12 more Rutherford Discovery Fellowships announced (and these will be the last)

It looked suspiciously like “news”- at least to most people – that the Rutherford Foundation Post-doctoral Fellowship scheme is ending.

This news was somewhat camouflaged within a Royal Society of New Zealand press release headed Rutherford Discovery Fellowship Tops 23 Years With 12 New Fellows

The statement starts with some history:

Established in 2010, the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship has been supporting some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most promising early-to mid-career researchers as they secure and accelerate their research careers and contribute to our country’s research, science and innovation system.

Next, it advises that the fellowship soon will be no more:

In its final year, the Fellowship has awarded 12 outstanding recipients with $800,000 each over the next five years to carry out their specialist research programme.

The Rutherford Discovery Fellowship scheme receives government funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to the amount of $8 million per annum. This is managed and administered on behalf of the government by Royal Society Te Apārangi.

For 2023, the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship recipients include:

Natalia Yewdall, University of Canterbury, Enhancing enzyme networks in condensates for carbon capture and sustainable synthesis

Elizabeth Macpherson, University of Canterbury, Blue Carbon Futures in Aotearoa New Zealand: Law, Climate, Resilience

Tom Logan, University of Canterbury, Incorporating cascading risk and multiple uncertainties into climate adaptation planning

Emma Sharp, University of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand’s diverse soil values: Examining the ontological politics of soil ‘management’ from the ground up.

The press statement says that from 2024, the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment will support future leaders in research, science and innovation through the three  Tāwhia te Mana Research Fellowships schemes, which will replace the Rutherford Discovery, Rutherford Foundation and James Cook Fellowships.

More information on the new Rutherford Discovery Fellows and statistics about the funding round is available at royalsociety.org.nz/RDFs.

AgScience can’t say the decision to shake Lord Rutherford’s name out of  the country’s science funding systems (a decision made by whom?) has not been reported previously.

We found an item  on the Research Professional News website headed Rutherford fellowships set to end

Dated July 17, this said:

No replacement for the Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship scheme has been announced; however, there are plans to introduce new fellowship schemes.

An AgScience web search – admittedly not thorough – found no similar reports in New Zealand media and no announcement on the government’s official website.

But fair to say, the MBIE website a month ago posted…  

New initiatives to grow future research leaders for Aotearoa New Zealand

MBIE has today announced details of enhanced research fellowships and a new applied doctorate scheme to grow more future leaders of research, science and innovation in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“Creating a range of opportunities, particularly for those at the early stages of their research careers, is critical to the performance and sustainability of Aotearoa New Zealand’s research, science and innovation system,” says MBIE General Manager Science System Investment and Performance Danette Olsen.

“These new initiatives will support hundreds of future leaders in research, science and innovation over the next decade and for years to come.”

The Aotearoa New Zealand Tāwhia te Mana Research Fellowships include 3 schemes that will replace the Rutherford Discovery, Rutherford Foundation and James Cook Fellowships from 2024.

      • New Zealand Mana Tūāpapa Future Leader Fellowship – for early-career researchers looking to build their reputation within their field.
      • New Zealand Mana Tūānuku Research Leader Fellowship – for mid-career researchers making the transition to research leaders.
      • New Zealand Mana Tūārangi Distinguished Researcher Fellowship – for senior researchers to extend beyond their own careers and make contributions that benefit the wider research, science and innovation system.

MBIE’s applied doctorates scheme will also start in 2024. This initiative aims to prepare more students for a wide range of careers across the research, science and innovation sector by building strong partnerships between academia, industry, iwi and research organisations.



Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog