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Information for panellists

MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowship
2021 Guidelines for Panellists



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. The 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most early career researchers (ECRs) planning to take up employment overseas have either had offers deferred or fully rescinded, and new positions require ECRs to be within the country before applying.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 Fellowship is administered by 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.

Eligibility criteria (in brief)

All applications forwarded to the panel have been eligibility checked by the Society. 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. Upon prior approval by the Society, exemptions can be granted to applicants that have completed all requirements for graduating with a PhD, and to applicants with career interruptions or part-time employment due to care giving responsibilities
  • 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, which is able to provide supervision and training at a post-doctoral level that is suitable for advancing a research career
  • The host and the proposed supervisor must confirm that the applicant has the potential to excel in a research career environment.

Selection process (in brief)

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.


Note: Full arrows denote the path for successful applications at each stage. Black dashed arrows denote the path for applications that have not been selected in either the Māori or Pacific Ballots and have been re-distributed into subsequent ballots.

These processes are briefly described in more detail below.

Eligibility screening

Applications will be checked against the eligibility criteria set out above. Applications will also be checked for completeness, including the required referee reports and supporting information. This is undertaken by the Society.

Excellence filtering

Applicants must provide contact details for 3 referees.

  • One referee must be the supervisor of applicant’s PhD programme (unless otherwise approved by the Society).
  • If the applicant has already undertaken postdoctoral research, the supervisor of this project should be another referee (unless otherwise approved by the Society).

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. However, an exemption to this rule is allowed for the supervisor of an applicant’s PhD programme and supervisor of undertaken postdoctoral research.

Referees are 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.

Average scores for each excellence attribute will be combined, and a cut-off 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.

For more information on the referee questions and the Likert scale, see Appendix 1

Stratified selection ballot

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.

Final review

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 role of the Panel is to recommend recipients to MBIE, who is the final decision maker.

Selection criteria

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.

Role of the Panel

Prior to the Panel convening, the applicants’ ability to excel in a research environment will have been established in two ways.

  1. The Host and the proposed Supervisor for the Fellow will have made a formal declaration that the applicant has the potential to excel in a research environment.
  2. All applicants entering the ballot have passed an excellence threshold based on receiving high referee scores.

The role of the Panel is to:

  • Ratify the Society’s process for applying the excellence filter and the resultant ballot of potential candidates
  • Ensure that the Whitinga Fellowship’s diversity targets are being met in accordance with the Terms of Reference for the scheme
  • Confirm that all 30 recommended Fellows (and  reserve applications) fulfil the Fellowship objective to “support ECRs with the potential to excel in a research career”.

Panel Review Process

Prior to the Panel meeting, panellist will be provided with the following information:

  • Total application statistics, including referee score statistics and an explanation for how the excellence filter was applied (to be ratified by the Panel before the ballot)
  • An electronic version of 30 applications selected by ballot plus an additional 5 applications to be considered for a reserve list.

Panellists are asked to consider the following questions for each application in order to ensure all recommended Fellows fulfil the Fellowship objectives.

Questions to consider Information to consider (where relevant to research experience/opportunity)
  • Do you have any serious concerns about the potential of the applicant to excel in a research career?
Referee scores and comments; academic transcripts (where relevant), CV outputs (section 3-6), Evidence of Excellence (section 9) and proposed research (section 10)
  • Do you have any serious concerns about the potential benefits that the applicant’s \ research project could deliver for Aotearoa New Zealand?
Section 10. When considering this question, panellist should be cognisant of the many different forms of research that may provide benefit to Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • Do you have any serious concerns that the applicant, using their best endeavours, could not achieve the proposed research and/or the proposed research is unrealistic?
Section 10. When considering this question, panellist should be cognisant of the limited space available to applicants to describe their research programme.

 * Please note that a glossary of commonly used Māori concepts, words and phrases commonly seen in research proposals, is available in Appendix II – Glossary of te reo Māori terms

If the panel identifies serious concerns about an application, they may choose to not recommend the application for funding. In this instance, an additional balloted application (also considering equity and diversity overlays) will be considered for funding at the panel meeting.

Assessment in relation to applicants’ years of research experience

Panel members must consider applications in relation to applicants’ years of research experience, which may differ from the number of years since PhD conferment. The years since PhD is stated on the first page of the application in the top left corner of the header, and excludes periods of maternity/parental leave, medical leave or other relevant career breaks outlined in section 4 of the application.

