This document provides advice to researchers and Research Administration Officers (RAOs) about the factors that NHMRC considers when deciding whether to approve or reject a variation request under the Grantee Variations Policy.

Publication Data

Current

We may request additional information in order to consider the variation request.  For details on what information is required for each variation and our variation process go to Grantee Variations Processes.

Where a grantee variation request is not covered by the options outlined below, RAOs must email the details of the request to postaward.management@nhmrc.gov.au.

Definitions

Refer to the NHMRC Funding Agreement for the definition of other terms with capital letters.

Exceptional Circumstances

Events outside the Chief Investigator’s (CI) or Associate Investigator’s (AI) control such as natural disaster, death, injury, trauma or serious illness resulting in six months or greater absence from work.

Exceptional Circumstances do not include the impact of delays during the life of the grant, such as, the availability of Specified Personnel, recruitment of staff or the transfer of the Research Activity to a new Administering Institution.

General Variation Principles

  • NHMRC may at its sole discretion approve or reject a variation request
  • grantee variations are not to change the fundamentals that were peer reviewed. Fundamentals include
    • the Specified Personnel
    • the Research Activity
  • grantee variations are not to be used to manage eligibility or to avoid budget adjustments. The only exception to this is for the Program Grant scheme, where the Funding Rules for a round may allow variation requests to meet eligibility requirements relating to the number of Project grants that can be held
    • eligibility issues may arise when an existing grant’s end date overlaps the commencement date for a new award
    • budget adjustments may be imposed by NHMRC to ensure a CI does not receive more than 100% salary funding
    • budget adjustments may be made when there is a change to the CIs on a Program grant
  • grants are expected to commence on the date specified on the Schedule
  • CIs and AIs are expected to remain on the grant for the full Funding Period
  • variations will only be processed once any outstanding conditions and milestones, including financial reports, have been met
  • unless Exceptional Circumstances exist, applications are to be submitted to NHMRC through RGMS, at least one month in advance of the proposed date of effect
  • changes to the Funding Period will only be made in calendar month blocks of time.

Note for RAOs

All variation requests are to be certified and submitted by the Administering Institution’s RAO. RAOs are the first point of contact for all grant administration matters.

From December 2017, NHMRC no longer amends grant budgets in RGMS after the approval of In-progress Deferrals or Extended Leave variation requests (including requests to vary part-time hours). NHMRC will continue to make payments as per the Schedule and Administering Institutions will be required to manage the flow of funds in accordance with the varied arrangements.

Budget changes will continue to be processed for Defer Commencement Date, Parental Leave and variations that reduce the funding period, for example changes from part-time to full-time hours. Changes to grant end dates and reporting milestones are changed to ensure the planned reporting of outcomes and financial acquittals.

Note to CIs

Researchers are not to approach NHMRC for advice on how to manage variations. Where the circumstances for a variation request do not match those listed in this document CIs are to consult with their RAOs who may contact NHMRC for clarification. NHMRC will manage Exceptional Circumstance applications on a case-by-case basis.

It is important for CIs to note that variations that extend the end date of the Funding Period may result in eligibility issues and budget adjustments in future years. See defer commencement date and extend end date information below.

Improvements to the research techniques used to achieve the Research Activity (e.g. new, cheaper or more accurate technique or technology becomes available) do not require a variation request. NHMRC funding for a Research Activity may only be spent on costs that are integral to achieving the objectives and outcomes, however if there is a proposal to change the Research Activity as set out in the Application this will require a variation request.

Types of grantee variations

1. Defer commencement date

Examples of circumstances where NHMRC may exercise its discretion to approve a defer commencement date variation request:

  • when the Schedule Commencement Date has not passed by the date that the NHMRC receives the defer commencement date variation request, or
  • where there is less than three months between the Letter of Offer and the Schedule Commencement Date, and
  • where payments against the grant have not yet commenced, and
  • where Institutional Approvals needed at the Commencement Date are not in place, or
  • where a Fellow or Scholar is moving from another city to take up the award, or
  • where a Fellow or Scholar has a contractual obligation that cannot be met in time to meet the Schedule Commencement Date, or
  • where a Fellow of Scholar is taking up a temporary position in industry that will support building Australia’s research capacity, or
  • where there are visa issues affecting overseas relocation for Overseas Early Career Fellows or
  • family-related or personal reasons, including reasons related to the birth and care of children (refer to specific scheme Funding Rules), or
  • where there has been a delay in recruiting key staff, or
  • where there has been a delay in establishing arrangements with Participating Institutions.

Except in Exceptional Circumstances, the maximum deferral period for defer commencement dates is up to 12 calendar months from the original commencement date.

Exceptions

As the Program Grant scheme already has a one year gap at the start of the grant, requests to defer commencement date will generally not be approved for this scheme. Exceptional circumstances and delays in receiving Institutional Approvals may be considered case by case.

Examples of circumstances where NHMRC will not approve a defer commencement date variation include:

  • where there has already been a deferral of 12 calendar months from the original commencement date approved
  • for a Program grant (Exceptional circumstances and delayed Institutional Approvals may be considered)
  • where a Fellow or Scholar has an existing NHMRC award that will not be completed until after the Scheduled Commencement Date for a new award.

Where this occurs the Fellow or Scholar can choose to either:

  • relinquish the existing award and start the new award on the Schedule Commencement Date or
  • complete the existing award and commence the new award after the existing award has finished without extending the end date of the new award. The Funding Period and the budget for the new award will be reduced to reflect the period that the two awards overlap (as at the date the new award was due to commence).

2. Extend end date

Where the Research Activity has not been completed CIAs may apply to extend the end date of the grant.  Additional funds will not be provided unless scheme-specific Funding Rules allow for additional funds. Funds that have not been spent by the current end date may be spent during the extension period (there is no separate approval required to spend these funds). Funds can only be spent on the Direct Research Costs of the Research Activity.

