I’ve just spent another long day in Sydney assessing research grants for ‘Category 1’ funding. Researchers and funding bodies; know this. Your work and funds are in good hands. Every year I am struck by the quality and integrity of this review process even though it inevitably has more ‘losers’ than winners.

If a funding body can allocate, say a million dollars in a year, that may only be around 10 to 12 grant proposals that will ‘get up’ and win funding. 10 to 12 is not many out of say, 200 but it is a measure of how competitive this process is and how good your proposal has to be to be funded.

If you succeed and your research proposal is funded, give yourself a huge pat on the back, you deserve it. If your grant didn’t succeed this time, start planning for the next submission. Don’t whinge about it, don’t complain that the stupid reviewers didn’t understand your genius and don’t wallow in ‘bitter and twisted’. The reality is that many good grants do not get funded as there is simply not enough money in the pot to fund everything that is good, only those that are exceptionally good.

You also need to know just how much care, thought and integrity goes into reviewing your grant. Every year I am struck by the level of ethical appreciation and comportment shown by reviewers. Nobody has to tell these committee reviewers what to do to ‘do the right thing’. If there is even a whiff of a conflict of interest or of any possible professional or collegial advantage, people will immediately excuse themselves from discussions or from the scoring of a grant or will actually leave the room and absent themselves during that grant’s consideration.

Another feature of the review committees that I have been part of is the quality of the discussion and debate that takes place around each proposal considered. In around 15 years of this work and in various grant review committees I have never once heard a discussion about a proposal characterised by ill-feeling, preciousness, egocentrism or anything less than collegiality and scholarship.

If such integrity and ethics were the norm in everyday health care we would be in a wonderful place indeed.

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