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An update from ARC CEO Professor Sue Thomas on ARC grants processes

An update from ARC CEO Professor Sue Thomas on ARC grants processes

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Dear Research Colleagues,

Following on from previous Network Messages to the sector, I would like to provide an update on the National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP) grant application and peer review processes, and outline further flexibility that the ARC is introducing for 2020 to support researchers on active ARC projects and researchers planning applications for future ARC support.

Grant application rounds continue with the assistance of the assessor community

We are continuing to progress the application and peer review processes for current ARC scheme rounds, including the Australian Laureate Fellowships, Future Fellowships, Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA), Discovery Projects, Discovery Indigenous, Industrial Transformation Research Program, Linkage Projects, Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities, and the Special Research Initiative for Australian Society, History and Culture.

Despite the significant disruptions that the sector is experiencing, the ARC’s assessor community is continuing to provide assessments for over 4000 grant applications. We greatly appreciate this critical contribution to peer review processes that will ensure delivery of funding outcomes that support Australian research in the recovery period and beyond. Online Selection Advisory Committee meetings are also progressing very well.

New post award guidance—responding to the impact of COVID-19

To assist researchers and administrators working on active ARC projects impacted by the COVID-19 situation, the ARC has investigated ways to allow greater flexibility and minimise the burden of post award administration at this time. The ARC has now published post award guidance material that takes into account Grant Agreement requirements and seeks to provide a balance between accountability for expenditure of public money and easing the burden on researchers and Research Offices. 

The guidance covers streamlined mechanisms to notify some variations through the ARC’s End of Year Report process, extensions to notification and reporting deadlines, other variations that will be considered due to the impact of COVID-19, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Acknowledging that COVID-19 is affecting researchers and the progress of research projects in a variety of ways, the guidance provides options for researchers and administrators to consider in responding to the specific impact on their project.

The ARC will continue to monitor the situation and update this guidance and FAQs accordingly. 

Supporting early and mid-career researchers 

We know that this is a particularly difficult time for our early and mid-career researchers, who have specific eligibility timeframes to apply for the DECRA and Future Fellowships (FT) schemes. The ARC is therefore introducing a one year, automatic eligibility extension, for all researchers currently in their final year of eligibility for both schemes.  

Researchers in their final year of eligibility for DECRA may choose to apply in 2020 (for DECRA 2022) within the existing eligibility timeframes or in 2021 (for DECRA 2023) utilising the automatic one-year extension. The same eligibility extension will be available for researchers in their final year of eligibility for Future Fellowships. Applicants may choose to apply in 2020 (for FT 2021) or utilise the automatic, one-year eligibility extension to apply in 2021 (for FT 2022). Final year applicants in either scheme cannot apply in both rounds.

For researchers planning applications in these, and other, NCGP schemes, the Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) selection criterion allows inclusion and consideration of any career interruption, which has affected a researcher’s ability to undertake and contribute to research. Career interruptions arising from COVID-19 can be included under ROPE for consideration by assessors in all future rounds, for most NCGP schemes—advice will be included in the Instructions to Applicants on how to do this.

In conjunction with this change, the closing date for DECRA 2022 applications has been extended to 25 November 2020 (previously 11 November 2020).

2020-21 Grant Calendar coming soon

The ARC had delayed finalising the 2020-21 scheme round dates until now. At this stage we are not anticipating significant delays to the scheme applications rounds due to open at the end of this year. We have now resumed finalising these dates and will publish the dates on our website by the end of May. 

Finally, I want to assure you that the ARC is committed to supporting researchers through this challenging period. We will continue to identify new issues as they emerge, reassess the applicability of our new measures, and update guidance as required.


Professor Sue Thomas
Chief Executive Officer


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