Scientists are continuing to campaign against feared cuts to the National Health and Medical Research Council funding in next month's federal budget, amid hopes that the Federal Government may have decided against the $400 million cut.

Media report citing government sources suggested a budget "razor gang" meeting in Canberra on Monday had decided against the cuts.

In a commentary piece for a Medical Journal of Australia publication, 15 leading health economists and researchers told the Federal Government that a threatened $400 million funding cut to the National Health and Medical Research Council would be small compared with the cost to the economy.


Professor Nicholas Graves, from the Queensland University of Technology, said more than 1600 post-doctoral researchers' jobs in clinical medicine, basic science, public health and services could be removed from the research landscape.


"They do work that informs good decision making in health services and find ways of improving health among Australians," he said.


"The economic benefit of this cut is likely to be small because the current net national debt is inconsequential compared to the earning power of the Australian economy."


Professor Graves said that last financial year, $708 million was invested into research by the NHMRC.


He said that since 1998, government spending on the supply of health services had increased 5.4 per cent annually, with expenditures of $107 billion in 2008-09 expected to rise to $226 billion in 2020 if growth remained steady.


But if health services spending rose an extra 1 per cent as a result of poor policy decisions, then gross expenditure by 2020 would be $129 billion higher.


"Cutting research funding might cost the Australian economy in higher health expenditures and worse patient outcomes," Professor Graves said. WA health economist Gavin Mooney, one of the signatories, said the loss of research money would discourage local researchers from staying in Australia.


"We're not just talking about losing people who make medical breakthroughs, we're also talking about the people who undertake the research that guides health policy in the country," he said.


"Countries like Canada fund their health research extremely well and protect that funding.


"The impact of cutting funding here could have a serious impact on the university sector's research area."