Academy responds to “Women in STEM Decadal Plan” consultation

The Academy has responded to a consultation on the Women in STEM Decadal Plan, a 10-year roadmap jointly led by the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. The plan aims to reduce gender barriers and boost female participation in the STEM.

In our response, the Academy highlights the opportunity for Australia to gain a competitive edge by addressing the issues and barriers faced by women in STEM and stresses the need to promote gender equity for women in the STEM sector, particularly those in health and medical research.

Employment issues, such as greater job security, policy and data-driven measures are important to address challenges that disproportionally affect women. Among other things, the Academy encourages gender equitable workplace policies and welcomes efforts to broaden parental leave although there is still a need to acknowledge the impact childcare responsibilities have beyond the parental leave period. Rather than assessing career recognition through traditional output metrics (e.g. publications), we suggest that more emphasis should be put on the impact and translation of research.

Gender-equitable pathways are crucial to attract and retain women in STEM professions, particularly health and medical research careers. The Academy is committed to supporting and nurturing the future generation of leaders in health and medical research and our response highlighted the dual demands faced by clinician scientists in particular, who must manage both research and clinical career pathways, which can exacerbate the challenges faced by women in STEM.

Mentors are a crucial source of inspiration and guidance to researchers and the Academy is proud to currently have 36 participants in its mentorship program, of which 17 are women. Beyond this, the Academy has a gender-balanced council with a total of 19 members of which 10 are women (at the time of submission).

Our response welcomes efforts to better understand this issue through data collection and analysis, but we stress the need to follow this with action. We will continue to actively monitor how we can raise female representation within our Fellowship and throughout our activities.

Our full consultation response to the Women in STEM Decadal Plan can be downloaded here.

 

Image: Council member and Fellow of the Academy, Professor Fiona Wood AM FRACS FAHMS

Academy responds to inquiry into Funding Australia’s Research

The Academy has responded to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training’s inquiry into Funding Australia’s Research, highlighting that:

  • Research and innovation drive economic growth, create jobs and bring considerable societal benefits through the translation of research findings.
  • Efficiency and impact of research funding will be maximised through long-term investment that provides the stability needed to ensure that research and innovation can address the most pressing national and global challenges.
  • For health and medical research, funding impact and translation will be substantially improved by ensuring that research is embedded in healthcare delivery. Clinician scientists need to be empowered to pursue both clinical and research endeavours.
  • Research funding now must deliver for the future, which means implementing targeted support for early- and mid-career researchers to ensure that they can become tomorrow’s leaders.

Our full response can be downloaded below.

Funding Australia’s Research submission – June 2018

AAHMS Priority Setting Event and MRFF Submission

The full text of the AAHMS meeting proceedings can be downloaded here.

 

AAHMS Fellows met in Sydney on 29 April 2016 for the Priority Setting Roundtable Symposium to consider a strategy for prioritised research.  The event,  facilitated by Dr Norman Swan (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), was a resounding success, with enthusiastic participation by more than 100 attendees, including Fellows, Mentees and a broad range of external stakeholders from government, industry, research organisations and community organisations.

The Symposium was addressed by Federal Health Minister Hon. Sussan Ley, Chairman of the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board Prof Ian Fraser AC, CEO of the National Health and Medical Research Council Prof Anne Kelso AO, Vice-President of AAHMS Prof Ingrid Scheffer AO and Chairman of Innovation Australia Bill Ferris AC, to outline the current medical research landscape in Australia.

The Academy formulated 10 key principles that reflect the Fellowship’s perspectives on a framework for the selection of priority areas for the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). These broad principles are proposed by the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences to:

  • Provide a framework to guide selection of target areas for priority based funding.
  • Outline broad principles to guide execution of priority funding by the Medical Research Future Fund and other funding bodies and monitoring of funded projects.

 

Overall:

Principle 1 outlines an overall driving philosophy that underpins the rest of the principles.

Principle 2, 3 and 4 focus on selection of priority areas for funding.

Principles 4, 5 and 6 guide selection of specific projects within each priority area and define how these projects work together towards achievement of implementation outcomes.

Principles 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 relate to execution and monitoring of funding and project activities.

 

Principle 1: MRFF as a Transformational Catalyst

The introduction of the MRFF should be viewed as a transformational opportunity in translation of health and medical research into outcomes for patients and the community as a whole, holding significant potential to catalyse progress and change in a number of domains. A key component of maximising this unique opportunity is constant evaluation of the value-add that the MRFF can provide over and above the status quo, and this approach should underpin the full spectrum of activities carried out by the MRFF.

Principle 2: Health Outcome Focussed Approach

Priority based research funding should be based on a health outcomes and engagement approach, encompassing a spectrum of health issues, benefits and users. These will be based on community needs, burden of disease, health disparities and impact of preventive/public health activities.

 

Principle 3: Economic/Commercial Outcome Focussed Approach

In addition to a health outcomes focus, specific consideration should be given to the potential economic impacts of priority areas. This approach is necessary to reflect the realities of constrained research and healthcare budgets. The economic benefits examined will range from cost savings through efficiencies in healthcare delivery, through to creation of new revenue streams via self-sustaining commercial entities. Examples of key performance indicators that may be used include cost assessment of new vs existing approaches, number of successful commercial ventures in the health sector, return on investment metrics and public health based financial metrics together with cost-benefit evaluation of projects supported by the MRFF to be used to refine further investments to generate high value outcomes.

