Consumer and community representatives bring their lived experience to the peer review process that helps identify the best and most relevant research to improve the health of Australians.
The National Health and Medical Research Council's (NHMRC) Targeted Calls for Research (TCR) scheme is a dedicated funding stream used to address urgent or specific health issues where there is a lack of research to inform clinical practice guide or health policy. The specific focus of a TCR provides the opportunity for consumer and community members, researchers and NHMRC to work together to identify the best and most relevant research to improve the health of Australians.
The NHMRC Policy on Consumer and Community Participation in Peer Review outlines NHMRC's approach to consumer and community participation in the peer review of applications received through TCR and other priority-driven research schemes. Consumer and community representatives will be required to provide a score for each application based on specific assessment criteria outlined in the grant opportunity and peer review guidelines. This score will be combined with the scores by the health and medical researchers on the peer review panel to determine an overall score. The final scores form a ranked list of applications that guides funding recommendations.
Consumer and community representatives
Consumer and community representatives are people who have, or care for someone with, lived experience related to the subject matter of the grant opportunity. They may also be people who represent the views and interests of consumers (or their families and/or carers) that use specific health services, such as community organisations and/or patient advocacy groups.
When establishing a peer review panel, NHMRC seeks to select a mix of consumer and community representatives to ensure a broad range of perspectives and viewpoints are captured in the assessment of research applications.
Attributes NHMRC look for in consumer and community representatives include:
- patients and/or their carers who have lived experience of the specific topic of the grant opportunity
- people who represent the views of patients, community organisations, health services
- a good reading level is required for consumer and community representatives to review and assess applications (we can organise translation and accessibility services as required).
- a level of technical expertise and understanding of how to interpret the written summary against the assessment criteria.
Members from a panel of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Consumer and Community Representatives will assess any grant applications which relate to the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The views of the consumer and community representatives are particularly important in the assessment of grant applications as they have an understanding of the unique cultural and community values or health needs the TCR is focussed on. Consumer and community representatives can assess a research proposal's applicability, relevance and potential impact on communities which ensures that the highest quality applications are funded. They can also assess if the research is designed appropriately and will effectively support consumer and/or community representatives involved in the conduct of the research.
Consumer and community representative involvement in the design and assessment of research applications gives health-services professionals and policy makers greater confidence in the outcomes informing health policies and health care services that are fit for purpose.
The opportunity for consumer and community members to work with researchers and NHMRC increases public understanding of, and engagement with, medical research. This renders the research process more open and transparent and assists in building public confidence in how research funding is spent. This will also protect against money and resources being wasted on research that has little or no benefit or impact for consumers.
If you are interested in participating as a consumer and community representative on a TCR peer review panel, please complete the nomination form found in the downloads section (below). Upcoming TCR opportunities with topic specific information can be found on Targeted Calls for Research.
Requirements for participation
As a consumer and community representative you will be required to:
- Read and assess a number of research applications aimed at improving health related to your lived experience. There are specific consumer and community representative assessment criteria and research applications provide a 2- or 3-page summary addressing these criteria.
- Use NHMRC's grants management system, Sapphire, to access the research applications and related documents relating to score the applications.
- Attend briefing meetings that run through the roles and responsibilities of consumer and community representatives and receive training on use of Sapphire to access and score applications.
- Attend a peer review panel meeting (usually virtual) with other consumer and community representatives and health and medical researchers. At the peer review panel meeting, consumer and community representatives will be required to provide a verbal report on a number of applications and participate in a discussion of all applications.
More details are provided in the booklet Consumer and community representatives participation in peer review panels.
The time involved in being a consumer and community representative depends on the number of grant applications received. Consumer and community representatives will be required to spend time reading and assessing grant applications in advance and may be allocated a few to discuss at the panel meeting. If a grant opportunity receives many applications, the peer review panel meeting may take up to three days. Monetary compensation will be provided for attendance at briefing and peer review panel meetings.