Informed, engaged communities for health

Filter by Categories
Aged care
Budgets
Federal Budget 2024-25
Federal Budget 2023-2024
Federal Budget October 2022
Federal Budget 2022-23
Federal Budget 2021-22
Climate and health
Climate emergency
Healthcare sustainability
Heatwaves
National Health and Climate Strategy
#HealthyCOP28
#HealthyCOP27
#HealthyCOP26
#CoveringClimateNow
COVID collection
COVID-19
Long COVID
COVIDwrap
COVID SNAPS
#JusticeCOVID
Caring for the Frontline
COVIDglobalMHseries
Croakey Conference News Service
Croakey Professional Services
NHLF series
#KidneyCareTogether
ACSQHC series
ACSQHC series 2022
ACSQHC series 2021
ACSQHC series 2020
ACSQHC series 2019
CATSINaM 25 Years
Croakey projects
@WePublicHealth 2024
Summer reading 2023-2024
The Zap
#CroakeyLIVE #DigitalNationBuilding
#CroakeyLIVE #VoiceForHealth
#PHAAThinkTank2023
The Health Wrap
ICYMI
@WePublicHealth
@WePublicHealth2023
#CroakeyVOICES
#SpeakingOurMinds
Croakey longreads
#CroakeyREAD
CroakeyEXPLORE
CroakeyGO
#CroakeyGO #NavigatingHealth
#GamblingHarms
#HeatwaveHealth
Mapping CroakeyGo
Determinants of health
Environmental determinants of health
Social determinants of health
Education
Discrimination
Housing
Internet access
Justice and policing
Justice Reinvestment
Newstart/JobSeeker
Poverty
Racism
Social policy
Commercial determinants of health
Alcohol
Arms industry
Digital platforms
Food and beverages
Fossil fuels
Gambling
Pharmaceutical industry
Plain packaging
Sugar tax
Tobacco
Vaping
Disasters and extreme weather events
Disasters
Extreme weather events
Bushfires
Bushfire-emergency 2019-2020
Floods 2023
Floods 2022
Floods 2021
Floods 2011
Donor-funded journalism
Donor-funded journalism – 2024
Donor-funded journalism – 2023
Donor-funded journalism – 2022
Donor-funded journalism – 2021
Donor-funded journalism – 2020
Elections
lutruwita/Tasmania 2024 election
#NSWvotesHealth2023
Victorian election 2022
Federal Election 2022
The Election Wrap 2022
#QldVotesHealth
SA election 2022
WA election 2021
Tasmanian election 2021
First Nations
Indigenous health
Community controlled sector
Cultural determinants of health
Cultural safety
Indigenous education
Social and emotional wellbeing
Uluru Statement
The Voice
Lowitja Institute
NT Intervention
WA community closures
Acknowledgement
#CTG10
#NTRC
#RCIADIC30Years
General health matters
Abortion
Cancer
Cardiovascular disease
Child health
Chronic conditions
Consumer health matters
Death and dying
Diabetes
Disabilities
Euthanasia
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)
Genetics
HIV/AIDS
HRT
Infectious diseases
Influenza
LGBTQIA+
Medical marijuana
Men's health
Mental health
Mpox
Non communicable diseases
Oral health
Organ transplants
Pain
Pregnancy and childbirth
Sexual health
Suicide
Swine flu
Trauma
Women's health
Youth health
Global health matters
Asylum seeker and refugee health
Conflict and war
Global health
WHO
Ebola
NHS
#WorldInTurmoil
Health policy and systems
Co-design
Health financing and costs
Health reform
Health regulation
Medicare 40 Years
MyMedicare
National Health Performance Authority
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
Private health insurance
Royal Commissions
TGA
Workforce matters
Strengthening Medicare Taskforce 2022
National Commission of Audit 2014
Healthcare
Adverse events
Allied healthcare
Australian Medical Association
Choosing Wisely
cohealth
Complementary medicines
Conflicts of interest
Co-payments
Digital technology
E-health
Emergency departments and care
Equally Well
General practice
Health Care Homes
Health ethics
Hospitals
International medical graduates
Medicare Locals
MyHospitals website
Naturopathy
NDIS
Nursing and midwifery
Out of pocket costs
Palliative care
Paramedics
Pathology
Pharmacy
Primary healthcare
