Aims: In 1987, the Public Health Research and Development Committee (PHRDC) was established by the NHMRC as one mechanism to fund public health research in Australia. In 1993, it awarded 32 new and 31 continuing project grants. Given increasing interest in research accountability in Australia, we designed an audit to determine outcomes from this investment. We also explored grant recipients' views about sources of research funding and strategies to enhance research dissemination.
Method: Self-administered survey, July 1999.
Main results: We obtained a 69% response fraction. The majority of projects already had been completed with peer-reviewed articles the most common outputs. More than half (58%) of respondents 'strongly agreed' or 'agreed' that their research had influenced policy to improve public health and 69% that it had influenced practice. Study design was significantly associated with peer-reviewed output, whether self-reported (p=0.002) or corroborated by us (p=0.004). With respect to research funding, significantly more agreed that the NHMRC should enhance program grants for public health research than mechanisms through the Strategic Research Development Committee (p=0.013). The most highly rated strategy to enhance dissemination was greater demand for research results among policy makers.
Conclusion: A pleasing proportion of projects funded by PHRDC in 1993 generated peer-reviewed publications and provided research training. Recipients perceive their research has influenced policy and practice. Recipients' views about strategies to increase funding for public health research are consistent with current reforms within the NHMRC. Policy makers emerge as a key target for training in research transfer.