Alas, not in New Zealand, but close … our Australian counterparts in medical research appear on the face of it to have scored big in what appears otherwise to be a grim Australian budget. An AUD$20bn medical research “future fund” is to be established. This effectively means that by 2022-3 there will be twice the current budget available for medical research per annum (i.e. about $1bn). How this will be divided up remains to be seen, but I note that Prof Mike Daub of Curtin University is suspicious that it is “Medical Research” not “Health and Medical Research.”
If this truly is a massive boost to medical research in Australia, what could it mean to New Zealand?
A negative possibility is that because there are already issues with recruiting medical specialists who wish to undertake research in New Zealand and because the Australian NHMRC already has successful contestable grant funding rates about twice that of New Zealand’s HRC (~16% cf ~7%), I expect there would be more one-way traffic of scientists to Australia. It is imperative that this be avoided, for all our health’s sake.
If, though, the funding recognises the value of collaborative research then it may be possible for New Zealand scientists to work more closely with their Australian counterparts on projects of mutual interest. To that end, the New Zealand Government has (now) a great opportunity under CER to facilitate collaboration. Perhaps, a dedicated fund that would support New Zealand researchers financially to play a role in Australian led research. Apart from the high quality of NZ researchers (!), New Zealand should appeal to Australia because of the better integration of our health systems, especially with respect to tracing patient hospital events nationally, and because of the lower costs of doing research here. Furthermore, health consumers in New Zealand demand the best (I know I do!) and the best is only available through research – ultimately more research across the ditch will benefit us here. Thanks Tony.
ps. Catching the early flight to Sydney tomorrow to share some Trans-Tasman love and collaborate with my medical research colleagues at the Prince of Wales Hospital and the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital.