Frequently asked questions 

General questions

The actions NHMRC can take to address gender disparities in the Investigator Grant scheme are not limited to the four options. The options presented in the discussion paper model Investigator Grants data from 2019 to 2021. They are designed to support an informed discussion and allow the sector to consider the impact of possible change (appreciating that every grant round has a unique applicant profile). NHMRC is open to a hybrid solution or other modifications.

The Investigator Grant scheme is NHMRC’s largest scheme at 40% of the annual budget. Increasing funding for Investigator Grants would be at the expense of other schemes.

We are concerned that there would be significant consequences if we separated the Leadership levels while there is such a difference in the application ratio of men to women at L3. Based on 2021 applications and outcomes, if we had implemented equal numbers of grants (option 3) for each Leadership level, the funded rate at L3 would have been approximately 81% for women and 22% for men.

Relative to Opportunity

This consultation is focused on correcting imbalances caused by systemic disadvantage.

NHMRC knows there are many personal and professional circumstances that can affect an individual’s track record. NHMRC’s Relative to Opportunity Policy provides for a range of life events to be considered. It seeks to ensure that researchers with a variety of career experiences and those who have experienced pregnancy or a major illness/injury or have caring responsibilities, are not disadvantaged in applying for NHMRC grants.

All applicants to NHMRC grant schemes where track record is assessed provide ‘relative to opportunity’ information so that individual circumstances may be appropriately considered. NHMRC has made recent improvements to its Relative to Opportunity Policy and we continue to consider feedback and refine the policy where appropriate.

Career disruption

NHMRC acknowledges that long-term chronic illness needs a different management approach to career disruptions that are treated or resolved within an uninterrupted time period. For this reason, chronic illness that has affected track record should be addressed in the Relative to Opportunity component of an applicant’s profile.


The Leadership criterion used for Track Record assessment in the first four years of the Investigator and Synergy Grant schemes (2019–2022) articulates a range of leadership values and practices. It is timely to review the description and NHMRC is undertaking this review at the moment to ensure it is current.

Non-binary applicants

We do not have data on how many health and medical researchers identify as non-binary. But we do have evidence that non-binary people, like women, experience systemic disadvantage. We are therefore including non-binary researchers in gender equity initiatives with women while we collect data on non-binary applicants to NHMRC grant schemes. We will review this intervention as more information becomes available.

Monitoring and evaluation

Any new and significant gender equity intervention will be developed as a special measure under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. These measures are required to be time limited and monitored to assess whether they are achieving their stated goal. The duration does not need to be specified in advance.


This consultation is focused on further actions to support gender equity – that said, there is evidence that improving gender outcomes has benefits for other cohorts.

NHMRC acknowledges that there are many forms of systemic disadvantage. Currently NHMRC collects data from grant applicants on their gender and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status and uses this information as evidence for interventions (e.g. structural priority funding). NHMRC is considering how to collect evidence on other diversity indicators in the future.