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Credentials and NHMRC Investigator Grant success

Updated: Feb 25

Welcome to the finale of this three-part series on the NHMRC Investigator Grant scheme. To round this up, we will be analysing public profiles of the successful 2020 NHMRC Investigator Grant recipients to determine their expertise and credentials. One of the most common questions we get for this scheme is whether it is biased toward practising clinicians.


Unlike Scopus metrics (Part 1) and NHMRC-defined classes of research impact (Part 2), credentials are self-defined, and may align more closely to career types we stratify ourselves into. They are a composite category, capturing academic qualifications, professional achievements or an aspect of an individual’s research background. For this analysis, we combined professional information as presented on institute/department websites with published educational qualifications (where available) to classify Fellows into specific groups, with ‘research-clinicians’ being the only group containing practicing clinicians.



As might be expected, ‘research-clinicians’ represent a large category in both Emerging Leadership and Leadership groups. This reflects NHMRC intentions to support talented health and medical researchers contributing to ‘human health’. Yet ‘biomedical’ researchers account for nearly 40% of all applicants – and were even the dominant category amongst Emerging Leadership level 1 recipients. For ‘epidemiologists’, the data illustrates a relatively constant 6 - 7 % representation across all levels, and a variety of other research specialties make up the remainder. Combined together, more non-clinical researchers received Investigator grants than ‘research clinicians’.


Yet in comparing Emerging Leadership to Leadership Fellows, fewer non-clinical Fellows were funded at the Leadership levels (53%, down from 69%). Does this mean that without a medical qualification, one faces tougher competition at more senior levels of the NHMRC Investigator Grant scheme? Or does it reflect underlying demographic changes in the research population? As noted in the World Bank’s landmark World Development Report 1993: Investing in Health, interdisciplinarity may be over-represented in younger career ages, leading to more non-medical careers in human health research. It will be interesting to see if more non-medical Fellows are indeed successful in the coming years and decades as they gain seniority and qualify for Leadership levels.


Regardless of your background, we have found that a case-by-case approach highlighting the match between your demonstrated prior contributions and the newly proposed work often leads to the best tailored application. Given the history of funding applicants from as disparate fields as law, social science and economics, there are always opportunities to promote the value of interdisciplinary contributions. No matter what your expertise and qualifications, the key is to convey a robust track record of achievement underlying a valuable new direction for the next stage in your career.


This brings us to the close for this series in the lead up to the 2021 NHMRC Investigator Grants round, which opened on 3rd February and is due on 31st March. For those who have followed along, we hope this has given you some insight in contemplating your application. We hope to be analysing your success in the near future! Remember our GrantEd Guides have been updated according to the 2021 amendments and are available to purchase online at https://thegrantedgroup.thinkific.com/.

Email us at hello@thegrantedgroup.com.au if you would like to discuss the strategic review services we offer for academic researchers.