central feature to this kaupapa or research activity, and the applicant has medium to high cultural fluency or knowledge of tikanga and reo.
- The research is generally led by a Māori researcher; non-Indigenous researchers may carry out research under the guidance/mentoring of a Māori researcher.
- Māori participation (iwi/hapū/marae/individual) is high.
- The work contributes strongly to Māori (e.g., iwi/hapū, organisations) aspirations and outcomes and is mana enhancing.
Please enter the names and contact details of three referees who have agreed to provide a referee report for you. One of your referees must be your PhD supervisor. If you have already undertaken Postdoctoral research, the supervisor of this research should comprise the second referee.
Referees should not have a conflict of interest with the applicant, i.e. they should not hold a line of management role over the applicant at the proposed host institution, and they should not be directly involved in the applicant’s proposed research. An exemption to this rule is allowed for the supervisor of an applicant’s PhD programme and supervisor of undertaken postdoctoral research.
If you have to nominate a referee that has not supervised you, please ensure that they can comment on the questions discussed under “Selection Process.”
When you have entered the referee names, and ensured that they are willing to provide the Royal Society Te Apārangi with a referee report for you before the application closing date of 20 April 2021, you need to click on the “SEND EMAIL” button. This will send an automatic email to your referee with a URL access link to a web portal, where the referee can complete the referee report.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure that your referees complete their report on the portal no later than the closing date for applications. To ensure this happens, it is prudent for you to check that the referee has received the invitation to review your application and the URL link. Occasionally, the email that is automatically generated when selecting “SEND EMAIL” is inadvertently identified as spam and ends up in a ”junk” folder. In this case, you can ask your referee to contact us by email.
Note that as the invitations for referee reports are sent out before the application closing date, the Society is unable to attach a copy of your project description to the referee invitation. We will therefore ask the referee to contact you should they wish to see more information on your proposed research.
If a referee informs you that he or she for some reason can’t upload a referee report before the deadline, you can enter an additional referee on the On-line Proposals web portal. Again, it is prudent for you to ensure that the new referee have agreed to provide a referee report by the deadline before you click the “SEND EMAIL” button.
In the instance where the society receives more than three referee reports, we will use the first three reports received.
You can check if the Society has received each of the applicant-solicited referee reports by logging in to the proposals on-line system and go to the Referee section.
At the application deadline, applicants missing referee reports are given a 24-hour period to solicit any missing or new referee reports needed to obtain 3 referee reports and comply with the eligibility requirement. Applications that do not comply with this requirement will be withdrawn from further considerations.
13. Supporting information
In addition to the completed electronic application, applicants must upload electronic copies of the following documents (scanned jpeg or PDF preferred):
- A declaration form signed by you, your proposed postdoctoral supervisor, and a duly authorised agent at the host organisation confirming that the proposed host institution and supervisor support the application.
- Proof of Aotearoa New Zealand citizenship or permanent resident visa status
- Academic transcript(s)
- PhD certificate or other evidence demonstrating the date your PhD was conferred (max 1 page).
Note: The Society may request to see original or certified copies of the above documents.
Submitting your application
Once you are happy with your application, you must mark it as COMPLETED. To do this, select Preview/Print from the left hand menu, followed by “Mark as Completed”. This flags to your institution coordinator that the proposal has been completed and can be released to the Society. If you need to make changes to your application after you have marked it as completed, you must confer with your research office first.