The NHMRC Corporate Plan 2018–2019 covers the period 2018–19 to 2021–22. It identifies the major health issues for this period, how we will deal with these issues and a strategy for medical research and public health research, in line with the requirements of the NHMRC Act. It also describes NHMRC’s purposes, planned activities and performance measures for the period and addresses our capability, environment and risk oversight and management.

    Publication Data

    Reference number
    Corporate archive

    Table of contents

    Key changes from the 2017–2018 plan

    A full review of the corporate plan was undertaken this year to align with the commencement of NHMRC's new triennium. Changes to the plan include:

    • significant streamlining and restructuring
    • updates to the major health issues to reflect the coming period
    • updates to some key activities (previously termed ‘strategic priorities’)
    • minor updates to the ‘purposes’, ‘strategy for health and medical research’ and ‘performance measures’ sections.

    Message from the CEO

    Research underpins advances in the health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and countries. In this country, NHMRC plays a unique and central role in supporting research and its translation across the full range of national health needs – from the health issues of today to the less predictable challenges of the future. We meet these needs through a diverse portfolio of schemes designed to support high-quality research and researchers, and through a range of ethical and health guidelines for the health sector and the community.

    As NHMRC begins a new triennium, we look forward to an ambitious plan of work to implement the reforms initiated over the past three years and to respond to the challenges and opportunities ahead.

    Top of the list is the roll-out of NHMRC’s new grant program. Following the Structural Review of NHMRC’s Grant Program in 2016–2017 and the development of the new grant program and supporting peer review processes, applications to the new schemes will open in late 2018 and 2019. The advice and support of the research sector have been critical to the process so far and will help to ensure the changes strengthen Australian health and medical research. Evaluation of the effectiveness of the reforms will be an important part of NHMRC’s work during this triennium.

    NHMRC will continue to work closely with the Department of Health to support delivery of Medical Research Future Fund measures. This work and the management of NHMRC funding schemes will be greatly facilitated by the introduction of Sapphire to replace NHMRC’s ageing Research Grants Management System, providing enhanced analytical power and a functional contemporary interface for applicants, assessors and research institutions.

    Research to eliminate the health disparities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will continue to be a priority for NHMRC. In addition to expending at least five per cent of the Medical Research Endowment Account on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research, a focus of this triennium will be building and strengthening capacity in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research workforce.

    Gender equality in Australian health and medical research is another long-standing commitment. Mechanisms to support the promotion and retention of women in the sector will receive special attention during the life of this Corporate Plan.

    We will continue to provide strong national leadership in the vital area of research integrity and quality. The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2018 and the associated Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Code were released in June 2018 and more supplementary guidance to support responsible research will be released during this triennium. An important new project will identify ways to ensure the quality of NHMRC-funded research.

    NHMRC works with universities, hospitals, medical research institutes, peak bodies, consumer groups, governments and a range of domestic and international partners. The support of these many groups is essential for us to meet our social contract with the Australian community – to improve health through high-quality research and its translation. We look forward to continuing this work together in the years ahead.

    Statement of preparation

    As the accountable authority of NHMRC, I present the NHMRC Corporate Plan 2018–2019, which covers the periods of 2018–19 to 2021–22. It has been prepared as required under paragraph 35(1)(b) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) and Section 16 of the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992 (NHMRC Act).

    Professor Anne Kelso AO

    Chief Executive Officer

    National Health and Medical Research Council

    NHMRC’s mission and purposes

    NHMRC’s purposes are to fund high-quality health and medical research and build research capability, support the translation of health and medical research into better health outcomes and promote the highest standards of ethics and integrity in health and medical research.

    These purposes support NHMRC’s mission of ‘building a healthy Australia’. They align with the outcome for NHMRC identified in the Portfolio Budget Statements 2018–19 (PBS),1 which in turn reflects the role for NHMRC set out in its enabling legislation.2 The purposes are implemented through three underpinning strategic themes of investment, translation and integrity.

