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Information for referees

Information for referees assessing proposals for Rutherford Discovery Fellowships


The Referee Guidelines are available as a PDF The Referee Guidelines PDF

Guidelines for Rutherford Discovery Fellowship Referees | Ngā aratohu mā te rōpū whiriwhiri

Background | He whakamārama

The Rutherford Discovery Fellowships were announced by the New Zealand Government in May 2010. With this scheme, the New Zealand Government is supporting the development of excellence and has moved to fill a major gap in career opportunities for the most talented early- to mid- career researchers. The Fellowships will develop and foster the future leaders in the New Zealand science and innovation system.[1] They will attract and retain Aotearoa New Zealand’s most talented early- to mid- career researchers and encourage their career development by enabling them to establish a track record for future research leadership. It is expected that Fellows, throughout their careers, will contribute to positive outcomes for Aotearoa New Zealand.

The application process is competitive, with ten prestigious Fellowships of five years in length, awarded annually. An important part of the decision process is the assessment of the applicant and their proposed research programme by external referees.

Your role as a referee is an integral part of the appraisal process. Your detailed comments help in the final assessment of the proposal and will assist the funding decisions undertaken by the interview panel when appointing the Rutherford Discovery Fellowships.

Conflicts of interest | Ngā take whai taharua

Referees cannot be seen as benefitting from recommending an application, i.e. they should not be involved in the proposed programme of research, be someone the applicant is publishing with, or be in their chain of line management. If possible, it is recommended that applicants use referees they have not co-published with within the last 5 years. However, as applicants’ circumstances are different, this is a recommendation only. In general, however, panellists will not consider a referee report if the referee can be perceived to benefit from recommending an application.

A referee is generally deemed to be conflicted if:

  • They are a panel member in the current funding round.
  • They work in the same department as the applicant(s).
  • They work at the same Crown Research Institute 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).

Referee suitability | Tōtika o te kaitautoko

A suitable referee will be able to comment on aspects of feasibility, significance, technical aspects and originality of the proposal, the ability of the researcher to carry out the research, and the potential of the research to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the field. To help in assessing your appropriateness as a referee, please consider the following:

  • Whether you are qualified to comment on the proposal.
  • Whether you wish to act as a referee for the applicant.
  • Whether a conflict of interest exists in that you have a line management role over the applicant.
  • Whether a conflict of interest exists in that you are, or could be, directly involved in the proposed programme of research.
  • Whether the applicant is a relative or close friend.

If you choose to withdraw as a referee, please advise the applicant as soon as possible so another referee can be contacted.

Confidentiality | Mata

The contents of the referee reports are confidential in every respect. A referee report is submitted on the understanding that: (i) it will only be used in the appraisal process; (ii) it is confidential to the selection panels appointed by Royal Society Te Apārangi; and, (iii) that it will not be made available to the applicant or the public (this includes all comments and grades).

Referee’s comments | Ngā kōrero a ngā kaitaunaki

Your comments are essential in making final judgements on the applications, as the assessment panel consists of researchers from a broad range of disciplines. Comments should be consistent with the grades given. Grades without comments may be discounted by the selection panellists. Please keep the reference to a maximum of two pages.

Online web-based referee reports | Ngā pūrongo ā-paetukutuku tuihono

Referees will be emailed a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) link to a web-based portal to complete their report. If there are any difficulties, please contact the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship Secretariat at:


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. As international referees may not have awareness of this policy, referees are not required to comment on this aspect of the application. However, referees with a good understanding of Vision Mātauranga are welcome to include Vision Mātauranga in their assessment of the applicant and the proposed research where applicable.

For your information, please note that applicants that have indicated alignment of their proposed research with one or more Vision Mātauranga themes, are allowed to use up to one extra page of the application’s section 9-12 to engage with the policy. Applicants can choose to integrate Vision Mātauranga into the conceptual framework and/or research design of the proposed programme, for example, demonstration of consultation, linkages, outcomes or other relevant information. Alternatively, applicants may to choose to gather all relevant Vision Mātauranga information under a separate heading (Section 11) under the Research Programme template.

For a Glossary of common te reo Māori terms, please see Appendix I.

For additional information on Vision Mātauranga, please refer to the application guidelines.

Criteria for refereeing | Ngā paearu mō te tautoko

Referees should address their comments primarily to each of the following criteria and base their judgment on them.

1          Calibre of the applicant as a researcher:

Is the applicant's career exceptional for a candidate in this discipline, at their career stage?

Exceptional may be determined by consideration of the merit of the applicant’s career to date and how the research compares with other New Zealand or international research in the same field. If the applicant is at the start of his or her career the calibre must be assessed in relation to the years of research experience. Information on the applicant’s achievements is included in the curriculum vitae in Section 5.

2          Calibre of the applicant as a research leader:

Describe the leadership qualities of the applicant.

Describe the leadership qualities you believe the applicant possesses, or the potential they have, and provide any evidence for your assertions. Additional information on the applicant’s leadership is included in section 5.

3          Calibre of the research programme:

Please consider the merit of the proposal and the potential of the research.

Merit may be determined by the applicant incorporating originality, insight and rigour, and please consider the ability of the researchers to carry out the research.

