Fixes for the Medical Research Future Fund

The Australian National Audit Office invites comments for its review of MRFF administration. Uni Sydney is glad it asked

The university’s submission succinctly sets out common criticisms of the way the MRFF works, and offers answers, including;

* citing seven agencies involved in decision making, Uni Sydney suggests, “it is not clear who is responsible for the overall governance of the MRFF or how the many organisations involved in its management and governance … interact to make decisions.”

It suggests the National Health and Medical Research Council’s system, an annual events calendar for funding calls, “to help standardise the applications process and facilitate better engagement with the research community.” And it recommends the NHMRC’s reporting outcomes, “on a rolling consistent basis … consolidated in a single place and updated after each funding announcement.”

* “the lack of transparency about how funding decisions are made in relation to MRFF priorities makes it vulnerable to the perception that equitable allocation is compromised by lobbying and the opportunity for the minister for health to make ‘captain’s picks’.”

* “to effectively monitor MRFF performance, success should be determined in consultation with experts in the relevant field and external bodies in order to customise the measures to each mission/activity.”

The ANAO always points out that it assesses the administration of programmes, not their politics. In addressing the NHMRC’s former, Uni Sydney has enlivened the latter.