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Flinders University

Inspiring Research will be released on an as needs basis so that we can get critical information to you quickly. We will communicate key information that affects research and Flinders’ research community, including messaging from research funding agencies.

A long form, comprehensive Inspiring Research edition will be still be released every Thursday, in which research news, funding and opportunities will be included as usual.

Flinders Research NewsMessage from the NHMRC CEO to the health and medical research sector


Professor Anne Kelso AO, has released a statement to the health and medical research sector regarding the COVID-19 impact.

It includes information on: grant submission deadlines; peer review processes; extension of existing grants.

"This is an uncertain time and we know many researchers are worried about the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on their research, grant applications and other professional activities over the coming months – on top of the concern we all share for family, friends and the wider community.

NHMRC is considering how to address these issues from its side, at the same time as preparing for the impact of an Australian epidemic on the office’s ability to deliver NHMRC and MRFF grant schemes and other core responsibilities throughout 2020. I have outlined some of our thoughts below.


Like many other organisations, NHMRC has already moved to holding all committee meetings by video or teleconference, at least until the end of May. NHMRC has been using Zoom for many meetings over the last 3 years. This has been favourably received and many of us have become quite used to it. We are getting in touch to discuss arrangements with all committee and grant review panel members who were expecting to come to Canberra in the next few weeks. 

Grant schemes

Effects on particular groups

We are aware of concerns about the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on a number of groups of people within the health and medical research sector:

  • researchers involved in the clinical and public health response to COVID-19 who are therefore unable to proceed with their usual research activities and/or work on grant applications or assist with peer review
  • people with caring responsibilities (often women) whose work will be affected by school closures and illness in vulnerable family members
  • researchers whose current research has been or will be disrupted by the outbreak, for example because of interruptions to clinical trials or public health interventions, travel bans, lack of access to facilities and laboratories, reduced availability of staff members and collaborators, and interruption to supply chains
  • teaching and research academics who are now needing to undertake extra work to transform their teaching activities into on-line formats.

We can imagine that, if the outbreak continues for an extended period, just about everyone’s research will be affected to some degree.

Grant submission deadlines

Many individuals and institutions are asking NHMRC to extend grant submission deadlines for the reasons outlined above. This possibility is under serious consideration, most urgently for those schemes that are currently open for applications (such as Synergy, Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies, and Ideas Grants).

There are several factors affecting this decision:

  • Extending deadlines for more than a few days will affect the timing of funding announcements. If the extension for major schemes is significant, grants might not be announced until after 1 January 2021. We are well aware of the impact of late announcements on researchers employed on current grants ending 31 December. We are also aware that many institutions may lack the cash reserves to provide bridging support for these staff members.
  • Extending deadlines will affect the timing of peer review, which may in turn affect the availability of peer reviewers.

Peer review processes

Timelines between application deadlines and grant announcements are very tight for all major schemes. If we extend deadlines and want to reduce the risk of announcements being delayed until next year, we would need to reduce the time taken for peer review.

Broadly, there are two ways to reduce the time taken for peer review: reduce the time allowed for peer reviewers to complete each step in the peer review process, or reduce the number of steps.

For example, in the Ideas Grant and Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Grant schemes, peer reviewers undertake independent assessments of a number of grants and submit their scores. These scores are used to generate an initial ranked list, the top band of which forms the shortlist taken forward to discussion at a Grant Review Panel (GRP) meeting. For these schemes, the main options to reduce the time taken for peer review are:

  • Reduce the time available for the initial independent assessments
  • Reduce the time available for peer reviewers to prepare for GRP meetings
  • Remove the GRP assessment stage altogether and award grants based on the initial ranked list.

We understand there are strong views across the sector about the demands of peer review, the design of peer review processes and the value of GRPs. We are also aware that the COVID-19 outbreak may affect the availability and flexibility of some peer reviewers for a range of reasons. 

We will do our best to take these considerations into account in deciding whether and, if so, how to reduce the time taken for peer review under the special circumstances we face this year.

Extension of existing grants

NHMRC is also being asked to consider extending current grants and providing extra funding to cover the extension. Again, there are several factors to be considered in making a decision:

Grant extensions in some schemes (Fellowships, Project Grants, Program Grants) into 2021 would affect Chief Investigators’ eligibility to apply for some schemes in this year’s round (Investigator, Ideas and Synergy Grants, noting that the Investigator Grants 2020 round is well advanced).

Waiving eligibility limits and/or making bespoke arrangements for thousands of applications may require manual handling outside Sapphire/RGMS on a scale that would be beyond NHMRC’s capacity. 

Extending grants with extra funding would affect the availability of research funds for future funding rounds. The cost would depend both on the duration of extensions and on the number of schemes for which they are offered.

