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Managing Your Research Project
Effective grant management contributes to successful project outcomes and enhances a researcher's track record and the chance of future funding. It is important that your project is managed in accordance with University policy and procedures and that it is in line with the requirements of the funding body.
The following information is provided to help you manage your grants effectively.
Funding agreements and conditions of award
Funding bodies monitor the funds they provide to an institution and require that funds are spent as agreed, that milestones are met, and that the project is completed on time. In some cases, sponsors may take into account a researcher's ability to deliver agreed outcomes in a timely fashion when considering a subsequent funding request. Not abiding by the conditions of award/funding agreement may lead to termination of funding.
It is, therefore, important that CIs are fully aware of the terms and conditions of an award and their obligations under the award. This information can usually be found in the body of the Funding Agreement or Conditions of Award. In some cases, invoicing and reporting milestones may be located in the Schedule to an Agreement.
Further information on funding agreements is available on the Australian Research Council (ARC) (opens in a new window) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (opens in a new window) websites.
If you have any uncertainty about your grant conditions, please contact your Research Grants Officer
When a research project is successful and all partners have signed off on the agreement, Research Services establishes a project file and requests a cost centre/project number from Finance. You will receive an email notifying you of this new cost centre/project number once it is established. You will also be asked to accept certain conditions relating to your research account such as accepting responsibility for ensuring all ethics clearances will be obtained; funds will be expended according to budget; and you have considered your Data Management Plan among others.
You may have been given multiple project numbers for your research project. Finance project numbers are allocated by the type of funding being received, e.g. Local Government, Australian Business, International. Different types of funding needs to be kept separated for finance reporting purposes.
Invoicing on milestones/tasks/expenditure
Invoices for research funds are raised by Research Services. Some project Agreements stipulate payments to be made in concert with milestones being met and reports being generated. If this is the case, the Chief Investigator will be contacted to establish if the milestone has been completed and accepted by the funding body before invoices are raised.
Some Agreements do not have milestones but require an invoice be sent upon completion of certain tasks or expenditure. In such instances, the Chief Investigator should advise their Research Grants Officer that an invoice needs to be raised.
If any changes are made to the dates or invoicing schedule, the CI should advise their Research Grants Officer immediately.
Employment on research projects
This advice is provided for researchers who wish to employ someone casually. Detailed information on casual employment is available from the Office of Human Resources (opens in a new window)
The choice of an appropriate HEW level is a matter of marrying together qualifications and appropriate kinds of tasks:
- Basic research assistance – undergraduate degree – starts at HEW Level 5 Step 1 (example of tasks might be: photocopying, document searching, filing and sorting, data entry, literature searching under direction, preparation of annotated bibliography).
- Research Assistant – Honours degree or equivalent – generally start at HEW Level 5 Step 3 (examples of tasks might be: literature searching under supervision, preparation of critical readings of literature, data collection under supervision, data analysis under supervision).
- Research Officer – Masters degree or equivalent – generally start at HEW Level 6 Step 1 (the equivalence may be other postgraduate qualifications or significant professional experience that assists the project in achieving a high level of success).
- Research Officer or Senior Research Officer – PhD or equivalent – generally start at HEW Level 6 Step 4 or, depending on experience, could start at Level 7 Step 1. At these middle levels, research officers often make intellectual contributions to the project: providing critical readings of literature, identifying methodological issues, and making insights into data analysis. Researchers should discuss acknowledging that contribution beyond the traditional footnoted 'thanks' – see Research Code of Practice for further information.
Travel on research projects
The CI is responsible for managing funds received for the project and ensuring that there is budget provision for travel before incurring travel expenditure.
Travel should be arranged using the University's Travel and Expense Management System (TEMS). All travel must be approved by your School Dean or Institute Director. It is important to ensure that travel arrangements on research accounts are submitted with sufficient time for processing and approval. For more information, see Travel
All variations to the agreed terms must be formally submitted and approved by both the University and the funding body, and in some cases agreement also needs to be sought from all parties involved. It is essential that all extensions and requests for a variation are submitted through your Research Grants Officer. Extensions to completion dates must be approved prior to that date, so it is essential that you advise us as early as possible. Some funding bodies refuse to approve any extensions if notified after the original completion date.
Changes may occur during the life of your project. For instance, personnel may withdraw or need to seek leave from the project (e.g. one of the CIs; an industry partner; a Fellow or Student Scholarship holder) OR you may experience delays which prevent you from completing project milestones on time, meeting reporting requirements, or expending funds within the award period.
In the event of any such circumstances, the University must advise the funding body as soon as possible and make a request to vary the conditions of your award. If you believe you need to request a variation of your grant conditions, please contact your Research Grants Officer as soon as possible.
The funding body may contact you requesting changes such as further deliverables or offers of additional funding. These variations also need to be agreed to by the University and added to the agreement by a formal variation.