    During the period covered by this plan, we will be implementing a number of significant initiatives in addition to our ongoing work across all three strategic themes. Implementation of the new grant program has commenced and the new schemes are expected to open for applications from late 2018. The new grant program is designed to ensure that, through the Medical Research Endowment Account (MREA), NHMRC continues to fund the best research and researchers. NHMRC will also continue its support of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), sharing its expertise in grant administration to help ensure funds are directed to high-quality research and transformational projects. Both these initiatives will be supported by the implementation of a new, high-performing system for grant applications and data management, to be known as ‘Sapphire’. Sapphire will be a system that is intuitive for researchers and administrative officers and support better use of data by NHMRC, including enhanced reporting and stronger measures of impact. Research translation at NHMRC consists of activities that progress the results of any type of research funded by NHMRC through to its expected next stage on the path to implementation into policy and practice, and eventual impact on human health. Major work over the period covered by this plan includes the development of a strategy for research translation which will set priorities for translation for this triennium. The development and implementation of an impact assessment framework for clinical practice guidelines will also be a focus of work over this period.

    NHMRC’s leadership role in research integrity will continue to be a key strategic theme. This will include a focus on ensuring quality in NHMRC-funded research through rigour, transparency and reproducibility, with work in this area informed by an expert committee. Additional guides to support institutions in implementing the recently released Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2018 will also be an important aspect of this body of work.

    Consultation with stakeholders, including consumers and community members, is intrinsic to much of what we do. Through consultation processes and participation in NHMRC committees, a wide spectrum of Australians will continue to contribute to ensuring the excellence of NHMRC’s work and promoting trust in the integrity and value of science and in health decision-making.

    NHMRC’s outcome is ‘improved health and medical knowledge, including through funding research, translating research findings into evidence-based clinical practice, administering legislation governing research, issuing guidelines and advice for ethics in health and the promotion of public health’ (Department of Health Portfolio Budget Statements 2018–19, p. 391). The delivery of NHMRC’s purposes against its program objectives is also set out in the PBS.

    2 Under the NHMRC Act, NHMRC is responsible for promoting the development of individual and public health standards, fostering national consistency in health standards, supporting research and training, and fostering consideration of relevant ethical issues.

    NHMRC’s strategic priorities

    The NHMRC Act requires the CEO to identify major national health issues likely to arise during the four-year period covered by this plan. In considering these issues, the CEO consults with the Council, principal committees and the Minister before determining the issues that are within NHMRC’s scope.

    The major issues identified for the period covered by this plan are:

    • Improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples including through research that builds capacity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and addresses health disparities.
    • Resilience to environmental change, emerging health threats and emergencies.
    • Issues related to the end of life and the delivery of palliative and supportive care.
    • Integrated and coordinated approaches to chronic conditions.
    • Harnessing the power of data and analytical technologies.
    • Improving research quality to maximise the rigour, transparency and reproducibility of NHMRC-funded research.

    These major health issues represent NHMRC’s strategic priorities for the coming four years. They will be addressed through the strategy for health and medical research set out below and through key activities. We will address our priorities through the full range of our work including, for example, evidence translation, domestic and international collaborations, advice to the Australian Government and the development of ethical guidelines, as well as through funding research.

    Other cross-cutting issues, such as the implementation of the new grant program, will also be important features of our work over the period of this plan, and will support our actions in addressing strategic priorities. We will also continue to meet our obligations under the NHMRC Act, the PGPA Act and other relevant legislation. This includes issuing guidelines and providing advice on health, health research and ethical issues and ensuring the efficient, effective, economical and ethical use of public funds.

    As well as the priorities identified above, NHMRC’s ongoing work will address the full range of matters within our scope. Mental health provides a good example of how a wide range of NHMRC efforts are focused on health areas of great concern to the Australian community, health professionals, researchers and government. Box 1 gives information about this.

    Box 1 Mental health

    Mental health is a strategic focus for NHMRC.

    Each year a proportion of the MREA is allocated to specific areas of national importance, including mental health research. To help guide future investments, NHMRC established the Mental Health Research Advisory Committee (MHRAC) in 2017 under section 39 of the NHMRC Act. MHRAC advises the CEO on mental health research needs and initiatives, including identifying significant knowledge gaps and emerging issues in mental health.

    NHMRC’s evidence translation work also includes a focus on mental health. For example, a number of third-party guidelines currently being developed relate to mental health. These guidelines are developed by other organisations to NHMRC guideline development standards then seek NHMRC approval through our third-party guideline development program.

    NHMRC will continue to foster international partnerships to share information and build mental health research networks.

