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Major Australian medical grant schemes delayed


National Health and Medical Research Council pushes back 2021 deadlines amid Covid-19 fallout

The continuing impact of Covid-19 on scientific research has seen Australia’s top medical funding agency forced to delay two of its flagship funding programmes.

The National Health and Medical Research Council has changed the timetable of its 2021 Investigator grants for leading researchers and its Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies scheme.

Closing dates for applications for Investigator grants, the NHMRC’s flagship scheme accounting for 40 per cent of its Medical Research Endowment Account, have been pushed back several months to February-March 2021.

And the closing date for next year’s $75 million CTCS grant scheme has been moved to July-August 2021.

The precise closing dates for both schemes will be confirmed later this year.

Meanwhile, the 2021 schedule for the funder’s Ideas and Synergy grants, and postgraduate scholarships, remains unaffected.

Announcing the move on 4 August, the organisation’s chief executive, Anne Kelso, said the changes have been made “to provide applicants with as much time as possible to plan and prepare applications.”

They have been made to “avoid the scheduling clashes caused by delays to the 2020 Ideas and CTCS grant rounds.”

Closing dates for this year’s Ideas and CTCS and grants had already been extended until June and November 2020 respectively.

Kelso commented: “NHMRC is aware that all researchers and support staff continue to be affected, to varying degrees, by the Covid-19 pandemic. These effects include interruptions to research activities, increased workloads for front-line health care workers and public health researchers and increased caring responsibilities.”

In another change, researchers applying for funding will be able to get the impact of Covid-19 on their work to date taken into account.

“Circumstances associated with the pandemic and other calamities will be considered, where applicable, in assessment of an applicant’s track record,” according to Kelso.

The delays come just months after Research Professional News reported the NHMCR’s controversial decision to scrap the 2020 round of its $50m Synergy grant programme for researchers tackling critical health problems. The pressure on medical researchers working on Covid-19 was cited as a key factor.