Primary Health Networks
Rural and remote health
Safety and quality of healthcare and aged care
Screening
Social prescribing
Surgery
Telehealth
Tests
Media and health
Media-related issues
Health & medical marketing
Misinformation and disinformation
Public interest journalism
Social media and healthcare
The Conversation
Media Doctor Australia
News about Croakey
Public health and population health
Air pollution
Artificial intelligence
Australian Centre for Disease Control
Government 2.0
Gun control
Health communications
Health impact assessment
Health in All Policies
Health inequalities
Health literacy
Human rights
Illicit drugs
Injuries
Legal issues
Marriage equality
Nanny state
National Preventive Health Agency
Obesity
Occupational health
Physical activity
Prevention
Public health
Road safety
Sport
Transport
Vaccination
VicHealth
Violence
Web 2.0
Weight loss products
#PreventiveHealthStrategy
#UnmetNeedsinPublicHealth
Research matters
Cochrane Collaboration
Evidence-based issues
Health and medical education
Health and medical research
NHMRC
#MRFFtransparency
The Croakey Archives
#cripcroakey
#HealthEquity16
#HealthMatters
#IHMayDay (all years)
#IHMayDay 2014
#IHMayDay15
#IHMayday16
#IHMayDay17
#IHMayDay18
#LoveRural 2014
Croakey Conference News Service 2013 – 2023
2023 Conferences
#GreenHealthForum23
#hpsymposium2023
#NMS23
#HEAL2023
#ASMIRT2023
#NSPC23
Our Democracy Forum
#AskMSF
#Lowitja2023
2022 Conferences
#16nrhc
#GreenHealthForum22
#Heal2022
#ICEM22
#NAISA22
#NNF2022
#RANZCP2022
#RethinkAddiction
#RTP22
GiantSteps22
Equally Well 2022 Symposium
Choosing Wisely National Meeting 2022
2021 conferences
#21OPCC
#BackToTheFire
#FoodGovernance2021
#GiantSteps21
#GreenHealthForum21
#HealthClimateSolutions21
#HearMe21
#IndigenousClimateJustice21
#NNF2021
#RANZCP2021
#ShiftingGearsSummit
#ValueBasedCare
#WCepi2021
#YHFSummit
2020 conferences
#2020ResearchExcellence
#Govern4Health
#HealthReImagined
#SAHeapsUnfair
2019 Conferences
#ACEM19
#CPHCE19
#EquallyWellAust
#GiantSteps19
#HealthAdvocacyWIM
#KTthatWorks
#LowitjaConf2019
#MHAgeing
#NNF2019
#OKtoAsk2019
#RANZCOG19
#RANZCP2019
#ruralhealthconf
#VMIAC2019
#WHOcollabAHPRA
2018 conferences
#6rrhss
#ACEM18
#AHPA2018
#ATSISPC18
#CPHCE
#MHED18
#NDISMentalHealth
#Nurseforce
#OKToAsk2018
#RANZCOG18
#ResearchIntoPolicy
#VHAawards
#VMIACAwards18
#WISPC18
2017 conferences
#17APCC
#ACEM17
#AIDAconf2017
#BTH20
#CATSINaM17
#ClimateHealthStrategy
#IAHAConf17
#IDS17
#LBQWHC17
#LivingOurWay
#OKtoAskAu
#OTCC2017
#ResearchTranslation17
#TheMHS2017
#VMIACConf17
#WCPH2017
Australian Palliative Care Conference
2016 conferences
#AHHAsim16
#AHMRC16
#ANROWS2016
#ATSISPEP
#AusCanIndigenousWellness
#cphce2016
#CPHCEforum16
#CRANAplus2016
#IAMRA2016
#LowitjaConf2016
#PreventObesity16
#TowardsRecovery
#VMIAC16
#WearablesCEH
#WICC2016
2015 conferences
#CPHCEforum
#CRANAplus15
#HSR15
#NRHC15
#OTCC15
Population Health Congress 2015
2014 conferences
#IPCHIV14
AIDA Conference 2014
Congress Lowitja 2014
CRANAplus conference 2014
Cultural Solutions - Healing Foundation forum 2014
Lowitja Institute Continuous Quality Improvement conference 2014
National Suicide Prevention Conference 2014
Racism and children/youth health symposium 2014
Rural & Remote Health Scientific Symposium 2014
2013 conferences
Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation Forum 2013
Australian Health Promotion Association Conference 2013
Closing the Credibility Gap 2013
CRANAplus Conference 2013
FASD Conference 2013
Health Workforce Australia 2013
International Health Literacy Network Conference 2013
NACCHO Summit 2013
National Rural Health Conference 2013
Oceania EcoHealth Symposium 2013
PHAA conference 2013
Croakey Professional Services archive
#CommunityControl
