NHMRC Public Consultations

Skip Navigation and go to Content
Visit NHMRC website

Current and Emerging Issues for- NHMRC Fellowship Schemes submission

ID: 
37
Step 2 - Personal Details
First Name: 
Josephine
Last Name: 
Forbes
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): 
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?: 
Almost 100% of researchers at the upper level of the fellowship scheme have NHMRC project grant funding. Therefore the relationship between fellowships and projects as presented is artificial seeing fellows cannot have a higher number of grants funded than researchers whose wages come from other sources. However if you look at the lower professional levels this decreases. Early and mid career is the most difficult time to obtain and keep sufficient funding to build a research group. This is exacerbated in women who are also often balancing primary care giver roles (often for young children) at the same time. I think therefore that a set amount of research project funding should be awarded with fellowships. This would lessen the project grant review numbers, provide stable grant income during fellowship periods and make the fellowships more productive in the earlier mid career years.
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?: 
Yes I agree that the scheme should be progressive since it is meant to support the brightest researchers with the most potential (the criteria for which varies depending on the area of research). This should encourage career progression by the employing hospitals/universities/ institutes which should be a condition of the award.
Question 3: Are there too many Fellowship levels? Does this structure impede the career progression of rapidly rising stars in health and medical research?: 
I am a young researcher (44 yrs). The levels do not specifically impede rapidly rising stars. The problem is that the necessity to adhere to the non-research related criteria at the higher levels can impede the progress of rapidly rising stars either by diverting them from their research because of the non research related fellowship requirements and their lack of experience/opportunity in tacking management roles (of all types) at this stage of their career.
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)?: 
No. I this length of time breeds complacency. I would rather see some research project money attached to the fellowships to negate the necessity to waste time writing project grant applications if the applicant and their research has already been judged as outstanding compared to their peers. This security will allow for more security allowing for innovation and productivity (ie return on the investment!).
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?: 
Yes. Women and national health care priorities such as diabetes. It is exceptionally difficult for women to compete for fellowships and project funding despite often having better CVs and grant applications. This is particularly evident in the mid career stages where women are also overlooked for management positions in their organisations (hence they do not have admin support such as EAs to lighten their admin load since they almost always balancing primary care giver roles in their homes. Attaching a part time EA to women's fellowships at this CDF/SRF/PRF level to decrease admin load would help research productivity (again back to return on investment). Would also be useful for practitioner fellowships (men and women) at these career stages.
Question 6: Is there a better solution to encouraging diversity in careers than those based on years post-PhD?: 
This one is difficult. I don't think there is a simple answer to this - perhaps flexibility is key.
Question 7: Should employing institutions be expected to provide more certainty to their employees than now? : 
Yes, it is appalling that NHMRC fellows - the "apparently best and brightest" have no job security. Maybe they can also pay for the EAs I suggested for the women at CDF-SPRF stages as a condition of the fellowship.
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? : 
In part, but I don't think this is the only strategy that should be put in place.
Question 9: Should this be restricted to Early Career and Career Development Fellows?: 
No. I think fellows up to PRF are vulnerable particularly women.

Page reviewed: 28 January, 2016