Scientists whose crucial behind-the-scenes work has kept New Zealand on top of Covid-19 have been recognised with a top award.
ESR's Covid-19 team have taken out Science New Zealand's Supreme Award, with judges lauding the quality, relevance and timeliness of their work as the country faced its biggest public health test in more than a century.
At its peak, the team numbered more than 50 people from ESR, including epidemiologists and laboratory technicians, right through to communications specialists and bioinformaticians.
They also worked constantly with colleagues in other parts of the public health system.
While their expertise varied, their sole purpose had been in providing information for critical decisions on how to eliminate and control the spread of the virus.
The team's biggest achievements included developing the New Zealand Covid-19 dashboard, giving health officials quick data and advice right from the first case, creating the country's first Covid-19 test, and genome sequencing every positive local case.
That work continued with new cutting-edge tools to fight Covid-19, ranging from saliva studies for new ways of testing, to screening wastewater samples.
Bioinformatics lead scientist Dr Joep De Ligt said the team always found a way to deliver - because the alternative was not an option.
"A pandemic response in New Zealand was always going to feature ESR strongly because we have the expertise, the systems and the mandate to deliver.
"But something of this scale was always going to throw up challenges and opportunities to improve, to get information faster and to source it from previously unexplored areas.
"Genome sequencing has taken centre stage in the last few months, for which my small team is extremely proud and humbled to be featured, but we are just a few members of a large team who are just as vital to the provision of actionable data.
"Along with our close collaborators we have been working weekends and nights to help keep the team of five million healthy and safe."
Two ESR scientists were recognised individually.
Georgia Bell received the Early Career Award - among several other awards presented to early career researchers at last night's ceremony - while medical director Dr Virginia Hope received an Individual Lifetime Achievement Award.
ESR chief scientist Dr Brett Cowan said communities have always looked to science for the biggest challenges and 2020 has been a shining example.
"Science has the most promise to solve some of our most wicked problems, and 2020 has seen this highlighted in sharp relief with our science organisations coming together to meet the call."
Science New Zealand chief executive Anthony Scott said the ESR team reflected how Crown research institutes fulfilled their mission to benefit New Zealand.
"ESR people and processes are trusted by colleagues and officials in various departments, and by the public.
"They had to deliver data and advice under tremendous pressure and be rigorous on quality."
The awards were judged by the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor Professor Juliet Gerrard, Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment's Dr Prue Williams, and BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope.
Other scientists and institutes recognised last night included long-serving Scion forestry researcher Greg Steward (Individual or Lifetime Achievement Award) and Scion's Geomatics Team (Team Award).