6. Assessment Criteria

All applications must address, and are assessed against, assessment criteria. Scheme-specific criteria are set out in the scheme-specific Funding Rules. The following additional information is applicable to all schemes.

6.1. Relative to Opportunity

All applications submitted to NHMRC are assessed “relative to opportunity”. This reflects NHMRC’s policy that assessment processes accurately assess an applicant’s track record and associated productivity relative to stage of career, including consideration as to whether productivity and contribution is commensurate with the opportunities available to the applicant.

Circumstances considered under relative to opportunity include:

  •  amount of time spent as an active researcher;
  •  employment outside the research sector including time spent working in industry;
  •  career disruption (see section 6.1.1. for further details);
  •  available resources;
  •  clinical, administrative or teaching workload;
  •  relocation of an applicant and his/her research laboratory or clinical practice setting or other similar circumstances that impact upon research productivity;
  •  restrictions on publication associated with time spent working in other sectors (e.g. industry, policy and government); and
  •  the typical performance of researchers in the research field in question.

Further advice is provided in the Advice and Instructions to Applicants.

6.1.1. Career Disruption

Career disruption is a sub-category of “relative to opportunity” that may be considered when determining applicant’s eligibility and/or achievements. 

A career disruption involves a prolonged interruption to an applicant’s capacity to work, due to:

  •  Pregnancy;
  •  Major illness; or
  •  Carer responsibilities including parental leave and care for immediate family (e.g. spouse, children or elderly parent).

The interruption will involve a continuous absence from work for periods of one month or greater and/or a long-term  partial return to work (e.g. part-time absences from work due to circumstances classified as career disruptions).

Other circumstances considered under section 6.1 Relative to Opportunity are not career disruptions.

The period of career disruption may be used: (i) to determine an applicant’s eligibility for a scheme (e.g. Early Career Fellowships where applicants must have completed their PhD after a certain date, Project Grant New Investigators); (ii) to allow the inclusion of additional track record information for assessment of an application (e.g. Project Grants); or (iii) for consideration by the panel during their deliberations (e.g. Program Grants).

Further information on how career disruptions are considered under particular schemes is provided in the relevant scheme-specific Funding Rules, Advice and Instructions to Applicants and Peer Review Guidelines.

6.2. Health Research Involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

NHMRC is committed to ensuring opportunities are available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in any area of health and medical research and encourages applications from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers.

NHMRC is also committed to improving the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and encourages applications that address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

As part of NHMRC’s stated commitment (see the NHMRC Strategic Plan and the Indigenous Health webpage)  to advancing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research, the NHMRC has established certain requirements and processes designed to ensure that research into Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is of the highest scientific merit and is beneficial and acceptable to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.

Applicants proposing to do research which specifically relates to the health of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, or which includes distinct Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander populations, biological samples or data, should be aware of, and must refer to, the following documents in formulating their proposal:

To qualify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health research, at least 20% of the research effort and/or capacity building must relate to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health.

Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria

Qualifying applications must address the NHMRC Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria (Previously known as the Criteria for Health and Medical Research of Indigenous Australians (the Criteria)) as follows:

  •  Community engagement - the proposal demonstrates how the research and potential outcomes are a priority for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with relevant community engagement by individuals, communities and/or organisations in conceptualisation, development and approval, data collection and management, analysis, report writing and dissemination of results.
  •  Benefit - the potential health benefit of the project is demonstrated by addressing an important public health issue for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This benefit can have a single focus or affect several areas, such as knowledge, finance and policy or quality of life.  The benefit may be direct and immediate or it can be, indirect, gradual and considered.
  •  Sustainability and transferability - the proposal demonstrates how the results of the project have the potential to lead to achievable and effective contributions to health gain for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, beyond the life of the project. This may be through sustainability in the project setting and/or transferability to other settings such as evidence-based practice and/or policy. In considering this issue the proposal should address the relationship between costs and benefits.
  •  Building capability - the proposal demonstrates how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and researchers will develop relevant capabilities through partnerships and participation in the project.

Panels will consider these in their overall assessment of the application; together with the scheme-specific assessment criteria (refer to the scheme-specific Funding Rules).