The University of Sydney (Sydney) has a proud tradition of health and medical research that has scale, quality, and breadth of capability, as well as extensive links to the state health system. This Health and Medical Research Strategic Review (the review) was undertaken to ensure that, in a time of tightening research budgets and significant government reform in health and in research more broadly, Sydney is well placed to advance its interests and maintain its strong position. The review has focused on how Sydney can optimise the comprehensive resources of its health and medical research over the next 10 years.

Setting the scene

In the past year, major reviews commissioned by the state and Australian governments have called for research to have greater impact on health-care practice, on the delivery of health services and on the development of evidence-based health policy. The Chief Scientist’s National Research Investment Plan is also calling for more targeted investment in research aligned with national priorities, including population health and wellbeing. These reviews and plans are taking place in increasingly straitened fiscal environments, which will only intensify the calls for evidence that health outcomes are improving as a result of public investment in research.

In this rapidly evolving landscape, an examination of the University of Sydney’s health and medical research indicates there are compelling reasons for change. Close consideration of the available data from a number of perspectives shows that the position of health and medical research at Sydney is under intense pressure from strong competitors.

Through extensive consultation, the review identified three main challenges for health and medical research at Sydney:

  • How to strategically focus the efforts of the University’s health and medical research community around a set of clear priorities that respond to society’s health needs.
  • How to address, through structural and governance reform, what is now an unwieldy, complex and hard-to-understand research enterprise, while maintaining the benefits of local innovation and discovery.
  • How to build multiple networks of researchers by providing reliable access to information, resources and infrastructure that are essential to enabling and augmenting collaboration.

The vision

The review concluded that a first step would be to establish a vision to guide the way forward:

The University of Sydney will be recognised as a world leader in health and medical research and will deliver outcomes of significant benefit for the health and wellbeing of society.

This vision will be realised by harnessing the world-class research undertaken across the University's integrated network of faculties, affiliated research institutes and hospitals and by enabling researchers to collaborate strategically around common goals.

Realising the vision

To realise the vision, Sydney will achieve four strategic objectives.

  1. Identify and support strategic priority areas for research focus that leverage the University's research excellence, align with our researchers’ values, and deliver significant benefits for society.
  2. Facilitate research excellence and impact by making Sydney's strengths in the Strategic Priority Areas for Research Collaboration (SPARC) highly visible to health care providers and industry, to expedite partnerships and opportunities for translation and commercialisation, and by making "outstanding staff supported by state-of-the-art research facilities" the hallmarks of research excellence at Sydney.
  3. Establish strong, effective governance with clear lines of authority, accountability and responsibility to enhance overall research performance and enable greater integration with the health care provider network to increase translation into better health outcomes for individuals, communities and populations.
  4. Develop business processes and information and communication technology (ICT) systems to facilitate cross-disciplinary, cross-faculty and cross-organisational health and medical research.

These webpages summarise the review’s recommendations and key actions for each of these four strategic objectives that set the frame for responding to the Terms of Reference.