Supporting researchers to tackle Australia’s biggest killer

17 May 2022

New research in Nature Reviews Cardiology presents a roadmap to support and retain early to mid-career researchers (EMCRs) in the cardiovascular research sector.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide. It kills one Australian every 12 minutes and is the nation’s second largest direct health care cost at $11.8 billion every year. We need innovative research solutions and a strong and sustainable research sector to continue to make inroads against the country’s biggest killer.

A survey published in 2020 by the peak cardiovascular leadership body, the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance (ACvA), painted a concerning outlook for the sector, with many researchers considering leaving due to a lack of job and financial security.

Associate Professor Francine Marques, former chair of the ACvA’s Emerging Leaders Committee and senior author of the article in Nature Reviews Cardiology, said “We understood from the 2020 survey that we needed strategic and pragmatic solutions to stop cardiovascular researchers leaving the sector, while continuing to build and support a thriving cardiovascular ecosystem that can serve both health and the economy.”

That is why the ACvA commissioned additional research to identify the key drivers behind this issue and the short-term, medium-term and long-term solutions that will address challenges faced by emerging cardiovascular researchers, focusing on three key areas: capacity building, research funding, and fostering diversity and equity.

A/Prof Marques added “This paper provides a framework for implementation of practical solutions, that can have an enormous impact in the sector, at local, national and global scale.”

Professor Gemma Figtree, President of the ACvA said “The roadmap demonstrates how capacity building, in particular, can be supported through multidisciplinary collaborations, incentivised mentorship and sponsorship and training to improve professional skills. The ACvA’s ELC has already identified these as priorities and has developed innovative mentorship and professional development programs in response.”

“The ACvA’s focus on capacity building and collaboration demonstrates how we can leverage strategic funding to support capacity building, a diverse cardiovascular workforce and create a more sustainable future for the sector, as a central plank of the health system.” Professor Figtree added.

Dr Niamh Chapman, co-lead of the study, said “Strategic approaches such as those provided through the ACvA provide a model demonstrating how research funding can be used to improve job security. We are also calling for progress in supporting a fairer approach to the assessment of career disruptions and opportunities, and to support junior cardiovascular researchers to aim for leadership roles.”

Dr Emma Thomas, co-lead of the study, said “These approaches must also work to improve diversity and equity in cardiovascular research for working parents, women and other under-represented groups all of which need support.”

The ACvA will be engaging with stakeholders including the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI) regarding the implementation of the Roadmap in Australia.

Enquiries: Kerry Doyle, ACvA Executive Director, kerry.doyle@ 

The research can be found here.