Competition in science in Australia

The past week has been a glorious time for some but also a ‘day of mourning’ for many of my other colleagues. That is the day that the National Council of Medicine and Health Australia announced the list of scientists awarded the Leadership Fellowship in 2021. [1].

This year, the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) has 33 scientists awarded Leadership Fellowship, worth up to $ 61 million [2]. Compared to last year with 22 people and 30 million dollars [3] The results this year are so beautiful.

I am associated with UNSW and UTS, but this year UTS has only 1 person awarded the Leadership Fellowship award. This result will probably be the subject of analysis in the next few months and the busier I am.

In Australia, the NHMRC Leadership Fellow program is the most prestigious program in the scientific world. These people are considered ‘elite’ in Australian scientific circles, as they have a scientific record that is not only outstanding but has to be internationally outstanding. The awardees come with a research budget and salary for five consecutive years. NHMRC divides fellows into 5 ranks:

  • Emerging Leadership 1 (for those 5 years after PhD)
  • Emerging Leadership 2 (5-10 years postdoctoral)
  • Leadership 1 (10-15 years postdoctoral)
  • Leadership 2 (15-20 years postdoctoral)
  • Leadership 3 (over 20 years postdoctoral)

These fellowships are quite competitive. Candidates must spend several months to prepare their scientific profile, and the application must go through a review process of up to 6 months. Each profile has up to 6 expert reviewers, and they score below average to exceptional.

Wall Research analysis (last 10 years) and scientific publications of leadership fellows of NHMRC

Index EL1 EL2 L1 L2 L3
The average age 35 40 45 52 60
Number of scientific articles published in 10 years 38 78 110 173 186
Number of articles in the top 10% cited twelfth 27 41 51 sixty seven
Number of articles in the top 10% of the journal 18 40 60 79 105
Number of citations (career) 600 2000 6200 7700 23000
H-index (career) 38 forty six 74
Field-weighted citation impact 3.86 3.81 3.65 2.87 2.90

The numbers are the mean or median. Data extracted from “DrData” on twitter.

This year, 1722 professors and lecturers applied, but only 254 people (15%) were successful, about 1.5% higher than last year. The number of people awarded Leadership 3 (the highest) this year is 51, compared with 45 people last year.

The presence of people of Vietnamese origin in this group is very rare. Looking at this year’s list, only one person with the Vietnamese surname is seen in the EL2 group. Last year there was also 1 (or 2) person in this EL group. We Vietnamese (and Asians in general) still have to get used to the scientific culture to rise up in this highly competitive environment.





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