The Royal Society's purpose

The aim of the Royal Society is the advancement and promotion of science and technology in New Zealand.

Its functions include fostering a culture supportive of science and technology, and providing expert advice on important public issues to the government and community.

As a non-government organisation, the Royal Society represents the individual scientists and their professional societies who make up the science community.

How we work with the Royal Society

Our main responsibilities are to contract the Royal Society, through annual output and funding agreements, monitoring the Royal Society’s performance against the measures set out in the agreements, and managing the process for the ministerial appointment of members to the Marsden Fund Council.

On behalf of the Government, the Royal Society manages various research funds including the Marsden Fund.

The Marsden Fund

The Marsden Fund is New Zealand’s premier fund for investigator-led research. It supports excellence in research across science and the humanities. The Marsden Fund Council, appointed by the Minister of Science and Innovation, is responsible for recommending which proposals are to be funded. The Royal Society of New Zealand provides executive support to the fund.

Budget 2016 funding

In Budget 2016 the Government announced it would invest an additional $66m over 4 years in the Marsden Fund. This brings the total fund to $57.8m in 2016/17, rising to $79.8m per annum in 2019/20.

Our assessment of the fund

In 2017, we completed an assessment of the strategy and management of the Marsden Fund. The Minister of Science and Innovation has published the report and endorsed its recommendations.

The report found the Marsden Fund is effective at selecting high-quality research, but recommended some changes to ensure it continues to deliver benefits for New Zealand.

The main recommendations include:

  • developing an Investment Plan that sets out the fund's strategic direction, addresses the issues identified in the assessment report, and shows how the fund will be managed to achieve its objectives

  • developing a Performance Framework that will include periodic review by international experts to provide assurance of the value of the Government’s investment

  • including more international councillors on the council.

The Minister of Science and Innovation instructed the Marsden Fund Council to develop the new Investment Plan reflecting the report's recommendations.

The fund will remain investigator-led. The Marsden Fund Council will continue to oversee it on the Minister’s behalf, and the Royal Society will continue to provide administrative support.

Marsden Fund Assessment of Strategy and Management [PDF, 1.2 MB] 

Terms of Reference for the Marsden Assessment of Strategy and Management, 2016 [PDF, 224 KB] 

Marsden Fund Investment Plan

The Investment Plan, launched in August 2017, outlines the main changes which will be put in place for the 2018 funding round. These include:

  • introducing a new award to support large interdisciplinary projects, worth up to $3 million

  • allowing researchers to apply for follow-on awards to sustain momentum for outstanding research

  • modifying assessment criteria to align more closely with the National Statement of Science Investment (NSSI), including the potential for significant scholarly impact

  • trialling a broader assessment panel structure

  • undertaking additional moderation between panels to ensure the quality and consistency of research selected from all disciplines

  • providing more feedback to institutions and unsuccessful applicants on preliminary proposals, in particular for fast-start applicants.

Further details on the implementation of the Investment Plan were provided to the science community through a series of roadshows around the country.

The Marsden Fund Council is developing a Performance Framework for the fund which will be published later this year.

Marsden Fund Investment Plan [PDF, 842 KB] 

Funding for international partnerships

The Royal Society of New Zealand, on our behalf, administers a number of Catalyst Fund programmes. Information about these programmes can be found on the Royal Society of New Zealand website.

Royal Society of New Zealand website(external link)

The Royal Society also provides expert independent advice to Government and enables the scientific community to have a voice in the national science debate.