Ideas for Research Funding & Careers

  1. Every month a Twitter chat under the hashtag #onsci brings scientists, science communicators and other interested parties together to discuss relevant professional issues. The March #onsci asked how might research be better managed and funded (in Australia) given our constraints and frustrations with the system, and what is required for sustainable research careers. This is an edited version of the chat transcript directed to the relevant questions being posed by the McKeon Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research.  
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    Thinking about tonight’s #onsci. A topic on enabling research might seem specialised, but has implications for #scicom #scied and industry.
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    Hello & welcome to March #onsci! Tonight’s topic is on solutions to research funding and careers (prelim info here:
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    We’ll also pull together tonight’s ideas for possible submission to #McKeonReview and others. #onsci
  5. How might health and medical research be best managed and funded in Australia?
    (Terms of Reference 2, 3 and 7)
  6. The #onsci chat looked at alternatives for funding and managing research in Australia. Suggestions raised included crowd-sourced funding and associated issues such as scalability and public decision-making, involving end-users and industry and investing through funds including superannuation. Perhaps ultimately there needs to be a mechanism for collating different funding opportunities?
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    Let’s build on that. Q2: Are there alternatives emerging for how science & research might be funded and what are they? #onsci
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    @onsci alternative funding: people talking philanthropic but fragmented and difficult without individual contacts #onsci
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    #onsci A2: Lots of other sources: crowds, TV, industry, doin it on the cheap
  10. Specific options around crowd-sourcing models for funding science were suggested:
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    crowdsourced seed funding for science: #onsci
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    more specifically, crowdsourced seed funding for science projects: #onsci
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    #2 Last year scientists raised $70,000 for research crowdsourcing in the #SciFund Challenge. Next round open: #onsci
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    As @suzieis mentioned earlier: Petri Dish. Crowd funding of research #onsci
  15. The issues with crowd-sourced funding were also discussed. These included the amount of funds, the decision-making process and the sustainability of such funding.
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    #onsci re: Q2 crowdsourcing maybe an option for some fields but prob not enough $$ to make it worthwhile for biomed
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    Reliance on crowd-funding means the crowd decides what research is done. Does the crowd know best? (cf climate change) #onsci
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    Most options like crowdsourcing are high cost in time, insecure, small amounts and wont scale well as primary sources #onsci
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    #onsci @genomematt and have poor tax component and make Federal R&D tax credit difficult.
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    @genomematt yes, I wonder how scalable it is, but also how repeatable it is #onsci
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    Crowdsourcing is however a good social media/ outreach activity with high audience involvement #onsci
  22. Consideration was given to how to involve end-users, especially increasing industry-based funding, and the issues associated with project-based funding.
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    Q2 – Work with the end users, and get them to support the research. For me, that’s landholders, regional groups and federal bodies #onsci
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    Funding from the corporate sector must be promoted. They have money…. lack ideas but want to make profits. 1of2 #onsci
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    Australia has amazing innovation / IP generation capability. Spark interest in corporate sector will promote growth. 2of2 #onsci
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    #onsci – A2 – direct industry funding – get money to solve a problem – then solve it
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    @dabeattie99 I like the idea, but e.g. biotech/biomed/ag industry has R&D departments – you’d have to convince them to outsource #onsci
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    @melinmelbourne Small companies outsource significantly. #onsci
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    @melinmelbourne #onsci researchers can give value to industry research activities – access to thinking and methods not available “in house”
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    @melinmelbourne difficult to build a career on it but it is a good addition to the funding mix #onsci
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    @dabeattie99 True – lots of value! Was thinking overall prob w sustainability, plus no $ for e.g. infrastructure&overheads #onsci
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    @melinmelbourne @dabeattie99 Yes. Philanthropy wants to fund cure for cancer but research institutes need money to keep the lights on #onsci
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    A2: Higher integration between Research organizations/companies and Univs, encourage (or engage) ‘focussed’ Small/Medium firms @onsci #onsci
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    proposed model: $ from industry, who only get to direct where say 60% of it goes, the rest is decided by independent body #onsci
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    #onsci @sauramaia Well it’s cheaper than the 3.2x multiplier CSIRO adds to their collaborations. $100K of research will cost someone $320K.
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    If shifting funding reliance towards industry – will it leave public money for basic sciences and non-commercial research? #onsci
  37. Investment through superannuation funds was also covered.
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    @whereisdaz #onsci I like your super / tax contribution idea / invest for return… how to implement / influence decision makers to agree?
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    @KatePatt #onsci I wish it was my idea… but yes, some way to get investment engaged in activities with further horizons wld be good
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    @whereisdaz Science meets Superannuation explored these themes. @billshortenmp gave very strong supportive speech #onsci #SmSuper2012
  41. We also canvassed funding individuals rather than projects.
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    #onsci What do people think about Paul Nurse’s argument that we should fund people (esp. big names) & let them figure out the projects?
