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Current and Emerging Issues for- NHMRC Fellowship Schemes submission

ID: 
53
Step 2 - Personal Details
First Name: 
Amanda
Last Name: 
Spurdle
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): 
Clinical 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?: 
cannot understand the need for this question - the no of grants is dropping becuase the time-frame of the grants is expanding, but if the total $$$ remains to support the same amt of work, we need the same workforce. the issue of concern to researchers is not that the balance is off but that the total $$$ to support both project and fellowships is insufficient, and that the pathetic salary scales on nhmrc projects do not reflect the real world so any grant awarded has to be run on a shoestring with use of PhDs as additional workforce, increasing the pool of hopefuls that think they have a chance of becoming a career track scientist.
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?: 
No No No. to get into the fellowship scheme is a miracle (reaching the top 1%-5% international recognition etc etc). so who is the person on the panel who thnks they can really judge if someone has moved from being 5% to 3% so you can move up a level. or 1% to 0.5%! if someone is really not performing, it comes out in the wash since they will be outcompeted by a "peer" at that level.
Question 3: Are there too many Fellowship levels? Does this structure impede the career progression of rapidly rising stars in health and medical research?: 
It is not structure problem but $$$ problem - all so competitive and hard to get in so esp those at ECF and CDF are more likely to go overseas with resultant brain drain. One way to address this is at ECF level. as a person who has served on multiple ECF panels, i think this is the level that needs the most work. It is v v hard to judge potential to succeed and we do it on silly things like awards etc, and while helpful it is not a true judge of what a good and lasting scientist is. i think that it would be helpful to address this in multiple ways.... extend the timept to 3 or 4 yrs post phd... that allows some people to have more time to develop themsleves and make it easier for a panel to judge the winners. Also put more money to projects that have junior post-docs as named PSPs (and change that stupid salary scale so we can actually AFFORD to pay a postdcoc). that would mean that a junior postdoc can refer to their role in a grant, gain experience, write papers and do all the things that makes it easier for us to judge at ECF or junior cdf level who is better.
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 - see comments Q3. there is more risk choosing the winners at ECF and CDF. i think it would be better to allow people to develop under mentors eg on projects, and move the eligibility times out so that ECFs can apply 3 or 4 years post phd, and then start a 4 year fellowship. so not duration, but rather when the timing can start should change.
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?: 
No. the scheme should be about excellence in science. start by encouraging decent education at school and university to promote participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander [NHMRC has removed acronym and spelt out in full] researchers. Not sure there really is an issue for women, rather than need to possibly support re-entry after kids in some way.
Question 6: Is there a better solution to encouraging diversity in careers than those based on years post-PhD?: 
i'm not sure i understand the q. but if you are talking about people moving from science to corporate/policy and back to science then you need to change the 5 year rule to allow people to refer beyond 5 yrs to when they were last in science. eg consider non-science period as a break in science career (as you would for women working part-time etc)
Question 7: Should employing institutions be expected to provide more certainty to their employees than now? : 
well it is tragic that the nhmrc fellowship scheme leaves even excellent scientists in fear of needing backup at the time of fellowship renewal.... and that i have to say it would be very helpful if all employing institutions could provide clear guidelines on bridging funding etc etc. But from a philosophical point of view, NHMRC asking the question "SHOULD" is a loaded question to collate responses that justify shifting the onus of bridging funding to employing institutions. The security was previously provided by NHMRC - so my answer is SHOULD NHMRC be expected to provide more certainty to fellows (as they did previously with one year to reapply).
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? : 
Certainly there would be more certainty if this requirement was instituted. see comments above. What should be considered is where the money is to come from - so for unviersities which have on average half the citation rate than medical research institutes, the money should come from their university coffers but that is not reasonable for institutes
Question 9: Should this be restricted to Early Career and Career Development Fellows?: 
No - there is FAR more loss of corporate knowledge at higher levels. and chaos in terms of organizational issues - like running a whole lab, students, and NHMRC funded projects while not knowing if you might have a salary the next year.

Page reviewed: 28 January, 2016