Research Strategy

Explore our strategy for research.

The Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences (MDHS) is positioned as the largest and most impactful aggregation of health researchers in Australia. Our objective should be to maintain that position, and to capitalise on our strengths to contribute to current and future societal health challenges.

Our research covers a broad spectrum of health from fundamental biomedical science through to community health and well-being, and global health. Despite this breadth, there are numerous areas where there is a large critical mass of expertise within disciplines and areas of health research. Our precinct MRIs and healthcare partners together with our other major healthcare partners, best exemplified in the MACH consortium, extends our research capabilities and provides a very large clinical platform for translational research.

The Faculty's graduate research program with ~1700 students contributes much to the progress of our research and the fabric of our research community, many of whom are embedded in our partner MRIs. Whilst the Faculty has many senior well-established international experts, there is a very impressive next generation of early and mid-career researchers in which MDHS should invest to develop its future research leaders.

Our current grant funding position is strong, exemplified by attracting 20.5% of the national pool in the 2020 NHMRC Investigator Grant scheme that funds the nation’s elite emerging and established health researchers.

Our reputation is strong, and has been enhanced by the substantial role our researchers have played in the national response to the pandemic, which stretches from fundamental viral biology and immunology through to societal well-being in the face of the health and economic consequences of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts on health, economic and general societal sequelae will continue for some time, perhaps many years, and we need to navigate the current challenges of the pandemic and the sector-specific and more general long-lasting economic and social sequelae.

The pandemic provides both threats and opportunities for our health research, and clearly necessitates a revision of our overall research strategy in the Faculty in a way that can assist our Schools and Institutes to operationalise their own underlying strategic responses. To be implemented alongside Advancing Melbourne, the University's strategy the Faculty's research strategy 2020+ sets the framework for the overarching strategy for the Faculty to be introduced immediately.

MDHS entered the pandemic in a strong position for future success but must now determine how to address threats and take up opportunities as we move forward.
Professor Alicia Spittle

Alicia’s research

Associate Dean Research

Alicia is a Dame Kate Campbell Fellow, National Health and Medical Research Council Career Development Fellow, and a physiotherapy clinician researcher with research interests focused on improving outcomes for children with cerebral palsy. Her research, which promises to improve neurodevelopmental outcomes for premature and at-risk infants, has been recognised by multiple national and international awards.

Research priorities

  1. Minimise the impact of pandemic-related restrictions on research productivity

    • Optimise safe access to laboratory facilities.
    • Work with our healthcare partners to maximise opportunities for safe continuation of clinical research.
    • Provide support for those researchers and their supervisors that continue to work remotely to ensure ongoing contact with colleagues, access to all online facilities required to prosecute their research, and continued productivity.
    • Revise our research infrastructure planning.
    • Ensure pandemic effects on research productivity are acknowledged in future appraisals of productivity including promotion applications.
  2. Prioritise research quality over quantity

    • Direct incentives, financial support, provision of graduate research scholarships and allocation of space in our best facilities to the highest quality research.
    • Identify the highest quality established and early career researchers and strongly support them to develop their careers.
    • Cease subsidisation and rescue of lower quality research.
    • Develop a stronger strategic relationship with our Medical Research Institute partners.
    • Develop a stronger strategic relationship with our healthcare partners.
    • Incentivise and encourage multidisciplinary collaboration, for example between clinical and non-clinical researchers in biomedicine and epidemiology.
    • Encourage global collaboration but with particular focus on opportunities to work with the other UoM Faculties, precinct MRI partners, healthcare partners and Government and industry.
    • Enact a range of measures to enhance research quality and integrity across the board including training in good research practice and provision of support for high quality methodology.
  3. Prioritise support based on current strengths, nationally identified priorities and our vision for future health, and incentivise team-based approaches and industry and government engagement

    • Prioritise research support and recruitment, including for research training and development of the next generation, on areas where we have substantial critical mass, where there are nationally identified priorities and where there is alignment with our vision for future health and healthcare.
    • Create intellectual hubs that foster collaboration and build effective critical mass across disciplines and Schools in areas central to the agreed vision.
    • Ensure the most productive environments for our research.
    • Work with our precinct Medical Research Institutes and healthcare partners to ensure we have appropriate enabling infrastructure.
    • Incentivise team-based research tackling major externally prioritised areas by assisting with formation of cross-disciplinary teams, development of research proposals and provision of seed funding where required.
    • Support and encourage researchers pivoting to our strategic priorities, and recognise the importance of contributions to team-based research in performance review and promotion processes.
  4. Ensure the development and progression of our future leading researchers

    • Implement the key recommendations of the Graduate Research Review.
    • Develop and support a spectrum of Graduate Research programs in which all our Graduate Researchers can participate in collaboration with our Medical Research Institute partners.
    • Continue to support the current Chancellery/Faculty-funded Early Career Researcher grants scheme and the Faculty-funded Mid-Career Researcher seeding grant scheme.
    • Retain the Dame Kate Campbell Fellowship scheme for Level C academics and the proportionally higher number of appointments at Level C.
    • Prioritise funding of bridging Fellowships for Level B and C academics whilst ensuring a focus on research quality and career potential.
    • Provide opportunities to engage in and be trained in undergraduate or postgraduate teaching.
    • Continue and expand career development programs for our Early and Mid-Career Researchers (EMCRs) and provide leadership opportunities and a voice for EMCRs.
    • Continue and expand programs to support a more diversified academic workforce within the Faculty.
  5. Engage research-only academics to contribute to the overall mission of the university

    • Formalise a commitment to the broader university mission for all our research-only academics which could be achieved by a strictly limited contribution to teaching, research support, administration or academic leadership.
    • Ensure senior research-only academics have a role in mentoring and research leadership beyond their own research groups.
    • Enhance exposure to world class research and researchers in our undergraduate and graduate research programs as a differentiator for our degrees consistent with the aims of Advancing Melbourne.
  6. Ensure efficiencies and lack of duplication in research support across the Faculty

    • Centralise all core platforms and support groups either at the Faculty level or within the most appropriate individual School, noting that services that are academically (rather than technically) driven are likely best placed within Schools.
    • Ensure efficiency and sharing of platform technologies, and development of strategy for acquiring new technologies with our Medical Research Institute and healthcare (MACH) partners.
    • Ensure research support services within the Faculty and across the University are well coordinated and not duplicated.
    • Identify and eliminate inefficient processes in research support, and introduce enhanced less labour-intensive systems to increase efficiency for research support staff and researchers.
    • Work with the Office of Research Ethics and Integrity to ensure the new systems put in place for animal and human ethics are working efficiently and meeting the needs of researchers whilst ensuring appropriate compliance.