Jump to content

Royal Society Te Apārangi

Coordinates: 41°16′26″S 174°46′45″E / 41.27389°S 174.77917°E / -41.27389; 174.77917
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Royal Society Te Apārangi
Formation1867; 157 years ago (1867)
TypeIndependent statutory organisation
Headquarters11 Turnbull Street, Thorndon, Wellington 6011, New Zealand
Coordinates41°16′26″S 174°46′45″E / 41.27389°S 174.77917°E / -41.27389; 174.77917
More than 400 Fellows
Brent Clothier[1]

The Royal Society Te Apārangi (in full, Royal Society of New Zealand) is a not-for-profit body in New Zealand providing funding and policy advice in the fields of sciences and the humanities. These fundings are provided on behalf of the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.


The Royal Society of New Zealand was founded in 1867 as the New Zealand Institute, a successor to the New Zealand Society, which had been founded by Sir George Grey in 1851.[2] The institute, established by the New Zealand Institute Act 1867, was an apex organisation in science, with the Auckland Institute, the Wellington Philosophical Society, the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, and the Westland Naturalists' and Acclimatization Society as constituents. It later included the Otago Institute and other similar organisations. The Colonial Museum (later to become Te Papa), which had been established two years earlier, in 1865, was granted to the New Zealand Institute.[when?]

Publishing transactions and proceedings was one of the institute's initial functions.

James Hector was the manager of the institute and Director of the Colonial Museum and Geological Survey from 1867 until his retirement in 1903.[3]

In 1933, the Institute's name was changed to Royal Society of New Zealand, in reference to the Royal Society of London,[2][4] a move requiring royal assent and a subsequent Act of Parliament.[5] In 2010, the organisation's remit was expanded to include the social sciences and the humanities.[6]

In 2007, Te Apārangi (Māori for 'group of experts') was added to its name, and in 2017, its sesquicentenary, this was shortened to Royal Society Te Apārangi. Its legal name, as defined in legislation, remains Royal Society of New Zealand.[7]


Constituted under the Royal Society of New Zealand Act 1997 (amended in 2012), the society exists to:[8]

  1. Foster in the New Zealand community a culture that supports science and technology, including (without limitation): (i) The promotion of public awareness, knowledge, and understanding of science and technology; and (ii) The advancement of science and technology education,
  2. Encourage, promote, and recognise excellence in science and technology,
  3. Provide an infrastructure and other support for the professional needs and development of scientists and technologists,
  4. Provide expert advice on important public issues to the Government and the community,
  5. Do all other lawful things which the Council considers conducive to the advancement and promotion of science and technology in New Zealand.

It is a federation of 49 scientific and technological organisations and several affiliate organisations, and also has individual members.


The Society's activities include:

  • Science funding – as a non-political funding distribution agency for government funding, particularly in science research and science education. The Society administers the contestable Marsden fund for 'blue skies' research. Since 2010 the Society has run the annual Rutherford Discovery Fellowships, supporting ten early to mid-career researchers for a five year term.[9] In 2021 a one-off round of thirty post-doctoral fellowships, the MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowships, was announced, to be administered by the Society.[10] From 1996 to 2023, the Society administered the James Cook Research Fellowship.[11] After 2023, both the Rutherford Discovery Fellowships and the James Cook Research Fellowships were replaced by the MBIE-administered New Zealand Mana Tūārangi Distinguished Researcher Fellowships.[12]
  • Publishingpeer-reviewed journals such as NZ Journal of Botany and NZ Journal of Zoology
  • Meetings and seminars – most local branches and constituent scientific and technological organisations run seminar series of some description; the Society promotes these and coordinates touring international lecturers
  • Awards and medals – including:
    • Rutherford Medal (formerly the Gold Medal) – awarded annually for exceptional contributions to the advancement and promotion of public awareness, knowledge and understanding in addition to eminent research or technological practice by a person or group in any field of science, mathematics, social science, or technology
    • Fleming Award – awarded triennially to recognise protection of New Zealand's environment[13]
    • Hector Medal – awarded annually for outstanding work in chemical, physical or mathematical and information sciences by a researcher in New Zealand
    • Hutton Medal – Earth, plant and animal sciences award for outstanding work by a researcher in New Zealand, awarded annually.
    • Pickering Medal – awarded annually to recognise people who have made outstanding contributions to New Zealand society and culture in science, mathematics, social science, and technology.
    • Te Rangi Hiroa Medal – awarded for work in social sciences.
    • Humanities Aronui Medal - awarded annually for "research or innovative work of outstanding merit in the Humanities".[14]
  • Science education – promotes quality science education and plays a role in setting the national science curriculum

