Most scientific research in New Zealand is funded by the government, principally by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. The Cawthron Institute at Nelson, established in 1919, conducts research in chemistry, biology, and environmental and marine studies. New Zealand has 20 other institutes conducting research in agriculture, veterinary science, medicine, and general sciences and 17 universities and technical institutes offering degrees in basic and applied sciences. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 20% of college and university enrollments. Among New Zealand's 42 scientific and technical learned societies, the most prominent is the Royal Society of New Zealand, founded in 1867.
In 1987–97, research and development expenditures totaled1.04% of GNP; 1,663 scientists and engineers and 809 technicians per million people were engaged in research and development.