The Australian Cardiovascular Alliance (ACvA) has called for a stronger cardiovascular research sector through capacity building, increased funding to create job security, as well as more diversity, equity and inclusivity in the workforce.
The ACvA roadmap focuses particularly on supporting early-mid career researchers (EMCRs) via short, medium and long term strategies for keeping those with parenting responsibilities engaged with the sector.
The provision of childcare at conferences and workplaces, work from home options and flexible work hours, as well as normalising and providing research support for part-timers are some of the proposed solutions.
The development of the roadmap, published in Nature Reviews Cardiology, drew on focus groups of 34 Australia-based EMCRs working in cardiovascular research plus an international literature review.
The roadmap acknowledged previous evidence that researchers faced a number of challenges such as job security which threatened their ongoing role in the sector.
“In a 2019 survey involving >500 cardiovascular researchers in Australia, two-thirds of the participants had considered leaving the cardiovascular research sector or did not feel that they had long-term career prospects in cardiovascular research owing to the lack of long-term job security and funding,” it said.
The ACvA said targeted investment in the career development of EMCRs was key to capacity building. Possible solutions included encouragement of collaborations, mentorships and EMCR-specific seed funding.
On the issue of diversity and equity in the workforce, it said there was growing evidence that more diverse and equitable workplaces can achieve greater “innovation, discovery and benefit.”
It called for more support for women researchers such as through gender-neutral leave policies and language.
Regarding ethnic minorities, it suggested strategies including fellowships and early-career funding support for individuals from under-represented groups as well as annual training in cultural and unconscious bias for all in the sector.
“Given the globally connected nature of research, national funding bodies should consider funding schemes to attract and retain international talent,” it said.
“In Australia, most nationally competitive funding schemes will fund permanent residents or citizens, but not individuals on temporary work visas.”
Senior author of the article and former chair of the ACvA’s Emerging Leaders Committee Associate Professor Francine Marques said strategic and pragmatic solutions to stop a brain drain in the sector and build “a thriving cardiovascular ecosystem” had health and economic benefits.
“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.”
The ACvA will be engaging with stakeholders including the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI) regarding the implementation of the Roadmap in Australia.