NHMRC Public Consultations

Skip Navigation and go to Content
Visit NHMRC website

Current and Emerging Issues for- NHMRC Fellowship Schemes submission

ID: 
63
Step 2 - Personal Details
First Name: 
Allen
Last Name: 
Cheng
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?: 
The de-linking of personal and project grant support is a potential area of inefficiency – this can result in researchers being funded without a project, or projects led by chief investigators that are not funded to lead the work. While there are other mechanisms to fund projects, the NHMRC is certainly the only agency with the ability to fund substantial projects. A feature of “competition economies” is the high degree of wastage of talent, and this is an unavoidable consequence of the hypercompetitive environment we are currently in – the only solution is to reduce this by a providing exit opportunities to reduce the overall pool of researchers.
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 would favour part time research fellowships where applicants demonstrate that they have teaching or clinical service as major components of their role. This would encourage more researchers with an insight into the “real world”.
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 – there is a good progression from early to mid to senior fellowships.
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)?: 
While I’m aware that the NHMRC does not wish to be seen as an employment agency for researchers, either directly through fellowships or indirectly via project and other grants it accounts for a significant proportion of research. Some consideration should be given to managing the “pyramid” of research, eg restricting the number of PhD scholarships, while recognizing that a significant proportion of researchers leave for other career paths.
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?: 
Research in Indigenous health issues (and Indigenous researchers) often require longer time lines – for example, the time required for community consultation is often much longer than with other areas of research. Consideration might be given to specifically allowing a “pre-research” phase to research in complex populations, with the main bulk of funding conditional on a pilot study or ethics approval. For women, part time funding at all levels is required to maintain flexibility in careers.
Question 6: Is there a better solution to encouraging diversity in careers than those based on years post-PhD?: 
A separate scheme might recognize non-traditional career paths, particularly those who move between an academic and a clinical or public health career. Under the current scheme, there is a disincentive to leave the academic career path as it is difficult to re-enter the fellowship scheme.
Question 7: Should employing institutions be expected to provide more certainty to their employees than now? : 
In most institutions, the concept of “tenure” no longer exists, and most employment is conditional on the researcher “paying their way” after a short establishment period. As it stands currently, research grants do not cover the cost of employing researchers, requiring cross-subsidization from other sources, particularly teaching. The lack of certainty is certainly a disincentive for those wishing to buy a house or support a family while as an academic, but a source of funding needs to be identified to fund employment of those not supported by research funding agencies.
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? : 
As above
Question 9: Should this be restricted to Early Career and Career Development Fellows?: 
As above

Page reviewed: 28 January, 2016