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 Recognising Applicants’ Industry-Relevant Expertise

NHMRC is committed to ensuring that knowledge from health and medical research is translated from the research sector to industry, including through commercialisation (e.g. pharmaceutical or medical devices companies) and improvements to health service delivery (e.g. the Australian, State and Territory governments, and providers of health care).

In order to appropriately recognise the value of industry-relevant expertise, industry skills, experience and achievements are considered in assessing applicants’ track records. 

This recognises that applicants with experience in sectors other than public sector research (e.g. private industry, government or health care) may have gained highly valuable expertise or produced outputs (e.g. patents or new clinical guidelines) relevant to research translation. This may have limited the applicant’s opportunity to produce more traditional research outputs (e.g. peer reviewed publications).

Further details on how applicants’ track records are assessed are provided in section 4.8 of the Guide to NHMRC Peer Review, and in the relevant scheme-specific peer review guidelines.

6.2 Relative to Opportunity

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

Circumstances considered under “relative to opportunity” include:

  • amount of time spent as an active researcher
  • career disruption (see section 6.2.1. for further details)
  • available resources, including situations where research is being conducted in remote or isolated communities
  • building relationships of trust with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities over long periods and subsequent impact on track record and productivity
  • 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
  • research outputs and productivity commensurate with time spent employed in other sectors (see section 6.1. for further details) and restrictions on publication associated with time spent working in other sectors (e.g. industry, policy and government)
  • for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants, community obligations including ‘sorry business’
  • the typical performance of researchers in the research field in question.

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

6.2.1 Career Disruption

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

  • pregnancy
  • major illness/injury
  • carer responsibilities.

Interruptions must involve either a continuous absence from work for periods of 28 calendar days or more and/or a long-term partial return to work that has been formalised with the applicant’s employer.  

The period of career disruption may be used:

  • to determine an applicant’s eligibility for a scheme
  • to allow for the inclusion of additional track record information for assessment of an application
  • for consideration by the panel during their deliberations.

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 Guide to Peer Review.

Circumstances considered under section 6.2 Relative to Opportunity are not career disruptions.

6.3 Health Research Involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

NHMRC is 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 to advancing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research, NHMRC has established certain requirements and processes designed to ensure that research into 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 undertake research which specifically relates to the health of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, or which includes distinct Aboriginal and 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 Torres Strait Islander health research, at least 20% of the research effort and/or capacity building must relate to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

Qualifying applications must address the NHMRC Indigenous Research Excellence 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).