In cases where the University needs to initiate an amendment to an agreement, a request from the CI to your Research Grants Officer, in writing (via email) is required, outlining the business case for change. Research Services will forward the request to the sponsor and obtain formal approval.
Requesting a change to an internal grant
The Conditions of Award for all internal grants specify a project end date and extensions to this date will only be considered in exceptional circumstances. To request such a change, please contact your Research Grants Officer who can assist you with this process.
Varying an ARC grant
Variations occur when a successful grant needs to be modified from the original project design. These changes must be managed as outlined in the Funding Agreement between the University and the ARC. Request for changes to projects normally require letters of support from all participants (Chief Investigators, Partner Investigators, ARC Fellows, Partner Organisations) on the grant. The ARC will only consider variations sent by Research Services. Researchers should notify the Research Grants Officer of any changes as soon as possible. Research Services will collate all required documents, including a letter from the University and a completed Variation Form.
- Change of Personnel: This variation covers a range of scenarios, from a Chief Investigator's untimely death, to a change of status of a Chief Investigator to a Partner Investigator. For this type of variation, the University needs to show the ARC that the investigators are still able to fulfil the original outcomes before the ARC will agree to continue the funding.
- First Named Chief Investigator: Similar to a transfer, all Chief Investigators, Partner Investigators, and Partner Organisations need to write to Research Services agreeing to the change of personnel. Some changes may require a CV, e.g. when a new person joins a grant.
- Other Variations: Please contact your Research Grants Officer directly to discuss other variations such as:
- Request for Deferred Start, Part-Time Work and/or Suspension of Fellowship
- Request for Relinquishment or Termination of Funding
- Changes to APAI - Changes to APAI component timeframe
- Changes to APAI - APAI Funding
- Claim for Relocation Expenses
Varying an NHMRC grant
The NHMRC conditions for variation of award and the details for each scheme are available on the NHMRC website (opens in a new window)
Project reporting requirements
Major reporting milestones for your project are entered into the University's Research Management System (RMS) and automated email reminders generated to the first named Chief Investigator when a milestone or report deliverable is due. Should a researcher be unable to meet a milestone by the required timeframe, they should contact the Research Grants Officer to discuss whether an extension can be requested.
Information on project reporting requirements is available on the Australian Research Council (ARC) (opens in a new window) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (opens in a new window) websites.
Closing of research accounts
Researchers should ensure the timely completion of projects and grants. All funds must be expended by the completion date of the project. In some cases, funding bodies will require return of unspent monies. Funding bodies may withhold a certain percentage of the funding until they receive a final report, in which case the research account should already be in deficit.
Funding bodies usually require that they be acknowledged in publications arising from the grant. Details such as these are stated in the award agreement or funding rules and must be noted carefully at the outset of the project.
Research Services monitors and reviews all research accounts. When the project completion date arises all funds should have been expended according to the budget and Research Services will then commence the process of closing the account. Should funding remain unspent, the CI will be contacted to determine if all expenditure for this project has been accounted for correctly or whether the remaining funds need to be returned to the funding body.
Each funding agency has different financial reporting requirements. In most cases, the financial reporting requirements are the milestones contained in the agreement and will be automatically dealt with by Research Services. The Research Accountant will contact you directly if additional information is required to complete a report.
If you receive a request from a funding body for a financial statement or audit of funds, it should be directed to email@example.com
Delegations on research projects
The University delegation of research funds expenditure resides with the School Dean, Institute Director or approved delegates as per the current Delegations Policy (opens in a new window)
Research Services provides the School/Institute Manager with a summary of a newly established research project, including a summary of the approved budget. School Managers should ensure this information is provided to all delegated officers for that project. A more detailed budget may be available in the application for funding, a copy of which is held by the researcher. This detailed information should be sought from the individual researcher if more information is required to make a decision on research expenditure under the policy.
Transfer of grants
Most external sponsors will allow you to transfer your grant to or from eligible institutions within Australia. If you are leaving the University and wish to transfer a grant to another institution, it is essential that you notify the Research Grants Officer as soon as possible for advice on how to proceed.
University internal grants cannot be transferred. If you leave the University while holding an internal grant, the award must be relinquished and any unspent funds returned.
What to do if your project is delayed due to COVID-19?
In the first instance you should discuss the delays with your client/contact person at the funding organisation/industry partner so the client is aware of the project’s status, and either seek approval to obtain an extension of the project and/or revised milestones in writing. Once received please send it onto the Post-award team member you usually liaise with and they can file approval on the University Records and update the Research Management System to reflect the changes agreed to.
In the case of granting bodies such as ARC and NHMRC there is a specific procedure to vary a grant therefore we recommend you discuss with the relevant Research Grants Officer