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Current and Emerging Issues for- NHMRC Fellowship Schemes submission

ID: 
70
Step 2 - Personal Details
First Name: 
Tiffany
Last Name: 
Gill
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?: 
A difficult issue, however I believe that there actually needs to be a culture change. Pressure is also on to obtain project grant funding as well as have a fellowship. I think that the level of fellowships should at least be maintained and even perhaps increased in order to encourage researchers and ensure that the best researchers are retained in the workforce. The awarding of project grants should though be revamped as well to ensure even spread and people should not be awarded multiple grants in a year.
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 think there should be an up and out structure. Those at the top of the pool are able to survive and are more likely to be supported by the university, as they will not want the top level achievers to be lost. I think that the opportunities for researchers to apply to the top levels of fellowships needs to be increased and there needs to be motivation and aspiration for people to achieve the higher levels. Currently this does not exist, if it did career opportunities will be increased and researchers will not be lost as easily. The fact that those past retirement age are able to apply and win fellowships is extremely counterproductive to the entire system. The removal of eligibility criteria at the higher levels is also counterproductive, with Level D and E competing against younger researchers. In terms of funding there needs to be discussions between universities, NHMRC and the government. But the issue needs to be addressed with some urgency as more and more researchers are becoming disillusioned with the process.
Question 3: Are there too many Fellowship levels? Does this structure impede the career progression of rapidly rising stars in health and medical research?: 
There are probably not too many levels however there needs to be some greater clarity around eligibility criteria. Currently those below Level D or E are unlikely to be appointed as an SRF even though they may fulfil the stated criteria. Thus is appears that achieving an SRF level is not based on achievement but on current appointment level. This impedes career progression rather than the actual structure itself.
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)?: 
Making the ECFs and CDFs longer is not likely to help too much, it is more about the actual moving from an ECF to a CDF. That is the process which needs to be addressed rather than just making the process longer.
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?: 
There should be some strategic support but essentially I think that the whole scheme needs to be addressed. In my area, I would like more funding but everyone would argue the same. But by addressing the entire scheme and making it more effective overall the strategic and priority issues should be more easily identified and addressed if need be.
Question 6: Is there a better solution to encouraging diversity in careers than those based on years post-PhD?: 
No, I don't believe so.
Question 7: Should employing institutions be expected to provide more certainty to their employees than now? : 
Absolutely, as these are generally the people who are providing the university with research funds. However, I am unsure that the universities actually have a full understanding of the issues. Again, there needs to be discussion between NHMRC, universities and the government to address this, as certainly from the university point of view, any top-up funding that is provided is done so in a piecemeal and ad hoc manner. It is essential that talented researchers, trained at great expense, and who are productive and innovative, are not lost to the university and research. These are also generally the people who write the papers, and who train the post-graduate students. They critical to the output of universities thus it is in the national interest to maintain these best and brightest individuals and therefore national mechanisms need to be explored. This includes but is not limited to a revamped Fellowship Scheme.
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? : 
It may be but this is likely to be only part of the solution.
Question 9: Should this be restricted to Early Career and Career Development Fellows?: 
It may be but it is only part of the solution. The whole process needs to be addressed.

Page reviewed: 28 January, 2016