Enabling the ARC Industry Fellowships Scheme to work for HMR

Announced in February this year, the ARC Industry Fellowships Scheme is intended to support all of the Government’s strategic target industries, including medical products.

Research Australia believes that the Scheme is at risk of failing to meet its objective of supporting the strategic area of Medical Products unless some form of exemption from, or relaxation of, the ARC’s Medical Research Policy is applied to the Industry Fellowships.

This issue has been raised by Research Australia in ARC consultations on the guidelines for the new Scheme and in a formal submission to the ARC. The submission is available here

Changes to RBG formula opposed by Research Australia

Research Australia has opposed the Government’s proposal to alter the formulae for calculating Research Block grants to universities as a means of incentivising greater engagement with business. Research Block grants consist of two programs provided by the Department of Education. The Research Support Program provides funding to universities relative to the research revenue they receive from different sources: government, business, not for profits etc. The Research Training Program funds the stipends and research costs of students undertaking Masters Degrees by research and PhDs.

The Government has proposed increasing the proportion of funding tied to business research revenue and reducing the proportion of funding tied to other research revenue.

Research Australia has opposed this measure because the most recent data shows that business funded research increased by 15.5% between 2018 and 2020, and basic research (usually funded by governments and universities themselves declined by 11.3% over the same period. Research Australia is concerned that simply changing the formulae rather than providing more block grant funding will further reduce basic research at a time when business research funding is already increasing.

Read Research Australia’s submission here.

Regulating AI and ADM in healthcare and HMR

The scope for the use of Artificial Intelligence and Automated Decision Making is only limited by our imagination. In responding to the Government’s Issues Paper on the regulation of AI and ADM, Research Australia has expressed the view that AI and ADM in healthcare and health and medical research need to be subject to regulation which can cover potential future applications and adapt and develop as AI and ADM change without requiring constant revisitation of the framework.

Research Australia believes the existing regulators and responsible agencies are best placed to regulate the use of AI and ADM in healthcare and in health and medical research and innovation. While a robust national safety framework with common principles is required to guide regulators and promote consistency, existing regulatory bodies should be appropriately resourced to ensure they have the capacity to effectively regulate and support the implementation of AI and ADM now and into the future within their own areas of responsibility.

Read Research Australia’s submission

2022-23 Pre Budget Submission- a way forward

Research Australia’s 2022-23 Pre Budget Submission acknowledges the COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous toll on the Australian community and globally, but also recognises that as a consequence of the way Australian governments and the community have responded, the impact in Australia has been comparatively mild.

Australia’s response to COVID-19 has been so broad and deep because of previous investments in the nation’s research and innovation capacity. This capacity, and the funding that underpins it, cannot be taken for granted. There is no guarantee that Australia’s health and medical research and innovation community will be equally well placed to respond to a future pandemic.

Research Australia’s submission makes the case for why maintaining and expanding this existing capacity for health and medical research and innovation is in the national interest.

In addition to raising national prosperity and diversifying our economy, smarter investment in health and medical research and innovation can improve the effectiveness of our health system; constraining the rise in health costs that accompany an ageing population. It can also provide a sustainable pathway to addressing modern lifestyle factors such as obesity. Smarter investment also drives skilled employment in vibrant new pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology industries.

Research Australia is advocating for an overarching national health and medical research strategy which ensures smarter, coordinated, strategic public investment in all stages of research; maximises impact on national priorities such as burden of disease, and the stronger translation of evidence-based research into healthcare delivery; and exploits areas of international competitive advantage. Imagining and preparing for the Australia we want in 50 years’ time has to start today.

Research Australia’ s submission is available here.

Privacy Act Review- implications for research

The Attorney General’s Department is currently undertaking a review of the Privacy Act 1988. Several of the proposals for change to the Act, including introducing the concept of anonymisation, have implications for research, but the Discussion Paper  does not directly include the way the Privacy Act affects the use of information for research purposes.

Research Australia’s submission highlights these areas and proposes that an expert group  be formed specifically to work on the redevelopment of the NHMRC guidelines in parallel with drafting of proposed amendments to the Act.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

The report of the Privacy Act Review is expected to be completed in mid 2022.

