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Submission to NHMRC about new framework to guide funding of research

BCNA has made a submission to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) about a new framework it is developing for assessing grant applications. The NHMRC is the major medical research funding body in Australia.

This submission was an opportunity for BCNA to acknowledge the valuable contribution that consumer representatives can make in reviewing research funding proposals. Our submission emphasises the importance of researchers engaging with consumers in a meaningful and timely way when developing grant applications. We noted that when researchers connect with consumers, studies are more likely to be relevant to, and meet the needs of, people affected by various health conditions.[i]

We made four recommendations for changes to the framework.

  1. To enhance researchers’ capacity to understand the value of seeking consumer input and engage meaningfully with consumers when developing NHMRC funding applications for clinical trials and cohort studies, BCNA recommends that links be included in the electronic version of the proposed framework to:

(a) NHMRC and Consumer Health Forums’ 2016 joint Statement on Consumer and Community Involvement in Health and Medical Research

(b) Cancer Australia’s 2011 National Framework for Consumer Involvement in Cancer Control.

  1. BCNA recommends that ‘early engagement’ is defined within the following parameters:

(a) Researchers make contact with consumer organisations regarding an application to engage with a trained consumer no less than four weeks prior to submission of their funding application

(b) Researchers provide consumers with at least two weeks to review and provide feedback on project proposals, grant applications, participant information sheets, consent forms and other project documents

(c) NHMRC consider adding a field within the funding application form that asks researchers to indicate the date that consumer input was sought or the amount of time that a consumer spent on their contribution to the funding application process, as a measure of the depth of consumer engagement.

  1. BCNA recommends that the following statement be inserted into the proposed framework: ‘Where possible, researchers should engage consumers who have been trained and are supported by community organisations to represent the diverse needs, interests and perspectives of people affected by a particular health condition’.

  2. In relation to the proposed framework’s requirement that applications ‘provide an argument to demonstrate that achieving the sample size is feasible’, BCNA recommends that a sentence be added highlighting the valuable and unique role consumers can play in refining and strengthening the recruitment methods proposed in the funding

More information


[i] Cancer Australia and Cancer Voices Australia (2011). National Framework for Consumer Involvement in Cancer Control. Cancer Australia, Canberra, ACT; Saunders, C. (2007). ‘Operationalising a model framework for consumer and community participation in health and medical research,’ Australia and New Zealand Health Policy, 4(13), DOI: 10.1186/1743-8462-4-13.