The Society administers the Prime Minister's Science Prizes.[15]

As part of its 150th anniversary celebrations, the Society published a series of 150 biographies of women who had contributed to knowledge in New Zealand, called "150 women in 150 words".[16]

Statement on climate change[edit]

On 10 July 2008, the Society released a statement on climate change that said, in summary:

The globe is warming because of increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Measurements show that greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are well above levels seen for many thousands of years. Further global climate changes are predicted, with impacts expected to become more costly as time progresses. Reducing future impacts of climate change will require substantial reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.[17]


In 2021, a report by a working group appointed by the New Zealand government proposed changes to the school curriculum to ensure indigenous knowledge (or mātauranga Māori) was given the same status as Western science.[18][19] In response to this report, seven prominent academics co-authored a letter "In Defence of Science" to the current affairs magazine New Zealand Listener. The letter claimed mātauranga Māori falls "short of what can be defined as science itself", and that placing indigenous knowledge on the same level of science would patronise and fail indigenous populations. Instead, they proposed ensuring that everyone had the opportunity to participate in the world's scientific enterprises.[20]

The Royal Society's response was to launch an investigation into two of the co-authors of the letter, who happened to be fellows of the Society.[21] This investigation was criticised by several others fellows, who threatened to resign if they were disciplined. University of Auckland literature professor Brian Boyd criticised what he described as the "knee jerk" reaction to the Listener letter and described the view that mātauranga Māori be protected and only transmitted by Māori as contrary to the principles of universities and the Royal Society. Massey University chemistry professor Peter Schwerdtfeger criticised the Royal Society's investigation as shameful and urged them to be open to debate and discussion. New Zealand Free Speech Union spokesperson Jonathan Ayling argued that the pursuit of science depends on free speech and accused the Royal Society of "abandoning its own heritage and tradition of academic freedom."[21]


The list below shows all presidents of the Royal Society of New Zealand, known as the New Zealand Institute from 1867 to 1933, and since 2017 as the Royal Society Te Apārangi.[22]

Presidents of the Royal Society of New Zealand
Name Dates Field of expertise
Frederick Hutton 1904–05
James Hector 1906–07
G. M. Thomson 1907–09
Augustus Hamilton 1909–11
Thomas Cheeseman 1911–13
Charles Chilton 1913–15
Donald Petrie 1915–16
William Benham 1916–18 zoology
Leonard Cockayne 1918–20
Thomas Easterfield 1920–22
Harry Kirk 1922–24 biology
Patrick Marshall 1924–26
Bernard Aston 1926–28
Allan Thomson 1928 geology
Bernard Aston 1928–29
Coleridge Farr 1929–31
Hugh Segar 1931–33
Robert Speight 1933–35
William Williams 1935–37
William Percival Evans 1937–39
John Holloway 1939–41 botany
Gilbert Archey 1941–43
Harry Allan 1943–45
Noel Benson 1945–47
Ernest Marsden 1947
Robert Falla 1947–50
Frank Callaghan 1950–52
Walter Oliver 1952–54
David Miller 1954–56 entomology
Bob Briggs 1956–58 chemistry
Robin Allan 1958–60
Joseph Dixon 1960–62
Charles Fleming 1962–64 ornithology
Miles Barnett 1964
Charles Fleming 1964–66 ornithology
John Miles 1966–70 microbiology
Dick Willett 1970–74
Malcolm Burns 1974–77
Richard Dell 1977–81
Ted Bollard 1981–85
Trevor Hatherton 1985–89
Jack Dodd 1989–93
Philippa Black 1993–97
John Scott 1997–2000
Gil Simpson 2000–2003
Jim Watson 2004–2006 biology
Neville Jordan 2006–2009
Garth Carnaby 2009–2012
David Skegg 2012–2015
Richard Bedford 2015–2018 human geography
Wendy Larner 2018–2021
Brent Clothier 2021–present