Final decision

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:

  1. Seek additional information.
  2. Set pre-contractual conditions that must be met before contracting occurs.
  3. Add additional terms and conditions to the contract.
  4. Decide not to fund the applicant.

Sensitive issues


The Society has obligations under the Privacy Act to keep confidential certain information provided by individuals. Moreover, the records of deliberations by panels are regarded as strictly confidential; as are the contents of applications.

  • Panel members should ensure the safe keeping of all applications and related confidential documents (e.g. applications and referee reports).
  • At the conclusion of the assessment process, members should leave documentation with the Society staff and destroy any documentation remaining elsewhere.
  • Panel members should not enter into correspondence or discussion of the contents of the applications with referees, third parties, or the applicants. Any necessary correspondence shall be addressed by the Secretariat of the MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowship.
  • The intellectual property of the ideas and hypotheses put forward in the applications should be treated in strict confidence.

Conflicts of interest

The Society takes the issue of conflicts of interest very seriously. A rigorous position is taken in order to maintain the credibility of the allocation process and to ensure that applications are subjected to fair and reasonable appraisal.

The Society wants to ensure that the 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. Where these occur for panel members, the following rules will apply. 

  • All conflicts of interest must be declared in writing to the Society. 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 or interview the candidate 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, or is conflicted with the applicant* then that member shall not assess the proposal or interview the candidate.
  • A panel member cannot be a referee for any applicant in the current funding round.
  • If the interview panel Chair has a conflict of interest then the duties of chairing the interview shall be passed to another panel member.

*A panel member is generally deemed to be conflicted if:

  • They work in the same department as the applicant(s). Where the department is large and contact between the panel member and applicant(s) is minimal, the Chair may deem there to be no conflict.
  • They work at the same CRI AND are in the same team as the applicant(s) (the level of conflict will depend on the size of the organisation).
  • They work at the same company as the applicant(s). The level of conflict will depend on the size of the company.
  • They have co-authored publications with the applicant(s) in the last 5 years
  • They have a low level of comfort assessing the application due to their relationship with the applicant(s).

When all conflicts of interest are taken into account, the Panel Chair may decide that the remaining panellists’ expertise is not sufficient for assessment of a particular proposal. In this case, an additional opinion from an external independent person may be sought. Alternatively, a panellist who has previously left the room may be asked to return to answer technical questions only.

Timetable for Panellists

Date Activity
Friday 26 February, 2021 Funding round open.
Tuesday 20 April, 2021 Application deadline. On-Line portal closes at 5 pm.
Late April, 2021 1 hour zoom meeting for excellence threshold and ballot process ratification.
May, 2021 Panel meeting.
Late May/Early June, 2021 Final decision by MBIE.
June, 2021 Results announced.


For any enquiries, please first seek clarification from your research office.

Please address enquiries for the MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowship Secretariat by email to:

whitinga.fellowship@royalsociety.org.nz or phone + 64 4 470 5764


Appendix 1

Applications must be supported by three applicant-solicited referee reports. Applicants must include the supervisor of their Doctoral programme as one referee (unless otherwise approved by Society). If applicants have already undertaken Postdoctoral research, the supervisor of this research should comprise the second referee (unless otherwise approved by Society).

Excellent performance against each attribute is set out in the following table:

Excellence Attribute Description of Excellence (relative to opportunity)
Research capability
  • Is recognised as having the potential to succeed in a research environment and, where relevant, has relationships in the area of research with traditional or local knowledge holders, tohunga, iwi, hapū, or other groups with whom knowledge exchange, transmission and development can occur.
  • Can independently develop and plan original and innovative research. This includes, where relevant, showing skill and expertise in mātauranga Māori and/or Kaupapa Māori.
  • Can independently execute planned research, accurately documenting methods and outcomes. This includes, where relevant, the use of Kaupapa Māori and/or the appropriate use and protection of mātauranga Māori.
  • Shows promising skills for collaboration with researchers from other teams and disciplines.
  • Is motivated to succeed.
Problem solving
  • Can independently address and solve problems.
  • Can think critically and, where relevant, draw resourcefully on mātauranga Māori and/or Kaupapa Māori.
  • Can extract critical ideas from complex information.
  • Can use innovative ways to address issues.
Potential to advance knowledge
  • Has knowledge and familiarity with relevant research literature and knows what a major contribution to the field of research looks like.
  • Can communicate research in writing (e.g. writing of funding proposals, research synopses, publications, or other written material of relevance to the research field in question).
  • Can communicate research verbally (e.g. at conferences, seminars, hui, wānanga, discussion forums, outreach events, or other venues of relevance to the research field in question).
  • Can describe the value of their research in the context of its potential impacts and benefits to Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • Has awareness of Vision Mātauranga.
Impact on others
  • Has begun to build a good working reputation with peers and colleagues.
  • Exhibits or cultivates skills and attributes as a mentor or leader.  This includes, where relevant, a growing research reputation with iwi, hapū, and other Māori groups and communities.
  • Has made strong connections with others in the field of research.


