We recognise that uncertainty about the trajectory and ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect many in Australia’s health and medical research community.

Frequently asked questions

This page is intended to address frequently asked questions (FAQs) from our stakeholders about the effects and ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on NHMRC grant management and our other processes. 

Postaward Grant Management 


  • Can variations to grants still be requested due to impacts on research activity from the COVID-19 pandemic?

Answer (updated September 2022)

We recognise that the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic may continue to affect Australia’s health and medical research community, including our grant recipients. If you have received a grant and you have been or continue to be affected, you can apply to vary your grant.  

The type of variation to be requested will depend on the type of grant affected and the stage of the research activity. Refer to the Grantee Variation Policy and the grant guidelines/funding rules that applied at the time of application to identify the appropriate variation type to suit the particular circumstance.

If you have previously varied your grant due to COVID-19 and can demonstrate that COVID-19 continues to impact your grant, we will consider a further variation to the grant on a case-by-case basis.

Researchers should work with their Administering Institution’s Research Administration Officers (RAOs) as the first point of contact for all grant administration matters.


  • When and how should variation requests be submitted?

Answer (updated September 2022)

Variation requests are to be submitted via Sapphire prior to the current end date of the grant. For an efficient and transparent process researchers must consult with their RAOs, who liaise and negotiate variation requests with us. If RAOs have any questions about grant variations, they can contact: postaward.management@nhmrc.gov.au.

Note: Defer commencement variations can only be requested if payments have not started on the grant. Where payments have already been made on a grant, the ‘Defer-in-Progress’, ‘Extended Leave Request’ or ‘Investigator Grant – Suspend Grant – Partial or Full’  variation type should be used. Extend End Date variation requests may be made when a grant is in or approaching its final year.

Use of NHMRC specific category funding during COVID-19


  • COVID-19 travel restrictions prevent TRIP Fellows from expending Professional Development Allowance prior to the grant end date. Can funds be used for other purposes?
  • Can funding received as a FIIRN (Facilitate International Indigenous Researcher Networks) supplement be reallocated for other research use due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international travel?

Answer (updated September 2022)

We are aware of the challenges the COVID-19 situation has created for researchers, particularly in terms of the many changes to the way training and development opportunities have been offered as a result of COVID-19, its impacts on the capacity to travel and engage in international exchange and collaboration activities. 

In exceptional circumstances, we will consider up to 12 month ‘Extend End Date’ variation requests to enable TRIP Fellows to expend Professional Development Funds at a later date. In this circumstance, an extension will be provided without the expectation that the researcher will maintain 0.5 FTE allocated to the TRIP fellowship research for the duration of the extension. TRIP fellows are required to combine their research translation project effectively with their career. The expectation would remain that the Fellow’s health care employer would continue to support the TRIP fellow to allow reasonable time allocation to complete TRIP Fellowship related activities.

Even if a TRIP Fellow was unable to travel we anticipate it should still have been possible to expend these funds as intended in the budget.  

We will consider alternative uses of FIIRN supplement funding for Investigator Grants and Early Career Fellowships on a case-by-case basis. Where recipients of FIIRN funding in the latter stages of their research activity have been unable to use the funds for the travel and collaborative activities that were outlined in their grant applications they should speak with their RAO about requesting agreement to alternative use of the funds, for example, registration costs for virtual/online conferences or costs associated with the development of alternative engagement platforms, media or content. 

Requests for alternative use are to demonstrate how the use meets the intended purpose of the funding as stated under the respective Grant Guidelines. For FIIRN supplements, for the purpose of facilitating international mentoring and collaborative linkages that support improvements to the health of Indigenous people and for TRIP Fellows, for the purpose of professional development.

Co-contributions impacted by COVID-19


  • Can you provide advice regarding co-contributions impacted by COVID-19?

Answer (updated September 2022)

We recognise that COVID-19 may impact on partner contributions as committed at time of application for Partnership Projects and are taking a flexible approach on responding to the needs of the sector. We understand that the exceptional circumstances may have delayed partner payments and changed contributions available.  

Where a partner’s contribution has been postponed the expectation is that contributions will be achieved prior to the project completion. 

A Change of Research Plan variation may be required where financial impacts result in an adjustment to the research plan to deal with this situation, including where a Partner Organisation withdrew, reduced or changed their contribution. Refer to the Grantee Variations Policy to confirm when this variation type is required. The Change in Research Plan is to include a detailed explanation on the contribution/s, whether it has been a delay or will no longer be available, and the consequent effect on the grant relevant to the original proposal and outcomes of the research project. 

Change of Research Plan variation requests will be assessed case-by-case taking into consideration the demonstrated exceptional circumstances.

Clinical trials and cohort studies


  • What should I do if delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted a clinical trial/cohort study?

Answers (updated September 2022)

The Australian Government has released a statement: COVID-19: Guidance on clinical trials for institutions, HRECs, researchers and sponsors. This guidance is published on the Department of Health’s website.

We recognise that some of the circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted the success of the trials/cohort studies in particular. This may include delays to recruitment of subjects, changes to treatments, additional care provided to subjects, availability of staff to deliver services, and/or availability of those who are being actively followed up in the studies. 

These changes should be documented through a grant variation under NHMRC’s Grantee Variation Policy. More details are available at: Vary your grant

Unanticipated costs arising within Research Activities funded by Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies grants can be attributed to the grant in accordance with the Direct Research Costs Guidelines.

Researchers should contact their RAO in the first instance to discuss options if there has been an impact on their NHMRC-funded research. If RAOs have any questions about grant variations please contact: Postaward.management@nhmrc.gov.au.  

Personal and career disruptions


  • What if I am a researcher involved in the clinical and public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic who was unable to proceed with my usual research activities and/or work on grant applications or assist with peer review during Covid-19 restrictions?
  • What if I have caring responsibilities and my research work was affected by school closures and/or may be affected by illness in vulnerable family members?
  • What if I am a teaching and research academic who had to take on extra work to transform my teaching activities into online formats?
  • Will NHMRC consider disruptions (such as closing down recruitment of clinical cohorts, restricted collaborator and services access) caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as career disruptions and ‘relative to opportunity’ impacts?

Answers (updated September 2022)

COVID-19 pandemic impacts would be considered as career disruptions or other relative to opportunity considerations under the provisions of NHMRC’s Relative to Opportunity Policy: NHMRC Relative to Opportunity policy.

NHMRC recognises the differing individual circumstances of its current grant holders. Changes to full-time equivalent arrangements are allowed in various NHMRC scheme Grant Guidelines. NHMRC’s Grantee Variation Policy is available at: Vary your grant.