NHMRC grant overhaul good news for early and mid-career researchers


By Mardi Chapman

25 May 2017

More time to spend on research and less time writing grant applications – that’s just one of the anticipated benefits for researchers from a major overhaul of the NHMRC grants program.

The restructure announced by Health Minister Greg Hunt also aims to encourage early and mid-career researchers including women who want to balance family and work commitments.

However some of our research stars may be reined in with the introduction of limits of the number of grants that can be held or applied for.

Interim capping arrangements on Project grants will start later this year as part of the transition and there will be no Program grant round in 2018.

At a glance, the changes include:

  • The current Fellowships and Scholarships will be replaced by Investigator grants to support the very best researchers for five years. The research support package will also provide salary support if required.
  • Program grants will be superseded by Synergy grants of up to $5 million for multidisciplinary research teams to tackle complex problems.
  • Due to concerns that Project grant applications were becoming ‘safe’ rather than innovative, the new Ideas grants will support the most creative research projects.

Strategic and Leveraging Grants will continue to focus on national priority areas including a dedicated stream for clinical trials and cohort studies.

Professor Tony Cunningham, president of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes, welcomed the changes that he said offered more flexibility for researchers.

“The new Ideas Grants are a really terrific development. 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 compete better with senior researchers for research funding,” he said.

“The changes will also 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.”

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