The Academy Executive Committee of the Society from time to time elects as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand any person who in its opinion "has achieved distinction in research or the advancement of science, technology or the humanities."[23] The number of Fellows is limited to such number as is agreed from time to time between the Academy Executive Committee and the Council of the Society. A Fellow is entitled to use, in connection with his or her name, either the letters FRSNZ, which stand for Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, or such other letters or title as is agreed from time to time between the Academy Executive Committee and the Council. The first female fellow, Kathleen Curtis, was elected in 1936.[24][25]

Chief executive[edit]

Di McCarthy was Chief Executive from 2007 to 2014.[26] Andrew Cleland led from 2014 until his retirement in 2021.[27] Cindy Kiro was appointed Chief Executive from 1 March 2021.[28] In July 2021 it was announced that Paul Atkins, Chief Executive of Zealandia, will be taking over from Cindy Kiro on 29 November.

Constituent organisations[edit]

The Society has both individual and organisational members. Constituent Organisations help the Society identify and address issues relevant to the research, knowledge and innovation sectors, and link into the research information and activities that the Society undertakes. These constituent organisations are:

  • Association for Women in the Sciences
  • Association of Social Anthropologists of Aotearoa/New Zealand
  • Australasian Association of Philosophy
  • Australian and New Zealand Optical Society
  • Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology (NZ branch)
  • Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists (NZ Section)(ASCEPT)
  • Geoscience Society of New Zealand
  • Meteorological Society of New Zealand
  • New Zealand Archaeological Association
  • New Zealand Association of Scientists
  • New Zealand Ecological Society
  • New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society
  • New Zealand Geographical Society
  • New Zealand Geothermal Association
  • New Zealand Historical Association
  • New Zealand Hydrological Society
  • New Zealand Institute of Agricultural & Horticultural Science
  • New Zealand Institute of Chemistry
  • New Zealand Institute of Economic Research
  • New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology
  • New Zealand Institute of Physics
  • New Zealand Marine Sciences Society
  • New Zealand Mathematical Society
  • New Zealand Microbiological Society
  • New Zealand Plant Protection Society
  • New Zealand Political Studies Association/Te Kahui Tatai Torangapu o Aotearoa
  • New Zealand Psychological Society
  • New Zealand Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • New Zealand Society for Parasitology
  • New Zealand Society of Endocrinology
  • New Zealand Society of Plant Biologists (NZSPB)
  • New Zealand Society of Soil Science
  • New Zealand Statistical Association
  • Nutrition Society of New Zealand
  • Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia
  • Physiological Society of New Zealand
  • Population Association of New Zealand
  • Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand
  • Sociological Association of Aotearoa NZ SAANZ
  • The Ornithological Society of New Zealand Inc. Te Kāhui Mātai Manu o Aotearoa

Regional Constituent Organisations[edit]

Regional Constituent Organisations (branches) are geographical constituents and include:[29]

  • Auckland Museum Institute (formerly the Auckland Institute),[30] the membership body of Auckland War Memorial Museum
  • Hawkes Bay Branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand
  • Nelson Science Society[31]
  • Otago Institute for the Arts and Sciences[32]
  • Royal Society of New Zealand Canterbury Branch
  • Royal Society of New Zealand Manawatu Branch Incorporated (formerly the 'Manawatu Philosophical Society'[33])
  • Royal Society of New Zealand Rotorua Branch
  • Royal Society of New Zealand Wellington Branch (formerly the 'Wellington Philosophical Society'[34])
  • The Waikato Branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand
  • Wanaka Branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand

Affiliate Organisations[edit]

The Society includes Affiliate Organisations that cover a diversity of disciplines, including policy, science education and the museum sector:

  • Otago Museum
  • Environmental Protection Authority
  • House of Science (HoS NZ Charitable Trust)
  • International Institute of Refrigeration (NZ National Cttee)
  • Medical Research Institute of New Zealand
  • Motu Economic and Public Policy Research
  • National Science-Technology Roadshow Trust
  • New Zealand Association of Economists
  • New Zealand Association Impact Assessment
  • Statistics Research Associates Ltd
  • Te Manawa: Science Centre/Manawatu Museum
  • Water New Zealand


