Serious cash up for grabs in PM's science prizes

Details just in on the Prime Minister’s newly established science prizes. Check out the website devoted to the prizes here.

The jewel in the crown is the Prime Minister’s Science Prize itself – its worth $500,000 – to an individual or team undertaking breakthrough research in New Zealand. $100,000 goes to the individual or team itself, while $400,000 goes towards their future research programme.

Now let’s put that in perspective – the money involved is sort of like winning the Nobel Prize, considering that most Nobel prizes in the sciences are won by three people these days who spilt the US$1 million between them.  Given the exchange rate at the moment, its like the equivalent of a one-third share in a Nobel – with the big difference being you have to spend the bulk of the cash on future research whereas the Nobel prize winners can spend the money however they want to.

The MacDiarmid Young Scientist prize remains – John Watt from Victoria University strikes gold – he picks up the inaugural prize worth $150,000. He wouldn’t even have known that was available when he applied for the award. He must be beaming today!

Full details below – also good to see a sizeable ($150,000) going towards a science media communication prize…

There will be five categories of prizes:

  • The Prime Minister’s Science Prize – $500,000
  • The Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Young Scientist of the Year Prize – $150,000
  • The Prime Minister’s Future Scientist Prize – $50,000
  • The Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize – $50,000 to the teacher and $100,000 to their school
  • The Prime Minister’s Science Media Communications Prize – $150,000


  1. Grant Jacobs

    It’s wonderful to see these, as recognition of achievement.

    I have thought that they’d better show opportunities for young people wanting to pursue science careers by increasing the overall funding.

    They certainly compare well with the Nobel and other prizes (which are more about fame and recognition than money, of course; those people usually been well-funded for decades!).

    Seeing these are mainly for research spending, a comparison with, say, the amounts awarded for the recent Marsden grants is helpful, I think. My impression is the with the exception of “the big one”, they’re loosely based on a year’s worth of full-cost funding.

    Not being negative, but I hope this is matched by better support for “the rest of us”! The awards are likely to go to people that already have funding, or would likely find in easy to get funding.

    The will give more recognition to science and bring more attention, for sure. They can’t make much of a dent in the overall budget (nor are they aimed at that), although they will likely increase competition at the top end.

    I think that the SMC and the Young Scientist awards are particularly good in that it’ll let them concentrate on their thing a bit more for a year (or so), rather than scrounging around for money, and hence let themselves get established better.

  2. Fabiana Kubke

    isn’t this somewhat contradictory with having science move into the ‘lower tier’ in education standards? Or am I missing something?

  3. Peter Griffin

    Covered that one off drmike… “with the big dif­fer­ence being you have to spend the bulk of the cash on future research whereas the Nobel prize win­ners can spend the money how­ever they want to.”

  4. drmike

    Do the awardees have to spend it on future science research or can they do whatever they like with it like the Nobel prizes.

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