Research leaders welcome roadmap for health and medical research

Research leaders welcome roadmap for health and medical research

3 October 2012

Doug Hilton at desk with book
Professor Doug Hilton

The leaders of three prominent Australian research organisations have urged the federal government to adopt the recommendations of an independent review of the nation’s health and medical research sector.

Dr Gareth Goodier, chief executive officer of Melbourne Health; Professor James McCluskey, deputy vice-chancellor (research) at The University of Melbourne; and Professor Doug Hilton, director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, have congratulated the panel of the Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research in Australia, chaired by Mr Simon McKeon AO, on delivering a roadmap on how to harness Australia’s strengths in health and medical research to deliver the best possible healthcare to Australians.

The review panel has developed a 10-year strategy that includes 21 recommendations for improving the Australian health and medical research sector, with a focus on embedding research into the health system. The review recommends devoting at least 3 per cent of public sector health expenditure to research, an increased investment of $2-3 billion per annum by 2023. In addition, it supports the establishment of 10-20 ‘integrated health research centres’ and associated measures that will support and drive translation of research into clinical practice.

The review also recommends revamping the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia so it is better able to take a leadership role in the health and medical research sector, improving support and flexibility to make health and medical research a more attractive career path, and providing incentives to drive investment from high-end philanthropists.

Professor Hilton said he was highly supportive of the review’s recommendations. “A strong health and medical research sector benefits the Australian community and the Australian economy,” Professor Hilton said. “By aligning research with health and committing an additional three per cent of the health spend to research, we can help to ensure that the fruits of health and medical research are available to the entire community. It is reassuring to see the review panel has recognised the value of supporting translation of basic research into better health outcomes, and prioritising research areas that require immediate support, such as indigenous rural and remote health.

“The review has also provided a road map for the sector that will improve the transparency of research funding, so that Australian tax payers can be reassured that their money is going to support the best research by the best minds in Australia, and will bring about health improvements in the community.”

Professor McCluskey said the panel’s recommendations for increasing postgraduate stipends, extending grant funding periods and increasing flexibility for early-career researchers would secure the future of health and medical research in Australia. “The review panel has recognised that Australians make a valuable contribution to health and medical research,” Professor McCluskey said. “If adopted by the government, these recommendations will allow Australia to maintain a vibrant research community, encourage the top students to direct their talents to health and medical research, and stem the loss of valuable and talented scientists from the Australian research sector.”

Dr Goodier supported the panel’s vision for integrating research into health care. “Over several decades we have seen the benefits that come to patients when researchers and clinicians work together to tackle clinical research questions,” Dr Goodier said. “The financial support for clinicians to devote more time to research and the vision for better collaboration between hospitals, universities and medical research institutes through ‘integrated health care centres’ will ensure patients have the best possible access to the latest treatments and diagnostics being developed by Australian researchers.”

The review's draft report is open to public comment until 31 October 2012.

Further information:

Penny Fannin
Strategic Communications and Marketing Manager
P: + 61 3 9345 2928
M: +61 417 125 700
E: fannin@wehi.edu.au