 

Research must support Primary Health Care 10 Year Plan 2022-2032

Research Australia’s response to the Department of Health’s consultation endorses the direction of the draft Primary Health Care 10 year Plan and welcomes its recognition of the key role research can and must play if reforms are to be achieved. Research Australia has  recommended a sustained investment in translational primary care research that is commensurate with the reform task outlined by the 10 Year Plan.

Research Australia has recommended the creation of an Institute for Primary Health Care Translational Research and Innovation and we have outlined in our response to specific questions the critical role this Institute could play in the implementation of the 10 Year Plan. We propose the development of a primary health care research agenda, supporting each action area of the 10 Year Plan. The Institute would be responsible for delivery of this research agenda.

Read Research Australia’s submission here.

Preparing for the next Digital Health Strategy

Research Australia has responded to an invitation from the Australian Digital Health Agency to provide input to the Agency’s planning for the next digital health strategy, due to commence in 2022.

Reflecting on the current Digital Health Strategy, Research Australia has suggested the existing seven pillars are still relevant, and proposed consultation on the new strategy be accompanied by an update on progress on the 2018 Framework for Action. We have also suggested the are some lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic about the role digital technologies play in health and the capacity for greater advances when the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments share data and cooperate. An example from the pandemic is national vaccine certificates able to be loaded on State government check in apps.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

Research can help address obesity

Research Australia has used its submission to the Australian Government’s draft Obesity Prevention Strategy 2022-2032 to make the case for a specific research strategy to support the Obesity Prevention Strategy.

An Obesity Research Strategy would identify research priorities and could include research to test and develop interventions and undertake comparative effectiveness studies and clinical trials. The research strategy should be developed with the relevant stakeholders: consumers, care providers and policy makers.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

The final National Obesity Strategy 2022-32 was released on 4 March 2022 and is available here. Research remains a key enabler, but there is no research strategy and no research funding.

Research Australia supports voluntary National IP Framework for university research commercialisation

Research Australia has welcomed the Australian Government’s proposal for a standardised Intellectual Property Framework to streamline the commercialisation of university research, but has opposed the Framework being made mandatory.

In a joint submission with Medicines Australia, MTAA and AusBiotech, Research Australia has proposed a pilot of the IP Framework to collect information about how and where it is useful, which could be used to evaluate and refine the contracts and processes. We have also called for the Department to extend the consultation process and organise a series of sector-specific workshops to allow all stakeholders to explore the potential issues of a standard IP Framework in detail.

Read the submission here.

A new Strategy for the MRFF

Research Australia’s submission in response to the consultation on the new MRFF Strategy 2021-26 and related Priorities has proposed several critical changes:

    • It has emphasised the need for the Strategy to provide more guidance about how the MRFF should be invested.
    • Greater engagement with health systems in the states and territories is essential, as is a focus on preventive health.
    • The Strategy needs to address how evidence arising from the research and innovation funded by the MRFF is embedded into the health system.
    • The new MRFF strategy should identify and address gaps in skills and capability that prevent the implementation of evidence into practice into our health system.
    • Infrastructure funding priorities for the MRFF should be developed in consultation with Department of Education Skills and Employment and state and territory governments, to ensure research infrastructure is funded where needed and complements other programs and initiatives.
    • The Strategy should propose a mechanism for better differentiating the funding programs of the NHMRC and the MRFF. The Strategy should also propose the development of a national HMR strategy to better coordinate funding for HMR from all sources, in much the same way the first strategy proposed a whole of government approach to addressing funding for the full cost of research.
    • COVID-19 has highlighted the particular difficulties facing early- and mid-career researchers. The Strategy could commit the MRFF to considering how the design of the MRFF’s funding programs could better support EMCRs.
    • The effects of COVID-19 in our region provide the opportunity for the strategy to consider how Australia can use its research capability to support our neighbours’ response to and recovery from COVID-19, as an exemplar for broader engagement on regional health issues.

Read Research Australia’s submission here.

The new MRFF Strategy, for the period from 2021-2026 was subsequently published on 2 November. It is available here.   More information about the MRFF Strategies and Priorities is available on our website here.