Honouring Excellence

Core to the mission of the Royal Society of New South Wales is its role in the fostering, recognition, and honouring of achievement and excellence. It does so through its Awards and Fellowship Programs.

Distinguished Fellowship

The honour of Distinguished Fellow  of the Royal Society of New South Wales is awarded to internationally-distinguished contributors to science, art, literature, or philosophy. The criteria for election as a Distinguished Fellow are listed in Rule 11 of the Society's Rules. The number of Distinguished Fellows, who may use the gazetted postnominal DistRFSN, is limited to 25 at any time. 

There is a separate page that recognises the late Distinguished Fellows of the Society. 


The membership category of Fellow recognises the substantial contribution made by members of the Society who are leaders in their fields within the disciplines of science, art, literature, and philosophy.  Candidates for Fellowship may be proposed by any Member or Fellow of the Society.  Nominations are considered by the Fellows and Members Assessment Committee against criteria defined in Rule 10 of the Society's Rules.  Fellows may use the gazetted postnominal FRSN

 The Fellows page on this website lists all active Fellows of the Society and provides brief biographical information about each.

Royal Society of NSW Awards

The Royal Society of New South Wales has long recognised distinguished achievements in various fields of knowledge through its Awards. Some are amongst the oldest in Australia while others are more recent. From its Act of Incorporation in 1881, the Society’s mission has been to encourage “studies and investigations in Science, Art, Literature and Philosophy”. In 2023, the Society determined to broaden and streamline its Awards portfolio to recognise recent and evolving fields and disciplines, and emerging as well as established stars.

From 2023, the Society's Awards are made in two main classes reflecting the Society’s history: Career Excellence Medals and Disciplinary Awards and Medals; with additional Awards, Scholarships and Citations, including Internal Awards for distinguished service to the Society. External nominations are most welcome for all but the Internal and Discretionary Awards which are determined by the Council of the Society. Conditions and nomination forms are listed on each Award’s individual webpage, on which some guidance notes are provided.

Nominations for all available Awards open on 1 July each year and close on 30 September. Awardees are announced by the end of that calendar year with formal presentations of their Awards in the following year. All nominations require a nominator, a seconder, and the acceptance of the nominee.

Information about historical Awards and their winners prior to 2023 are available from this link.

Act and Rules

The Royal Society of New South Wales traces its origins to The Philosophical Society of Australasia, established in 1821. Subsequently, the Philosophical Society became inactive but was revived in 1850 as The Australian Philosophical Society and was known by that name until 1856, when its name was changed to The Philosophical Society of New South Wales. In 1866, Queen Victoria granted Royal Assent to the Society and it assumed its present name. The Society was incorporated by an Act of the Parliament of New South Wales in 1881.

Rules and By-laws were published at the time of the granting of Royal Assent. Revisions to these were published in 1870, 1875/6, 1900, 1912, 1943, 1968 and 2003, with subsequent minor amendments.

In 2020, the Council undertook a major review of the Rules and By-laws, to remove inconsistencies and to update them, given advances in technology since 2003 and the significant increase in membership of the Society following the introduction of the new Fellow membership grade in 2014. These Rules (incorporating the By-laws) were approved by the membership of the Society at the Ordinary General Meeting held on 9 December 2020.

In February 2023 and April 2024, the Council recommended minor changes to the Rules to ensure they continued to meet the needs of the Society and its members and to reflect contemporary governance practice. In accordance with Rule 32, the recommended changes were put to members, with voting conducted by electronic ballot. The current Rules took effect from noon on 15 April 2024 having been confirmed at the Annual General Meeting held on 17 April 2024.

The current Act of Incorporation and the Rules are shown here: Act and Rules (PDF).

Society Policies

In accordance with Rule 29, the Council of the Society may from time-to-time formulate policies on any relevant subject matter and publish these on the website.

The current policies are listed below:

Strategic Plan

The Royal Society of NSW is an inclusive learned institution that encompasses a diverse group of people who are dedicated to ideas that matter. It draws together people who span and cross a wide range of disciplines and knowledge, creates a focus for sharing and applying expertise, and delivers an independent and authoritative voice. Valuing the notion of the public intellectual, the Society encourages its Members and Fellows to speak out on important issues that shape the future of NSW and the nation. It is a collegiate enterprise, providing a meeting place for people with common interests in advancing knowledge and contributing to a better future.

The 2021-23 Strategic Plan of the Society, approved by the Council on 4 February 2021, builds upon the directions of previous plans while also responding to the imperatives of today’s upheavals. The plan articulates an inclusive and progressive vision, refines the mission, and sharpens the initiatives required to enhance the relevance of the Society’s contribution to our modern state and nation.

The strategic plan is based on a vision of enriching lives through knowledge and inquiry for a mission of contributing to a just, secure, and sustainable society.

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