11. Assessment process

The assessment of applications against assessment criteria (refer to section 6) may be undertaken jointly with partners and/or with input from independent assessors, depending on the funding scheme.

An overview of the assessment process is provided in the following sections. Refer to the relevant scheme-specific funding rules and peer review guidelines for further detail.

11.1 Initial Processing of Applications

NHMRC staff check that applications are eligible according to both the general and relevant scheme-specific eligibility rules. Conformance with other application requirements is also checked during the course of peer review. If an application is found to be ineligible or in breach of an application requirement, NHMRC will advise the Administering Institution’s RAO in writing and the application will be excluded from further consideration (see section 10.7 of the NHMRC Funding Rules).

11.2 Peer Review and Value for Commonwealth Money

High quality, rigorous peer review is a fundamental tenet of NHMRC’s assessment process. NHMRC peer review adheres to NHMRC’s Principles of Peer Review and is conducted in accordance with the Guide to NHMRC Peer Review.

All applications are assessed for scientific merit against assessment criteria using robust, impartial and independent peer review processes. In addition, for Research Support schemes, proposed budgets are reviewed based on the requirements of each application and the peer reviewers’ (or senior NHMRC scientists’) knowledge of the associated costs.

These processes ensure that only the highest quality, most relevant and most competitive (effective, efficient and economical) research is recommended for funding and, together with conditions for ethical review, maximise value for Commonwealth money.

Steps in the peer review process vary between schemes. These are described in detail in each scheme’s Peer Review Guidelines.

11.3 Disclosures and Conflicts of Interests

NHMRC is committed to ensuring that interests of any kind are dealt with consistently and transparently in accordance with section 42A of the NHMRC Act and sections 16A and16B of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014.

NHMRC has procedures in place for managing the interests of peer reviewers, members of NHMRC committees and NHMRC staff. These can be found in NHMRC Declaration of Interests and Conflict of Interest Policy. Further information on what constitutes an interest including Conflicts of Interests (COIs) and how NHMRC manages these can be found in the Guide to NHMRC Peer Review.

11.4 Decision-Making

Once applications have been peer-reviewed, NHMRC seeks advice from its Research Committee and Council on funding recommendations for MREA funding schemes. Neither Council nor Research Committee changes the category or scores given to individual grants by the GRPs, nor are they given information that would enable identification of individual applications. Research Committee determines the total number and value of applications that it considers appropriate to recommend for funding, taking into consideration the available budget and strategic priorities. Council then considers Research Committee’s recommendations and advises the NHMRC’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

In accordance with paragraph 7(1)(c) of the NHMRC Act, the CEO then makes recommendations on expenditure from the MREA to the Minister with portfolio responsibility for NHMRC.

11.5 Objections to Assessor Reports

Applicants may object to assessor comments and seek an NHMRC ruling. These objections will be assessed relative to the guidance provided in section 5.1 of the Guide to NHMRC Peer Review.

Applicants should state their objection/s in writing to the NHMRC through the Administering Institution’s RAO.   Objections must be received within five calendar days of comments being issued and should state how the comments do not meet NHMRC standards set out in section 6.1 of the guide to NHMRC Peer Review. Unless NHMRC advises otherwise, applicants should continue with the preparation of a rebuttal.

Objections should be directed to the scheme director via an email to the Research Help Centre at help@nhmrc.gov.au.

NHMRC will provide a written response to all objections.

Following receipt of the NHMRC scheme director’s response, applicants may choose to seek a further review by the Complaints Team (see section 11.7 of these Funding Rules).

11.6 Notification of Outcomes

NHMRC will advise applicants and their nominated Administering Institution’s RAO of the outcome of the application as early as possible. This will typically follow the announcement of funding by the portfolio Minister or his/her representative, but may be sooner if an application has been assessed as uncompetitive or excluded for other reasons (see section 10.7 of these Funding Rules).

NHMRC may advise applicants of the outcomes under embargo.

Feedback will generally be provided to applicants, except where peer review is conducted by a funding partner or the application is deemed Not For Further Consideration (NFFC) or non-competitive. This feedback will typically comprise an overall score for the application and depending on the nature of the funding scheme, may also include a score against each assessment criterion and/or additional report. Following the announcement of outcomes, applicants will receive their feedback report attached to their outcome letter.

CIAs, Fellows and Scholars whose applications are approved, will have access to a letter of offer through RGMS.  Administering Institutions responsible for administering approved applications will also have access to the letter of offer. In addition, the Administering Institution will have access, through RGMS, to the Schedule to the Funding Agreement. The Administering Institution is responsible for accepting the Schedule through the online acceptance process within RGMS.

Once outcomes are publicly announced, NHMRC will publish the following information on its website for all awarded grants, including Fellowships:

  • Application identity number (ID)
  • Chief Investigator (CI) name/s
  • Administering Institution
  • Scientific title
  • Broad Research Area
  • Funding partners (if relevant)
  • Total funding awarded and duration.

NHMRC may publish this information in a manner that allows it to be searched and viewed in a variety of ways, including by CI name, state, institution and/or application ID.

The plain English summary may also be published.

The CEO or delegate may withdraw or vary an offer of a grant if they consider that it is reasonably necessary to protect Commonwealth revenue. See NHMRC Policy on Misconduct related to NHMRC Funding, as amended from time to time.

11.7 Complaints in Relation to Funding Outcomes

Applicants or Grantees seeking to lodge a formal complaint about an NHMRC process related to funding should do so via the Administering Institution’s RAO, in writing, within 28 days of the relevant NHMRC decision or action.

Applicants who wish to object to assessor comments should refer to section 11.5 of the NHMRC Funding Rules.

Each complaint should be directed to the Complaints Team at: complaints@nhmrc.gov.au.

The NHMRC will provide a written response to all complaints.

Refer to NHMRC Complaints Policy and the Commissioner of Complaints webpage for further information.