Alarm sounded on local brain drain
Scientists say our “innovation nation” could be turning into a wasteland.
A new study by the Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR) says one in four scientists are “uncertain” if they will have their jobs next year.
Over 80 per cent are considering leaving scientific research for another career.
“Despite science and innovation being the platform for Australia's future economic strategy, Australia faces an imminent brain drain,” the report found.
The report said five years of static National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding had seen grant rates and the size of the scientific workforce drop.
It found that 15 per cent of Australia's scientific workforce had already left, often because of a lack of local scientific funding.
While federal initiatives like the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) will deliver up to $1 billion per annum from 2018, experts say it will not fill the gap left by years of stagnant funding levels.
Research by Deloitte Access Economics says the number of scientists funded by NHMRC grants has fallen by 16 per cent, and that scientists are increasingly only able to get part time employment in medical research.
The reports together suggest significant investment in the NHMRC is needed to fund grants to mitigate the decline in the research workforce.
“There needs to be a long term investment strategy into the NHMRC endowment account,” Deloitte says.
“This will ensure continued health and economic gains which will assist to mitigate the rising and unsustainable cost of health care and the burden of disease that Australia is facing.”
Federal Health Minister Susan Ley says the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) will help.
“Over the next four years alone, the MRFF will distribute $784 million into new research, over and above the standard NHMRC grant funding,” she said.
“We are committed to investing in medical research, because we know that every dollar invested in medical research returns on average over $2 in benefits through driving reducing the burden of disease and driving productivity.”
The MRFF Advisory Board has completed its consultations and will soon announce its strategies and priorities, with word on actual projects to be funded coming soon after.