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New Zealand’s University of Otago celebrates Marsden Fund success

January 15, 2019

University of Otago researchers are celebrating their most successful Marsden Fund round ever, securing $28.5 million (excluding GST) for 41 world-class research projects.

In total, the Marsden Fund, which supports excellence in leading-edge research in New Zealand has this year allocated $85.6 million (excluding GST) for 136 research projects throughout the country. There has been an increase in the number of grants awarded to early-career researchers from 49 to 53 nationally.

Comments Professor Richard Blaikie, deputy vice-chancellor University of Otago, “This is a significant achievement for Otago researchers as there is huge competition for the funding with applications usually coming from the country’s eight universities, seven Crown Research Institutes and about 20 other separate private and public-sector organisations.”

Last year University of Otago researchers received around $24 million for 33 projects.

“We are very proud that Otago has received the largest number of Marsden Fund awards ever, with the largest value,” Professor Blaikie says.

“This is testament to the exceptionally hard work put in by research and professional staff to ensure their world-leading research ideas are expressed in the most compelling way possible.”

The Otago research is broad and varied.  Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne will receive $827,000 for her research into how judicial instructions and questions influence jurors. The project’s goal is to develop better processes to help juries fulfil their role of evaluating the evidence before them, and of using that evidence to reach a just verdict.

Palaeontologist Professor Ewan Fordyce has received $928,000 to further investigate a “global dark age” in whale evolution.  Professor Fordyce says there is a puzzling gap in cetacean history about 23-20 million years ago when the global fossil record is nearly silent.  Zealandia is one of the few places globally that can provide the evidence needed to plug the gap. Preliminary fieldwork in the South Island has recovered unprepared fossils of the right age and he proposes further investigations as part of his project.

Professor Blaikie says “Marsden Fund awards represent the pinnacle of excellence and some of the most academically challenging problems in their fields.”

“The knowledge that is discovered will solve longstanding problems in many cases and will go on to be applied for commercial, social or environmental benefit,” he says.

Projects are selected annually in a rigorous process by ten panels who are guided by the opinions of world-leading, international researchers. It is administered by the Royal Society Te Apārangi and funded by the New Zealand government.

The grants are distributed over three years and are fully costed paying for salaries, students and postdoctoral positions, institutional overheads and research consumables.

Professor Blaikie says teaching and training of the next generations of practitioners and researchers will also benefit greatly from engagement with the outstanding research leaders who have been awarded these grants.

Education New Zealand (ENZ) is New Zealand’s government agency for international education. ENZ works to grow awareness of New Zealand as a study destination and to support New Zealand education providers and businesses to take their services and products abroad.

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