Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria assessment information video transcript

Professor Yvette Roe
Health Service Redesign
Njikena Jawaru Nations

NHMRC has identified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research and building the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers as a priority. The Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria is one way of ensuring that we address these priorities.

Professor James Bourne
Neuroscience - basic discovery science

There are four specific categories in the Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria, ‘Community engagement’, ‘Benefit’, ‘Sustainability and transferability’ and 'Building capacity’. It is important to understand the full gamut under these criteria, and not to be biased by more traditional types of research. For example, community members may be applicants on an Ideas Grant, because of their ability to assist with data collection, and achieving the aims of the project, but may not necessarily have the traditional academic qualifications that we're more accustomed to seeing. Further, building capacity is not necessarily the same either, as this could be leadership, or a cultural skillset. So, it's important to look at the broader picture, rather than the individual, traditional mechanisms of categorising an application.

Associate Professor Misty Jenkins
Cancer immunotherapy for brain cancer

The Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria in my mind is… sits across all of the other four criteria in the Ideas Grant scheme.  What I mean by that is that an indigenous lens is applied and that criteria is applied to all of the other rubrics and all of the other Category Descriptors. 

For example, Community engagement: You quite often see community engagement layering across the Research Quality category descriptor, because when this is done really well in projects, what it means is that indigenous people or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have been involved in a co-design way in the conceptualization, development, approval of the research proposal itself. It's a really different way of thinking to mainstream studies. It often involves a co-design component. Again, research, uh, Community engagement criteria also speaks to feasibility.

The study design, the research question, might be founded on excellent hypothesis. You might have a really good study design and approach, but if that means going out into communities and taking samples or doing interviews or doing lung function tests or whatever it might.... whatever the study might be, and you haven't engaged with that... with any communities, then that, then you have, you have feasibility issues and so it will be scored accordingly. And so it's really important to get all of those elements right when working with Aboriginal people. 

The next criteria around this rubric is the, the benefits: so the potential health benefits for this specific project must demonstrate that it will actually benefit Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people. Now this benefit may be in health, but it also might be in policy. It might be in quality of life. It even could be financial, but the benefits might be short term and immediate, they might be long-term. Whatever they might be, but they... the, the application should really very clearly define and articulate what the benefit to Aboriginal people will be. 

The next rubric is around, the criteria is around sustainability and transferability. So it really must outline how it will lead to sustainable change. This might mean in the community, it might mean from a policy perspective. Will the work continue beyond the life of the grant? Does it have the capability to result in real change? And the final and the most important criteria, and I think, you know, one that can be really difficult for non-indigenous assessors to review is capability. 

The projects must absolutely demonstrate how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities, and researchers will develop the relevant capabilities through partnership of the project. And really excellent proposals have indigenous leadership and participation embedded within the proposal. They might be indigenous CIs, they might be projects that are working in particular communities that are employing healthcare workers or nurses or teacher or whatever the project might be. 

It's a really essential element to embed the indigenous workforce and capability within the project design itself. And that can really also speak to feasibility. So for example, a project that might have a really exceptional study design but requires working with Aboriginal people and if they haven't been embedded within the proposal from the start it's less likely to lead to really sustainable outcomes.

The authors really need to provide evidence that the research will be conducted in a culturally safe way otherwise it can be scored down as well. 

And on the flip side reviewers are really good at determining level of Aboriginal involvement being authentic and not tokenistic. For example, putting someone on, on as a CI on, on a grant, will be, will be, will be seen through, and be pretty, fairly transparent if that’s not an obvious person with the appropriate mix of skills to be lead... to be on that specific project.

It’s a really important criteria. It is something that reviewers struggle with to do well. Indigenous reviewers do this really well. 

So I would encourage anyone if they're really struggling, if they're are reviewing grants, and they are struggling with this to, to reach out and to, to use those resources and, and talk to your Aboriginal colleagues to receive some advice on how best to apply the criteria.

Professor Rosalie Viney
Health economics research and health services research

So I think that really you do have to do this assessment across all aspects of the research. So the Indigenous Research Excellence Criteria relates to demonstrated community engagement that will actually benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the importance of the problem for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the potential to provide real benefits to the community and that transferability and capability. So they’re aspects that will be relevant to the scientific quality, to the creativity and innovation and to the team capability.

So research to me that has a, an indigenous health focus simply can't be of high quality unless there's clear evidence that there's been engagement, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, clear evidence that this will be judged by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be of benefit, and genuine connection between the research and researchers that will allow for transfer of knowledge or development of capacity.

I think it also points to the feasibility and success. So, unless the research has been developed with close connection or by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people um, and how in terms of thinking about how the benefits of the research will directly translate or directly benefit, then it's unlikely to be successful so it's going to fall down on feasibility, because it doesn't demonstrate that translation.

I guess the last thing is in terms of team capability, you'd really want to see that this is a team that is closely connected with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and closely connected with experience and research and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.