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Current and Emerging Issues for- NHMRC Fellowship Schemes submission

ID: 
56
Step 2 - Personal Details
First Name: 
David
Last Name: 
Tscharke
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?: 
There are too many junior fellowships, which can be used by well funded environments to increase their total project grant yield at the same time as more-or-less adding free postdocs to the group. There needs to be much more emphasis on the independence of all fellowship holders.
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. But institutions should be required to support additional years. There is currently no incentive for institutions to consider carefully how many fellows (of all levels) that they support.
Question 3: Are there too many Fellowship levels? Does this structure impede the career progression of rapidly rising stars in health and medical research?: 
No. The greater problem is in the upward creep in requirements for each level, such that career development awards are now mostly won by well established mid-career researchers.
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)?: 
I would abolish the ECR fellowships. The peer review of these cannot easily distinguish between excellent young researchers and those with the good fortune of having done PhDs in high impact and well resourced environments. By the time a researcher has completed some postdoctoral work it becomes clearer if they have been able to succeed in more than one environment (and this should also be a criterion for winning CDFs). CDFs should be no less than 5 years and 7 seems about right.
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, but I would be cautious about doing this on a discipline basis - it is notoriously difficult to work out what the landscape of need will be in the future. there needs to be ways of keeping women and indigenous researchers in the pool.
Question 6: Is there a better solution to encouraging diversity in careers than those based on years post-PhD?: 
no comment
Question 7: Should employing institutions be expected to provide more certainty to their employees than now? : 
Yes, absolutely. They should underwrite successful applicants for at least 2 years should their next fellowship not be funded.
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? : 
Yes.
Question 9: Should this be restricted to Early Career and Career Development Fellows?: 
No. However, i doubt that many institutions would be willing to commit to an ECR, because they know these fellows largely operate within existing laboratories and so are not seen as an institutional responsibility.

Page reviewed: 28 January, 2016