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 cut-off 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.   


Appendix II – Glossary of te reo Māori terms

Definitions taken from maoridictionary.co.nz

With thanks to Professor Angus Macfarlane, University of Canterbury, for his input.

Aotearoa the Māori name for New Zealand
Aroha affection, sympathy, charity, compassion, love, empathy
Atua ancestor with continuing influence, god, demon, supernatural being, deity, ghost, object of superstitious regard, strange being - although often translated as 'god' and now also used for the Christian God
Hapū kinship group, clan, tribe, subtribe - section of a large kinship group and the primary political unit in traditional Māori society. It consisted of a number of whānau sharing descent from a common ancestor, usually being named after the ancestor, but sometimes from an important event in the group's history. A number of related hapū usually shared adjacent territories forming a looser tribal federation (iwi)
Hau kāinga home, true home, local people of a marae, home people
Hauora Health, wellbeing
Hui gathering, meeting, assembly
Iwi extended kinship group, tribe, nation, people, nationality, race - often refers to a large group of people descended from a common ancestor and associated with a distinct territory
Kāinga home, address, residence, village, settlement, habitation, habitat, dwelling
Kaitiaki trustee, minder, guard, custodian, guardian, caregiver, keeper, steward
Kaitiakitanga guardianship, stewardship, trusteeship
Kaumātua adult, elder, elderly man, elderly woman, senior person - a person of status within the whānau or iwi
Kaupapa Philosophy, topic, policy, matter for discussion, plan, purpose, scheme, proposal, agenda, subject, programme, theme, issue, initiative
Kaupapa Māori Māori approach, Māori topic, Māori customary practice, Māori institution, Māori agenda, Māori principles, Māori ideology - a philosophical doctrine, incorporating the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values of Māori society
Koha gift, present, offering, donation, contribution - especially one maintaining social relationships and has connotations of reciprocity
Kōiwi tangata Human bones or remains
Kōrero to tell, say, speak, read, talk, address; speech, narrative, story, news, account, discussion, conversation, discourse, statement, information
Mamae be painful, sore, hurt
Mana prestige, authority, control, power, influence, status, spiritual power, charisma - mana is a supernatural force in a person, place or object. Mana goes hand in hand with tapu, one affecting the other. The more prestigious the event, person or object, the more it is surrounded by tapu and mana. Mana is the enduring, indestructible power of the atua and is inherited at birth, the more senior the descent, the greater the mana. The authority of mana and tapu is inherited and delegated through the senior line from the atua as their human agent to act on revealed will. Since authority is a spiritual gift delegated by the atua, man remains the agent, never the source of mana. This divine choice is confirmed by the elders, initiated by the tohunga under traditional consecratory rites (tohi). Mana gives a person the authority to lead, organise and regulate communal expeditions and activities, to make decisions regarding social and political matters. A person or tribe's mana can increase from successful ventures or decrease through the lack of success.
Manaakitanga hospitality, kindness, generosity, support - the process of showing respect, generosity and care for others
Māori Māori, Indigenous New Zealander, Indigenous person of Aotearoa/New Zealand - a new use of the word resulting from Pākehā contact in order to distinguish between people of Māori descent and the colonisers
Marae courtyard - the open area in front of the wharenui (meeting house), where formal greetings and discussions take place. Often also used to include the complex of buildings around the marae
Mātauranga knowledge, wisdom, understanding, skill - sometimes used in the plural; education - an extension of the original meaning and commonly used in modern Māori with this meaning
Mauri life principle, life force, vital essence, special nature, a material symbol of a life principle, source of emotions - the essential quality and vitality of a being or entity. Also used for a physical object, individual, ecosystem or social group in which this essence is located
Moana sea, ocean, large lake
Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa the Pacific Ocean
Pākehā English, foreign, European, exotic - introduced from or originating in a foreign country; New Zealander of European descent - probably originally applied to English-speaking Europeans living in Aotearoa/New Zealand
Pepeha tribal saying, tribal motto, proverb (especially about a tribe), set form of words, formulaic expression, saying of the ancestors, figure of speech, motto, slogan - set sayings known for their economy of words and metaphor and encapsulating many Māori values and human characteristics
