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Current and Emerging Issues for- NHMRC Fellowship Schemes submission

Step 2 - Personal Details
First Name: 
Last Name: 
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): 
Public health research – 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): 
NHMRC Scholarships and/or Fellowships
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?: 
Ideally NHMRC would mobilise and coordinate its considerable research community to lobby hard for more funds for research in Australia, there has been no concentrated coordinated efforts in this respect. In the absence of such efforts, it is more important than ever to retain the integrity of the fellowship scheme. The project grant/fellowship ratios presented in Table 5A are misleading because of the increased number of 5-year grants being awarded which reduced the number of grants awarded but not necessarily the $ spend. The reduced ratio from 2.5 grants per fellowship in 2010 to 1.9 in 2014 is likely a reflection of this.
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?: 
I think a requirement to apply at higher levels from SRFA to SRFB, then to PRF would be acceptable. My main concern would be the collapse of capacity building in research if the PRF & SPRF levels are no longer supported in an on-going scheme. This would significantly impact on building of research capacity in supervision of ECF and CDF levels.
Question 3: Are there too many Fellowship levels? Does this structure impede the career progression of rapidly rising stars in health and medical research?: 
There are definitely NOT too many levels. The second question here seems to contradict the first. If an individual is a rapidly rising star but there are only 2-3 levels of fellowship scheme to apply for, no matter how talented they would not be able to compete in terms of track record with more senior people. At present there is a large jump from CDF level 2 to SRFA, with many mid-career researchers falling through the gaps. Arguably, there could be a 3rd level of fellowship- CDF level 3- to accommodate this current failing in the system to facilitate the move from mid-career to senior level.
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)?: 
It makes sense for the ECF scheme to be 5 years in line with the higher levels. I do not think the CDFs should be more than 5 yeas. As noted above, rather than making CDF Level 2 a 7- or 10-year fellowship a 3rd level of CDF would make more sense.
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?: 
Public Health and clinical is consistently under-funded in the project grant schemes and in the fellowship scheme. These streams should be introduced into the fellowship scheme, not just in the ECF and CDF schemes. It is also a good idea to offer special awards for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander [NHMRC has removed acronym and spelt out in full] researchers and top female researchers, particularly at the under-represented senior levels.
Question 6: Is there a better solution to encouraging diversity in careers than those based on years post-PhD?: 
Having a non-linear career can be good for research innovation. The notion of 'relative to opportunity' could still be applied here, there is no reason why a person should be penalised if they do take a different career path and come back to a research track, so long as they can demonstrate excellence in research.
Question 7: Should employing institutions be expected to provide more certainty to their employees than now? : 
No. This proposal shows little understanding of the academic sector. What would those coming off fellowships do in the universities once their fellowships finish? There may be no teaching job available for them. This approach would substantially reduce researchers in universities and institute if employment was an expected outcome. Also, junior researchers should ideally move institutions when moving from fellowship to next steps, whether that be to another fellowship or different role. An expectation of employment would in fact result in less diverse careers (see question 6).
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 is a more reasonable suggestion, as it would enable research fellows to have a couple of attempts at securing another fellowship or finding alternative career paths.
Question 9: Should this be restricted to Early Career and Career Development Fellows?: 
Yes, I think this makes sense.

Page reviewed: 28 January, 2016