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Short-sighted budget cuts detrimental to eye research

In the lead up to the May budget, the Australian government is reviewing its funding of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Cuts to medical research funding could reach up to $400 million over the next three years.

CERA Managing Director Professor Jonathan Crowston said the cuts would have a devastating impact on researchers, their programs and the translational benefits that research delivers to the community.


"Funding of Australian medical research is an investment that results in immeasurable returns for the community by improving health outcomes, reducing healthcare costs, and boosting the economy," Professor Crowston said.

"Access Economics has shown that for every $1 spent on eye research, there's an estimated $5 return in patient benefit and savings in health service provision. Cuts to this sector will be detrimental to Australia's health and  economy."

Professor Crowston said that applying for research funding is highly competitive and excellent programs frequently go unfunded. He added that budgetary cuts could not be absorbed by an already stretched sector.

"With cuts, the current 23 per cent success rate would drop dramatically, meaning many labs will go unfunded and will be threatened with closure," Professor Crowston said.

"The current NHMRC annual budget is about $750 million. A cut of $400 million over three years would be equivalent to 19 per cent of the Council's overall budget – such a significant reduction would have a devastating impact on the sector."

According to Professor Crowston, funding cuts would also impact the sectors' ability to attract talented researchers, promoting a brain-drain to overseas institutes.

"Attracting world-class researchers is difficult and without funding, it's impossible. If talented researchers can't get their programs funded, they'll simply go overseas."

"The Australian Government has traditionally been a passionate supporter of medical research. Its support has enabled many important breakthroughs and spawned a successful sector of world-class standards."

"I urge anyone who feels strongly about this issue to voice their opinion by contacting one of the relevant decision makers or their local federal member."

The Discoveries Needs Dollars campaign urges the government to take a long-term view of the role of medical research in boosting Australia's economy and improving Australians' health by maintaining its investment in research. Visit www.discoveriesneeddollars.org for more information.