Potential of the research may be assessed from the work outlined in Sections 9-12 of the proposal. The research should significantly contribute to advances in theoretical understanding, develop new methodologies, contribute to new knowledge, or lead to advancement in a field by cross-fertilisation with ideas and results from another field. Often the design and planning of a programme of research determines its success. Good design and planning are determined by whether the overall proposal and its specific objectives have a clear focus, and the methods and experimental or sampling design are likely to produce high quality results.

Note: Referees are not required to comment on budgets.

4          If the candidate is known to you; please state how long and in what capacity:

For instance, if the applicant is a former colleague or student this should be noted here. Knowing the applicant in a professional sense need not be an impediment for being a referee, provided you are satisfied with your suitability as a referee, as described earlier.

5          Any other comments that you feel are relevant:

For instance, areas where the proposal could have been improved.

6          Overall Grade:

Please ensure that the grade matches the comments above.

Grade 1: Outstanding (compares to the top 5% of international applicants)

Grade 2: Excellent (Top 10%)

Grade 3: Well above average (Top 20%)

Grade 4: Above average

Grade 5: Average or below average

If you have received any proposals for review from international funding agencies, please benchmark the applicant’s proposal against these. For example, Grade 1 should be given if you consider that the proposal is in the top 5% of international proposals in the field, Grade 2 if it is in the top 10%, and so on.

Disposal of applicant proposal matter | Ngā whakawātea i ngā kōrero o te tono

Please destroy all proposal material once your report is completed.

Additional information | Ētahi atu kōrero

Additional information on the Rutherford Discovery Fellowships is available on our website.

If you require further assistance, please email the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship Secretariat at rutherford.discovery@royalsociety.org.nz or phone + 64 4 470 5764.

Checklist before returning your report | Rārangi aeowhai i mua i te tuku i tō pūrongo

Before completing your Referee Report Form, please ensure that:

  • the intended grade and all comments have been entered
  • you have not exceeded the two page limit
  • your name and the date are entered at the end of the referee report (the last page of the form).


Reports are due no later than 5 pm Thu 25 May 2023 (New Zealand Standard Time). Please note that applicants will be excluded from further consideration in the funding round if Royal Society Te Apārangi has not received the required three referee reports by the deadline as described in the proposal guidelines. We therefore ask that you compare New Zealand Standard Time to you own time zone in order to assure that the report is posted on time.

The preferred mode of reply is by completing the on-line web-portal. Referee reports by email can be arranged on request. Please contact Royal Society Te Apārangi at: Rutherford.Discovery@royalsociety.org.nz

[1]       This includes research in science, technologies, and humanities.


Appendix I: Glossary of te reo Māori terms |  Āpitihanga I: Papakupu o ngā kupu reo Māori

Definitions taken from maoridictionary.co.nz

Ka mihi ki a Ahorangi Angus Macfarlane, Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha, mō tēnei. With thanks to Professor Angus Macfarlane, University of Canterbury, for his input.


the Māori name for New Zealand


affection, sympathy, charity, compassion, love, empathy


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


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


Health, wellbeing


gathering, meeting, assembly


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


home, address, residence, village, settlement, habitation, habitat, dwelling


trustee, minder, guard, custodian, guardian, caregiver, keeper, steward


guardianship, stewardship, trusteeship


adult, elder, elderly man, elderly woman, senior person - a person of status within the whānau or iwi


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


gift, present, offering, donation, contribution - especially one maintaining social relationships and has connotations of reciprocity

Kōiwi tangata

Human bones or remains


to tell, say, speak, read, talk, address; speech, narrative, story, news, account, discussion, conversation, discourse, statement, information


be painful, sore, hurt


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.


hospitality, kindness, generosity, support - the process of showing respect, generosity and care for others


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


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


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


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


sea, ocean, large lake

Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa

the Pacific Ocean


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


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


myth, ancient legend, story


younger generation, youth


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


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


boundary, district, region, territory, area, border (of land)


council, tribal council, assembly, board, boardroom, iwi authority - assemblies called to discuss issues of concern to iwi or the community


children - normally used only in the plural


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


treasure, anything prized - applied to anything considered to be of value including socially or culturally valuable objects, resources, phenomenon, ideas and techniques


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


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


ancestor, grandparent, grandfather, grandmother - singular form of tīpuna and the eastern dialect variation of tupuna


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


ancestor, grandparent – singular form of tūpuna and the western dialect variation of tipuna


domicile, standing, place where one has the right to stand - place where one has rights of residence and belonging through kinship and whakapapa


spirit, soul - spirit of a person which exists beyond death. It is the non-physical spirit, distinct from the body and the mauri


wahine - woman, female, lady, wife; wāhine - women, females, ladies, wives – plural form of wahine; female, women, feminine




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


oratory, oration, formal speech-making, address, speech - formal speeches usually made by men during a pohiri and other gatherings


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)


proverb, significant saying, formulaic saying, cryptic saying, aphorism. Like whakatauākī and pepeha they are essential ingredients in whaikōrero


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


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


land - often used in the plural; territory, domain; country, land, nation, state