#onsci: 15th March – Alternative Solutions for Research Funding & Careers

Kristin: One of the topcis that was floated in our January #onsci on the big issues for 2012 was science funding and political support for science. There are a plethora of issues in terms of the time taken for grants versus funding success, and the restrictions on what types of expenses may be funded. But there are also bigger issues such as how do we prioritise what research initiatives should be funded, and how do we ensure long-term sustainability for valid and important research projects that may span 10-20 years?

In the spotlight recently has been medical research, in part stemming from the driver for the Discoveries Need Dollars campaign and in part because of the McKeon Review of health and medical research in Australia which aims to recommend a 10-year strategic plan.

The McKeon Review is currently seeking submissions in relation to the following questions. I’ve added parentheses around the “health and medical” focus, as the questions are worth considering across all sectors (and as, indeed, the Discoveries Need Dollars campaign also sought not to exclude sectors of scientific research).

  • Why is it in Australia’s interest to have a viable, internationally competitive (health and medical) research sector?
  • How might (health and medical) research be best managed and funded in Australia?
  • What are the (health and medical) research strategic directions and priorities and how might we meet them?
  • How can we optimise translation of (health and medical) research into better health and wellbeing?

So how might research be managed and funded in Australia better, given our constraints and frustrations with the system? This month’s #onsci seeks to move away from whinging about the challenges to start to think about innovative solutions.

For example, at last month’s Australian Science Communicators’ conference, the Chief Scientist Prof Ian Chubb answered a question about support for early career researchers by suggesting a switch where early career researchers might have long-term contracts, and senior leads / professors be on short-term contracts as a way of ensuring retention of researchers with potential for the future. From philanthropy to commercialisation, what other funding models might be possible? What career structures could we test? And what does this mean for the way we communicate science and attract new scientists to research careers?

Join us this Thursday 15th Match at 9pm AEDT (10am GMT, 5am EST). It will be topical and it’s important to add a voice to the thinking differently about possible solutions.


  1. A summary of the key points along with an edited transcript has been prepared for the McKeon Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research.

    Link: http://storify.com/kristinalford/ideas-for-research-funding-and-careers

    The continuing performance of the health and medical research sector will require identifying additional and alternative sources of funding. A recent monthly Twitter chat #onsci drew together fifty scientists, researchers and science communicators to think about research funding and careers.

    This group suggested ideas for diversifying research funding including crowd-sourcing, investment by superannuation funds and broad industry engagement. In each of these cases the need to demonstrate the value of the research is critical, as are ways to ensure access scalability and repeatability. Collecting diverse funds may place commercial and time pressures on scientists, that perhaps could be better managed by an agency that identifies and allocates this range of sources.

    In finding alternative sources of funding, it is important to consider how decisions on the type of research conducted are made. Industry funding may be tied to specific requirements, and crowd-sourced funding is by its nature allocated on where the public sees a need for research. How to balance these needs with curiosity-driven or fundamental research is important. Decisions as to what research is funded must take place within a global context and with consideration of health trends, major challenges for Australia and input from the research community.

    Finally, it was acknowledged that optimising the outcomes of research should draw on multiple stakeholders. Translation ecosystems that include research institutions, industry and end-users are likely to be more successful. Collaboration, commercialisation and areas for industry-research crossover are required to make this work.


  1. […] #onsci: 15th March – Alternative Solutions for Research Funding & Careers Kristin: One of the topcis that was floated in our January #onsci on the big issues for 2012 was […]

  2. […] 2012: Alternative Solutions for Research Funding & Careers (outcomes submitted to the McKeon […]

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