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Principles of Guidance for the COVID-19 Pandemic

The ARC will continue to review the impact of COVID-19 globally and issue guidance accordingly. 

The ARC funds the highest quality research through a competitive process.

The ARC is committed in seeing these funded projects succeed and will assist universities in ensuring projects can reach their outcomes, where possible.The following principles will provide the ARC with assistance in determining whether any additional allowances can be made to help ensure the success of the project. 

  1. Viability of the project – Has COVID-19 impacted the viability of the project? The expectation is that the project will produce the outputs and outcomes that were initially approved.
  2. Quality of the outcomes – The ARC needs to maintain its reputation for funding the highest quality research. The ARC needs to be assured that proposed changes to the project meets this requirement and will not unduly impact the quality of the research being conducted and its outcomes.
  3. Skills development – In lieu of international specialists being unavailable, a deferment or suspension of a project can be enacted while skilling up Australian based researchers to provide the expertise required for the project’s success.

Application of the principles

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced some challenges which have not been considered during the development of prior Grant Guidelines and Grant Agreements. General advice has been provided to the sector to help them through this period, however there may be circumstances where projects need additional consideration beyond the general advice already provided by the ARC.

Additional allowances can be made on a case-by-case basis, but there must be some evidence of attempts being made to ensure the viability of the project. 

A list of example actions to ensure the principles are upheld is listed below. This is not an exhaustive list; each project must be considered on its own merits.

  • Rescoping the project – It is important to understand the project has been assessed and awarded funding based on the approved project scope. While some variation to the project scope is allowable within the Grant Agreement, the intent of the research must remain the same and in line with the scheme outcomes. 
    Example considerations:
    • Changing the field research destination from overseas to accessing material based in overseas organisations and building new collaboration to get archive access to it
    • Using identified foreign expertise to provide online training to local researchers on critical technical methodologies.
    • Changing timeframes for specific deliverables of the project 
  • Changes in specified personnel – Changing from foreign collaborators to local, while maintaining the same skillsets, or vice versa   
  • Travel requirements – Currently, travelling to and from Australia is extremely difficult. It is expected the project has started the process for any travel required for the success of the project.
    Example considerations:
    • Visa applications have already been applied for (University responsibility)
    • Travel exemption letters
    • Finding local resources
  • Deferral/Suspension of the project – Projects impacted by COVID-19 may be deferred or suspended for a period or periods totalling up to 18 months. The ARC may allow further deferrals or suspensions for an additional 6 months, provided there is sufficient evidence that
    • that the university and researcher have made best endeavours to commence the project or overcome the issue(s) preventing the project commencing or continuing;
    • the research remains current and relevant; and
    • the project will remain viable, and a plan is in place for the (re)commencement of the project, including any travel arrangements required.
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