Downloadable PDF version—ARC Post Award Guidance including Major Investments: Responding to the impact of COVID-19. 

Program Changes 

Can projects be re-scoped due to the impact of COVID-19? 

To enable research projects to continue and researchers to adapt to significant changes in their operating environment and research opportunities, the ARC will consider requests where the scope and/or objectives of a project are significantly changed, provided changes are consistent with the aims of the original proposal. 

Once the impact of COVID-19 is known for a project, requests to vary the scope and/or objectives can be submitted, outlining the changes and the impact on project timeframes and budget.

Additional advice for Major Investment grants

All Major Investment grants can consider what can feasibly be achieved in the interim or what research activities should be temporarily suspended or deferred into future years. 

There are two avenues of reporting scope changes:

  • For sub-project or project (milestone) changes, no reporting of the variation is required. This can be noted in 2020 End of Year Report (Progress Report by Exception), to be submitted in March 2021.
  • For more significant changes, such as at the theme level or higher, a scope change variation is required to be submitted to the ARC, once the full impact of COVID-19 is known. 

Can budget items be re-phased from 2020 into future years (for example, delayed travel, equipment purchases and unexpended salaries)?

Yes. The funds can be carried forward through the 2020 End of Year Reports.

Travel 

With the travel restrictions from many jurisdictions due to COVID-19, can the travel budget be used for other purposes?

Yes, Administering Organisations are granted the discretion to allow budget changes so that funding originally allocated to travel in 2020 can be transferred to other allowable items. Budget variation requests are not required, unless the travel relates to a Discovery International Award (see advice in the two following FAQs in this section). 

This may be particularly useful for administering projects that are in the final stages and can no longer undertake travel prior to the end of the project. The changes can be described in the Final Report. 

Alternatively, for projects that have only recently commenced, Administering Organisations may decide to hold off on making budget changes until it is known whether the travel funding can be used at a later stage in the project. The travel funding can be carried over in the 2020 End of Year Report.

What can we do with the travel credit for cancelled travel if the project has completed?

If travel that was funded by an ARC project has been cancelled and travel credit was received from the travel provider, the credit must be used for the project whilst it is active. If the credit cannot be used before the project ends, changes to the budget can be made, or the travel funding will need to be returned to the ARC.

I have been funded a Discovery International Award (DIA) which can only be used for international collaboration but I can no longer use it for this purpose. What can I do?

Projects nearing completion with unspent DIA funds may seek a Budget Change variation to re-purpose the funds towards the grant. If a project has only recently commenced, these funds can be carried over to be used at a later date.

Salaries 

Can researcher salaries continue to be supported through ARC grants, when research activity has been impacted by COVID-19?

Whether to continue to pay ARC-funded researcher salaries is a matter for employing institutions to decide based on the circumstances relevant to each project, i.e. taking into account individual researchers’ capacity to continue to undertake their role and/or the extent that planned research activities has been impacted.  

To support employing institution decisions, the ARC will be flexible in varying project and personnel arrangements for projects impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Administering Organisations may seek to address the impact of COVID-19 by:  

  • adjusting 2020 project expenditure to reflect changes to research activity, including adjusting salaries of researchers to accurately reflect changes to their FTE research activity. Unspent project and salary funding can be carried forward into future years. 
  • re-scoping the 2020 research activity so that the project can continue and researcher FTE (and salary) is not impacted, provided changes are consistent with the aims of the original proposal. Where re-scoping only requires budget changes across line items or years, this can be notified through the End of Year Report. Significant scope changes can be approved by the ARC through a variation request.
  • suspending the project and halting all research activity and expenditure on the project. Unspent project and salary funding can be carried forward into future years. Budget, scope and end date changes can also be made.

For FL, FT and DECRA grants, if a fellow or awardee spends their salary component prior to the completion of the project, the ARC is, unfortunately, not able to provide additional funding to cover the salary to complete the project. There are two options available:

  1. extend the project end date but with the Administering Organisation paying the salary to allow completion of the project, or
  2. re-scope the project and budget.

For FL, timing of the recruitment or completion of Postdoctoral Research Award (PDRA) and Postgraduate Researcher (PGR) positions, please contact the ARC (ARC-Postaward@arc.gov.au). 

For IC and IH grants, should the timing of the recruitment or completion of Training Centre Higher Degree by Research candidates (ICHDRs) or Training Centre Postdoctoral fellows (ICPDs) be affected due to COVID-19, please contact the ARC (ARC-Postaward@arc.gov.au). The ARC will work with the Training Centre to manage any scope and personnel costs towards the project end date.

Can salaries still be paid from the ARC funds if the project is suspended?

No, if the project is suspended for any reason, then ARC funds cannot be used. 

What should ARC Fellows/Awardees do if they take up other paid work during COVID-19?

If a Future Fellow or a holder of a DECRA commences undertaking other paid employment due to the impact of COVID-19, we would expect that there is a reduction in the overall time commitment to their ARC research project – this means that a Fellow’s FTE may reduce to part-time. Provided the researcher spends 80% of their reduced FTE time on research activities related to their Fellowship/Award the ARC will accept this arrangement.  

