Professor Anne Kelso AO
Former CEO, National Health and Medical Research Council
( from April 2015 to July 2023)
27 March 2020

Further to my message to the health and medical research sector, NHMRC has been working hard and consulting with Research Committee and a number of peak stakeholder groups to develop a way forward in these very uncertain and challenging times.

As a number of grant schemes are currently open with deadlines approaching, we have focused in the first instance on providing clarity about those schemes. There are other matters to consider over coming days and weeks, but the most urgent issue is to provide advice to researchers in the middle of putting together grant applications.

This is our revised plan for 2020. It is important to note that this plan relies on a number of factors, many of which we cannot predict or control. They include the health and availability of applicants, peer reviewers and NHMRC staff.  We will be relying even more than usual on strong support from the sector and peer reviewers to make this happen, acknowledging that many of our regular peer reviewers will not be available, given their involvement in the clinical and public health response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and additional teaching and caring responsibilities.

These changes will have consequences for the timing of round outcomes and the commencement of funding.  Further information will be provided as we work through the details.

Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Scheme (CTCS) – delayed

NHMRC has received considerable feedback about the extraordinary impact of the pandemic on clinical, allied health and public health researchers.

Acknowledging this and the importance of funding these projects, the closing date for the CTCS scheme will be extended to 25 November 2020.

It will likely be necessary to streamline peer review processes to ensure that funding is delivered in a timely manner while maintaining high quality peer review, equity and transparency.  NHMRC is aiming to have funding outcomes from this round known in mid-2021.

Ideas Grant Scheme – extra time

Recognising the size of the scheme and the role of Ideas Grants as the complement to Investigator Grants in the system, NHMRC will proceed with the Ideas Grant scheme in 2020.

The deadline will be extended by 5 weeks, with a new closing date of 10 June 2020.

Ideas Grants will also be assessed with a streamlined peer review process, to reduce the burden on peer reviewers and in an attempt to finalise funding outcomes by the end of 2020.   

Research Administration Officers (RAOs) in Administering Institutions will be under significant pressure and dealing with their own uncertainty around staffing and resources.  We encourage Ideas Grant applicants to support their RAOs by getting their applications in early where possible.  If your Ideas Grant application is already close to being finalised, please don’t wait until the extended deadline to submit.

Synergy Grant Scheme – cancelled for 2020

NHMRC has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Synergy Grant round.  This will be very disappointing for many researchers who have worked hard to develop their research plan and build the collaborations underpinning this important scheme.

A key factor leading to this decision is the anticipated “all hands on deck” that will be required both of peer reviewers and the office of NHMRC to deliver the Ideas Grant round this year.  We won’t be able to do everything and have decided to prioritise completing the Ideas Grant round due to its size and broad impact across the sector.

Peer reviewers who had agreed to provide reviews of Synergy Grant applications will be asked to consider instead undertaking review of Ideas Grant applications later in the year. 

We will consider whether it is possible to run an expanded Synergy Grant round in 2021.

Investigator Grants 2020

Thank you to everyone who applied for Investigator Grants in the current round, and to the many people who completed peer review.  We are expecting outcomes from the 2020 Investigator Grant round to be available soon.

We expect that updated documentation for CTCS, Ideas and other grant schemes with changed due dates will be available in GrantConnect and on the NHMRC website over the next two weeks.

Updated scheme dates are below (changes marked with *)
Funding Scheme Key Dates
All dates fall in 2020 unless otherwise stated
Open Minimum Data Close Peer review
Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies 4-Mar 4-Nov* 25-Nov* Feb/Apr 2021*
Synergy Grants Cancel 2020 round*
Ideas Grants 11-Mar 13-May* 10-Jun* Aug/Sep*
Postgraduate Scholarships 15-Apr 10-Jun* 8-Jul* Sep/Oct*
2020 Partnership Projects PRC1 1-Apr* 29-Jul 13-Aug 17-18 Nov
2020 Partnership Projects PRC2 30-Jul 18-Nov 2-Dec 2-Dec
GACD - Cancer Prevention Call 1-Nov-19 N/A 30-Apr Nov
NHMRC e-ASIA Joint Research Program Grants 2020 11-Mar 31-Mar 29-Apr June/Aug
TCR: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 23-Oct 15-Jan 29-Jan 24-25 May
National Network for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Researchers 4-Dec-19 N/A 12-Feb N/A
Special Initiative in Mental Health 31-Mar* 24-Jun* 15-Jul* Sep/Nov*
TCR: Artificial Stone Silicosis (TBC) TBC TBC TBC TBC
TCR: End of Life Care TBC* TBC* TBC* TBC*
JPND 1-May N/A July 7-8 Sep
NHMRC-EU Collaborative Research Scheme 17-Jun N/A 15-Jul N/A
NHMRC-NIHR Collaborative Research Grants Round 3 24-Jun N/A 22-Jul N/A

We realise these changes will not meet everyone’s needs but we hope they will assist many people at this difficult time.

Professor Anne Kelso AO
Chief Executive Officer
27 March 2020