Dear Research Colleagues,

I would like to provide reassurance that the ARC is doing its best to support you during what is proving to be an extremely challenging time.

We understand that most of you have been, or will be, affected by the current viral pandemic and that, in turn, your research may also have been disrupted. Please be assured that we hear your concerns about being able to progress your work in the midst of many other immediate priorities, and of the consequent need for us to be flexible and generous in dealing with your circumstances. 

Like all of you, we are carefully monitoring the current COVID-19 situation, taking into account the advice being issued by the Australian Government, particularly the Chief Medical Officer, and adjusting our contingency plans as the landscape changes. We are also working to address current workforce issues that are arising due to interruptions to local school services.  

I know that many of you are anxious to understand exactly what that means we are doing and how we can assist you. Some of you have made specific suggestions of how we might respond, and we are grateful that you are thinking about how the research sector can be supported. 

At this stage, the ARC is continuing its administration of the National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP) across grant application, peer review and post-award activities. We are very conscious of the need to balance what we do for researchers working on existing ARC-funded projects with how we support researchers to progress applications for future funding, understanding that researchers from both groups are under significant stress right now. These activities are essential to support researchers’ careers and the stability of the research community, and both must continue to be supported from within the existing ARC funding envelope.

For those of you seeking funding, we are using our usual processes for application submission and peer review to assess your application. There is an existing process where researchers can seek, through their university, short extensions to application submission deadlines because of exceptional circumstances. At this stage we are not moving to longer or blanket extensions because of the cumulative impact this will have on the necessary peer review processes and being able to commence funding in the future. In light of the recently introduced travel restrictions, we have taken a decision to temporarily replace face to face Selection Advisory Committee meetings with video conferencing. This is a format we already have experience with, and we have recently conducted a successful stress test of our systems to ensure their robustness when activated remotely in the event of either assessor or ARC staff isolation, so we are confident we can make it work. Administering organisations and Selection Advisory Committee members have been advised directly about our plans and are supportive. 

For those of you who are already in receipt of ARC funding, we do understand that the current COVID-19 situation may be impacting your capacity to progress your project in the way you outlined, or your ability to fulfil reporting obligations. To assist both researchers and research administrators with managing reporting obligations, the ARC will be extending the following deadlines:

  • End of Year Reports – deadline extended from 31 March 2020 to 31 May 2020
  • Annual/Progress Reporting (for applicable projects) – deadline extended from 31 March 2020 to 31 May 2020
  • Final Reports – initial three month extensions will be automatically approved by the ARC on request. Noting that submission dates for final reports vary project by project and that extensions may impact researchers’ eligibility for future applications, it is not practical to provide a blanket extension. 

We also recognise that, since circumstances are rapidly changing, we may come to the point that our planned ways of doing things are not possible, and we are ready to address that situation too. We are also ready to work with you and your individual situations as the year unfolds. Should you need to vary your research, to either seek an extension or change its scope, we can do that later in the year when there is a more complete understanding of the impact. Researchers will be affected in different ways by the ongoing events and we wish to assure you that we will approach any extensions with understanding.

We hope that this short update provides some reassurance and guidance about the support we are endeavouring to provide you with. We urge all researchers to stay in touch with their research offices regarding ARC applications and ongoing research, and for Research Offices in turn to stay in contact with the ARC so that we can be responsive and understanding. 

We wish all of you, and your families, well at this time and look forward to continuing to support you to the best of our ability.

 

Professor Sue Thomas
Chief Executive Officer