MRFF and NHMRC Consider Merger as National Health Research Review Begins

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Australia’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) are contemplating a potential merger, leading to the distribution of a combined annual budget of A$1.5 billion.

The review, initiated on June 4th, aims to assess funds’ administrative and governance structures. Currently, the MRFF allocates A$650 million annually, while the NHMRC’s yearly expenditure is approximately A$900 million.

Researchers have called for more transparency in MRFF’s processes and greater stakeholder involvement in funding decisions. The proposed models under consideration involve closer collaboration between the two entities, with the NHMRC taking charge of the MRFF’s investment plans or a complete merger with a unified funding pool.

Phillip Gould from the Department of Health and Aged Care acknowledged the division between top-down priorities and investigator-led work, seeking input on establishing appropriate guidelines.

“The webinar that, “some think departmental involvement is a good thing, but for others there’s a view that government should stay out of these processes,” Gould said.

NHMRC CEO Anne Kelso emphasised the need for balance in the new strategy, as the MRFF primarily funds top-down research, while the NHMRC focuses on researchers’ interests.

The Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI) has expressed delight over the review, stating that a national strategy is crucial for Australia’s medical research sector. The review also aims to streamline funding mechanisms, address concerns regarding research commercialisation and translation into clinical settings, and address challenges early to mid-career researchers face.

“We need a funding landscape that is easy to navigate, doesn’t cause extra burden to our brilliant researchers, and provides the best outcomes for Australia.” AAMRI President Kathryn North said

Overall, stakeholders can contribute their input to shape a funding landscape that supports Australia’s medical research workforce and achieves optimal outcomes through webinars and submissions.

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