Explore as a

Share our content

Information for panellists

Information for panellists assessing Rutherford Foundation applications

The Panellists' Guidelines are available as a PDF

About the Rutherford Foundation

The Royal Society Te Apārangi-Rutherford Foundation (the Foundation) was established as a Charitable Trust in 2008 with the aim of building human capability in science and technology by providing support for excellent New Zealand early career researchers. The Foundation offered scholarships and fellowships, which carried the hallmark of excellence enabling strong connections to New Zealand to be maintained, thereby increasing the benefits to New Zealand that accrue from the investment in these recipients. The Trust was wound up in 2018 when the management of the Foundation’s funding opportunities was transferred to the Royal Society Te Apārangi (the Society).


The objectives of the Rutherford Foundation Fellowships and Scholarships are to support the education and development of promising excellent early career researchers with the potential to excel in a research environment. The funding opportunities support early career researchers who demonstrate a passion for research, science and technology, and have a strong sense of the purpose and benefits of research to New Zealand. Receipt of a Rutherford Foundation award is expected to have a significant value in the future career development of the supported Scholars and Fellows and help them to establish a foundation on which to embark on an independent research career.

Funding Opportunities and eligibility

The Foundation supports two types of early career researcher awards. These are:

  • The Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • The Cambridge-Rutherford Memorial PhD Scholarship

Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship

The Rutherford Foundation New Zealand Postdoctoral Fellowship will award $75,000 (GST excl.) per annum towards the researcher’s salary and $10,000 (GST excl.) per annum in research-related expenses.

Up to 10 Fellowships can be awarded in the 2019 funding round.

The Fellowship is awarded on a full-time basis (1 FTE), unless otherwise agreed to by the Society.



  • Applicants’ doctoral degrees must have been conferred no more than four years prior to the year in which the fellowship is awarded. For 2019, this means on or after 01 January 2015.
  • An exemption to this clause can be sought to allow applicants to demonstrate that their PhD has been submitted and can be examined by the date of short-listing.
  • A further exemption can be sought to demonstrate a reasonable absence from a research career, for instance to take parental leave or for extended sickness leave.
    • Applicants from all fields or research, science and technology, including social sciences and the humanities, are eligible to apply.
    • Applicants must be either New Zealand citizens, or have continuously resided in New Zealand for at least two years immediate prior to their application and hold, or be deemed to hold, a New Zealand resident visa.

Cambridge-Rutherford Memorial PhD Scholarship

The Cambridge-Rutherford Memorial PhD Scholarships are jointly funded by the Cambridge Commonwealth, European and International Trust (CCEIT) and the Rutherford Foundation. The Scholarship is intended to provide full support for three years to enable completion of a PhD at the University of Cambridge in pure or applied science and the social sciences.

Successful applicants will receive a living allowance (set by CCEIT) , and their course and college fees for up to a maximum of three years while enrolled for study towards their PhD at the University of Cambridge. In addition, they will be eligible for one, non-transferable, return airfare between the United Kingdom and New Zealand per annum.


  • Applicants from the disciplines of science and technology (which includes pure or applied science and the social sciences) are eligible to apply.
  • Applicants must be either New Zealand citizens or have continuously resided in New Zealand for at least two years immediately prior to their application and hold, or are deemed to hold, a New Zealand resident visa.
  • Applicants who hold, or are deemed to hold, a New Zealand resident visa are also required to have completed their undergraduate study in New Zealand to be considered eligible to apply.
  • Applicants must be in a position that if successful, they would be able to enter the United Kingdom and comply with the regulations for matriculation at the University of Cambridge.




Thu 6 Jun 2019

Proposals On-Line web-based application system opens.

Thu 01 Aug 2019

On-Line web portal closes at 5 pm (New Zealand Standard Time).

Wed 07 Aug 2019

Panellist briefing video conference

Applications forwarded to panellists

Thu 05 Sept

Last day for panellists to submit their recommendations to the Society

Wed 25 Sep 2019

Short-listing video-conference

Tue 22 Oct 2019

& Wed 23 Oct 2019

Interviews for short-listed applicants (location to be confirmed)


Results announced.

