Meta-research: justifying career disruption in funding applications, a survey of Australian researchers.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Elife, 2022, 11, pp. e76123
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
Background: When researchers' careers are disrupted by life events - such as illness or childbirth - they often need to take extended time off. This creates a gap in their research output that can reduce their chances of winning funding. In Australia, applicants can disclose their career disruptions and peer reviewers are instructed to make appropriate adjustments. However, it is not clear if and how applicants use career disruption sections or how reviewers adjust and if they do it consistently. Methods: To examine career disruption, we used surveys of the Australian health and medical research community. We used both a random sample of Australian authors on PubMed and a non-random convenience sample. Results: Respondents expressed concerns that sharing information on career disruption would harm their chances of being funded, with 13% saying they have medical or social circumstances but would not include it in their application, with concerns about appearing 'weak'. Women were more reluctant to include disruption. There was inconsistency in how disruption was adjusted for, with less time given for those with depression compared with caring responsibilities, and less time given for those who did not provide medical details of their disruption. Conclusions: The current system is likely not adequately adjusting for career disruption and this may help explain the ongoing funding gap for senior women in Australia. Funding: National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Research Fellowship (Barnett).
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