Australia’s world-class medical researchers face job insecurity

Health Industry Hub | August 12, 2020 |
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Medical News: More than half of Australia’s health and medical research workforce face job insecurity according to a report released by sector’s national peak alliance, Research Australia.

The report, The Impact of COVID-19 on Health and Medical Researchers, details the short term nature of careers in what should be regarded as a critical national capability.

In unprecedented numbers, health and medical researchers have been rapidly redeployed to work on COVID-19 – but it has come at a cost. This sudden and necessary mass pivoting of so many researchers away from business as usual, coupled with the pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, has thrown existing projects and their funding streams off course.

“No one is immune to the effects of this pandemic. Laboratory work can’t be done from home, social distancing restricts access to patients and without access to hospitals and clinics, many researchers have struggled to recruit new participants in studies. It can take weeks and months and additional funding to restart projects, or valuable research will be lost.

“COVID-19 has been a wakeup call to the health and medical research sector for the need to not only sustain and enhance Australia’s world-class research capability but increase its resilience, flexibility and sustainability.

“Beyond immediate action, there is a clear need for long-term reframing of the system’s architecture. The pandemic has forced us to look at the challenges facing Australian medical research and consider how we can improve the not only the framework for investment in medical research but importantly to enjoy the considerable opportunities that this sector offers the country,” said Research Australia Managing Director and CEO Nadia Levin.

The key findings of the report are:

  • 90% of medical researchers were supportive of the Australian Government’s response to the pandemic, overwhelmingly agreeing that the response has been both timely and effective.
  • Nearly 70% of medical researchers expect their research to be affected by COVID-19 beyond 2020. Nearly half (47.7%) of those who expect to be affected anticipate they will be unable to complete current projects. More
  • Investigation is needed to understand the extent to which currently funded research programs may never be completed or may need to be restarted at a later date.
  • Medical researchers experience high rates of job insecurity. A majority (54.5%) are employed on fixed term contracts, with this ratio higher for early and mid-career researchers. Across the broader Australian population only 5.2% of people with permanent employment were employed on fixed term contracts.
  • Only 34.8% of researchers were not currently applying or about to apply for funding.
  • Nearly two thirds of medical researchers (62.5%) support a longer-term restructure of Australia’s heath and medical research funding framework.

Research Australia is the national peak body for Australian health and medical research

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