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Current and Emerging Issues for- NHMRC Fellowship Schemes submission

ID: 
72
Step 2 - Personal Details
First Name: 
Ashraful
Last Name: 
Haque
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?: 
Firstly, it is not true that the amount of research that the NHMRC has been able to fund of the last few years has remained constant. With inflation, the losing strength of the Aussie Dollar, and the increasing cost of doing research in general means that less research is possible. If the NHMRC is unwilling to alter this scenario, it remains somewhat of a pointless question to ask what should be done withe pittance available in the country. The Fellowship scheme is absolutely crucial to allow Australian researchers some stability for their salaries while they try to access funding from not only the NHMRC, but other bodies such as ARC, The Wellcome Trust, NIH, European Union, as well as numerous smaller funding agents. To cut the Fellowship scheme would essentially reduce the value of the NHMRC "dollar". NHMRC research could not then tap into resources provided by other funders.
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?: 
The main point remains that funding for research is far too low to support the breadth of research that Australians wish for. This question is partially irrelevant. It simply tries to ask : how best can we spend the poor amount of money available. This question is not relevant
Question 3: Are there too many Fellowship levels? Does this structure impede the career progression of rapidly rising stars in health and medical research?: 
Again, the main question is not how many levels are there, but how long should we support someone before reviewing them again. Other funders offer longer terms, from 5-7 years. This is the model that I would favour, to allow researchers some time to prove themselves, rather than constructing a ridiculoud system in which continuous "upward trajectory is required at each level. This idea is not consistent with how successful researchers work. Scientific discovery for an individual ebbs and flows over the years, yet this rhythm is not considered in the current, short-sighted schemes.
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)?: 
The main problem with the system is a lack of a willingness to pick a small number of early researchers, and to support them well. It appears that the head of NHMRC favours attrition at every stage of the career pyramid, such that even those in the system for 10-15 years, can fall out of it with little consideration of the next step in their career. If the amount of funding for NHMRC is not to increase (and given that the MRFF is still a little bit of a mystery), the NHMRC needs to shrink it's research portfolio, and support a much smaller set of researchers well. Australia can not remain a hub for science and innovation with the current funding levels.
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?: 
If there is little money available for research, NHMRC needs to have no delusions of grandeur. It should stick to a few fields of research, and leave other larger countries to progress in science and innovation.
Question 6: Is there a better solution to encouraging diversity in careers than those based on years post-PhD?: 
No comment. A very minor point in the face of much larger issues on funding.
Question 7: Should employing institutions be expected to provide more certainty to their employees than now? : 
This appears to be a cloaked comment suggesting that NHMRC should not provide salaries. So, I would rather say that researchers need long term support in order to feel free enough to ask the big questions in science. Whether this support comes from NHMRC, the employer, or a mixture of the two is immaterial
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? : 
This is simply a question of how to do more with the little money being offered by the government. This is far too minor a point to warrant a response.
Question 9: Should this be restricted to Early Career and Career Development Fellows?: 
Irrelevant

Page reviewed: 28 January, 2016