BSc (UCL), PhD (UQ)



Statistics
2021

Professor Adrian Barnett is a statistician known for his work in health and medical research and on improving the application of statistical methods. He was the president of the Statistical Society of Australia from 2018 to 2020. He has published two statistical textbooks and over 280 peer reviewed papers. His publications have been cited over 23,000 times and his research has been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, Time, ABC and BBC.

His work has shaped national policy on health and medical funding. His estimate that Australian health and medical researchers spent over 550 years applying for NHMRC Project Grants was quoted by the Prime Minister in parliament. The Australian newspaper said that the research “prompted an outcry and helped spur the NHMRC to significantly streamline the application process.”

His team worked with the NHMRC to design experiments to test alternative systems and directly inform their decision making. This led to a rare, randomised trial on the reliability of funding decisions that used real applications. The results gave strong support for increasing the amount allocated to people funding compared with project funding, a change which happened in 2019.

His research has focused on reducing the costs of applying for funding and increasing the reliability of funding decisions. This includes an experiment using a simplified journal-style systems without the need for panel meetings, and examples of the statistical benefits of using independent scores instead of panels. The experimental results found the simplified journal-style panel showed big savings in peer review costs for an acceptable loss of reliability. The NHMRC have recently changed many of their peer review systems to use independent reviews without panels.

He has worked with the New Zealand Health Research Council (HRC) on assessing changes to their funding systems, including the novel use of a modified lottery to award funding. His survey research has shown that lotteries are acceptable to applicants and the success of the HRC’s approach has spurred international agencies to trial lotteries.

His statistical report on deaths during the Hazelwood mine fire disaster was the reason the parliamentary enquiry was re-opened. His report was used to direct questions in the Victorian parliament to the Health Minister and Premier. The inquiry’s final report agreed with Prof Barnett’s conclusion that the pollution from the fire likely caused an increase in deaths. The mine’s owners were subsequently found guilty of failing to protect the public’s health.

Professor: Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation & School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology, Feb 2017 to present

Associate Professor: Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation & School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology, Aug 2010 to Feb 2017

Senior Lecturer in Biostatistics: Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation & School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology, Nov 2007 to Aug 2010

Senior Lecturer in Biostatistics: School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Jan 2006 to Nov 2007

NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship

Member and Past President Statistical Society of Australia

Member Association for Interdisciplinary Meta-research and Open Science

Member Science and Technology Australia Policy Committee

Founder member Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation

  1. Graves N, Barnett AG, Clarke P (2011) Funding grant proposals for scientific research. Retrospective analysis of grant review panel members’ scores. BMJ 343:d4797.
  2. Herbert DL, Barnett AG, Graves N (2013) Funding: Australia’s grant system wastes time. Nature 495(7441):314.
  3. Herbert D, Coveney J, Clarke P, Graves N, Barnett A, (2014) The impact of funding deadlines on personal workloads, stress and family relationships: a qualitative study of Australian researchers, BMJ Open, 4 (3).
  4. Clarke P, Herbert D, Graves N, Barnett AG (2016) A randomized trial of fellowships for early career researchers finds a high reliability in funding decisions. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 69:147-51.
  5. Liu M, Choy V, Clarke P, Barnett A, Blakely T, Pomeroy L (2020) The acceptability of using a lottery to allocate research funding: a survey of applicants. Research Integrity and Peer Review 5, 3.