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    @whereisdaz #onsci sounds just like the reliance on track record assessment influencing grant outcomes 🙂 – instead of the idea
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    @dabeattie99 #onsci again, how is this different from current situation, where TR trumps all else, regardless of review guidelines?
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    @whereisdaz Placing value in individuals and not ideas or numbers? I like it. Would that attract public funding? #onsci
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    and who chooses those people? RT @nessyhill: @whereisdaz Placing value in individuals and not ideas or numbers? I like it. #onsci
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    @dr_krystal @whereisdaz That’s pretty much the model for CSIRO and BoM research funding. Salaries permanent, project $ competitive #onsci
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    now with #onsci Online opportunity for #micropatronage a bit 2011 tho not explored 4 individual scientists; would need 2 “sell” themselves
  49. Piecing together all these different sources is difficult.
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    #onsci crowdsourcing, philanthropy, industry all seem short term solutions and piece-meal. What about sustainable incr in overall pool?
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    @KatePatt Yep, agree, fundamental shift required, need to setup for long term sustainable funding #onsci
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    Now that’s a good idea -> MT @KatePatt #onsci What about sustainable incr in overall pool?
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    @dr_krystal yep, there is a lot I like about the mixed funding model, but again, needs more $. How do we attract those?
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    #onsci How about an agency to manage and lobby for crowdsource, philanthropic, industry and govt funds, making a whole from the piecemeal?
  55. What are the health and medical research strategic directions and priorities and how might we meet them?
    (Terms of Reference 5, 12 and 13)
  56. While this #onsci chat didn’t determine specific health and medical research strategic directions, there were suggestions on how these research priorities might be guided. The key points included the need to ascertain the priorities of Australians in terms of their health from key trends, to look at the challenges for Australia and within a global context, and to think about who is best positioned to make choices – the public, government or researchers? The need for a balance between applied and fundamental research was also raised.
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    Let’s start w/ Q1: Research Priorities. How might we better make decisions about what research is important & what should be funded? #onsci
  58. Do we look at the social and broader needs of the community?
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    #onsci would epidemiological trends be a sufficient indicator?
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    #onsci Still, I guess my basic point is social and economic trends, public health issues as a basis
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    A1: In the syn bio forum I did on Monday, we asked how do we justify research into syn bio when there are so many other social needs? #onsci
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    #onsci Q1: importance needs to take into account views of end user/stakeholder
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    @onsci Publicly funded research must respond to the needs of the society that funds it, especially problem-solving applied research. #onsci
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    Research priorities should be guided by mix of economic, social & health impacts, but also capitalising on the existing strengths. #onsci
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    #onsci Q1 – That’s 2 Questions. For me, “important” is to support good public policy, but need to prioritize collaboration
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    #onsci Q1. Need a measure of utility, but its multidimensional. A spread of risks?
  67. Or should we devote time and funds to more fundamental research?
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    @onsci …but interest-driven, “curiosity” research also is of great benefit to society, although it doesn’t address a specific need. #onsci
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    Research priorities need to have a mix of research with ‘practical outcomes’ and research for discovery/knowledge. #onsci
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    Often problem with research priorities is that we focus too much on ‘practical research’. #onsci
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    @kristinalford MT #onsci I’m a sci comms person in research sector- lots of talk about industry links being important but we still need
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    #onsci basic research. Elizabeth Blackburn studied a pond scum that gave telomerase discovery and Nobel prize. Applied research is good too.
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    Curiosity based science historically gives high break through rate, often in unexpected areas. Researchers need intellectual freedom. #onsci
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    #onsci we need a layered approach one that gives space for the solid applied science and one that has space for those BigIdeas and inbetwee
  75. Another perspective is to consider grand challenges.
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    A1 I think we know what is important. I would like to see priority in researching done with respect to future strategies. #onsci
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    A1: I also had a discussion about how are we really focusing on the big issues (globally / in Aust?). #onsci
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    #onsci national research priorities must take into account global movements. we are not a tribe.
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    I like Gates Foundation model of “Grand Challenges” – setting priorities at a global level. Canada recently adopted similar system #onsci
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    Grand challenges Canada –… supports innovation of all kinds – scientific, technological, business & social #onsci
  81. How to decide on these challenges and priorities was also discussed.
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    #onsci research priorities need to be determined by people who are capable of making such decisions – educated, visionary, aware.
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    #onsci – who thinks that researchers should determine importance?
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    Q1 I liked recent UK “crowdsourcing” style of coming up w big research qn’s
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    A1: Research decisions should be updated (5/10yr) by Govt (Policy), working in tandem with Academicians & Industry with goals @onsci #onsci