    Strategy for health and medical research

    NHMRC’s strategy for health and medical research is underpinned by our strong commitment to research that is of the highest quality and meets standards of ethics and integrity. The strategy reflects NHMRC’s commitment to fairness. We foster equity in research funding outcomes and understand the important contribution that health and medical research can make to exploring and addressing differences in health outcomes. The impact of NHMRC-funded research, its translation and our leadership in ethics and integrity is significant.

    The themes of investment, translation and integrity represent NHMRC’s strategy for health and medical research for the period covered by this plan. We will:

    • create knowledge and build research capability through investment in the highest quality health and medical research and the best researchers
    • drive the translation of health and medical research into clinical practice, policy and health systems and the effective commercialisation of research discoveries, supporting the pursuit of an Australian health system that is research-led, evidence-based, efficient and sustainable, and
    • maintain a strong integrity framework for research and guideline development, underpinning rigorous and ethical research and relevant and accurate guidelines, and promoting community trust.


    The model above depicts our strategy. This model is intended to be illustrative and to be applied in a flexible way, allowing NHMRC to respond to changes in the broader environment. 

    Key activities

    To implement the strategy for health and medical research and deliver against our strategic priorities, NHMRC has developed a set of key activities for the period covered by this plan. These activities are informed by NHMRC’s operating environment and engagement, and incorporate a focus on the major health issues. These high-level activities will be implemented through undertaking specific tasks and projects, which are set out in NHMRC’s internal business planning documents. As well as grouping the activities under the three themes of investment, translation and integrity an additional set of activities focuses on corporate functions, which provide critical support across all three themes. The integrated nature of the work we do means there is some overlap between themes.


    • Support, via appropriate funding, excellence in research that meets the health needs of Australians, from basic science through to clinical, public health and health services research and research that reflects national, state and territory and community priorities.
    • Fund health research to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and build Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researcher capacity.
    • Continually optimise the grant application and peer review process, including through the implementation and evaluation of the new grant program.
    • Work with others to drive innovation in health and medical research and support integration with the broader Australian Government innovation agenda via a range of mechanisms including through the Health Innovation Advisory Committee and the introduction of the Ideas Grant scheme.
    • Work with partners to support the research workforce and build researcher capacity in fields relevant to health and medical research, including through implementing NHMRC’s Gender Equality Strategy and Action Plan (2018).
    • Enhance and coordinate research into dementia including through the NHMRC National Institute for Dementia Research and through supporting the effective translation of dementia research and evaluation of the Boosting Dementia Research measure.
    • Support research and work with other funders to address evidence gaps, evidence-practice gaps and evidence-policy gaps in areas such as mental health, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and rare diseases.
    • Support collaborative approaches to health and medical research, domestically and internationally, including connecting, supporting and encouraging links with researchers in non-health related disciplines, and consider ways to strengthen relationships across the system including with non-government organisations, philanthropic organisations and other government agencies.
    • Work closely with the Department of Health to provide effective and efficient support for relevant MRFF investments that leverage NHMRC’s existing capability.


    • Drive translation of evidence from health and medical research into public, environmental and clinical health policy and practice so that all Australians benefit from the results of high-quality health and medical research, including through funding schemes that focus on research translation and through the work of the Health Translation Advisory Committee.
    • Maintain a leadership role in the development of public and environmental health and clinical advice designed to prevent illness, improve health, enhance clinical care and support the states and territories in achieving consistent standards.
    • Recognise and promote centres of excellence and collaboration in the provision of research‑based health care and training in Australia through NHMRC Advanced Health Research and Translation Centres (AHRTCs) and Centres for Innovation in Regional Health (CIRHs).
    • Encourage engagement with industry to leverage skills, networks and resources to enhance research and boost commercialisation of research outcomes to benefit health, strengthen researcher collaboration with industry and promote mobility between the sectors.
    • Foster sharing of publications and data resulting from NHMRC-funded research and researchers as soon as practicable.
    • Develop a new model for guideline development and approval by providing up-to-date standards and supporting their implementation and promoting collaboration tools to foster high-quality, rigorously developed, current and relevant guidelines in Australia.
    • Raise awareness of the role and value of high-quality clinical trials and cohort studies, ultimately boosting recruitment into trials.