All options are under consideration. In making these complex decisions, we will try to abide by the principles of:

  • Fairness: that support for one group or scheme is not provided at the expense of another
  • Simplicity: that the arrangements are easy for everyone involved to understand and implement
  • Timeliness: you need to know soon.

We ask for your patience for a little longer while we work through the issues and seek advice. 

We will update you as soon as decisions are made.

We wish everyone well.

Professor Anne Kelso AO
Chief Executive Officer, NHMRC
19 March 2020"

Flinders Research NewsARC support for universities and researchers affected by the Coronavirus pandemic


The Australian Research Council (ARC) released the following network message on 16 March 2020.

It includes details on extensions to submit grants applications and extensions to post-award reporting obligations and variations to current research projects.

"The Australian Research Council (ARC) is aware that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting researchers and research organisations across Australia in a variety of ways, including those involved with current ARC-funded research projects and those preparing ARC grant applications. 

While the ARC is monitoring the situation closely—including taking into account the advice being issued by the Australian Government, and in particular, the Chief Medical Officer—the agency is continuing to administer the National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP) in accordance with our standard processes to manage grant applications, peer review and post-award activities and has been working with affected Administering Organisations.

Under our standard processes, we offer our support to any administering organisations and their researchers directly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, including:

  • Extensions to submit grant applications
    ARC Grant Guidelines allow for late grant applications to be submitted in exceptional circumstances (including natural disasters). In accordance with relevant Grant Guidelines, if administering organisations and their researchers have been directly affected by Coronavirus, Deputy Vice-Chancellors (Research) or equivalent may formally write to the ARC to request an extension due to exceptional circumstances. Noting, extension requests must be submitted in advance of the application deadline and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Extensions to post-award reporting obligations and variations to current research projects
    In relation to mandatory post-award reporting obligations, Research Office Directors can seek extensions to deadlines where the Administering Organisation or their researchers have been directly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Research Office Directors may also seek ARC assistance with post-award project variation approvals where research projects and researchers have been directly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. ARC Grant Agreements allow for post award variations to research projects due to changes in circumstances, including scope changes, personnel changes, suspensions and extensions to end dates. The ARC will consider any post award variation requests submitted by Administering Organisations on a case-by-case basis.

In the first instance, individual researchers are encouraged to contact their Research Office (Research Development and Support at Flinders), if they have any questions or require assistance with ARC grant applications and/or ARC-funded research projects.

We wish all our Administering Organisations and their researchers well during this time."

New OpportunitiesCDMRP opportunities - changes due to impacts of Covid19


The Department of Defense office of Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) has recently released Fiscal Year 2020 funding opportunities for the Department of Defense (DoD) Autism Research Program, Ovarian Cancer Research Program and Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program.

Please note the following updated information from CDMRP - released 20 March 2020:

"Due to impacts of COVID-19, the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Research Program, Autism Research Program, and Ovarian Cancer Research Program have extended the pre-application submission deadline. The extension is for all applicants. 

Requests for further extensions to the new pre-application submission deadlines will not be accepted."  

Please consult the modified Program Announcements available on Grants.gov and contact the Research Grants and Tenders team if you have any questions.

The Flinders internal closing date for each of these opportunities is 10 working days prior to the external closing date. Please contact the Research Grants and Tenders team if you are intending to apply as soon as possible so that they can assist in registering to apply etc.

Autism Research Program

  • Clinical Translational Research Award
  • Clinical Trial Award
  • Idea Development Research Award

Ovarian Cancer Research Program 

  • Clinical Translational Research Award
  • Investigator-Initiated Research Award
  • Ovarian Cancer Academy – Early-Career Investigator Award
  • Pilot Award

Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program

  • Discovery Award
  • Focused Program Award
  • Investigator-Initiated Research Award
  • Technology/Therapeutic Development Award

Prostate Cancer Research Program

  • Early Investigator Research Award
  • Physician Research Award
  • Idea Development Award
  • Health Disparity Research Award
  • Translational Science Award
  • Clinical Trial Award
  • Population Science and Outcomes Research Award
  • Clinical Consortium Award
  • Prostate Cancer Pathology Resource Network Award

Detailed descriptions of the funding opportunity, evaluation criteria, and submission requirements can be found in the Program Announcements. The Program Announcements are available electronically for downloading from the Grants.gov website, the CDMRP website and the electronic Biomedical Research Application Portal (eBRAP). A listing of all open CDMRP funding opportunities can be obtained on the Grants.gov website by performing a basic search using CFDA Number 12.420.

Submission is a two-step process requiring both pre-application submission and full application submission. All pre-applications must be submitted through eBRAP. Full applications from extramural organisations (non-DoD organisations i.e. Flinders University) must be submitted through Grants.gov.

Refer to the General Application Instructions, Section II.A. for registration and submission requirements for eBRAP and Grants.gov. For detailed information on the submission process, refer to Section II.D. of the Program Announcement/Funding Opportunity.

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