UA is the peak national body for Australia’s 39 comprehensive universities. Our universities not only train Australia’s research workforce, they also make a significant contribution to Australia’s health and medical research efforts. In 2020, Biomedical and Clinical Sciences and Health Sciences were in the top three fields of research undertaken by universities, making up 32 per cent of the total research expenditure.1 Universities also receive the majority of the research grants allocated via both the MRFF and the MREA.
The setting of funding objectives should be at the centre of the proposed model. Further, regardless of the model adopted, there is an urgent need to address the funding of indirect costs of research from each funding scheme. The current arrangements rely on organisations in receipt of competitive grants to fund research infrastructure from other sources of revenue. In the case of universities, this is most commonly from international education, in hospitals from clinical budgets and for medical research institutes from other sources of revenue –all are under strain and therefore at risk. That the MRFF was introduced without providing for indirect costs is ultimately a false economy that should be addressed as part of any revision to governance arrangements.
It is critical that these funds operate in a manner which appropriately supports health and medical research while minimising administrative burden. There should be appropriate safeguards with respect to the quantum of such funding and the setting of funding objectives should be at the centre of the proposed model. As such, UA considers that the general approach outlined in Model 2 represents the best way forward for improving coordination and alignment between the two funds. The rationale for coming to this view is outlined below.
RESPONSE TO THE DISCUSSION PAPER
UA appreciates the clear and logical structure of the discussion paper, in particular the details provided around what we consider to be three logical and constructive options. We also look forward to having the opportunity to participate in future consultations around stage two of this project – the development of a National Strategy for Health and Medical Research in Australia.