This Research Australia report highlights the invaluable role played by clinician researchers, and the urgent reforms need to ensure they can continue to serve our community.

Professor Russell Gruen, Dean of the College of Health and Medicine at Australian National University and a Research Australia Director said, ‘Clinician researchers bring both science and service to healthcare. They instil relevance in new discoveries, and translate the findings to benefit patients. Their curiosity spawns innovation, and their critical thinking drives evidence-based practice. They are motivated by truth, and inspire the same in others. Because they know what works, safety and quality depend on them. Their impact is local and it is global – they make healthcare excellent today and ensure it will be better tomorrow.

‘Such careers should be valuable and rewarding. Yet those that choose this path often face many challenges.’

As Research Australia CEO, Nadia Levin explains ‘it is clear the role of the Clinician Researcher is poorly understood in the health system, by policy makers and politicians. We realised Research Australia could contribute to the policy debate by producing a report that highlighted the breadth and variety of the clinician researcher role. To do this we approached 40 clinician researchers from across Australia, in a range of disciplines and roles at different stages of their career, to document their experiences and to give them the opportunity to speak first hand. The result is this report.’

As well as highlighting the challenges and barriers, the report identifies what needs to change:


  • Health services need to work with universities to give clinicians without higher degree research qualifications opportunities to participate in research projects and undertake training in research methods.
  • Integrated research and clinical training programs should be widely available across Australia. Universities should work with the specialist medical colleges, professional associations and healthcare providers to develop programs that enable many more early career clinicians to complete their advanced clinical training while undertaking higher degree research training.
  • Programs designed to support working health practitioners to complete higher degree by research qualifications should be more widely available across Australia and funding to support these programs should be available on a sustained and ongoing basis.

Workforce and employment

  • The Australian Government should prioritise the development of a Clinician Researcher Workforce Strategy and work with the State and Territory governments to include it in the next National Health Reform Agreement (NHRA).
  • Universities and health service providers should jointly establish clinician researcher positions with explicit time allocations to research and clinical practise; ideally the health service should not fund only the clinical hours, but the research component.
  • Research funding under the next NHRA should be directed to a program to fund the research component of the salaries of clinician researchers working in health settings covered by the NHRA. This will provide the clinician researcher with a single employer, the health service, similar to the UK model.
  • Where the clinician researcher works part time for two (or sometimes more) employers there should be an explicit agreement about how the time is divided between the clinical and research roles. Clinician Research Fellowships should require the explicit recognition of the terms of the Fellowship by all parties, including the health employer.
  • Ongoing professional support and development programs should be developed and available across Australia to support clinician researchers. Wherever possible these should be delivered in the health workplace or online.

The report is available here.