    • Promote the highest standards of research quality and integrity, develop national guidance on ensuring rigour, transparency and reproducibility in health and medical research and strengthen the management of research integrity matters.
    • Lead ongoing revision of key statements, codes and guidelines and develop new guidelines and information papers.
    • Continue to support streamlined research governance and ethics review processes, including through the administration of the National Certification Scheme for Institutional Ethics Review Processes and the Human Research Ethics Application (HREA).
    • Administer the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002 (RIHE Act) and Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction Act 2002 (PHCR Act), including continually improving the efficiency of processes relating to the Embryo Research Licensing Committee’s administration of this legislation by increasing stakeholder understanding of legislative requirements.
    • Identify and explore ethical issues arising from new technologies and scientific advances, working with the Australian Health Ethics Committee and the Embryo Research Licensing Committee.

    Corporate operations

    • Implement the new grant management solution, Sapphire, including the Grants Management Accelerator (GMA) and the Outcomes Reporting Accelerator (ORA).
    • Collaborate with other organisations, including non-government organisations, to strengthen data linkages and progress the ‘tell us once’ principle, reduce the burden on the health and medical research sector and enhance outcome reporting.
    • Implement cloud-based technologies to streamline and simplify NHMRC operations and engagement with the health and medical research sector.

    Performance measures

    Performance measures linked to each of NHMRC’s major purposes are provided in Table 1, including an indication of when each will be assessed.3 The performance measures are designed to capture NHMRC’s overall success in achieving its purposes. As with the key activities, while each measure appears under one of NHMRC’s three purposes, some measures show NHMRC’s success against more than one of the purposes. Reporting on NHMRC’s performance in achieving its major objectives and purposes will occur in the NHMRC Annual Report to Parliament. The measures in the table include both those that are in the Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS) (these are marked in the table with an asterisk) and additional measures that supplement the performance criteria included in the PBS.

    NHMRC continues to develop methods and build its capacity in defining and measuring the impact of the research we fund. As this capacity continues to develop, additional performance measures using impact information will be developed.

    These measures have been largely retained from the 2017–2018 plan, with some modification where required to update their focus (including deletion of a small number of former measures that no longer required this level of prominence and addition of two measures to capture important new bodies of work).

    Table 1 Performance measures


    Purpose: Fund high-quality health and medical research and build research capability

    Create knowledge and build research capability through investment in the highest quality health and medical research and the best researchers.