 

Principle 4: Capacity Building & Training Focussed Approach

Priority should be given to opportunities to build capacity at all levels within the Australian health and medical sciences research domain. Human resource capacity building will aim to develop cohorts of multi-skilled researchers at all levels drawn from a range of high impact domains, provide ongoing skills support and development, and complement existing fellowships and other frameworks. Specific consideration will be given to capacity building opportunities related to infrastructure, platforms and tools that may extend beyond the initially funded project.

 

Principle 5: Implementation Oriented Approach

The key outcome on which project selection and monitoring will be assessed is implementation of healthcare delivery innovations in the selected priority areas. Higher priority will be given to projects with greater potential for widespread implementation, significant potential impact or a high chance of achieving success.  Assessment of implementation feasibility will utilise best practice industry style evaluation models, and involve the partners who will be involved in the implementation right from the start. Also important will be de-implementation of ineffective or unproven healthcare practices that form part of current practice.

 

Principle 6: Consumer Involvement

Meaningful consumer input into research should be designed at all stages of MRFF activities. The underlying principles of this consultation are to drive a mature approach to needs analysis and market research, drive invention and prioritisation from an end user/beneficiary perspective, shortcut implementation cycles and maximise outcomes and returns, and capitalise on the existing knowledge, funding and structural systems. Consumer involvement strategy should be carried out in a sophisticated manner that maximizes input while maintaining an evidence-based and balanced focus.

 

Principle 7: Collaborative Strategic Approach

Projects selected for support will demonstrate a specific collaborative focus to ensure that the right people with the right skills and networks are in place to give the greatest chance of success. These skills will be multidisciplinary in a meaningfully complementary way, and must include all domains necessary to maximise outcomes e.g. business and project management, engineering, physics, information technology etc. Funding decisions will therefore be agnostic of public/commercial status of applying institutions, and where required skills are not already available within applying bodies, acquisition will be facilitated by the MRFF.

 

Principle 8: Comprehensive Investment and Operational Strategy

Priority based research funding will be executed using a cohesive investment and operational strategy which includes the following key components:

  • Focus on areas of national importance and global significance.
  • A global approach will be taken, looking at international context and evidence base, local scope and cooperation/co-investment opportunities, and global industry status and competition considerations.
  • Utilise a goal and milestone based approach incorporating best practice from public and private research and project management fields. Wherever possible a staged approach that builds in accountability to achieve intended outcomes will be used.
  • Funding for success, including reflecting the true total costs of research activities, incentivising excellence and maintaining flexibility in funding to allow ‘pivoting’ as new opportunities or barriers arise.
  • Maintain a diversified risk/benefit portfolio, including an appetite for potentially disruptive/ innovative or high risk/high potential benefit activities. Additionally, support de-risking early stage ventures with a view to commercialisation.
  • Use of expert review to guide selection, approval and ongoing monitoring of activities. This should be implemented in an industry based manner using a targeted, iterative, staged/gated approach.

 

Principle 9: Measuring Success

Measurement of success of activities will be based on a key performance indicator (KPI) model in two areas:

  • 1. Process KPIs – these reflect the work of the funding body and will be designed to meet the expectations of the stakeholders. Key examples for consideration may be the number of projects funded, impact of research funded on overall health burden reduction, number of projects achieving predefined milestones, number of projects progressing along commercialisation path, number of new start ups, increased employment and export earnings as a result of funding made.
  • 2. Outcomes KPIs – these reflect the performance of the funded research bodies and should be set as part of the funding, milestone setting and oversight process. Examples may include reduction in disease burden in priority areas, assessment of specific healthcare improvements achieved, and overall economic return on investment of funded projects. Achievement of relevant milestone KPIs should a critical part of ongoing funding decision making through the project cycle.

 

Principle 10: Support Innovation in Research and Funding

Support the use of new and novel techniques to maximise innovation potential in research funding. Project submission and assessment should utilise an iterative, consultative approach to development of proposals, business cases and funding models, allowing resubmission with peer review when necessary.  Research techniques for consideration may include brainstorming sessions, pitching sessions, ‘hackathons’, ‘blue-sky’ days, venture capital sessions. Maximise opportunities to leverage new and novel funding approaches, including philanthropic funding, joint/matched commercial funding should be supported where possible.

 

Download the full document here: Downloadable Document

AAHMS Response to the Review of Australia’s Research Training System

Securing Australia’s Future – Research training system review

The Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences has considered the questions raised by the review committee and generally endorses the comments made.

It notes however that research training in the context of clinical service delivery or population health practice has some special requirements that are often overlooked, and some special challenges because of the service delivery priorities in the health system. As detailed in the McKeon committee review of health related research, there is a need to re-embed training in research in all sectors of the health service industry: medical practitioners, allied health professionals and nurses all need to learn the basics of health research. This is because the translational research that determines whether a particular intervention can improve patient outcomes and/or service delivery cost effectiveness can only be done “on the job”: there is no surrogate for clinical research to answer these questions.

The need to do clinical research on the job mandates that, to optimize quality and efficiency of health care, all health service practitioners should be familiar with the basics of clinical research, including trial design and implementation, research ethics, and interpretation of research results. Many of these skills are also relevant for population health practitioners. In addition, at least a proportion of practicing health practitioners need to have both the time and the specific training and skills to enable them to initiate, overview, and interpret intervention trials, including training in biostatistics, public health research, and economic analysis, and to train the next generation of researchers. They also need both the time and the opportunity to interact with their basic science colleagues, both to ensure that the basic scientists understand the current needs of service delivery (“don’t reinvent wheels”) and the limitations of clinical practice (“don’t propose practically unfeasible treatment trials”).

Thus, research training in the clinical and population health services cannot be separated from professional training, and continuing professional development in health service delivery must incorporate continuing professional development in research skills.

You can download the Academy’s full submission here.