Strategic review of health and medical research

27 August 2012

We regularly receive affirmation of the University of Sydney's undoubted strengths in health and medical research, for example through our success in attracting competitive research grants, our high-profile publications, our results in the federal government's Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative, the strong demand from higher degree by research students, and the outstanding coverage we receive in the media for our researchers.

In the evolving external landscape, where competition for research funding is becoming stiffer, both state and federal governments have recently commissioned major reviews of health and medical research. The New South Wales review has been completed, recommendations made and accepted. The federal review is expected to report before the end of this year. In the context of these reviews and an anticipated call from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for the recognition of advanced health centres, we need to ensure that we are well-positioned to advance our interests and secure our primacy in the research landscape.

To that end, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Jill Trewhella, and I have initiated a strategic review of the University's health and medical research.

We are particularly pleased that we have been able to secure the services of the Deputy Chairman of Research Australia, Peter Wills AC, to chair our review committee. Mr Wills will be familiar to many of you for his work in the health sector, most notably as chair of federal and state strategic reviews of health and medical research. He has also been chair of the Garvan Institute and of the Australian Research Council, and has contributed to the development of the Commonwealth Innovation Statement and the National Biotechnology Strategy. He is therefore uniquely placed to lead this review for us and to help us focus on mechanisms we can put in place to secure the future of our research.

In addition to Mr Wills and Professor Trewhella, other members of the review committee will include Professor Michael Good AO (Griffith University), Professor Russell Lansbury AM (University of Sydney Business School), Professor Stephen Leeder AO (Western Sydney Local Health District, Menzies Centre for Health Policy), the Hon. Ron Phillips (Sydney Local Health District), Professor Carol Pollock (Northern Sydney Local Health District, Kolling Institute and Northern Clinical School), Professor Kathryn Refshauge (Faculty of Health Sciences) and Professor Bruce Robinson AM (Sydney Medical School).

Much of our current research excellence is made possible through collaboration: with our affiliated medical research institutes, hospitals and local health districts, and rural health networks; and with external partners. Our close connections to people who deliver health care also means our research can have a significant impact in our local and regional communities - a high-priority outcome for many of our researchers and for our government.

The review will focus on ways of optimising our resources, and mechanisms we can introduce to enhance research collaboration. It will also prepare us for our application to the NHMRC's Advanced Health Research Centre initiative, and develop an organisational framework that supports all of the University's affiliated entities, including medical research institutes, metropolitan hospitals, rural health networks and the internal health-related divisions.

The review will consult regularly and broadly. A website is under developmentto facilitate consultation and provide regular communication on the progress of the review The full terms of reference will be available on that site next Monday, 27 August, which is also the date of the committee's first meeting.

This is an exciting opportunity for all health and medical researchers across the University to increase our impact and leverage our strengths. I look forward to receiving the committee's report, and encourage you to participate actively in the process.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Spence