    Performance measures Context Measurement method Target Expected measurement years
    Identify the scientific impact of journal articles resulting from NHMRC-funded research.* Bibliographic citations are the referencing of a journal article in a subsequent journal article, indicating some scientific impact of the original work. Every three years, NHMRC publishes the Measuring up report, a detailed analysis of the impact of NHMRC-supported journal publications. The citation rate of journal articles resulting from NHMRC-funded research is benchmarked against the world citation average in relevant disciplines. >150% of the average citation rate of all journal articles published worldwide. 2020-21
    Support research that will provide better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, through percentage of annual research budget expenditure on Indigenous health research.* NHMRC is committed to contributing to better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. A range of initiatives are planned to support this important priority, under the guidance of NHMRC’s Principal Committee Indigenous Caucus (PCIC). These include a longstanding commitment to expending at least five per cent of the Medical Research Endowment Account annually on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research. Calculated based on annual expenditure. Funding is categorised as ‘Indigenous health research’ by reviewing each funded grant against a range of investigator-provided data classifications including fields of research, keywords, grant titles and media summaries. >5% 2018-19
    Support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers through building and strengthening capacity. NHMRC supports the diverse research career pathways of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and offers a number of individual and team grants which are highly competitive. Calculated based on the number of chief investigators across all NHMRC schemes who identify as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent. An increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chief investigators. 2018-19
    Increase research on dementia and its translation into policy and practice.* The NHMRC National Institute for Dementia Research (NNIDR) is a key element of the Australian Government’s $200 million initiative to boost dementia research. The NNIDR is bringing together Australia’s best researchers to undertake coordinated research on dementia while also drawing on the expertise of consumers, health professionals, industry and policy makers to translate evidence into policy and practice. Support of priority research projects through additional grant rounds. Undertake two grant rounds to support priority research projects. 2018-19
    Support grant programs with a translational focus, including priority research projects and the Dementia Centre for Collaborative Research. Synthesise outcomes from dementia research to inform improved treatments and care for people with dementia. 2018-19
    Undertake an evaluation of the Boosting Dementia Research measure to assess research outcomes, including their impact on policy and practice. Evaluation outcomes inform future policy and practice. 2018-19
    Effectively implement NHMRC’s new grant program. NHMRC’s new grant program comprises four streams: Investigator Grants, Synergy Grants, Ideas Grants and Strategic and Leveraging Grants, which includes a new Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Grant scheme. Peer review parameters and processes for these schemes have been developed and will begin to be phased in during 2019. Establish an evaluation framework to assess the impacts of change to the program structure. Evaluation framework in place by 2020. 2018-19
    Publication of grant guidelines for Investigator, Synergy, Ideas and Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Grant schemes. Grant guidelines published by September 2018. 2018-19
    Investigator, Synergy, Ideas, and Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Grant schemes accept applications. Investigator, Synergy, Ideas and Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Grant schemes open late 2018 – early 2019. 2018-19
    Parameters for assessment of grants have been reviewed as part of implementation of the new grant program. These changes include assessment of track record, innovation and synergy. The target set for this body of work relates to the implementation of a new framework for assessing track record. Include the track record assessment framework in the 2019 Investigator and Synergy Grant guidelines. 2018-19
    Support the development of outstanding leadership in health and medical research through NHMRC funding. NHMRC’s Investigator Grants will support the research programs of outstanding researchers at all career stages, providing fellowships for early career, mid-career and established researchers. NHMRC also continues to provide Postgraduate Scholarships. Through a case study approach, demonstrate the success of NHMRC’s people grant schemes in building leadership. Researcher profiles demonstrating outstanding leadership. 2018-19
    Foster gender equality in research funding through NHMRC policies and processes. Success rates for women in many NHMRC schemes, in particular Project Grants, have been below those of men. NHMRC is committed to gender equality in its research funding. Assessment of success rates of schemes based on gender. An increase in the success rates of women in schemes, in particular Project Grants (for 2018‑19), where they are statistically significantly lower, and in the new grant program’s Ideas Grant scheme (for 2019–20 and beyond). 2018-19
    Support consistent standards in public and environmental health and clinical practice through guidelines and advice issued and/or approved by NHMRC. NHMRC’s guidelines and advice support other Commonwealth entities and states and territories in detecting and preventing poor health or illness as well as consistent standards in public and environmental health and clinical practice. Case studies on how NHMRC guidelines have been integrated into health policy to improve consistency in health standards. For example: the use by state and territory governments of the 2017 NHMRC Public Statement on Water Fluoridation and Human Health in Australia, including the nationally consistent Questions and Answers resource. Case studies demonstrate uptake of latest scientific evidence into health policy. 2018-19
    Recognise and promote leading collaborations between health care organisations, academia and research institutions. NHMRC’s Advanced Health Research and Translation Centre (AHRTC) initiative, and the Centre for Innovation in Regional Health (CIRH) initiative, recognise leading centres of collaboration in health and medical research, research translation, research-infused education and training, and outstanding health care. NHMRC has recognised seven AHRTCs and two CIRHs. Recognise centres that excel in the provision of evidence-based health care and training by conducting a call for recognition of AHRTCs and CIRHs. Conduct call for recognition of AHRTCs and CIRHs. 2018-19
    Promote centre achievements/impact in the translation of research into better health care. Highlight achievements on the NHMRC website. 2018-19
    Improve the capability to report on the impact of the research funded by NHMRC. Measuring and recognising the impact of NHMRC-funded research where it has benefited or made broader contributions to society is critically important, as reflected in the Australian Government’s National Science and Innovation Agenda and the Australian Medical Research and Innovation Strategy 2016–2021. Commercialisation metrics and case studies are used as a means of demonstrating the return on investment from NHMRC-funded research.

    Develop a research impact app that lists and verifies all patents linked to NHMRC funding.

    Present ten case studies that demonstrate the commercialisation impact of health and medical research funding via the linking, verification and analysis of intellectual property commercialisation.

