Welcome to Tracker, NHMRC’s fortnightly newsletter with the latest information on major activities and funding opportunities.

Folate and healthy babies: Case Study

Professor Fiona Stanley and Professor Carol Bower’s landmark research on the role of folic acid in preventing neural tube defects (NTD) led to one of the top 10 public health successes of the past two decades in Australia - folic acid in flour.

Their research contributed evidence to support public health interventions, which since 2009 have helped lower rates of NTDs like spina bifida and removed the gap between NTD rates in non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal populations. 

Work on folate in Australia began within the NHMRC-supported Research Unit in Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at The University of Western Australia, which later formed the nucleus of the Telethon Kids Institute. 

Read more on the research-to-impact.

Investigator Grants 2021 Update

Minimum data for the Investigator Grants 2021 must be entered into Sapphire by 5:00pm (AEST) on 3 March 2021. Full applications close 5:00pm (AEST) on Wednesday 31 March 2021.

Further details are available on GrantConnect and the NHMRC website.

Synergy Grants 2021

Synergy Grants 2021 key application dates

The Synergy Grant scheme for funding commencing in 2022 is scheduled to open 24 February 2021. Minimum data is due 24 March 2021 and applications close 21 April 2021.

The Synergy Grants 2021 Grant Guidelines and Peer Review Guidelines will be made available on the NHMRC website when the scheme opens. Please contact the Research Help Centre by email for further information or assistance.

Synergy Grants 2021 – Expanded funding allocation

NHMRC’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 included changes to the grant funding schedule, as well as the cancellation of the 2020 Synergy Grants round to free up peer reviewers to focus on the Ideas Grant round.

The cancellation of the Synergy Grant round was disappointing for researchers who had worked hard to develop their research plan and build the collaborations underpinning this important scheme. 

At the time, we advised that we would consider whether it was possible to run an expanded Synergy Grant round in 2021. 

In consultation with Research Committee, NHMRC has increased the provisional funding allocation for the 2021 Synergy Grants round from $50 million to $85 million. This additional funding will only be available for the 2021 round, and is in direct response to the 2020 round cancellation.

A Synergy Grant provides a total budget of $5 million, paid evenly over the grant period.

Second round of invitations for peer reviews

A second round of invitations has been sent and NHMRC thanks all those who have accepted invitations to participate as a Synergy Grants peer reviewer in 2021. NHMRC encourages members of the research community to contribute their expertise to the peer review process. Further information on NHMRC peer review will be sent to invitees in the coming weeks.

Ideas Grant scheme  - key application dates

The Ideas Grant scheme for funding commencing 2022 is scheduled to open 10 March 2021. Minimum data is due 7 April 2021 and applications close 5 May 2021.

You will need to use Sapphire to access or enter your CV and profile, and submit your application. If you anticipate applying for or being named on a grant (including as an Associate Investigator), please register here to activate or register your Sapphire account well in advance of the Minimum Data deadline.

MRFF Grant Opportunities 

The application due date for the following grant opportunity is 7 April 2021, with minimum data due on 24 March 2021.

  • 2020 Neurofibromatosis Research Grant Opportunity

The application due date for the following grant opportunities is 10 March 2021, with minimum data due on 24 February 2021:

  • 2020 COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate Research Grant Opportunity (Round 3)
  • 2020 Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care Mission
  • 2020 Indigenous Health Research Fund
  • 2020 Paediatric Cancer
  • 2020 Improving Diagnosis of Cancers with Low Survival Rates

The application due date for the following MRFF Grant Opportunities is 3 March 2021:

  • 2020 Cardiovascular Health Mission
  • 2020 Genomics Health Futures Mission 
  • 2020 Stem Cell Therapies Mission
  • 2020 Traumatic Brain Injury Mission
  • 2020 International Clinical Trial Collaborations, Round 2 (20.2)

Additional details on how to apply for MRFF grant opportunities is available on GrantConnect.  

Further information on MRFF grant opportunities can be found here.

Researchers, consumers, clinicians and health practitioners, as well as those in industry, policy or who manage health services are invited to express their interest in assisting with the assessment of MRFF applications as a member of a grant assessment committee. Register your interest via the NHMRC online portal.

MRFF Application Eligibility Criteria and Compliance Checking

The guidelines for the grant opportunities funded under the MRFF must address all of the eligibility and assessment criteria as set out in the guidelines. 

