Now that non-scientists can win a Rutherford Medal, there’s a good case for changing the name of the award

The Royal Society Te Apārangi has announced that its highest award, the Rutherford Medal for recognition of eminent research, scholarship, or innovation, will now include humanities scholarship in the fields of recognition.  The nomination deadline for this medal (and $100,000 prize money) has been extended to 30 April 2020 to allow time for humanities nominations to be submitted.

Details of the Society’s medals and awards being offered this year can be found HERE.

Whether the Rutherford Medal should now be renamed is an issue raised by AgScience editor Bob Edlin in this article, originally posted on the Point of Order blog.


  Until this year, the Rutherford Medal has been the most prestigious science award the Royal Society of New Zealand can bestow on worthy scientists.

But big changes are being made to the meaning of “science” and the society has proudly announced:

Rutherford Medal now includes humanities

The announcement explains that Royal Society Te Apārangi’s highest award, the Rutherford Medal for recognition of eminent research, scholarship, or innovation, will now include humanities scholarship in the fields of recognition. Continue reading

Plant & Food Research sponsors inaugural Ahuwhenua Trophy competition for horticulture

Plant & Food Research has announced it is a Gold sponsor of the prestigious Ahuwhenua Trophy, Excellence in Māori Horticulture Award 2020. This year marks the first time since its establishment in 1933 that the competition has celebrated outstanding Māori in the horticultural industry.

David Hughes, chief executive of Plant & Food Research, said the competition for decades has alternated between dairy and sheep & beef farming each year.

“We appreciate this timely recognition of Māori contribution to horticulture,” he said.

“We’re particularly delighted to support this event and be part of its legacy because we believe good practices in horticulture are fundamental for us and te hapori whānui to build a smart green future together.” 

Stacey Whitiora, Group GM Māori at Plant & Food Research. said the institute is working towards becoming a meaningful and trusted partner of Māori.

“We’re about promoting prosperity with Māori through weaving Mātauranga Māori and science. It is a privilege for us to sponsor this event.

“We hope by being present ‒ ‘he kanohi kitea (a face that is seen)’ ‒ we can engage with Māori growers and Māori entities with an interest in horticulture to increase our understanding of what we can offer to support them and how we can grow together.” 

Cath Kingston, Operations Manager, Tree Crops, at Plant & Food Research, and Ian Scott, Māori Relationship Manager, will be judges during the competition.

Three finalists will be announced at Parliament on 21 February.

All finalists will receive cash and farm-related prizes up to $30,000.

Final judging will take place in March and April when three field days will be held at the orchard/vegetable garden of each finalist. The winner will be announced on 22 May at the Award dinner in Tauranga and receive a further cash and prize pool up to $70,000.

Source:  Plant & Food Research

Max Suckling updates the NZIAHS on Trimble Award’s role in war on stink bugs

Max Suckling,  was learning to be a bug hunter for a new invasive threat, when AgScience reported in June last year on the NZIAHS grant to him of a Trimble Award to visit colleagues in Italy.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, which had been discovered in this country, was rampaging through horticultural crops in Italy, including apples, pears, kiwifruit, grape vines and corn.

Max is a professor at the University of Auckland and Science Group Leader (Biosecurity) at the NZ Institute for Plant and Food Research (Christchurch).

His projects would gain him practical experience with traps and aggregation pheromone lures for surveillance and suppression, as well as further evaluation of the potential for the sterile insect technique to be used in the event of an incursion into New Zealand. Continue reading

A call to amplify NZIAHS’s voice by teaming up with other ag/hort stakeholders

Tony Brenton-Rule, commenting on the challenge of nominating ag/hort scientists for honours and awards or persuading them to apply for precious research funding, notes that public perception of pastoral agriculture has changed greatly over the last 20+ years.

It began, perhaps, with a previous Prime Minister who incorrectly described agriculture as a sunset industry, he suggests. This observation did considerable harm to the sector, especially its attractiveness to young people looking at their employment opportunities.

Writing from San Antonio, Texas, Tony says:

Now a present Prime Minister has (finally) recognised, in respect to regulatory control of livestock emissions, that the country’s export earnings are based on its biological economy. However, her administration espouses policies that are inimical to the pastoral aspects of it, such as the lavishly tax-payer funded 1 billion trees programme, supported by carbon policies that are causing swathes of productive farmland to be captured by overseas parties with no long term interest in New Zealand’s future; and which impose a monoculture, from which may emerge millions of logs to be exported with zero value-add.

Any of us in the NZIAHS could spell out other aspects of the challenge, from a now five million increasingly urbanised population, an increasing proportion of whom will have little knowledge of the primary sector – (there’s some very interesting detail here: ), to the over-intensification of dairy farming in parts of the country, a self-inflicted wound that is going to be slow to heal.

I think we, collectively, will have to work on this much greater challenge before we’ll see New Zealand’s best ag/hort researchers honoured. 

Is there a role for NZIAHS in this?  Might the Institute usefully talk to others in the sector? 