Except in Exceptional Circumstances, the maximum extend end date variation allowed for all schemes is up to 12 months in total via one or multiple extend grant duration requests.

Examples of circumstances where NHMRC will not approve an extend end date variation include:

  • for a Program grant (Exceptional Circumstances may be considered)
  • where the maximum Funding Period for the scheme has been reached.

3. Defer/Suspend an in progress grant and extended leave requests

Use this variation type to request:

  • to defer/suspend a grant that has passed the Commencement Date
  • to take extended leave
  • to apply for Parental Leave

Examples of circumstances where NHMRC may exercise its discretion to approve an extended leave variation or a suspend/defer in progress grant request include:

  • when the Schedule Commencement Date has passed, and
  • family-related or personal reasons, including reasons related to the birth and care of children (refer to scheme-specifc Funding Rules), or
  • to take up a prestigious research award that will support building Australia’s research capacity, or
  • where a Fellow or Scholar is taking up a temporary position in industry that will support building Australia’s research capacity, or
  • where progress in People Support schemes has been adversely affected due to external delays in the provision of research data or outcomes that the researcher is relying upon, or
  • where Institutional Approvals are not in place as needed during the Funding Period, or
  • overseas ECF grantees may defer their return to Australia for up to 2 years once they have completed the NHMRC overseas component of their grant.

Except in Exceptional Circumstances and for family related reasons including the birth and care of children, the maximum defer/suspend in progress and extended leave request variation allowed for all schemes is up to 12 months per grant or Funding Period (see scheme-specific Funding Rules for exceptions).

  • A circumstance where NHMRC will not approve a defer/suspend in progress or extended leave request variation includes:
  • Where Career Development Fellows who for vocational reasons, such as wishing to work part-time as a lecturer, or as a medical or health professional practitioner, seek to defer/suspend. 

4. Change in Full Time Equivalent (FTE) (People Support grants only)

Use this variation type to request:

  • a change from full-time to part-time
  • a change from part time to full-time
  • a change in part-time FTE

Examples of circumstances where NHMRC may exercise its discretion to approve a change in FTE request:

  • personal reasons such as providing parental or family support.

Approvals for the change in FTE on a grant will be determined with reference to the relevant scheme-specific Funding Rules.

Fellows and scholars awarded full time grants are to seek approval for any periods that their employment/contractual arrangements drop below 1.0 FTE.

5. Relinquish grant

NHMRC may exercise its discretion to approve a grant relinquishment:

  • Where the CIA requests a relinquishment and advises all other CIs of their request
  • Where the scholarship thesis is submitted before the end of the Funding Period.

6. Transfer Administering Institution

An example of when NHMRC would exercise its discretion to approve a transfer to a new Administering Institution:

  • where the CIA requests the transfer and the relinquishing and new Administering Institutions agree to the transfer.

An example of when NHMRC may not approve a transfer to a new Administering Institution:

  • where the new Administering Institution does not demonstrate a capacity to support the grant for the remaining Funding Period.

7. Change in Supervisor

An example of when NHMRC may exercise its discretion to approve a change in Postgraduate Scholar or Early Career Fellowship Supervisor:

  • Where the Scholar or Fellow requests the change and this change is supported by the Institution and the current and proposed new supervisors.

Please note that the following variation types do not apply to researcher support schemes (fellowships and scholarships)

8. Change to CIs

Examples of circumstances where NHMRC may exercise its discretion to approve a change to CIs on a grant:

  • in Exceptional Circumstances, or
  • where NHMRC is provided with evidence that a change in the CI’s employment prevents them continuing in the peer reviewed CI role, or
  • in order to meet eligibility criteria for the Program Grant scheme (where the Funding Rules for the relevant Program grant round allow for this variation for Project grants that are held), and
  • where the change will not impact the completion of the grant in accordance with its peer reviewed objectives and outcomes.

If a change in CI variation is approved for a Program Grant there may be a budget adjustment. The following examples are a guide to possible budget adjustments:

  • where there is a gap between the departure date of a CI and the replacement date, the budget will be adjusted to provide pro-rata funding
  • if a replacement CI is assessed as warranting a quantum and the CI is seen as being integrated into the Program then the budget will be retained
  • if the team does not put forward a replacement CI, the grant will be reduced from the date of the CI departure according to the ratio Departing CIs per cent time on the Program divided by the total per cent time of all CIs on Program in the original application or at the time the variation is approved
  • if the variation is not approved, the grant will be terminated immediately following one year of bridging funding, which may include a reduction in funding caused by the departure of the CI.

9. Change to Research Plan

Use this variation type to request approval to change the research plan.  Improvements to the research techniques used to achieve the Research Activity (e.g. new, cheaper or more accurate technique or technology becomes available) do not require a variation request. NHMRC funding for a Research Activity may only be spent on costs that are integral to achieving the objectives and outcomes, however if there is a proposal to change the Research Activity as set out in the Application this will require a variation request.

An example of when NHMRC may exercise its discretion to approve a change to the original or previously approved Research Activity:

  • in Exceptional Circumstances and where the change will not impact the completion of the grant in accordance with its peer reviewed objectives and outcomes.

Applications for approval to change partners included in peer reviewed applications will be considered on a case by case basis.

10. Change to AIs

Examples of when NHMRC may exercise its discretion to approve a change to AI membership on a grant:

  • in Exceptional Circumstances, or
  • where a change in the AI employment prevents their continuing in the peer reviewed AI role, and
  • where the change will not impact the completion of the grant in accordance with its peer reviewed objectives and outcomes.

An example of when NHMRC may exercise its discretion to not approve a change to AIs on a grant:

  • where the variation request is to add an AI.