#CommunityControl Twitter Festival
#COVIDthinktank21
Lowitja Indigenous knowledge translation series
Croakey projects archive
#PHAAThinkTank 2022
Summer reading 2022-2023
#CommunityMatters
#CroakeyFundingDrive 2022
#CroakeyLIVE #Budget2021Health
#CroakeyLIVE #USvotesHealth
#CroakeyLIVE Federal election 2022
#CroakeyYOUTH
#HousingJusticeAus
#IndigenousHealthSummit
#IndigenousNCDs
#JustClimate
#JustJustice
#LookingLocal
#OutOfPocket
#OutOfTheBox
#RuralHealthJustice
#TalkingTeeth
@WePublicHealth2022
@WePublicHealth2021
@WePublicHealth2020
AroundTheTraps
Croakey register of influence
Croakey Register of Influencers in Public Health
Croakey Register of Unreleased Documents
Gavin Mooney
Inside Story
Journal Watch
Naked Doctor
Poems of Public Health
Summer reading 2021-2022
Summer reading 2020-2021
Summer Reading 2019-2020
Summer Reading 2017-2018
Summer Reading 2016-2017
The Koori Woman
TOO MUCH of a Good Thing
Wonky Health
CroakeyGO archive 2017 – 2018
CroakeyGo 2018
#CroakeyGO #QuantumWords 2018
#CroakeyGO #VicVotes 2018
#CroakeyGO Albury 2018
#CroakeyGO Callan Park 2018
#CroakeyGO Carnarvon 2018
#CroakeyGO Marrickville 2018
#CroakeyGO Palm Island 2018
CroakeyGo 2017
#CroakeyGO Adelaide 2017
#CroakeyGO Melbourne 2017
#CroakeyGO Newcastle 2017
#CroakeyGO Sydney 2017
Elections and Budgets 2013 – 2021
Budget2020Health
Federal Budget 2020-21
Federal Budget 2019-20
#AusVotesHealth Twitter Festival 2019
#Health4NSW
Federal Election 2019
NSW Election 2019
Federal Budget 2018-19
Federal Budget 2017/18
NZ Election 2017
Federal Budget 2016-17
Federal Election 2016
#HealthElection16
NT Election 2016
Federal Budget 2015-16
Qld Election 2015
NSW Election 2015
Federal Budget 2014-15
Victorian Election 2014
Federal Budget 2013-14
Federal Election 2013
Federal Budget 2012-2013
Federal Budget 2011
Federal Budget 2010
Federal Election 2010
Federal Budget 2009-2010
Support non-profit public interest journalism
Filter by Categories
Aged care
Budgets
Federal Budget 2024-25
Federal Budget 2023-2024
Federal Budget October 2022
Federal Budget 2022-23
Federal Budget 2021-22
Climate and health
Climate emergency
Healthcare sustainability
Heatwaves
National Health and Climate Strategy
#HealthyCOP28
#HealthyCOP27
#HealthyCOP26
#CoveringClimateNow
COVID collection
COVID-19
Long COVID
COVIDwrap
COVID SNAPS
#JusticeCOVID
Caring for the Frontline
COVIDglobalMHseries
Croakey Conference News Service
Croakey Professional Services
NHLF series
#KidneyCareTogether
ACSQHC series
ACSQHC series 2022
ACSQHC series 2021
ACSQHC series 2020
ACSQHC series 2019
CATSINaM 25 Years
Croakey projects
@WePublicHealth 2024
Summer reading 2023-2024
The Zap
#CroakeyLIVE #DigitalNationBuilding
#CroakeyLIVE #VoiceForHealth
#PHAAThinkTank2023
The Health Wrap
ICYMI
@WePublicHealth
@WePublicHealth2023
#CroakeyVOICES
#SpeakingOurMinds
Croakey longreads
#CroakeyREAD
CroakeyEXPLORE
CroakeyGO
#CroakeyGO #NavigatingHealth
#GamblingHarms
#HeatwaveHealth
Mapping CroakeyGo
Determinants of health
Environmental determinants of health
Social determinants of health
Education
Discrimination
Housing
Internet access
Justice and policing
Justice Reinvestment
Newstart/JobSeeker
Poverty
Racism
Social policy
Commercial determinants of health
Alcohol
Arms industry
Digital platforms
Food and beverages
Fossil fuels
Gambling
Pharmaceutical industry
Plain packaging
Sugar tax
Tobacco
Vaping
Disasters and extreme weather events
Disasters
Extreme weather events
Bushfires
Bushfire-emergency 2019-2020
Floods 2023
Floods 2022
Floods 2021
Floods 2011
Donor-funded journalism
Donor-funded journalism – 2024
Donor-funded journalism – 2023
Donor-funded journalism – 2022
Donor-funded journalism – 2021
Donor-funded journalism – 2020
Elections
lutruwita/Tasmania 2024 election