    Present five case studies that demonstrate the economic benefits of the introduction of new clinical practice guidelines (funded by NHMRC). 2018-19
    Promote uptake of the revised Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2018 (the Code) and monitor implementation.* The Code is co-authored by NHMRC, the Australian Research Council and Universities Australia. The revised Code, along with the new Guide to Managing and Investigating Potential Breaches of the Code, 2018, was finalised following public consultation and was released in mid-2018. The 2018 Code will be supported by supplementary guidance on specific topics to encourage responsible research conduct. These supplementary guidance documents are currently being developed. Identify ways that NHMRC has supported Administering Institutions with Code implementation. Use a range of approaches to support Administering Institutions to implement the Code. 2018-19
        NHMRC will use its existing Institutional Annual Compliance Report to survey Administering Institutions on implementation of the new Code. At least 80% of Administering Institutions report implementation of the Code. 2019-20
    Provide guidance to the research sector to support research quality. The quality of NHMRC-funded research is critical to ensuring that public funds spent on research deliver the highest possible value. Rigour, transparency and reproducibility in research are key foundations for research integrity. Examine current advice and identify gaps. Gaps in advice identified. 2018-19
    Ensure that guidance focuses on critical issues including rigour, transparency and reproducibility and addresses previous gaps. Guidance on research quality published. 2019-20
    Stakeholders demonstrate good understanding of the regulatory requirements under the RIHE Act and PHCR Act. The NHMRC Embryo Research Licensing Committee oversees the RIHE Act and PHCR Act, and regulates research activities that involve the use of human embryos. NHMRC conducts inspections of licence holders to ensure compliance with the legislation and licence conditions. Licence inspections, which include an assessment of the licence holder’s processes in relation to activity under each licence, and whether these processes meet legislative and licence requirements. Good understanding of regulatory requirements is demonstrated through outcomes from inspections and six-monthly reports. 2018-19

    *Similar performance measure is included in Portfolio Budget Statements.

    Environment, capability and risk

    NHMRC’s environment

    Our work influences and is influenced by a wide range of factors, including:

    • trends in the burden of disease and health service delivery
    • advances in technology
    • changes in research practices
    • emerging ethical issues
    • changes in research training environments
    • international action in health and medical research, health care and prevention
    • the role of the states and territories in delivering health services, and
    • the broader economic context.

    Our environment includes multiple domestic and international partners and stakeholders. We work closely with universities, hospitals, medical research institutes, professional colleges, other national and international funding agencies, peak bodies and consumer groups and the wider public and private sectors. Global events and changes can have profound impacts on both health care and the research environment. NHMRC needs to be alert to Australia’s place in the world and engaged in international partnerships and movements relevant to our work.

    Some of the major factors expected to affect NHMRC’s work over the four years covered by this plan are:

    • strong demand for NHMRC funding
    • health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research capacity
    • complex and emerging health issues
    • engagement with industry and support of innovation
    • research integrity and quality
    • broader government agendas and projects (e.g. National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA); Australian Government Science and Research Priorities), and
    • impact of the MRFF on the health and medical research sector.

    NHMRC addresses these factors in many ways, including through its research funding and guideline functions. Major responses over the period covered by this plan are incorporated into the key activities and performance measures.


    Key capabilities for NHMRC’s effective operation include those related to workforce, information and communications technology (ICT) and our peer review system. A proactive and rigorous approach to corporate governance is also a critical capability area. We operate within a corporate governance framework that promotes performance, integrity, efficiency and compliance. The Office of NHMRC works to support and meet strategic priorities and is responsive to the needs of stakeholders.

    Table 2 shows some of our major capabilities and ways these will be further developed over the period covered by this plan. Many of NHMRC’s key capabilities support our ability to be flexible and agile, adapting to new circumstances and addressing emerging issues.

    Table 2 Selected capabilities


    Key capability Selected actions over the period of the plan Theme
    Grant assessment and outcome processes
    • Development of grant management capabilities to reduce the burden of grant application processes on the health and medical research community.
    • Implementation of the Grants Management Accelerator tool to assist with the assignment of grant applications to the most appropriate reviewers and ongoing development of an Outcome Reporting Accelerator that will provide data on the outcomes flowing from health and medical research.


    Corporate operations

    Application and peer review process
    • Finalisation of re-designed peer review processes for the new grant program following consultation with the research sector.
    • Streamlining to reduce burden on applicants and peer reviewers.
    • Continued use of NHMRC expertise in assessing applications for funding by other agencies.



