Career Development Fellowships

Career Development Fellowships (CDFs) are highly competitive, four year fellowships that recognise and provide support for the most outstanding early to mid-career health and medical researchers in each Fellowship category. CDFs can be applied for at one of two levels depending on the applicant’s career stage – CDF Level 1 or CDF Level 2.

The specific objectives of the CDF scheme are to enable investigators to establish themselves as independent, self-directed researchers; expand capacity for clinical, population health, biomedical and bioinformatics research, and for evidence-based policy development in Australian health systems; encourage the translation of research outcomes into practice; bridge the gap between research and industry; and provide a means for Australian researchers working overseas to return to Australia to continue their career development.

Apply for funding

Applicants must use the NHMRC’s Research Grants Management System (RGMS) to access/update their CV and Profile, and submit their CDF application.

Applicants who are not yet registered in RGMS should contact the Research Help Centre at for more information.
A complete CDF application consists of:

  1. Parts A and B of the application form including all required PDF uploads; and
  2. The relevant information in the applicant’s RGMS Profile and CV.

Prior to submission, applicants are to ensure they:

  1. Read all relevant reference material;
  2. Liaise with their Administering Institution to identify any specific requirements that the institution may have; and
  3. Ensure their application is complete and correct. Once submitted to NHMRC, an application will be considered final and no changes can be accepted.

Applicants are advised to contact the Research Administration Officer at their Administering Institution early in the application process and are asked to direct any questions they may have to their Research Administration Officer.

Key Dates

The key dates for the CDF 2016 funding round are as follows:

  • Applications open: 20 January 2016
  • Applications close: 17:00 hrs (5:00 pm) AEDT, 9 March 2016.

Changes to the Career Development Fellowships for 2016

Several changes have been made to the Career Development Fellowships Scheme-Specific Funding Rules for funding commencing in 2017 including:

  • The CDF Assessment Criteria have been revised and a seven point scoring scale has been implemented.

  • The Statement of Expectations has been revised and the Research Performance Descriptors have been removed.

  • Guidance has been given on the information that must be included in evidence documents for career disruptions.

  • Current/former NHMRC Research Fellows or Practitioner Fellows are not eligible to apply for a CDF.

  • Short term support funding for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Researchers is now only available in the Early Career Fellowship and Postgraduate Scholarship schemes.

For a full list of changes to the CDF scheme, please refer to Section 2 of the Career Development Fellowships Scheme-Specific Funding Rules.

Documentation to Apply for a Career Development Fellowship

These must be read in conjunction with the NHMRC Funding Rules 2016, NHMRC Advice and Instructions to Applicants 2016 and Guide to NHMRC Peer Review 2016, which have also been revised.

A Guide for researchers applying for Career Development Fellowships

Applications for appointment as Career Development Fellows are considered by peer review panels, whose task is to consider and score the applicants (see the Assessment Criteria and Scoring Matrix in the Career Development Fellowships Scheme-Specific Funding Rules). In doing so, they take into account all the material submitted by applicants.

NHMRC has been concerned about the rapid growth in the number of applicants in recent years, rising from 136 in 2002 to 345 in 2012, 431 in 2014 and 461 in 2015, the majority of whom are not competitive against the top applicants. Due to limited funds, the funded rate for the 2015 CDF application round was only 11.3%.

To help researchers contemplating applying for a CDF, NHMRC provides the below information on a “typical” successful applicant, to guide researchers who are deciding whether to apply. This was derived from information provided on the successful application forms received by NHMRC in 2011. These “typical characteristics” must not be regarded as a “bar” above which applications will be successful, because the peer review panels take into account all the assessment criteria, and there are marked differences between even the top ranked individuals each year. These are produced as a guide to applicants.

In 2011, successful applicants typically, in the previous 5 years, had:

  • published an average of 17 or more peer reviewed journal articles and two or more review articles or book chapters, with the peer review panel also taking into account first authorship and quality of the published work;
  • presented at international meetings at least twice;
  • obtained research funding as a first named Chief Investigator in a competitive granting scheme;
  • international postdoctoral experience;
  • led their own (small) research group.

Please note that this is a guide only and there are many variations to this profile, depending on individual achievements. Panels consider all achievements relative to opportunity.

Recent Outcomes

Further information

If you require more information, direct your inquiry to your Research Administration Office in the first instance.

If you require assistance and are unable to satisfy your concern by seeking assistance through your administering institution, contact the Research Help Centre on 1800 500 983, or email