  1. ^ "President-Elect – Brent Clothier". Royal Society Te Apārangi. 9 July 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Papers Past — Evening Post — 26 May 1933 — A Lead Wanted". Paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 26 May 1933. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  3. ^ A. H. McLintock, ed. (1966). "Royal Society: Foundation". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Government Printer. ISBN 978-0-478-18451-8. Retrieved 30 January 2019 – via Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
  4. ^ "Papers Past — Evening Post — 2 June 1933 — What's in a Name?". Paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 2 June 1933. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  5. ^ "Papers Past — Evening Post — 18 May 1933 — Prefix "Royal"". Paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 18 May 1933. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  6. ^ "Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill 210-2 (2010), Private Bill – New Zealand Legislation". Legislation.govt.nz. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  7. ^ "Our Name". Royal Society Te Apārangi. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  8. ^ "Royal Society of New Zealand Act 1997". New Zealand Legislation. Retrieved 28 October 2023.
  9. ^ "About Rutherford Discovery Fellowships". Royal Society Te Apārangi. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  10. ^ "MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowship | Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment". www.mbie.govt.nz. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  11. ^ "Search James Cook Fellowship awards 1996–2017". Royal Society Te Apārangi. Retrieved 27 October 2023.
  12. ^ MBIE (23 September 2023). "Valuing our people".
  13. ^ "Charles Fleming Award for Environmental Achievement". Royal Society of New Zealand. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  14. ^ "Humanities Aronui Medal". Royal Society Te Aparangi. 2023. Archived from the original on 7 June 2023. Retrieved 16 November 2023.
  15. ^ "The Prime Minister's Science Prizes". Retrieved 12 November 2015. The Prime Minister's Science Prizes is administered by The Royal Society of New Zealand. [sic]
  16. ^ "150 Women in 150 Words". Royal Society Te Apārangi. Retrieved 1 May 2021.
  17. ^ "Climate change statement from the Royal Society of New Zealand". The Royal Society of New Zealand. 1 July 2008. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  18. ^ "Seven planned changes to strengthen NCEA". NCEA Education. Ministry of Education. Archived from the original on 16 January 2022. Retrieved 16 January 2022.
  19. ^ "Change 2 – Equal status for mātauranga Māori in NCEA". NCEA Education. Ministry of Education. Archived from the original on 20 May 2021. Retrieved 16 January 2022.
  20. ^ Kendall Clements, Garth Cooper, Michael Corballis, Doug Elliffe, Robert Nola, Elizabeth Rata, and John Werry. “In Defence of Science.” New Zealand Listener, 31 July 2021. p.4. The text of their letter was republished online at 'In Defence of Science Article', with a claim of permission
  21. ^ a b Sachdeva, Sam (18 November 2021). "Royal Society investigation into mātauranga Māori letter sparks academic debate". Newsroom. Archived from the original on 17 November 2021. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  22. ^ "Presidents". Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi. Retrieved 14 August 2020.
  23. ^ "Royal Society of New Zealand Act 1997". New Zealand Council Office. 1997.
  24. ^ Royal Society of New Zealand Act 1997, Section 10.
  25. ^ "Our history". Royal Society Te Apārangi. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  26. ^ "Marlborough scientist Dr Dianne McCarthy becomes Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit". Stuff. 5 June 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  27. ^ "Poroporoaki farewell to Chief Executive Dr Andrew Cleland". Royal Society Te Apārangi. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  28. ^ "Professor Cynthia Kiro Appointed As Ahorangi Chief Executive For Royal Society Te Apārangi". www.scoop.co.nz. 9 October 2020. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  29. ^ "Regional Constituent Organisations « Membership « Royal Society of New Zealand". Royalsociety.org.nz. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  30. ^ "About the Institute – Auckland Museum New Zealand". Auckland War Memorial Museum. Retrieved 21 January 2022.
  31. ^ "Nelson Science Society". Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  32. ^ "Home". Otagoinstitute.otago.ac.nz. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  33. ^ "Royal Society of New Zealand (Manawatu Branch)". The Community Archive. 2 June 2009. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  34. ^ "Wellington Philosophical Society". The Community Archive. 2 June 2009. Retrieved 18 June 2013.

External links[edit]