$54.6 million for researchers

A total of 86 research projects have been allocated $54.6 million of funding in this year’s Marsden Fund grants.

The Marsden Fund is regarded as a hallmark of excellence, allowing New Zealand’s best researchers to explore their ideas. It supports projects in the sciences, technology, engineering, maths, social sciences and the humanities. The fund is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the government.

Highlights from the 2012 funding round include projects that will give answers to the questions: “how handedness manifests in the brain?”; “how does ozone influence our weather?”; “could anti-hormone therapy inadvertently fuel cancer?”; “can we understand criminal minds?” and “can things become invisible?”. These research questions are only five of the hundreds addressed by the 86 projects funded this year.

Marsden Fund Council chairperson Professor Juliet Gerrard is extremely impressed with the excellent quality of the applicants and the proposals across the entire range of academic disciplines.

“The Marsden Fund supports the very best investigators to do world class basic research.  Marsden lets our brightest investigators work on their best ideas, without worrying about short term priorities.  Many of these ideas are high risk, but potentially very high gain.  In the long term, we expect some of these projects to make a big difference to New Zealand, in terms of economic growth, social issues, and a wider understanding of who we are as New Zealanders."

“It is widely accepted worldwide that the most important breakthroughs are made when the best researchers are funded to work on their most exciting ideas.  This is what makes the Marsden Fund so vital for the long term success of New Zealand and makes Marsden researchers such an inspiring community."

“The huge enthusiasm of New Zealand researchers to engage in basic research means the Fund is always oversubscribed and it is a great pity that we are not able to fund more of these obviously worthy proposals, which have been ranked by international referees as the very best in their fields.  However, it is great to be able to fund such a wide variety of projects from across the country and the academic spectrum and know that they are all of exceptionally high quality.  New Zealand produces researchers that are of the very highest calibre and their Marsden-funded research is highly respected internationally.”

The Marsden Fund uses a two-stage process to assess the proposals received every year from researchers at New Zealand universities, Crown Research Institutes and private research organisations.

Applications to the Marsden Fund are extremely competitive. Of the 1113 preliminary proposals received, 229 were asked to submit a full proposal with 86 ultimately funded, giving a success rate of 7.7%. All of the funded proposals are for three years.

More than a third of the proposals funded are Marsden Fast-Starts, which are designed to support outstanding researchers early in their careers, 0 to 7 years after their PhD. The Fast-Start grants are intended to help young researchers establish themselves within New Zealand and are expected to have long term benefits for the range of capabilities, skills and knowledge in the country