#NSWvotesHealth2023
Victorian election 2022
Federal Election 2022
The Election Wrap 2022
#QldVotesHealth
SA election 2022
WA election 2021
Tasmanian election 2021
First Nations
Indigenous health
Community controlled sector
Cultural determinants of health
Cultural safety
Indigenous education
Social and emotional wellbeing
Uluru Statement
The Voice
Lowitja Institute
NT Intervention
WA community closures
Acknowledgement
#CTG10
#NTRC
#RCIADIC30Years
General health matters
Abortion
Cancer
Cardiovascular disease
Child health
Chronic conditions
Consumer health matters
Death and dying
Diabetes
Disabilities
Euthanasia
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)
Genetics
HIV/AIDS
HRT
Infectious diseases
Influenza
LGBTQIA+
Medical marijuana
Men's health
Mental health
Mpox
Non communicable diseases
Oral health
Organ transplants
Pain
Pregnancy and childbirth
Sexual health
Suicide
Swine flu
Trauma
Women's health
Youth health
Global health matters
Asylum seeker and refugee health
Conflict and war
Global health
WHO
Ebola
NHS
#WorldInTurmoil
Health policy and systems
Co-design
Health financing and costs
Health reform
Health regulation
Medicare 40 Years
MyMedicare
National Health Performance Authority
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
Private health insurance
Royal Commissions
TGA
Workforce matters
Strengthening Medicare Taskforce 2022
National Commission of Audit 2014
Healthcare
Adverse events
Allied healthcare
Australian Medical Association
Choosing Wisely
cohealth
Complementary medicines
Conflicts of interest
Co-payments
Digital technology
E-health
Emergency departments and care
Equally Well
General practice
Health Care Homes
Health ethics
Hospitals
International medical graduates
Medicare Locals
MyHospitals website
Naturopathy
NDIS
Nursing and midwifery
Out of pocket costs
Palliative care
Paramedics
Pathology
Pharmacy
Primary healthcare
Primary Health Networks
Rural and remote health
Safety and quality of healthcare and aged care
Screening
Social prescribing
Surgery
Telehealth
Tests
Media and health
Media-related issues
Health & medical marketing
Misinformation and disinformation
Public interest journalism
Social media and healthcare
The Conversation
Media Doctor Australia
News about Croakey
Public health and population health
Air pollution
Artificial intelligence
Australian Centre for Disease Control
Government 2.0
Gun control
Health communications
Health impact assessment
Health in All Policies
Health inequalities
Health literacy
Human rights
Illicit drugs
Injuries
Legal issues
Marriage equality
Nanny state
National Preventive Health Agency
Obesity
Occupational health
Physical activity
Prevention
Public health
Road safety
Sport
Transport
Vaccination
VicHealth
Violence
Web 2.0
Weight loss products
#PreventiveHealthStrategy
#UnmetNeedsinPublicHealth
Research matters
Cochrane Collaboration
Evidence-based issues
Health and medical education
Health and medical research
NHMRC
#MRFFtransparency
The Croakey Archives
#cripcroakey
#HealthEquity16
#HealthMatters
#IHMayDay (all years)
#IHMayDay 2014
#IHMayDay15
#IHMayday16
#IHMayDay17
#IHMayDay18
#LoveRural 2014
Croakey Conference News Service 2013 – 2023
2023 Conferences
#GreenHealthForum23
#hpsymposium2023
#NMS23
#HEAL2023
#ASMIRT2023
#NSPC23
Our Democracy Forum
#AskMSF
#Lowitja2023
2022 Conferences
#16nrhc
#GreenHealthForum22
#Heal2022
#ICEM22
#NAISA22
#NNF2022
#RANZCP2022
#RethinkAddiction
#RTP22
GiantSteps22
Equally Well 2022 Symposium
Choosing Wisely National Meeting 2022
2021 conferences
#21OPCC
#BackToTheFire
#FoodGovernance2021
#GiantSteps21
#GreenHealthForum21
#HealthClimateSolutions21
#HearMe21
#IndigenousClimateJustice21
#NNF2021
#RANZCP2021
#ShiftingGearsSummit
#ValueBasedCare
#WCepi2021
#YHFSummit
2020 conferences
