"Fabulous time" to be a medical researcher
The federal government's investment in medical research through its $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund would secure a healthier future for Australians, according to the director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.
Professor Doug Hilton, who initiated the 2011 Discoveries Need Dollars campaign which saw thousands of Australians rally on the streets in support of medical research, said the government's investment aligned with the importance the Australian community placed on health and medical research.
"Australian health and medical researchers have made discoveries that have improved the lives of million of people in Australia and around the world. This investment from the government is game changing. As a sector we take very seriously the responsibility to spend every cent as wisely and efficiently as we can," Professor Hilton said.
The government has committed $1.1 billion for the new Medical Research Future Fund, which is expected to grow to $20 billion by 2020.
Dividends from the fund – expected to be the largest of its type in the world – will be spent exclusively on medical research. Dividend payments will start at $19.9 million in 2015-16, rise to $179.3 million in 2017-18 and, by 2023-24, the fund is expected to provide an additional $1 billion a year for medical research, doubling the government's investment in medical research within a decade.
Professor Hilton said although there was not yet detail on how the funds would be spent, the first priority should be ensuring the research granting system was highly efficient.
"We need the processes that exist around the administration of research grants to be commensurate with a fund of the size forecast for the Medical Research Future Fund," Professor Hilton said.
Other priorities included supporting the indirect costs of medical research such as electricity and IT systems, developing a sustainable career structure for early and mid-career researchers, and supporting research aimed at making the health system more efficient and productive.
"It is a fabulous time to be a medical researcher.
"The government has recognised the capacity of Australian researchers to innovate and deliver benefits for the Australian community.
"This sends a fabulous signal to young researchers that, from the point of view of health and medical research, Australia is open for business.
"If you are bright and smart and want to make a difference, medical research is a career to consider."
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