NHMRC recognises that the current bushfire crisis is severely affecting many members of the Australian community, including our current grant holders and applicants to our research funding schemes.
Information on NHMRC policies and processes that may be relevant in this instance are provided here for ease of reference. We ask that researchers work closely with their Administering Institution’s Research Administration Officers (RAOs) and that RAOs contact us if clarification is required.
1. Grant application extension policy
Requests for application extensions will be considered on a case by case basis and must be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org on or before the scheme close date and time. Requests will only be considered for:
- unforeseen circumstances, e.g. natural calamities such as bushfires, floods or cyclones, or
- exceptional circumstances that affect multiple researchers, e.g. power and/or internet network outages, or
- where an applicant, or a member of their immediate family, is incapacitated due to an unforeseen medical emergency, such as life-threatening injury, accident or death.
Extensions, if granted, will be for a maximum of seven calendar days. This is to ensure that subsequent peer review processes and approval of funding recommendations are not delayed, especially as eligibility decisions for some NHMRC schemes depend on an applicant's success with other schemes.
Requests for extension submitted after the scheme close date and time will not be considered.
Please also refer to guidelines for the relevant scheme.
2. How to account for personal and professional impact of bushfires in grant applications where track record is assessed
Applicants and peer reviewers are reminded that NHMRC grant applications are assessed taking into account ‘relative to opportunity’ considerations.
Peer reviewers must take into account productivity relative to opportunity and, where applicable, career disruption considerations in the assessment of all applications. This reflects NHMRC’s policy that assessment processes should accurately assess an applicant’s track record and associated productivity relative to stage of career, including consideration as to whether productivity and contribution are commensurate with the opportunities available to the applicant.
Circumstances considered under the Relative to Opportunity Policy are:
- amount of time spent as an active researcher
- available resources, including situations where research is being conducted in remote or isolated communities
- building relationships of trust with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities over long periods that can impact on track record and productivity
- clinical, administrative or teaching workload
- relocation of an applicant and his/her research laboratory or clinical practice setting or other similar circumstances that impact on research productivity
- for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants, community obligations including ‘sorry business’
- the typical performance of researchers in the research field in question
- research outputs and productivity noting time employed in other sectors. For example there might be a reduction in publications when employed in sectors such as industry
- carer responsibilities (that do not come under the Career Disruption policy below).
A Career Disruption is defined as a prolonged interruption to an applicant’s capacity to work, due to:
- major illness/injury
- carer responsibilities.
Where an applicant’s research productivity has been affected by bushfires, they should include details of their personal and/or professional circumstances and the impact on their research achievements in the relevant section of their applications.
To assist applicants and peer reviewers, further details on the inclusion and assessment of relative to opportunity considerations are provided in scheme guidelines.
3. Grant reporting and grant variation requirements
NHMRC understands that the course of research does not always go as planned and personal circumstances may change. If you have received a grant and circumstances have changed - for example, there has been a delay in your Research Activity - you can apply to vary your grant.
Please work with your Administering Institution’s RAOs as your first point of contact for all grant administration matters. Variation requests are to be certified and submitted by the Administering Institution’s RAO. Variations that may be relevant due to the impact of bushfires include:
- Deferral of commencement date
- Deferral of an in-progress grant and extended leave requests
- Extended end date
More details are available on the 'Vary your grant' page
If Administering Institutions are unable to complete and submit any grant reports, grant variation requests, or acceptance of grant offers, please contact Postaward.email@example.com.
4. Impacts on peer reviewer availability
If a researcher has been appointed to participate in peer review and is unable to complete their allocated peer review tasks by the deadline (e.g. completing their Conflict of Interest declarations or completing their assessments), they should contact NHMRC via the relevant scheme email address as soon as practicable. NHMRC will endeavour to accommodate an extension to the affected researcher’s submission of peer review assessments where there will be minimal impacts on the overall peer review timeline for the scheme, and will work with peer reviewers on a case by case basis to assess this impact.