Lack of Strategic Funding and Long-Term Job Security Threaten to Have Profound Effects on Cardiovascular Researcher Retention in Australia

Rachel E. Climie, Jason H.Y. Wu, Anna C. Calkin, Niamh Chapman, Sally C. Inglis, Katrina M. Mirabito Colafella, Dean S. Picone, Joanne T.M. Tan, Emma Thomas, Helena M. Viola, Steven G. Wise, Andrew J. Murphy, Mark R. Nelson, Stephen J. Nicholls, Livia C. Hool, Kerry Doyle, Gemma A. Figtree, Francine Z. Marques, on behalf of the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance

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Abstract

Background: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Australia. Investment in research solutions has been demonstrated to yield health and a 9.8-fold return economic benefit. The sector, however, is severely challenged with success rates of traditional peer-reviewed funding in decline. Here, we aimed to understand the perceived challenges faced by the cardiovascular workforce in Australia prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: We used an online survey distributed across Australian cardiovascular societies/councils, universities and research institutes over a period of 6 months during 2019, with 548 completed responses. Inclusion criteria included being an Australian resident or an Australian citizen who lived overseas, and a current or past student or employee in the field of cardiovascular research. Results: The mean age of respondents was 42±13 years, 47% were male, 85% had a full-time position, and 40% were a group leader or laboratory head. Twenty-three per cent (23%) had permanent employment, and 82% of full-time workers regularly worked >40 hours/week. Sixty-eight per cent (68%) said they had previously considered leaving the cardiovascular research sector. If their position could not be funded in the next few years, a staggering 91% of respondents would leave the sector. Compared to PhD- and age-matched men, women were less likely to be a laboratory head and to feel they had a long-term career path as a cardiovascular researcher, while more women were unsure about future employment and had considered leaving the sector (all p<0.05). Greater job security (76%) and government and philanthropic investment in cardiovascular research (72%) were highlighted by responders as the main changes to current practices that would encourage them to stay. Conclusion: Strategic solutions, such as diversification of career pathways and funding sources, and moving from a competitive to a collaborative culture, need to be a priority to decrease reliance on government funding and allow cardiovascular researchers to thrive.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalHeart Lung and Circulation
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Aug 2020

Keywords

  • Cardiovascular
  • Funding
  • Tender equity
  • Workforce

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