BACKGROUND: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Australia. Investment in research solutions has been demonstrated to yield health and a 9.8-fold return economic benefit. The sector, however, is severely challenged with success rates of traditional peer-reviewed funding in decline. Here, we aimed to understand the perceived challenges faced by the cardiovascular workforce in Australia prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
METHODS: We used an online survey distributed across Australian cardiovascular societies/councils, universities and research institutes over a period of 6 months during 2019, with 548 completed responses. Inclusion criteria included being an Australian resident or an Australian citizen who lived overseas, and a current or past student or employee in the field of cardiovascular research.
RESULTS: The mean age of respondents was 42±13 years, 47% were male, 85% had a full-time position, and 40% were a group leader or laboratory head. Twenty-three per cent (23%) had permanent employment, and 82% of full-time workers regularly worked >40 hours/week. Sixty-eight per cent (68%) said they had previously considered leaving the cardiovascular research sector. If their position could not be funded in the next few years, a staggering 91% of respondents would leave the sector. Compared to PhD- and age-matched men, women were less likely to be a laboratory head and to feel they had a long-term career path as a cardiovascular researcher, while more women were unsure about future employment and had considered leaving the sector (all p<0.05). Greater job security (76%) and government and philanthropic investment in cardiovascular research (72%) were highlighted by responders as the main changes to current practices that would encourage them to stay.
CONCLUSION: Strategic solutions, such as diversification of career pathways and funding sources, and moving from a competitive to a collaborative culture, need to be a priority to decrease reliance on government funding and allow cardiovascular researchers to thrive.