#2020ResearchExcellence
#Govern4Health
#HealthReImagined
#SAHeapsUnfair
2019 Conferences
#ACEM19
#CPHCE19
#EquallyWellAust
#GiantSteps19
#HealthAdvocacyWIM
#KTthatWorks
#LowitjaConf2019
#MHAgeing
#NNF2019
#OKtoAsk2019
#RANZCOG19
#RANZCP2019
#ruralhealthconf
#VMIAC2019
#WHOcollabAHPRA
2018 conferences
#6rrhss
#ACEM18
#AHPA2018
#ATSISPC18
#CPHCE
#MHED18
#NDISMentalHealth
#Nurseforce
#OKToAsk2018
#RANZCOG18
#ResearchIntoPolicy
#VHAawards
#VMIACAwards18
#WISPC18
2017 conferences
#17APCC
#ACEM17
#AIDAconf2017
#BTH20
#CATSINaM17
#ClimateHealthStrategy
#IAHAConf17
#IDS17
#LBQWHC17
#LivingOurWay
#OKtoAskAu
#OTCC2017
#ResearchTranslation17
#TheMHS2017
#VMIACConf17
#WCPH2017
Australian Palliative Care Conference
2016 conferences
#AHHAsim16
#AHMRC16
#ANROWS2016
#ATSISPEP
#AusCanIndigenousWellness
#cphce2016
#CPHCEforum16
#CRANAplus2016
#IAMRA2016
#LowitjaConf2016
#PreventObesity16
#TowardsRecovery
#VMIAC16
#WearablesCEH
#WICC2016
2015 conferences
#CPHCEforum
#CRANAplus15
#HSR15
#NRHC15
#OTCC15
Population Health Congress 2015
2014 conferences
#IPCHIV14
AIDA Conference 2014
Congress Lowitja 2014
CRANAplus conference 2014
Cultural Solutions - Healing Foundation forum 2014
Lowitja Institute Continuous Quality Improvement conference 2014
National Suicide Prevention Conference 2014
Racism and children/youth health symposium 2014
Rural & Remote Health Scientific Symposium 2014
2013 conferences
Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation Forum 2013
Australian Health Promotion Association Conference 2013
Closing the Credibility Gap 2013
CRANAplus Conference 2013
FASD Conference 2013
Health Workforce Australia 2013
International Health Literacy Network Conference 2013
NACCHO Summit 2013
National Rural Health Conference 2013
Oceania EcoHealth Symposium 2013
PHAA conference 2013
Croakey Professional Services archive
#CommunityControl
#CommunityControl Twitter Festival
#COVIDthinktank21
Lowitja Indigenous knowledge translation series
Croakey projects archive
#PHAAThinkTank 2022
Summer reading 2022-2023
#CommunityMatters
#CroakeyFundingDrive 2022
#CroakeyLIVE #Budget2021Health
#CroakeyLIVE #USvotesHealth
#CroakeyLIVE Federal election 2022
#CroakeyYOUTH
#HousingJusticeAus
#IndigenousHealthSummit
#IndigenousNCDs
#JustClimate
#JustJustice
#LookingLocal
#OutOfPocket
#OutOfTheBox
#RuralHealthJustice
#TalkingTeeth
@WePublicHealth2022
@WePublicHealth2021
@WePublicHealth2020
AroundTheTraps
Croakey register of influence
Croakey Register of Influencers in Public Health
Croakey Register of Unreleased Documents
Gavin Mooney
Inside Story
Journal Watch
Naked Doctor
Poems of Public Health
Summer reading 2021-2022
Summer reading 2020-2021
Summer Reading 2019-2020
Summer Reading 2017-2018
Summer Reading 2016-2017
The Koori Woman
TOO MUCH of a Good Thing
Wonky Health
CroakeyGO archive 2017 – 2018
CroakeyGo 2018
#CroakeyGO #QuantumWords 2018
#CroakeyGO #VicVotes 2018
#CroakeyGO Albury 2018
#CroakeyGO Callan Park 2018
#CroakeyGO Carnarvon 2018
#CroakeyGO Marrickville 2018
#CroakeyGO Palm Island 2018
CroakeyGo 2017
#CroakeyGO Adelaide 2017
#CroakeyGO Melbourne 2017
#CroakeyGO Newcastle 2017
#CroakeyGO Sydney 2017
Elections and Budgets 2013 – 2021
Budget2020Health
Federal Budget 2020-21
Federal Budget 2019-20
#AusVotesHealth Twitter Festival 2019
#Health4NSW
Federal Election 2019
NSW Election 2019
Federal Budget 2018-19
Federal Budget 2017/18
NZ Election 2017
Federal Budget 2016-17
Federal Election 2016
#HealthElection16
NT Election 2016
Federal Budget 2015-16
Qld Election 2015
NSW Election 2015
Federal Budget 2014-15
Victorian Election 2014
Federal Budget 2013-14
Federal Election 2013
Federal Budget 2012-2013
Federal Budget 2011
Federal Budget 2010
Federal Election 2010
Federal Budget 2009-2010

