Here’s what health policy expert Philip Clarke, CEPAR Chief Investigator and Professor of Health Economics at University of Melbourne / Oxford Univeristy thought of 2019 budget announcements.
New funding for research, but who decides the priorities?
The budget contains several funding announcements for research.
The government will establish a Health and Medical Research Office, to help allocate money from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). This will be needed, as the budget papers commit to a further $931 million from the MRFF for:
- Clinical trials for rare cancers and rare diseases
- Emerging priorities and consumer-driven research
- Global health research to tackle antimicrobial resistance and drug-resistant tuberculosis.
In addition, the budget includes:
- $70 million for research into type 1 diabetes
- a large investment for genomics (although that is a re-announcement of $500 million promised in last year’s budget)
- a series of infrastructure grants to individual universities and institutions, such as $10 million to establish the Curtin University Dementia Centre of Excellence.
The government appears to be moving away from allocating medical research funding through existing funding bodies, such as the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), towards allocating research funds to specific disease areas, and even to individual institutions.
This is a much more direct approach to research funding, but it raises a few important questions. On what basis are these funding decisions being made? And why are some diseases considered priorities to receive funding? There is very little detail to answer these questions.
Australia’s allocation of research funding through the MRFF is diverging from long-held traditions in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, which apply the “Haldane principle”. This involves researchers deciding where research funding is spent, rather than politicians.