Can a project be suspended for the purposes of the personnel to undertake other paid work during COVID-19? 

Yes, if a project is suspended due to the impact of COVID-19, participants can undertake other employment during the suspension. 

Can we continue recruitment or commence a recruitment process? 

Yes. Where grant activity has not been affected by COVID-19, recruitment processes may progress as normal.

In the case of Major Investments grants, establishment funds may be used.

Can ARC funding be used to support newly appointed personnel that are commencing work on the project remotely due to travel restrictions?

Yes, if personnel are appointed and can commence working on the project, ARC funds can be used for salary support.

Linkage Program Partner Organisations requirements 

The Partner Organisation has indicated that they can no longer contribute to the project as required by the relevant grant agreement, due to the impact of COVID-19. What allowances will the ARC provide with regards to Partner Organisation agreements and contributions?

LP, LIEF, IC and IH grants
Currently ARC Grant Agreements for LIEF, LP, IC and IH schemes require Administering Organisations to notify the ARC immediately if a Participating Organisation wishes to withdraw support from a Project, or it is reasonably believed that a Participating Organisation is in default of any of its obligations. Acknowledging that the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold and the full impact on projects may not be known, the ARC requests that Administering Organisations notify the ARC within three months of the full impact being determined. This can be done via a variation in RMS or via email if related to a sole Partner Organisation.

The ARC Grant Agreements allow for the default of named Partner Organisations and their contributions. If a Partner Organisation is not the sole organisation on the grant, they can be removed at any time and their contributions can be updated via a Participating Organisation Agreed Contribution Report (POACR) in RMS. As long as the minimum requirements are met, the ARC will allow the project to continue. Any replacement Partner Organisations may then be submitted to the ARC via a variation in RMS at any time.

If the Partner Organisation is the sole Partner Organisation or the withdrawal of their contributions will mean that the project will no longer meet the minimum requirements of the ARC agreement and it’s a direct result of the impacts of COVID-19, the ARC will allow an extension of the required timeframe to find additional partners and/or contributions. Once notified, the ARC has extended the time for the Administering Organisation to identify and sign agreements to resolve the participating organisation contributions requirements from 3 months to 12 months.

A revised Participating Organisation Agreed Contribution Report (POACR) will only be required to be submitted once the new participating organisation agreements/contributions have been finalised.    

ARC Centres of Excellence
For ARC Centres of Excellence, in accordance with the Grant Agreement, the Administering Organisation must notify the ARC within 3 months of a Participating Organisation default being identified. To address the default, the Centre may attempt to find a replacement Participating Organisation for the Centre, or modify remaining Participating Organisation arrangements.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic impacts, the ARC will allow the ARC Centre of Excellence 12 months to find a suitable replacement Participating Organisation and/or finalise revised Participating Organisation Agreements. If the Centre can continue without the Participating Organisation that has defaulted, the Centre can request to revise participating organisation contributions, outlining the impact on the Centre.

What happens if the minimum Partner Organisation contributions for a project (as required by the relevant grant agreement) can no longer be provided? 

For projects in the early stages, the ARC will expect Administering Organisations to seek replacement contributions wherever possible to ensure the eligibility requirements outlined in grant agreements continue to be met. As outlined above, the ARC will allow an extended time period to resolve Partner Organisation defaults. Variations, such as deferrals, suspensions and extensions, can also be used in the period while Partner Organisation contributions are being resolved.

However, the ARC will also consider variation requests for exemptions to these requirements on a case-by-case basis. For example, in the case of projects that are nearing completion and cannot obtain a new Partner Organisation due to the impact of the COVID-19.

Administering Organisation will need to demonstrate that appropriate steps were taken to find a replacement Partner Organisation and/or contributions and that they were unsuccessful. Administering Organisations will also be required to provide information about changes to the project (e.g. scope/objectives/budget) to ensure that the project can continue successfully. 

Can Administering Organisations request a blanket waiver of requirements to have all parties sign the agreements before commencing?

No, however the ARC is happy to allow additional extension time to sign the agreements.

Alternatively, if a majority of the Participating Organisation’s agreements are executed, but a small number are not able to be executed, then the project may seek ARC approval to temporarily remove these Participating Organisations so the project can commence.

Please contact the ARC (ARC-Postaward@arc.gov.au) to discuss these options.

Other

Can I purchase computers and software now that I’m working from home?

The purchase of equipment remains the same as outlined in the ARC Grant Guidelines and Grant Agreements. Specialised software and hardware may be purchased, however the requirements for laptops, computers, monitors, printers as well as other office equipment and consumables still remains the responsibility of the Administering Organisations.

Will the ARC allow fellowships, awards and projects to extend beyond the allowable timeframes in the ARC Agreements (i.e. 6 years for DECRA; 8 years for Australian Laureate Fellows and Future Fellows; and original funding years + 3 years carryover for all other schemes)?

Yes, when processing future End of Year Reports, any suspensions will be taken into account when considering extensions to end dates and approving carryovers beyond the allowable timeframe.