A better and fairer National Health and Medical Research Council

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funds most of the health and medical research conducted in Australia – and hence pays the salaries of most of our health and medical researchers.

Recently, a decline in the level of NHMRC funding has meant that fewer grant applications are being funded and this, along with an assessment system which allows bias and chance to influence the outcomes of applications, is leading to a demoralised and depleted medical research workforce, according to Professor Tony Blakely, from the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne.

In the article below, originally published in The Conversation, Blakely discusses how the NHMRC could improve the way in which it awards grants in order to support our health and medical research workforce improve the value that their work delivers to the Australian community.


Tony Blakely writes:

Most health research in Australia is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), which distributes around $800 million each year through competitive grant schemes. An additional $650 million a year is funded via the Medical Research Future Fund, but this focuses more on big-picture “missions” than researcher-initiated projects.

Ten years ago, around 20 percent of applications for NHMRC funding were successful. Now, only about 10–15 percent are approved.

Over the same ten-year period, NHMRC funding has stayed flat while prices and population have increased. In inflation-adjusted and per capita terms, the NHMRC funding available has fallen by 30 percent.

As growing numbers of researchers compete for dwindling real NHMRC funding, research risks becoming “a high-status gig economy”. To fix it, we need to spend more on research – and we need to spend it smarter.