Pūrākau myth, ancient legend, story
Rangatahi younger generation, youth
Rangatira chief (male or female), chieftain, chieftainess, master, mistress, boss, supervisor, employer, landlord, owner, proprietor - qualities of a leader is a concern for the integrity and prosperity of the people, the land, the language and other cultural treasures (e.g. oratory and song poetry), and an aggressive and sustained response to outside forces that may threaten these
Rangatiratanga chieftainship, right to exercise authority, chiefly autonomy, chiefly authority, ownership, leadership of a social group, domain of the rangatira, noble birth, attributes of a chief
Rohe boundary, district, region, territory, area, border (of land)
Rūnanga council, tribal council, assembly, board, boardroom, iwi authority - assemblies called to discuss issues of concern to iwi or the community
Tamariki children - normally used only in the plural
Tāne husband, male, man
Tangata whenua local people, hosts, indigenous people - people born of the whenua, i.e. of the placenta and of the land where the people's ancestors have lived and where their placenta are buried
Taonga treasure, anything prized - applied to anything considered to be of value including socially or culturally valuable objects, resources, phenomenon, ideas and techniques
Tapu be sacred, prohibited, restricted, set apart, forbidden, under atua protection; restriction, prohibition - a supernatural condition. A person, place or thing is dedicated to an atua and is thus removed from the sphere of the profane and put into the sphere of the sacred. It is untouchable, no longer to be put to common use
Te reo Māori Māori language
Te Tiriti o Waitangi The Treaty of Waitangi
Tikanga correct procedure, custom, habit, lore, method, manner, rule, way, code, meaning, plan, practice, convention, protocol - the customary system of values and practices that have developed over time and are deeply embedded in the social context
Tino rangatiratanga self-determination, sovereignty, autonomy, self-government, domination, rule, control, power
Tipuna ancestor, grandparent, grandfather, grandmother - singular form of tīpuna and the eastern dialect variation of tupuna
Tohunga skilled person, chosen expert, priest, healer - a person chosen by the agent of an atua and the tribe as a leader in a particular field because of signs indicating talent for a particular vocation
Tupuna ancestor, grandparent – singular form of tūpuna and the western dialect variation of tipuna
Tūrangawaewae domicile, standing, place where one has the right to stand - place where one has rights of residence and belonging through kinship and whakapapa
Wairua spirit, soul - spirit of a person which exists beyond death. It is the non-physical spirit, distinct from the body and the mauri
Wahine/wāhine wahine - woman, female, lady, wife; wāhine - women, females, ladies, wives – plural form of wahine; female, women, feminine
Wairuatanga spirituality
Wānanga seminar, conference, forum, educational seminar; tribal knowledge, lore, learning - important traditional cultural, religious, historical, genealogical and philosophical knowledge; tertiary institution that caters for Māori learning needs - established under the Education Act 1990
Whaikōrero oratory, oration, formal speech-making, address, speech - formal speeches usually made by men during a pohiri and other gatherings
Whakapapa genealogy, genealogical table, lineage, descent - reciting whakapapa was, and is, an important skill and reflected the importance of genealogies in Māori society in terms of leadership, land and fishing rights, kinship and status. It is central to all Māori institutions. There are different terms for the types of whakapapa and the different ways of reciting them including: tāhū (recite a direct line of ancestry through only the senior line); whakamoe (recite a genealogy including males and their spouses); taotahi (recite genealogy in a single line of descent); hikohiko (recite genealogy in a selective way by not following a single line of descent); ure tārewa (male line of descent through the first-born male in each generation)
Whakataukī proverb, significant saying, formulaic saying, cryptic saying, aphorism. Like whakatauākī and pepeha they are essential ingredients in whaikōrero
Whānau extended family, family group, a familiar term of address to a number of people - the primary economic unit of traditional Māori society. In the modern context the term is sometimes used to include friends who may not have any kinship ties to other members
Whānaungatanga relationship, kinship, sense of family connection - a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging. It develops as a result of kinship rights and obligations, which also serve to strengthen each member of the kin group. It also extends to others to whom one develops a close familial, friendship or reciprocal relationship
Whenua land - often used in the plural; territory, domain; country, land, nation, state