  86. How can we optimise translation of health and medical research into better health and wellbeing?
    (Terms of Reference 4, 8, 9, 10 and 11)
  87. ideas around optimising translation stemmed from a discussion on R&D in research institutions and industry. This included collaboration, commercialisation, and industry/research cross-over.
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    Now to Q4. Are there differences in R&D/careers in industry? What are the good ideas that could be shared across sectors? #onsci
  89. Industry & research collaboration models were suggested:
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    #onsci Q4: The Bio21 model. Bring industry / uni together. Maybe not best implementation, but getting better. Left hand feeds right
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    Also CRCs – has probs but can build skills to transition btwn ind/uni MT @FabioTnet #onsci Q4: The Bio21 model. Bring industry/uni together
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    #onsci True. CRCs are attractive, not because of the govt funding, but close industry links. Note many CRCs are now Pty Ltd @melinmelbourne
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    #onsci… Agree completely. A good model that needs to be further developed. Bring ind / uni $/Innovation together! @melinmelbourne
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    Yes! – and reduces duplication. I hate waste. MT @FabioTnet @melinmelbourne #onsci Bring gov / ind / uni $/Innovation together!
  95. Managing research with a view to translation is also important, both in terms of the type of research conducted and the mechanisms for commercialisation.
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    I’ve seen that industry is more efficient with research (esp. clinical trials) but asks different & often biased questions. #onsci
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    @adamgdunn also often have less flexibility to pursue the cool incidental finding that will change the world #onsci
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    @genomematt Exactly. But how do we fund risky, non-commercial, long-term research without wasting $ on the lazy and ultimately unproductive?
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    @adamgdunn relatively high number of lower impact publications in int. comparisons. Impact softest metric on Uni league tables #onsci
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    #onsci Industry wants to, but many Uni commercialization bodies are risk adverse and don’t want to license technologies. @upulie
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    @FabioTnet @upulie amen to that. My experience with commercialisation units has not been what I would call in the spirit of progress #onsci
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    @kristinalford @upulie One of the biggest hurdles in my opinion. Why aren’t industry offices “on campus”????? #onsci
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    .@FabioTnet @kristinalford @upulie I think there is a large on campus industry presence in the big US campuses. Maybe not good for research.
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    @adamgdunn @kristinalford @upulie. Campus presence in USA. True. win / win. Uni gets $, Industry makes $. Researches have career.
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    .@FabioTnet But do the researchers end up asking all the wrong questions, aiming for commercialisation rather than improving society? #onsci
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    @adamgdunn I don’t think so. My first postdoc in EU was pharma sponsored. Always had money, stability and opportunity 1/2 #onsci
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    @adamgdunn 2/2 didn’t have to stress re: money. could focus on great research. never done better science in my life #onsci
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    @FabioTnet @kristinalford @upulie still think commercial academic research needs boundaries between them – just better collab’s #onsci
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    @adamgdunn @FabioTnet @kristinalford Agree,don’t want to see everything heavily commercialised,with immense pressure for that outcome #onsci
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    @ASSCRStemCells @FabioTnet @kristinalford @upulie US Academic researchers often move to commercial start-ups. More venture capital. #onsci
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    @FabioTnet Comes back to ur point earlier re small companies – think CRC’s can help those wanting to be involved & build connections #onsci
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    @upulie Aus industry culture may be problem – OS parents supply innovations, Aust subsidiaries accustomed to govt handouts. #onsci
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    @upulie @Askgerbil In Australia we have plenty of innovation “supply” – but we need to create right environment to boost the “demand” #onsci
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    @Askgerbil Yes, the conservative nature of investment in this country is a perennial problem #onsci
  115. Would industry / academic cross-over aid translation?
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    @dr_krystal @Askgerbil and translation, marketing #onsci
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    #onsci @upulie Agreed. Translation of evidence into practice/policy is IMO the biggest problem in research. A major source of inefficiency.
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    i wonder if better research outcomes would be achieved if researchers had to work in industry before entering academic research #onsci
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    @sauramaia If you can get rid of the inherent snobbery within research, it could help #onsci
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    As an academic I have a poor understanding of “industry” research, and some exposure to it would help everyone. #onsci
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    @FabioTnet How do you build a self evolving, growing, self propagating funding ecosystem? #onsci
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    @dr_krystal Geez if we knew. 🙂 I think it must have something to do with uniting uni/innovation and industry with Govt sactions. #onsci
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    @dr_krystal @FabioTnet passion!! #onsci a Vision for #protectresearch #DND #model #foundation
  124. This short summary of the March #onsci presents a range of views on research priorities, managing and funding research and how best to achieve translation. It reflects a range of views from the science and science communications communities rather than definitive recommendations. However, we trust that it adds a useful perspective to the McKeon Strategic Review on Health and Medical Research.

     – Kristin Alford, March 2012


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

  3. […] topics covering education, online media, industry extension, marketing and research, including a submission to the McKeon Review. #onsci is a collaboration between us, Sarah Keenihan and Heather Bray, and we have also welcomed […]

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