Image: NHMRC CEO Professor Anne Kelso AO
Burnet Institute welcomes the significant improvements to the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) grant program announced today, which aim to streamline the application process and stimulate more innovative and creative research.
The changes are expected to free up researchers’ time and allow more freedom to respond to new and evolving health challenges.
Burnet Institute Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb AC congratulated NHMRC CEO Professor Anne Kelso AO for the eagerly awaited reforms of the grant program.
“Today’s announcement represents a profound improvement to the grant system, and shows great leadership,” Professor Crabb said.
“The NHMRC’s changes will give our best and brightest scientists more time to work on solving global health problems with innovative solutions, instead of spending months writing grant applications.
“This is a grant system well placed to get the best value for world-leading Australian medical research into the future.”
The changes follow extensive consultation by the NHMRC after frequent calls from the sector for reform, and introduce:
• Investigator Grants to provide both fellowship and research support in one grant
• Synergy Grants to provide $5 million per grant for outstanding multidisciplinary teams
• Ideas Grants to support innovative projects for researchers with bright ideas at all career stages
• Strategic and Leveraging Grants to support research that addresses identified national needs.
Grants will overall be longer, with more five-year grants allocated. Limits will be placed on the number of grants that can be applied for or held by an individual researcher in most streams.
Professor Kelso said the reforms were a response to concerns about the amount of time researchers spent on grant applications, combined with very low success rates in winning grants, which were leading to increasingly risk-averse proposals, and high levels of scientists considering quitting research.
Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI) President, Professor Tony Cunningham AO, said the changes would provide improved career certainty for many researchers thanks to a lengthening in funding timelines, along with better support and job security for researchers at all career stages.
“Applications will primarily be judged on the quality of the research proposal alone, rather than the past track record of the researcher. This will level the playing field and allow the next generation of great minds to better compete with senior researchers for research funding,” Professor Cunningham said.
Health Minister The Hon Greg Hunt MP said the NHMRC changes, based on an extensive review process with researchers and stakeholder groups across the country, had been accepted in full by the government.
“Australia has an enviable history of health and medical research – most of Australia’s Nobel Prizes have been in Physiology or Medicine,” he said.
“The reforms I am announcing today will ensure sustained support for an internationally-competitive health and medical research sector which will continue this proud Australian tradition of ground-breaking discovery and translation into better health for all.”