Royal Society emphasises diversity in the naming of 19 new Fellows

Three agricultural-sector scientists and scholars are among the 19 new Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand announced today. The honour recognises true international distinction in research and scholarship.

The society is emphasising the efforts it has taken to to increase the diversity of its Fellows. Professor Gaven Martin FRSNZ, a Vice President of the Society and chair of the Academy, said  university academics, men and people of European descent had been over-represented in previous Fellowship selections.

“We sought to address this by encouraging a more diverse pool of excellent candidates for nomination to Fellowship. We updated selection criteria and ran workshops on bias to ensure no one was disadvantaged. We are especially pleased that this approach has resulted in a more diverse group of new Fellows – selected entirely on merit -which is more representative of our community of researchers and scholars.”

The new Fellows include a majority of females (10 out of the 19), two Fellows from Crown Research Institutes, one Fellow from a private research organisation, two Fellows with Māori ethnicity and one with Asian ethnicity.

The group also includes the first female mathematician to be made a Fellow, Professor Hinke Osinga from the University of Auckland.

Professor Martin said the society would  build on this and continue to seek “best practice” to ensure diversity within all of its activities.

“We certainly do not see this positive result as a case of ‘problem solved’ but rather it provides evidence that positive change can be achieved by diligence.”

The society is also contributing to a national working group for diversity and equity issues for the New Zealand research community.

The new Fellows include:

Professor Hong Di, Lincoln University, who has led pioneering research into nitrate leaching and nitrous oxide emissions from intensive dairying systems, leading to mitigation technologies.

His research has significantly improved understanding of the role of bacteria and archaea in nitrogen cycling. He is recognised internationally for his work on nitrification inhibitors which contributes to the development of innovative environmental technologies to mitigate nitrate leaching and nitrous oxide emissions.

Dr Skelte Anema, Fonterra Research and Development Centre, who is an expert in the interactions between milk proteins under different physical and chemical conditions.

Dr Anema has been the lead chemist in a number of multidisciplinary teams that have solved difficult product problems and developed new products. He is  the author of six patents describing innovative dairy technologies, covering milk protein concentrates, process cheese and yoghurt.

Dr Jenny Juengel, an AgResearch scientist, whose research effort has focussed primarily on understanding how genetic mutations in sheep have influenced their reproductive outcomes. A major outcome of her research is the identification of a major cell responsible for advancing or inhibiting fertility.

Her work has  helped to explain why some species have large litters and others are restricted to only one to three offspring. This has led to the development of five patents.

The Society also announced the election of two Honorary Fellows, aimed at encouraging strong ties with leading international scientists and scholars and New Zealand’s research community. One of these was…

Professor Grant Montgomery, University of Queensland, who has pioneered genomic methods for production trait identification in farm animals and contributed to worldwide genome mapping for complex diseases, leading to breakthroughs in important diseases like endometriosis.

He completed a PhD from Massey University, held appointments at AgResearch and University of Otago and continues to collaborate with research groups in New Zealand.

Professor Montgomery entified mutations in two twinning genes in sheep, which is the basis for genetic tests byGenomNZ™.

A full list of new Fellows can be found here.

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