    Strong corporate governance framework
    • Annual training of staff in fraud awareness.
    • Ongoing monitoring of compliance with legislation, policy, procedures and guidelines.
    • Use of recommendations from audits and other evaluation actions to improve business practices.
    • Participation in the annual Comcover Benchmarking Program, using learnings from that process to inform changes to the framework.
    • Maintaining an effective financial management information system and enhancing controls to ensure compliance with the resource management framework.
    • Implementation of reforms to the Australian Government’s Protective Security Policy Framework.
    • Undertaking a business impact analysis and reviewing the core business processes in the current Business Continuity Plan given the implementation of the new grant program.
    • Planning for transition to the APS Shared and Common Services Program to deliver standardised services and business processes for accounts payable and receivable, travel and payroll.
    Corporate operations
    Best practice evidence development and standards
    • Development and release of Guidelines for guidelines, providing practical advice online for guideline developers.
    • Ongoing approval of third-party guidelines developed to NHMRC standards.
    • Researching ways to measure the impact of guidelines.
    • Ongoing development and revision of key public and environmental health guidelines and advice.
    • Improving the methodologies underpinning public and environmental health guideline development.
    Best practice digital service delivery
    • Continuing to implement requirements of the Australian Government’s Digital Continuity 2020 Policy.
    • Implementation of NHMRC’s Cloud Strategy and Transition Roadmap.
    Corporate operations
    Enterprise cyber security
    • Implementation of an Enterprise Cyber Security Strategy to protect NHMRC’s data and resources.
    Corporate operations
    Involvement of stakeholders and wider community
    • NHMRC website refresh.
    • In Focus section of NHMRC website.
    • Public consultation processes.
    • Extensive use of both permanent and task‑specific stakeholder committees.




    Corporate operations

    Workforce diversity, flexibility and expertise
    • Use of innovative recruitment practices to recruit the right people, at the right time, for the right job.
    • Use of innovative learning and development opportunities, building on the LearnHub and internal training opportunities currently provided.
    • Developing and implementing policies to address social issues, for example, domestic violence.
    • Developing and implementing a new staff performance management system.
    • Continuing to foster a supportive work culture aimed at retaining excellent staff by providing access to a range of supportive mechanisms including flexible work options, promotion of work-life balance and employee benefits and initiatives.
    • Implementing work health and safety measures in line with legislative requirements.
    • Updating our people and diversity strategies to maintain a culture that fosters inclusiveness, promotes diversity, accelerates gender equality, and embraces the unique skills of all our staff.
    Corporate operations


    In order to maintain the integrity of investment in the health and medical research sector, NHMRC applies an integrated risk management framework, where everyone is aware of the risks inherent in the activities we undertake and proactive in their management. Our positive risk culture requires us to have a sound understanding of appropriate risk acceptance and to apply this to daily decision-making processes. In all activities we seek to ensure that risk information is actively used to improve business processes and gain efficiency advantages.

    NHMRC’s Risk Management Policy and Framework4 (Policy and Framework) has been developed in accordance with the International Standard on Risk Management, AS/NZS/ISO 31000:2009 Risk Management Principles and Guidelines and the PGPA Act and Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014. The Policy and Framework, which is reviewed annually, provides the foundations and organisational arrangements for designing, implementing, monitoring, reviewing and continually improving risk management throughout NHMRC for the period covered by this plan.

    NHMRC’s risks are reputational, financial and operational. These are detailed in the strategic risk register, which sets out risks, the controls in place to prevent the risk occurring, the likelihood and consequences of each risk occurring given the controls in place and where necessary the planned strategies to be implemented to further mitigate each risk. A summary of key areas where risks relevant to the period covered by this plan have been identified and mitigated is broadly matched against our three strategic themes in Table 3 below.

    Management of risks in the areas identified below is also informed by a cascade of branch and project risk registers, which underpin all risk management activities. Over the coming four years, risks will be regularly reviewed at all levels of the organisation as we actively seek to identify, manage and mitigate our actual, potential and emerging risks.

    It is anticipated that a revised version of the Risk Management Policy and Framework will be in place in the second half of 2018.

    Table 3 Key areas of potential risk and associated strategic themes

    Risk area overview

    Strategic theme 

    Confidence in the NHMRC grant application and peer review process. Investment and Integrity
    Intersections/duplication with other research funding initiatives. Investment
    Timeliness, quality and accessibility of translational guidelines that comply with national and international best practice. Translation
    Active engagement of research community in the NHMRC Council and committees. Investment and Translation
    Adoption and sector acceptance of guidelines and advice about research ethics, integrity and quality. Integrity
    Engagement with risk and adoption of quality assurance and quality improvement initiatives across all activities in the organisation. All themes
    Timely and effective leveraging of advanced technology to reduce the burden on applicants and assessors and enable reporting on the return on investment in health and medical research. All themes



    Previous NHMRC Corporate and Strategic Plans


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