Applicants are requested to pay careful attention to Chief Investigator (CI) eligibility including limits that are in place on the number of times a person can be named as a CI on applications submitted to a grant opportunity. Please refer to the eligibility section of the relevant grant opportunity guidelines. 

NHMRC understands that eligibility checking can be a time consuming task for RAOs and we are examining ways that Sapphire may be able to support eligibility checking in the future.  

2021 Partnership Projects Peer Review Cycle 1 (PRC1) 

The due date for NHMRC Approved Administering Institutions to submit partner waiver requests for applications in the 2021 Partnership Projects PRC1 is Wednesday 10 March 2021.

Australian Dietary Guidelines  - Stakeholder Scoping Survey Open 

NHMRC is reviewing the Australian Dietary Guidelines. An important part of this review is to seek feedback from Guideline users. 

The Australian Dietary Guidelines stakeholder scoping survey is seeking comments on: 

  • how the 2013 Dietary Guidelines are used, and 
  • relevant topics to be considered and possibly included in the review of the Guidelines.

This survey is open to all stakeholders and will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. The survey will close 3pm (AEDT) on 15 March 2021.

To find more information on the review of the Guidelines and to complete the stakeholder scoping survey, follow this link to the Australian Dietary Guidelines review webpage

Updates to NHMRC approved third party guidelines 

NHMRC has approved updates to two ‘living’ guidelines under section 14A of the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992:

Australian guidelines for the clinical care of people with COVID-19 developed by the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce. This update includes 26 new recommendations and changes to 19 recommendations. Further details are available at   

Clinical guidelines for stroke management developed by the National Stroke Foundation. This update includes four new recommendations and a substantial change to one recommendation. NHMRC also approved a change to a recommendation on contracture considered to be of minor significance, and on the advice of NHMRC Council is dispensing with the requirement for public consultation under section 14B of the NHMRC Act. Further details are available here.

2020 Human Research Ethics Committees Annual Report form – now available 

NHMRC-registered Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs) and NHMRC-certified institutions are required to submit annual reports to NHMRC concerning their activities in the preceding calendar year. The 2020 report form is now available and needs to be completed by 27 May 2021. Further details, including how to access the form, have been emailed to registered HRECs and certified institutions. 

Please contact NHMRC at if your institution or HREC Chair have not yet received this email or require any assistance.

NHMRC participation in the 2021 e-Asia Joint Research Program 

NHMRC is participating in the 2021 e-ASIA Joint Research Program 10th Health Research call for research proposals in infectious diseases or cancer. To be eligible to apply for NHMRC funding, a research project must consist of Australian researchers partnering with at least two research teams from participating e-ASIA member organisations. Details on the Health Research call are available on the GrantConnect, NHMRC and e-ASIA websites. 

NHMRC is now accepting applications. Minimum data must be entered into Sapphire by 5.00pm (AEDT), 1 March 2021. Full Applications must be submitted by 5.00pm (AEDT), 29 March 2021

International alliance seeks members for the Common Measures in Mental Health Science Advisory Group 

The International Alliance of Mental Health Research Funders (IAMHRF) unites funders on a shared mental health research agenda to save lives and improve treatments and care for patients and families worldwide. One of the network’s key efforts is to drive adoption of shared data collection instruments that are relevant and transferable to a variety of locations and areas of mental health research. 

The IAMHRF is establishing a Common Measures in Mental Health Science Advisory Group (CMA), to be composed of experts in measuring mental health experiences, demographics and functioning. The CMA will particularly focus on aspects of diversity, inclusivity, and cultural and geographical appropriateness of suggested measures to help improve the quality of research. 

Information and the form to apply to be a member of the CMA is available here.
Applications close: midnight (AEST), 28 February 2021. For further information or inquiries, please contact:

Research Help Centre (RHC) and Sapphire access requests

Applicants who intend to submit or participate in an application for the current Investigator Grants round or the upcoming Synergy and Ideas Grants rounds should ensure that:

  • they have an active account, or request access to Sapphire as soon as possible
  • any participating institutions they intend to list as part of their application are available in Sapphire
  • if a participating institution is not available, please email, include the URL and request it be added to the system.

The RHC’s service standard is that every email or phone call is actioned or referred within 2 business days (allowances may be applicable during peak periods).

New Sapphire Functionality 

ORCID integration

Sapphire now allows you to connect your Sapphire profile to the Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID). Connecting to ORCID will provide you with greater flexibility in managing your publication history. You can continue to manage publications manually or manage them in a single repository and import them as required into Sapphire, reducing the need to double handle your publication information.

