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Current and Emerging Issues for- NHMRC Fellowship Schemes submission

ID: 
59
Step 2 - Personal Details
First Name: 
Lois
Last Name: 
Salamonsen
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?: 
Very difficult. Fellowships are the only support for those with high-level proven track records. Clearly we need to find more money for project grants – likely to be easier than finding more money for Fellows. So keep the Fellows and try and build the project grant support from benevolent funds.
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?: 
Maybe this would work in Universities who have options – indeed are known to use Fellows rather than getting in the staff they need. But for other Fellows such as those in Institutes, there are not other options. Institutes have no money to support their group leaders who are beyond being just funded by PSPs on grants. Institutes are under-funded also in terms of infrastructure.
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 biggest problem is progression, but numbers of levels is not the problem – the triangle is just too tight – can only be overcome by either stricter selection criteria or a bigger funding pot.
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 – these people work exceptionally hard and deserve to move up a ladder that rewards them.
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?: 
Women have it tough all the way, and there are many of them. We need to be constantly vigilant to treat them appropriately. Aboriginals or Torres Strait Islander persons are a minor problem by contrast as there are very few of them trying to get NHMRC funding.
Question 6: Is there a better solution to encouraging diversity in careers than those based on years post-PhD?: 
The future leaders stand out by about 5 years post-doc. The biggest problem is to persuade the ones who will never get a fellowship to diversify their careers. They all want to be independent researchers. Easier said than done. I employ a Senior scientist who spent her first 10 years in industry and who is highly talented. But the NHMRC system still makes it extremely difficult for her to compete on a level playing field because her track record does not ‘fit the requirements’ and she is too old now for early career support. I agree in principle but it is not working under the current system.
Question 7: Should employing institutions be expected to provide more certainty to their employees than now? : 
Agree that this is very important. The Institutions should have sufficient funding to support the best in bad years.
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? : 
Most people who want to continue in research still want fellowships. There is often no obvious alternative career path – and we do not want to lose their talent.
Question 9: Should this be restricted to Early Career and Career Development Fellows?: 
No.

Page reviewed: 28 January, 2016