The 2015 meeting of the MS Research Australia Research Management Council is fast approaching. At this meeting all new research applications will be assessed to identify the projects that will receive MS Research Australia funding beginning in 2016.
MS Research Australia grants are classified as ‘Category 1 funding’ on the Australian Competitive Grants Register (ACGR), but what does this mean for MS research in Australia?
The Register is a centralised listing of nationally competitive grant schemes, and includes government funding agencies such as the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). It also includes a number of not-for-profit organisations that award competitive research grants, with MS Research Australia being one of twelve medical research charity organisations included on the list. All funding bodies must meet strict criteria to be included on the Register, including providing grants on a national basis, with a robust peer review and grants governance process. MS Research Australia funds only the best quality MS research applications in order to further the mission to accelerate Australian MS research towards the prevention, better treatments, and a cure for MS.
Professor Anne Kelso, Chief Executive Officer of the NHMRC, explains that ‘The ACGR ensures that all competitive grants on the list, including grants from the NHMRC as well as grants from not-for-profit organisations, follow a stringent protocol for rigorous assessment of all applications. This ensures that only the best quality applications receive funding.’
Grant programs that are recognised as category 1 funding are considered more prestigious and more competitive in the academic research field. Professor Peter Smith, Dean of Medicine at the University of New South Wales until mid-2015, explains why these grants are so important to universities: ‘Category 1funding for medical research is the most prestigious of all funding available to researchers, and offers many benefits to universities, not least its ability to attract and retain high-quality researchers from all over the world. Category 1 grants also help to bring additional Commonwealth Government funds to the university, increasing overall research productivity.’
They also provide additional ‘bang for their buck’ as they are used as a metric by which researchers and universities measure academic productivity, and help leverage additional funds to ensure the continuity of research. University of Sydney researcher, Associate Professor Scott Byrne, a recipient of a MS Research Australia Project Grant, says ‘Being awarded category 1 funding is so important for researchers to help leverage follow-on funding from a range of sources, to allow the continuity of research that is necessary for real progress to be made. Category 1 grants are also one important measure of a researcher’s track-record. They are often a critical factor in decisions surrounding academic appointments and promotions.’
Through the rigorous Research Management Council process and by offering Category 1 grants MS Research Australia ensures that supporters’ funds are not only going towards the highest quality MS research in Australia, they are offering the best return on investment. The grants mean that Australian MS researchers can keep working in the field of MS, can attract even further funding support and can consistently work towards a better understanding of MS. Ms Renee Steenstra, a person with MS and ambassador for Kiss Goodbye to MS, explains why this matters: ‘Knowing that MS Research Australia grant awards are going to the highest quality research projects gives me confidence that this work will bring us closer to finding a cure for MS.’