Welcome from Head of School
First is the re-equilibration to work life after some form of summer holiday (not for all). Hopefully, we have returned rested and ready for this year’s opportunities. Second is the recommencement of the teaching including welcoming the new students to the MD program. It is with the greatest of pleasure that I speak to the new MD students each year and looks at a sea of enthusiastic, if not nervous, faces knowing that in 4 years’ time the vast majority of these individuals will be providing clinical care as newly minted doctors. The final challenge is the preparation and submission of research grants to the NHMRC. This process begins many months before, but the stress of impending deadlines is always close to the surface for our academic and professional staff in the early part of the year.
The research funding environment remains a challenging one, and the Melbourne Medical School (MMS) needs to stay nimble in creating the best opportunities to generate and apply new knowledge. In 2017 there are two opportunities that we will need to consider closely. The first is the imminent announcement of the changes to the NHMRC’s distribution of the $800 million Medical Research Endowment Account. The changes apply to project grants, program grants, development grants, partnership projects, a range of scholarships and fellowships, centres of research excellence, targeted calls for research and several collaborative schemes with international partners. In 2016 there was an extensive range of consultations within the sector about new grant models outlined on the NHMRC website. I encourage you to have a brief look at the material provided at this site and consider the implications for the various models proposed. It is likely that the new structure will be announced this year although the first year of its implementation is not certain. Once the NHMRC’s distribution changes are announced, the MMS, Faculty and University will need to work quickly to examine the best strategies and tactics to work within this new scheme.
The second opportunity is the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). This fund was established in 2015 with the purpose of providing grants to support health and medical research and innovation to improve the health and wellbeing of Australians. More details of the MRFF can be found at their website. The pool of funds to be distributed in 2017 is thought to be $65 million, but this will grow each year and may eventually equal the distribution from the NH&MRC MREA. The method of distributing MRFF funds is still under development but will almost certainly involve the Advanced Health and Research and Translational Centres. As you are aware, the University of Melbourne is affiliated with the Melbourne Academic Centre for Health.
There are both opportunities and risks in these two funding arrangements, and we need to watch developments in this area closely and even attempt to anticipate some of these changes. I will keep you posted.
Professor Geoff McColl
Head of School