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Make your voice heard regarding PHC research funding

21 July 2016

The Commonwealth Department of Health is currently conducting two important consultations with respect to the future of Australia’s health and medical research funding.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is reviewing the structure of its grant program to examine whether it can be streamlined to reduce the burden on applicants and peer reviewers. This review has been prompted by new data showing that funding rates for most NHMRC funding schemes have fallen significantly in the past three years. For example, in 2015 less than 15% of applications were successful.

According to the NHMRC review discussion paper the low funding rate means that researchers are spending a substantial period of time each year preparing grant applications that will not be funded. The load on peer reviewers (most of whom are also researchers) is also excessive for the number of grants actually funded. There is also evidence that the low rate of success is driving researchers to propose “safe” research to the detriment of innovation. In response to these challenges, the NHMRC has proposed three different models that involve funding teams of researchers or funding a smaller number of excellent individual researchers for longer periods of time. A discussion paper written by the NHMRC is available for more details.

In addition to the NHMRC review, the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) is also conducting consultations. The MRFF is a new funding initiative of the Australian Government with the aim of ensuring that Australia stays at the leading edge of medical science and innovation. The MRFF was created in 2015, and currently has a balance in excess of $3 billion and is forecast to reach a balance of $20 billion by 2020. The investment earnings on the fund are used to fund health and medical research and medical innovation. The current round of consultations are to help develop the strategy and priorities for the MRFF so that it best improves the wellbeing of Australians.

Both these consultation opportunities are very important to primary health care (PHC) researchers. For over a decade many PHC researchers have relied on funding made available through the Primary Health Care Research, Evaluation and Development (PHCRED) Strategy. But the PHCRED Strategy has now been completed and access to alternative funding sources, such as from the NHMRC and MRFF, is now required to maintain the gains made in building PHC research capacity.

A more streamlined NHMRC application process has the potential to significantly benefit PHC researchers. Similarly the MRFF consultation provides the opportunity for PHC researchers to make the case that, in a time of increasing fiscal restraint, Australia should direct a much greater share of scarce health research dollars towards innovative research in PHC that will be of most direct benefit to the Australian community.

It will be very useful for a significant turn-out of PHC and health services researchers at these consultations who can speak strongly about the need for PHC research and an approach that supports funding for this important sector of health care. The dates and places for consultations in all major cities are shown below.

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) consultations

Please register to attend as attendance is limited at each venue. You are encouraged further to lodge a written submission in response to the NHMRC’s public consultation paper available on the Consultation Portal. Note the closing date for submissions is Thursday 25 August 2016 (11.59pm AEST).

Wednesday 20 July 2016 9.30am
Thursday 21 July 2016 9.30am
Tuesday 26 July 2016 12.30pm
Wednesday 27 July 2016 9.30am
Thursday 28 July 2016 1.30pm

Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) consultations

Please register your interest in attending.
Adelaide, Flinders University campus
Tuesday 26 July, 9-11am
Perth, Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research
Wednesday 27 July, 9-11am
Sydney, University of Technology
Friday 29 July, 9-11am
Canberra, Australian National University
Wednesday 3 August, 9-11am
Melbourne, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Health
Thursday 4 August, 9-11am
Brisbane, Translational Research Institute
Friday 5 August, 9-11am
National Live Webinar
Wednesday 31 August


This news item was featured in This Week in PHC Issue: 21 July 2016.

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