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Current and Emerging Issues for- NHMRC Fellowship Schemes submission

ID: 
10
Step 2 - Personal Details
First Name: 
Wendy
Last Name: 
Ingman
Step 3 - A. Some questions for you
1. Which of the following best explains your interest in NHMRC’s fellowship schemes: (select ONE only): 
I am currently working in the health and medical research sector
2. If you are a health and medical researcher, which of the following descriptions best classifies your research? (select ONE only): 
Basic science – please complete the next two questions
3. If you are a health and medical researcher, which of the following best describes the main source of funding that supports your salary? (select ONE only): 
grants from organisations other than NHMRC.
Step 3 - B. Consultations questions
Question 1: How should NHMRC’s funding balance between research grants and fellowships be adjusted as the total number of Project Grants available falls progressively over the next few years?: 
My experience as a mid career researcher is that there are quite a few opportunities to secure funds for specific research projects from non-NHMRC sources, but very few opportunities to secure salary for myself. Therefore, the NHMRC fellowship schemes are more important in the maintenance of my research program than NHMRC project grant funding. Many researchers at my career stage are being "locked out" of project funding because we are not quite competitive enough with the senior researchers. Rather than direct more money to project grants, it would be better to reduce the number of grants that individuals can hold at one time. I don't believe that a senior researcher can add meaningful input into 6 project grants at once, restricting the number of grants held as Chief Investigator to 3 would enable younger researchers to be more competitive.
Question 2: To increase the turnover of NHMRC Research Fellows, should these schemes be seen as ‘up and out schemes’, whereby Fellows wishing to reapply can only do so at a higher level?: 
This might assist developing careers, but I don't know if it is a long term solution, as at some point every researcher would be finished with the fellowship system. Perhaps the SRF fellowship scheme could be "up and out", similar to the CDF and Early Career schemes. If the applicants are truly judged "relative to opportunity", then incoming researchers should be competitive against re-applying researchers.
Question 3: Are there too many Fellowship levels? Does this structure impede the career progression of rapidly rising stars in health and medical research?: 
The levels are appropriate, the top researchers apply to which ever scheme they think they will be competitive in.
Question 4: Noting the implications outlined in the Issues paper, should NHMRC extend the duration of Early Career Fellowships to more than 4 years and Career Development Fellowships beyond 5 years (to 7 or 10 years)?: 
If this is at the expense of the number of fellowships awarded then no. It is noted in the discussion paper that CDF applicants already have well established careers. Cutting the number of successful applicants each year would only make the scheme even more competitive. However, if the increase in years of funding was not at the expense of the number of fellowships awarded then yes, the increase in duration would be a huge benefit.
Question 5: Should NHMRC identify and support strategic priority areas in order to build capacity for the future? What else should be done to support women and increase participation and success by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers?: 
I would hope that the changes that have been implemented will in time increase the percentage of women in senior research roles. I am mother to 3 children and a full time research only academic and I have found the increased maternity leave and flexibility of my job has assisted me greatly in maintaining a career. However, I am seeing many highly skilled women exit from research because of the pressures of balancing family and such a competitive unstable career, and this is very disappointing. There is an overall lack of confidence in medical research funding in Australia at the moment, and it would be difficult to re-direct the funds available for fellowships without disadvantaging other researchers who may be similarly disenchanted.
Question 6: Is there a better solution to encouraging diversity in careers than those based on years post-PhD?: 
No suggestions here.
Question 7: Should employing institutions be expected to provide more certainty to their employees than now? : 
Ideally, this should be the case. However, the discussions we have had with our institution have not been encouraging. The Universities are operating on thin budgets as it is, where would the money come from to support this?
Question 8: Would this be achieved if NHMRC required institutions to commit to one or more years of ongoing support for researchers exiting from NHMRC Fellowships? : 
This mandate from the NHMRC would force Universities to find the money to support this, which would be welcomed by research only academics. The attitude continues [NHMRC has removed third party information] to be that research only staff have to keep being competitive with the fellowship schemes to continue to be employed. The problems with this view have been brought to the attention of the senior administrators but they keep coming back to the argument that there is no money to support researchers.
Question 9: Should this be restricted to Early Career and Career Development Fellows?: 
If the institutions can fund this, then it should be for all fellowships.

Page reviewed: 28 January, 2016