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SMC: Marsden Fund awards $84m

Marsden Fund awards $84m

A total of 133 research projects have been funded in the latest round of the Marsden Fund, for a total of $84.6 million.

The Fund received a boost in the 2016 Budget of an additional $66m over four years; that allowed more projects to be funded - up from 117 last year and 92 in 2015 - and increased the success rate from 10.7% last year to 12% this year.

The number of Māori Principal Investigators of successful proposals also rose from 5.9% last year to 9.1% this year, which Marsden Fund Council Chair Professor Juliet Gerrard said was "especially pleasing".

University of Auckland's Associate Professor Nicola Gaston said it was "fantastic" to see the anticipated increase in success rates deliver.

"Success rates remain low, however, and the increase in research funding to OECD averages promised by the new governmentcannot come soon enough."

Dr Gaston said that the Marsden Fund continued to "hold itself to account and report carefully on gender and ethnic equity". "This demonstration of best practice should make the Fund a worth target of that promised increase."

Professor Shaun Hendy, director of Te Pūnaha Matatini, said the current round was the largest number of Marsden projects awarded in one year and one of the highest success rates since 2003. "This is due to the largest real increase in funding since the Marsden Fund was created".

"It is also pleasing that this large increase in funding didn’t simply lead to more proposals being submitted, which would have lowered the success rate and increased the burden across the sector."

The SMC gathered expert reaction on the funding results. Full results of the 2017 round are available on the Royal Society Te Apārangi website.

"The fact that we can see these planets around small stars now gives us hope that we can make real progress into finding more of these and working out how many there are.

"It feels a little bit like the tip of an iceberg."

UK-based New Zealand astronomer Dr Daniel Bayliss on
the discovery of a "monster planet" orbiting a dwarf star.

Scientists' association awards
The New Zealand Association of Scientists presented their annual awards in Wellington this week, honouring some of the country's top researchers.

The Association's science communication medal was renamed in honour of botanist Lucy Cranwell (1907 - 2000; pictured) who during a long career spanning much of the 20th century developed a reputation as an engaging science communicator.

Victoria University of Wellington's Dr Ocean Mercier was awarded the Cranwell Medal; she is widely known as the presenter of Project Mātauranga and has also contributed to public communication of science through blending science and mātauranga.

Professor Christian Hartinger from the University of Auckland won the Hill Tinsley Medal for his work in medicinal bioinorganic, bioanalytical and bioorganomettalic chemistry, especially in the area of developing metal-based anticancer drugs.

The Shorland Medal for major contribution to basic or applied research was awarded to a team of researchers, led by Professor Alistair Gunn at the University of Auckland.

The Fetal Physiology and Neuroscience Team has made a huge contribution to researching the major causes of death and disability in early childhood, including a series of experimental studies that helped understand when and how cooling can be used to reduce brain damage in babies.

The top prize, the Marsden Medal, awarded for a lifetime of outstanding service, was presented to Emeritus Professor Carolyn Burns from the University of Otago. Her research into freshwater ecology, especially in the large lakes of the South Island has international renown. She told the association at the awards night that one of her papers was still cited about 10 times a year, 50 years after it was published.

Read the full awards round-up on Sciblogs.

Policy news & developments

Oysters still clear: The latest testing of the Bluff wild oyster fishery has shown no signs of the parasite Bonamia ostreae.

Eyes out for rust: The Ministry for Primary Industries is encouraging people to keep an eye out for myrtle rust, which is expected to produce yellow, powdery spores as the weather warms through late spring and summer.

Pay deal lifts wages: The impact of the care and support workers' pay equity settlement has already been seen in the latest labour market statistics, with the highest annual increase since 2012.

Court dismisses climate case: The High Court has dismissed a legal bid to seek a judicial review into New Zealand's climate change pledges, but acknowledged need for action on the issue.

Video workshops head South
The Science Media Centre will take its popular science video making workshops to Christchurch and Dunedin next month, offering more researchers the chance to get science video savvy.
These Science Media SAVVY workshops focus on giving scientists the tools and skills to communicate their research in 90-second videos aimed at an online audience and leveraging platforms like Youtube and Vimeo and news websites like Stuff and Herald Online.

Video production expert Baz Caitcheon will give hands-on training in making the most of smartphones and video editing apps, shooting footage and developing a video concept.

Plus, in the weeks following the workshop, Baz will mentor you to help you on the path to producing your first science video.

The Christchurch and Dunedin workshops are free to attend, but limited to 15 places – university and CRI researchers get top priority.
• Christchurch: Wednesday, November 22 9.30am – 1pm
• Dunedin: Thursday, November 23, 9am – 1pm
This is a competitive application process – the best applicants will be selected based on the video concepts outlined in the application form. Applications close November 15.
Find more information and how to apply on the SMC website.

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