Table 1.         Timetable for 2019

Assessment Process (in brief)

The Society will appoint a selection panel, chaired by the President of the Society, or their nominee, to oversee the selection process.  The Chair of the panel will work with the Society’s nominated manager to determine the best process to be used. The assessment of applications is a two stage process.

  • Stage one is a short-listing for an interview by the Selection Panel.  
  • Stage two is the interviewing of short-listed applicants by the Selection Panel.

The Selection Panel is responsible for both stages of the selection process.

Assessment of applications

Each panel member will receive electronic copies of all applications. Applications are to be assessed by panel members exclusively on the information provided in the application and referee reports. Panel members are asked to apply the selection criteria in a manner that is conducive to the selection of awardees that best fulfils the objectives of the funding opportunities.

The selection criteria for all supported schemes are:

  • Demonstration of academic excellence
  • Quality of the proposed research programme
  • Depth of understanding of the proposed research, its ultimate purpose, and benefits to New Zealand
  • Additional criterion that may be considered: transfer of skills.

Short-listing of applicants for interview (stage one)

Each panel member will receive an electronic form on which to record their scoring in each criteria. The panel members must additionally use the scoring sheet to indicate applicants recommended for an interview. The filled-out score sheet must be emailed to the Society no later than the date listed in the timetable.

Panel members also need to identify applications for which they have a conflict of interest, explaining the nature of the conflict (please refer to Conflicts of interest).

Each panel member is asked to start reading applications at different points through the order of the applications, to avoid applications from institutions or researchers first in the alphabet always being read first.

Assessment in relation to years of research experience

For applicants applying for the Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, panel members must consider applicants’ track records in relation to their 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. However, if applicable, panel members must additionally consider periods of research breaks due to maternity/parental leave, medical leave or other relevant leave outlined in under section 4 of the application.

Short-listing meeting

The applicants selected to interview will be agreed upon by the Selection Panel at the short-listing meeting. The Society will collate all panellist’s recommendations, and distribute a recommendation summary to all panellists prior to the short-listing meeting.

Interviews (Stage two)

The Selection Panel will conduct all interviews and recommend to the Society the successful applicants for all funding schemes.

Applicants invited to interview will have their flight expenses covered by the Society. Applicants that are unable to travel to the interview may request to have the interview conducted by video conference.

Each applicant will be asked a series of questions in an allocated 20 minute interview.  Overseas applicants will be interviewed using either teleconferencing or video-conferencing facilities.

The Chair of the Selection Panel is responsible for the effective conduct of the assessment process.  This post will be filled by the President of the Society or their nominee.  Each panel member needs to ensure that the funding recommendations made are defensible by ensuring the framework for assessment is followed and identifying, and taking appropriate action, over conflicts of interest.

The final recommendations of the Selection Panel are ratified by the President of the Society.

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, referee reports, scoring spreadsheets or summaries).
  • At the conclusion of the grading, panel meetings and the interviews, 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 Rutherford Foundation Secretariat or the Panel Chair as agreed.
  • 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 applications or interview the candidate and take no part in the consideration of that application.  They will hear about the outcome of that application 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 application 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 application.  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.

Additional Information

Feedback to applicants

Unsuccessful interviewed applicants have the opportunity to approach the Chair of the Panel for feed-back on their application.

Royal Society Staff

It is not the role of Society staff to make funding decisions.  Rather, their role is one of facilitation of and "guardianship" over the assessment process, ensuring that the process is credible and defensible.  To achieve this, staff will:

  • organise all logistical aspects of the process;
  • assist the discipline-based and interview panellists in determining realistic timetables for meetings;
  • provide a framework for assessment;
  • record funding decisions and collate generic feedback for applicants;
  • record any conflicts of interest and identify problem areas;
  • convey funding decisions to applicants and their host organisations - all discussions related to a decision should occur through Society staff; and,
  • negotiate contract details with host institutions.


If you require further information about the Rutherford Foundation, please email us at rutherford.foundation@royalsociety.org.nz or phone 04 470 5764.

Additional information on the Rutherford Foundation funding opportunities is available on the following website: https://royalsociety.org.nz/what-we-do/funds-and-opportunities/rutherford-foundation/