I would like to do a post on this hashtag, #protectresearch, without sounding needy, whining and desperate but I’m not sure I can manage that. I’ll do my best.
I have been employed doing medical research continuously without a break for more than 25 years. Let’s just not go into how many more, shall we?
During that time, I have never had a contract that lasted longer than three years, yet have managed to stay in employment at the same place for all that time. When project money from the government or a philanthropic organization was not forthcoming, I used industry funds, under a commercial contract. This is a second choice because the control over the final resting place of the results obtained is the company’s, not the researchers’. It could end up as a publication but is equally likely to become a dusty report hidden in a filing cabinet at corporate headquarters, never to see the light of day.
My current grant, on treatment of tendon degeneration, finishes at the end of this year. There are a number of new project grants submitted to the National Health and Medical Research Committee (NH&MRC) from our laboratories for 2012 – 2014 and I hope they appeal to the review panels as much as they do to us. Regardless, the pot of money available will only fund, on average, one in five of the project grants submitted from all over Australia. In a nutshell, I may not be employed after this year even if I spend more time writing grants and other requests for money (over and above the 10 weeks I have already spent this year).
Cutting the NH&MRC budget might sound fairly innocuous to some people. I know, it’s bothersome, so here are ten reasons why you should not be worried.
1) You are not employed by the healthcare industry or the medical faculty of a university;
2) You do not care for an invalid or elderly person;
3) You are completely healthy, have no close family members with a congenital abnormality, cancer, pulmonary disease, arthritis, asthma or diabetes and are happy with the treatments for disease we currently have available right now;
4) You are not a parent or if you keep your children wrapped in cotton wool and never allow them to wear superhero costumes or ride bikes;
5) You are not planning on having any more children, especially if you are over 35;
6) You don’t care how the government prioritizes money for health because there is no data to support any particular area of health concern;
7) You do not smoke, are not overweight, have perfect vision, good bone density, high arches and drink a maximum of one glass of alcohol per day;
8) You have never sustained an joint injury playing any sport and hence are not likely to get secondary osteoarthritis (like 100% of professional basketball players will within 5 years of retiring);
9) You believe you will not be in an accident (bike, car, plane, sport) or otherwise sustain any injury (sport, play, slip over, poke your eye out with a branch, tear your rotator cuff walking the dog (hey, I did…), cut your finger with a dirty knife etc);
10)You are not ageing (and good luck with that one).
Feel free to add to my list of reasons not to care about money being spent on medical research.
Do remember, we have some of the best and most successful researchers in the world, right here in Australia, right now, relying on these funds.
If you are concerned, please lobby your local member of the Federal government to oppose these cuts to the NH&MRC budget. There is more information here.