Detailed instructions on how to connect your ORCID to your Sapphire Profile is available on the Sapphire Tutorials page under Researcher - My Profile, adding ORCID to your profile tutorial. Users who elect to utilise this functionality should be aware that publication author information will not automatically migrate to Sapphire and will require manual entry.

For additional assistance, please contact the NHMRC Research Help Centre via email

Draft Australian Living Guideline for the Pharmacological Management of Inflammatory Arthritis 

The Australia & New Zealand Musculoskeletal Clinical Trials Network (the developer) has released a draft guideline on the pharmacological management of inflammatory arthritis for public consultation from Monday, 15 February, to Sunday, 21 March 2021

The developer will be seeking NHMRC approval of the guideline under section 14A of the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992.

To access the guideline please go to:

Submissions should be made via:

Nominations Open: NHMRC Biennial Awards 

NHMRC is seeking nominations of high achieving individuals and groups from our health and medical research sector for consideration for its 2021 Biennial Awards. NHMRC awards recognise outstanding leadership, innovation and sector contribution, and include the: 

NHMRC also seeks submission from the sector of digital scientific images for the NHMRC Science to Art Award — a competition that highlights the artistic beauty of Australian health and medical research. 

Nominations for the 2021 NHMRC Biennial Awards close at 5pm AEDST on Thursday 1 April 2020. More information and the online nomination form can be found on the NHMRC website

Guidelines and impact  - the art of storytelling

Dr Alex Aitkin from NHMRC and Dr Kiah Evans from the Telethon Kids Institute will discuss how you can demonstrate guideline impact at a Guidelines International Network (GIN)-ANZ webinar on Friday 12 March, 2021 11 - 12PM AEDT.

For more information and to register your interest please go here

NHMRC Consultation on guidelines |

NHMRC is currently seeking the views of guideline developers about guideline impact: what does impact mean to you, how you collect or use impact data and how do you evaluate impact. For more information and to provide comment please go to: Do guidelines make a difference?

A Guidelines for Guidelines module on Transparency is currently available for consultation. NHMRC welcomes comments and feedback on this module via email to the Clinical Guidelines team

UK Global Talent Visa

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has recognised NHMRC as an endorsed funder for researchers looking to obtain a UK work visa, once travel restrictions are lifted.

Researchers whose name or job title is specified in a successful grant application from an endorsed funder will need to be hosted by an approved UK research organisation such as a university, independent research organisation or Public Sector Research Establishment.

The UK introduced the Global Talent Visa in February 2020, making it easier for researchers and their teams to obtain a work visa. For more information visit the website.

Key application dates


Funding scheme

Open date

Minimum data due

Applications close

MRFF International Clinical Trials Collaborations 20.2 Grant Opportunity




MRFF - Genomics Health Futures Mission - Genomics Health Futures Mission Grant Opportunity




MRFF - Traumatic Brain Injury Mission - 2020 Traumatic Brain Injury Mission Grant Opportunity




MRFF - Stem Cell Therapies Mission - 2020 Stem Cell Therapies Grant Opportunity




MRFF - Cardiovascular Health Mission - 2020 Cardiovascular Health Grant Opportunity




MRFF - Emerging Priorities and Consumer Driven Research Initiative - 2020 Improving Diagnosis in Cancers with Low Survival Rates Grant Opportunity




MRFF - Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care Mission - 2020 Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care Grant Opportunity




MRFF - Indigenous Health Research Fund - 2020 Indigenous Health Research Grant Opportunity




MRFF - Emerging Priorities and Consumer Driven Research Initiative - 2020 Paediatric Cancer Grant Opportunity




MRFF - 2020 COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate Research Grant Opportunity (Round 3)




NHMRC e-ASIA 2021 Joint Research Program




2021 Investigator Grants




Special Initiative in Human Health and Environmental Change




Partnership Projects 2021 PRC1




MRFF - 2020 Neurofibromatosis Research Grant Opportunity





*NB schemes are in order of closing dates


Funding scheme

Open date

Minimum data due

Applications close

2021 Synergy Grants


24-Mar- 21


Partnership Projects 2021 PRC2




2021 Ideas Grants




2021 Postgraduate Scholarships




Development Grants




2021 Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Grants




Partnership Projects 2021 PRC3




 *NB schemes are in order of closing dates


Previous editions of Tracker are available on the NHMRC website.

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