There are voices who may be interested to hear a research perspective, e.g. BakerAg and the signatories to the recent full page advertisement in New Zealand newspapers concerning the government’s pastoral sector policies. 

I’m not suggesting that NZIAHS enter adversarial politics.  However, I am wondering whether it could play a role in helping to have New Zealand’s primary-sector policies based more on high quality research and less on poorly informed rhetoric.  If yes, then I suggest it might have greater impact by ‘teaming up’ with other stakeholders and adding a science voice to their concerns.

China honours Dr Brent Clothier

Hard on the heels of being named among Science New Zealand’s Lifetime Achievement award winners, Dr Brent Clothier received more good news.

Dr Clothier, principal scientist at Plant and Food Research, is a world-leading soil and water scientist whose work on water footprinting, soil science and climate change has prepared New Zealand’s primary production systems for tomorrow’s challenges.

In January, he was nominated for Academician (Foreign Member) of the Chinese Academy of Engineering (Agricultural Division).

He has just been advised he is one of 29 elected in this 2019 biennial round.

There had been 64 Foreign Academicians already before this biennial year’s 2019 election.

Dr Clothier is the first Kiwi member in the CAE.

The announcement is recorded on (although the Google translator struggles beyond the “Brent” bit of Dr Clothier’s name).

Dr Clothier was nominated by five academicians. This year, nine divisions of CAE recommended 87 candidates for foreign academicians, 29 of whom were finally elected.

He was advised this is a full affirmation of his research achievements, academic level and international influence during his career as well as his achievements in promoting the development of China’s agricultural water management discipline through cooperation and exchanges with Chinese scientists.

A congratulatory email expressed the hope “that will continue to strengthen cooperation and exchanges with Chinese scientists, and make greater contributions to promoting the scientific and technological progress of agricultural water management in China and enhancing the international influence of Chinese scientists!”

Rutherford Foundation early-career researcher fellowships announced

The 2019 Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowships and a Cambridge-Rutherford Memorial PhD Scholarship have been awarded to 11 early-career researchers.

And hurrah for the ag/hort sector – we spotted a Plant and Food Research scientist among the recipients.

The 2019 Postdoctoral Fellows will be exploring a diverse range of research topics, including:

• pathogen-resistant kiwifruit that do not require metal-based pesticides (the ag/hort success);

• metamaterials that could potentially turn every glass window into a transparent solar panel;

• improved earthquake hazard resilience in Aotearoa;

• new methods for producing personalised cancer therapies that enable the patient’s own immune system to search for and destroy cancerous cells. Continue reading

Science New Zealand 2019 National Awards – here’s the full list of winners

How many awards were won at the New Zealand Science awards, announced this week?

Many more than were recorded here yesterday.

We reported the awards won by Plant and Food Research scientists because Plant and Food Research posted its successes on its website and in a news release.

New Zealand Science, of course, represents all the Crown research institutes – AgResearch, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, Plant and Food Research, NIWA, ESR, GNS and Scion.

AgResearch and Manaaki Whenua – presumably – are more modest about their achievements than Plant and Food because our check today found no similar posts about the awards won by their staffs.

On the New Zealand Science website, however, we found an item which congratulates the 21 Category Award Winners and the Supreme Award Winner

… recognised for their outstanding science, which is benefiting New Zealand.   

Here’s the list – Continue reading

Science New Zealand Awards honour Plant & Food Research scientists

A team that has developed a ground-breaking wildfish harvesting system, a leading environmental scientist and an emerging plant geneticist from Plant & Food Research were among the 21 scientists and research teams recognised at Science New Zealand 2018 National Awards at Parliament in Wellington.

Dr Brent Clothier has been presented with the Plant & Food Research Lifetime Achievement Award. As a world-leading soil and water scientist with 44 years of research experience, Dr Clothier has enhanced our understanding of the natural capital that the environment provides to grow our crops and to make informed land use decisions. Continue reading

2020 RHT Bates Scholarship awarded for meat quality measurement research

Abi Thampi, a PhD student in the Department of Physics at the University of Auckland, has been awarded the 2020 RHT Bates Scholarship.

Abi has been awarded the scholarship for his research to develop classification models to measure the quality of meat non-invasively in real time and to detect different types of cancer cells in skin.

The field of non-destructive evaluation and testing comprises many different techniques and approaches. One of these techniques, optical coherence tomography (OCT), enables a fast, purely optical, non-invasive, contact-less and high-resolution imaging of subsurface features at a level of only a few microns. It could be described as a light-based version of ultrasound imaging.

His research aim is to develop classification models for Polarisation Sensitive Optical Coherence Tomography (PS-OCT) that can determine the quality of meat by being able to measure key quality parameters of muscle fibres, such as the percentage of intramuscular fat.

He also seeks to develop predictive models to detect three different types of basal cell carcinoma cancer in skin at its early stages.

The RHT Bates Scholarship was established by Royal Society Te Apārangi in memory of Professor Richard Bates FRSNZ to support interdisciplinary research.

Source:  Royal Society Te Apārangi