Submission to NHMRC Fellowship Review

Submission to NHMRC Fellowship Review

30th June, 2015

AAMRI’s response to the NHMRC Fellowship Review is to advocate unequivocally for the retention and enhancement of fellowship schemes as part of a whole-of-system review of NHMRC programs.

In our submission, we outline a proposal for an enhanced fellowship scheme, drawing on the approaches of the Wellcome Trust, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research where, in addition to the fellow’s salary, fellowships provide support for a fellow’s core research team and their experimental expenses. This scheme would include levels for early-career researchers, mid-career researchers, and established researchers, along with fellowships for clinical/health practitioner researchers and cross-disciplinary researchers. The scheme would replace current NHMRC fellowships, Program Grants, Project Grants and Development Grants, and would run alongside a modified Project Grant Scheme.

We urge the NHMRC not to undermine its fellowship schemes to allow a short-term boost to Project Grant funding to deal with the falling grant success rate. Instead, success rates should be rectified by dealing with the unsustainable increase in application numbers year-on-year.

AAMRI’s view is that fellows should remain within the fellowship system while they continue to sustain a high level of research output, and should not be forced out by an ‘up and out’ fellowship model.

While positive changes have been made to support female researchers and researchers with interrupted or divergent career pathways, more needs to be done. We recommend that the duration of part-time fellowships be extended so that they fund the equivalent ‘working’ period as full-time fellowships. We also recommend a fellowship scheme for researchers who have had a research career break, including those who have undertaken a position in industry, policy or another sector.

AAMRI does not believe it is appropriate for the NHMRC to interfere in the employer-employee relationship, including requiring institutions to commit to one or more years of ongoing support for researchers exiting from NHMRC Fellowships. We contend that the capacity of research organisations to provide job security is already under huge pressure from the lack of full funding of NHMRC-supported research, including researcher salaries and indirect research costs.

AAMRI also urges the re-instatement of 6th-year NHMRC Fellowship extensions.

Finally, AAMRI highlights important oversights and flaws in the discussion paper, including the omission of Practitioner and Translating Research into Practice (TRIP) Fellowship schemes from the review, and factual errors regarding the impact of longer grants/fellowships on the total number of grants/fellowships.

 You can download AAMRI’s full submission below.