Increased funding needed

To keep pace with other countries, and to keep health research a viable career, Australia first of all needs to increase the total amount of research funding.

Between 2008 and 2010, Australia matched the average among OECD countries of investing 2.2 percent of GDP in research and development. More recently, Australia’s spending has fallen to 1.8 percent, while the OECD average has risen to 2.7 percent.

When as few as one in ten applications is funded, there is a big element of chance in who succeeds.

Think of it like this: applications are ranked in order from best to worst, and then funded in order from the top down. If a successful application’s ranking is within say five percentage points of the funding cut-off, it might well have missed out if the assessment process were run again – because the process is always somewhat subjective and will never produce exactly the same results twice.

So five percent of the applications are “lucky” to get funding. When only 10 percent of applications get funding, that means half of the successful ones were lucky. But if there is more money to go around and 20 percent of applicants are funded, the lucky five percent are only a quarter of the successful applicants.

This is a simplistic explanation, but you can see that the lower the percentage of grants funded, the more of a lottery it becomes.

This increasing element of “luck” is demoralising for the research workforce of Australia, leading to depletion of academics and brain drain.

The ‘application-centric’ model

As well as increasing total funding, we need to look at how the NHMRC allocates these precious funds.

In the past five years, the NHMRC has moved to a system called “application-centric” funding. Five (or so) reviewers are selected for each grant and asked to independently score applications.

There are usually no panels for discussion and scoring of applications – which is what used to happen.

The advantages of application-centric assessment include (hopefully) getting the best experts on a particular grant to assess it, and a less logistically challenging task for the NHMRC (convening panels is hard work and time-consuming).

Disadvantages of application-centric assessment

However, application-centric assessment has disadvantages.

First, assessor reviews are not subject to any scrutiny. In a panel system, differences of opinion and errors can be managed through discussion.

Second, many assessors will be working in a “grey zone”. If you are expert in the area of a proposal, and not already working with the applicants, you are likely to be competing with them for funding. This may result in unconscious bias or even deliberate manipulation of scores.

And third, there is simple “noise”. Imagine each score an assessor gives is made up of two components: the “true score” an application would receive on some unobservable gold standard assessment, plus or minus some “noise” or random error. That noise is probably half or more of the current variation between assessor scores.

So how do we reduce the influence of both assessor bias and simple “noise”?

First, assessor scores need to be “standardised” or “normalised”. This means rescaling all assessors’ scores to have the same mean (standardisation) or same mean and standard deviation (normalisation).

This is a no-brainer. You can use a pretty simple Excel model (I have done it) to show this would substantially reduce the noise.

Second, the NHMRC could use other statistical tools to reduce both bias and noise.

One method would be to take the average ranking of applications across five methods:

  • with the raw scores (i.e. as done now)
  • with standardised scores
  • with normalised scores
  • dropping the lowest score for each application
  • dropping the highest score for each application.

The last two “drop one score” methods aim to remove the influence of potentially biased assessors.

The applications that make the cutoff rank on all the methods are funded. Those that are always beneath the threshold are not funded.

Applications that make the cut on some tests but fail on others could be sent out for further scrutiny – or the NHMRC could judge them by their average rank across the five methods.

This proposal won’t fix the problem with the total amount of funding available, but it would make the system fairer and less open to game-playing.

A fairer system

Researchers know any funding system contains an element of chance. One study of Australian researchers found they would be happy with a funding system that, if run twice in parallel, would see at least 75 percent of the funded grants funded in both runs.

I strongly suspect (and have modelled) that the current NHMRC system is achieving well below this 75 percent repeatability target.

Further improvements to the NHMRC system are possible and needed. Assessors could provide comments, as well as scores, to applicants. Better training for assessors would also help. And the biggest interdisciplinary grants should really be assessed by panels.

No funding system will be perfect. And when funding rates are low, those imperfections stand out more. But, at the moment, we are neither making the system as robust as we can nor sufficiently guarding against wayward scoring that goes under the radar.


See here for Croakey’s archive of stories on medical research