Quitting time for Kelso at NHMRC

Steve Wesselingh will take over at the National Health and Medical Research Council

Anne Kelso will step down as council CEO when her second term expires, end July.

Professor Kelso stepped up in 2015, replacing the frankly spoken Warwick Anderson (CMM February 12 2015) and throughout her terms she was publicly discrete and diplomatic. It was a handy style given the great controversies on her watchfew and farer between opportunities for young researchers, and gender imbalances of awards.

There was never much Professor Kelso could do about the overall funding pool – the creation of the Medical Research Future Fund meant governments could, and can, claim they are spending heaps. However under her leadership the NHMRC confronted grant distribution by consulting, consulting and consulting some more. A new grants scheme was announced in 2017 (CMM May 26) and the council kept working on who gets what. This was and is hard and thankless work – more grants for vocal young researchers inevitably annoy the old and influential.

The NHMRC also embraced the way lower profile but equally intractable issue of research open access. It proposed requiring publications based on research it funds to be immediately open access in March 21, which did not impress all it stakeholders (CMM November 2 2021). But in less than a year the council either had sufficient support, or no longer cared about critics and announced that all new papers based on peer-reviewed research it funds must be open access from pub date (CMM September 20 2022).

Professor Kelso is a hard act to follow – which as an NHMRC insider Steve Wesselingh surely knows. He is present chair of the council’s research committee and now ED of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute.