Medical Research Future Fund Research Administration Officer Webinar – 30 March 2023

In this video, we provide Research Administration Officers with information about consumer involvement in the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). We also talk about MRFF assessment criteria and the MRFF Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Strategy.



Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today. I would like to begin by acknowledging the people, the Traditional Custodians on whose lands we are joining from today throughout Australia. I would also like to pay my respects to the Elders past and present and those emerging. I'm Ragini Singh. I'm the director of the Grants Management Office at the Health and Medical Research Office for the MRFF. Welcome to the second RAO webinar. These MRFF webinars will be an ongoing offering, offered twice a year. The session today will cover a range of topics, beginning with the intent and purpose of these webinars, and the rest of the topics today will be presented to you by MRFF directors. So, the aim of these RAO webinars is to provide practical information to the sector, in particular, to the research administration officers, and to advise them about MRFF administrative requirements and arrangements. It's also to assist any grantee, potential or current, in better understanding the MRFF research requirements and in better supporting the funded research and researchers that we fund through the MRFF grants.

It's also to aid the implementation of any changes to MRFF grants administration, and it's a vehicle for us to seek feedback from the research administration officers on the ground with a view to continuous improvement of our own administrative practices. So with that, I might hand over to Steph Lehoczky, who's going to talk about consumers and the MRFF.


Thanks, Ragini. My name is Steph Lehoczky. I'm acting director of the Policy and Support team here in the Health and Medical Research Office, and we lead our work to increase consumer involvement in implementing the MRFF, particularly through supporting the Consumer Reference Panel. Today, I'll touch on that panel, also on principles for consumer involvement in research funded by the Medical Research Future Fund, consumer involvement in grant assessment criteria and our future work program.

So, the Medical Research Future Fund Consumer Reference Panel was appointed in April 2022. Its role is to provide advice to the CEO of HMRO on strategies for strengthening consumer involvement in MRFF implementation. Members were identified by key sector groups, approached by the Department, and given the momentum the current members have, we're looking to extend their term and the panel for at least another 12 months, and to strengthen with some additional expertise, for instance, First Nations and culturally and linguistically diverse representation.

Currently, we have ten members and they participate as individuals rather than representing specific organisations. Their nominations were based on existing or previous experience in health and medical research, but importantly also the ability to represent the views of the broader community, just not their own lived experience, and also to ensure a balanced cross-section of the Australian community and the appropriate level of skills and expertise. Generally, our members are not academics, and the Department wants to hear and learn from the members, noting that consumers and their families are the ultimate funders, users and beneficiaries of health and medical research. And we really see that consumer involvement can help the Medical Research Future Fund fund the research that has the best possible opportunity for improving the health and wellbeing of individuals and improve consumer confidence in and engagement with that research. The panel have met five times and have progressed work outside the meeting as well.

The initial deliverables in our terms of reference, which is up on the Department's website, was development of principles for consumer involvement in medical research, future funded research, and I'll get to that in the next slide. They were actually released last week and endorsed by Minister Butler, and I'll go through those in a minute. Important to note, the principles are a statement of best practice and future intent, and they don't put requirements on researchers immediately. And that we, as the Department, will work with the sector to implement them over time. As we work through MRFF processes with the Consumer Reference Panel, we'll definitely consult the sector. As Dr Anne Raimondo will talk through in more detail shortly, the MRFF's assessment criteria descriptors were refreshed in late 2022. These changes were based on advice from ongoing sector engagement, including the Consumer Reference Panel. The panel suggested wording to make requirements for consumer involvement stronger and clearer, and that's now reflected in new grant opportunities.

At a high level, the panel aimed to incorporate the following themes into the assessment criteria: lived experience; diverse consumer populations; and consumer involvement at all levels and stages of research, from prioritising research questions, co-design, conduct, dissemination and implementation; and also support for consumers on advisory panels and committees, not just as participants. And also ensuring research teams have appropriate skills and experience to effectively involve consumers and provide safe environments and support and that they have lived experience, where relevant. Consumer Reference Panel also has a range of broader comments of the assessment processes that we'll work through. The panel will also review and provide advice to us on other MRFF processes, and I'll go through that in a minute also. So, as I touched on, we've just released the Consumer Reference Panel's Principles for Consumer Involvement in Research Funded by MRFF now up on the Department website and includes an agreed definition of 'consumer' for MRFF use.

As you can see that at a high level, the principles are that research funded through MRFF will involve consumers in every type of research, at all stages of research, in partnership with researchers, effectively, sensitively and safely, and with broad diversity and equity. We appreciate that the current focus of the principles is external and researcher-focused. But we also know that the CFP are going to guide us through improving MRFF internal processes in future. It's important, again, as I said before, to note the principles are a statement of intent. They don't put requirements on researchers immediately, and we look forward to working with the sector over time to embed those through our processes. In the principles are implementation guidance, to give researchers examples and more detail on what the principles would look like in practice. It's examples of what good consumer involvement looks like, tangible advice to help start implementing the principles and hopefully support in considering consumer involvement at all phases of research.

The panel have also identified a number of key areas of interest for their Future Work program. They appreciate that much of this has to happen in parallel, but priorities for them are review and potential improvements to MRFF application processes. All new MRFF grant opportunities contain a refreshed assessment criteria that Anne will talk through shortly, and you might also have seen in the currently open 2023 consumer-led Grant Opportunity that applicants are required to provide a two-page statement summarising the consumer involvement. And this includes further strengthening consumer involvement in the assessment of MRFF applications. That will be reviewed before a broader rollout is undertaken. We're appreciative that resources are tight for researchers. We're planning to develop clear guidelines to support researchers so they can more confidently know the costs associated with consumer involvement can be included in applications and spent from MRFF grant funds. That's it for now, but we look forward to sharing updates from the Consumer Reference Panel via the Department's website. Over to you, Ragini.


Thank you, Steph. I'll now invite Dr Anne Raimondo to talk about the grant assessment criteria refresh.


Hi, everyone. Thank you, Ragini, and thanks, Steph. My name's Anne. I'm the Director of the Program Management Office for the MRFF here in the Department of Health and Aged Care. And today I just wanted to spend some time taking you through recent changes, as Steph foreshadowed, to the grant assessment criteria for MRFF grant opportunities, why and how they've been refreshed and what this means for applicants and RAOs and assessors. So, I'll start with a very brief overview of the MRFF assessment criteria themselves. All applications for MRFF funding are assessed against the same four criteria. So, there are three numerically weighted criteria. These are: project impact; project methodology; and capacity, capability and resources. And there's one non-weighted criterion, overall value and risk. In the guidelines for MRFF grant opportunities, section five provides a definition of each of these criteria and further descriptive text in dot-point form that specifies the information that should be provided by an applicant in response to each of these criteria. And examples of this descriptive text are indicated on the slide in italics.

While the four assessment criteria are universal across MRFF grant opportunities, these descriptors for each criterion can be different, and that depends on factors such as the grant type being offered. So, for example, they would be different for grant opportunities offering large accelerator grants, compared to small-scale incubator grants, or targeted calls for research; or the type of research a particular Grant Opportunity is aiming to fund. For example, applicants to a Grant Opportunity that seeks to fund clinical trials will be required to provide details of the trial design under project methodology; and applicants to a Grant Opportunity involving international partnerships will be required to provide details of those partnership arrangements under capacity, capability and resources. As you already know, the scoring matrices and the overall value and risk rating scale included with the guidelines are used by assessors to gauge how well an application responds to each criterion.

So, it's these descriptors indicated on the slide in italics which applicants use to write applications and the scoring materials which assessors use to score those applications, that have recently been updated. So, I wanted to spend some time providing the context for these changes, which are now standard across all MRFF grant opportunities. The refresh of our assessment criteria is part of a broader program of continuous improvement across the whole of the Medical Research Future Fund that spans policy, process, and operational improvements. So, our intent is to continually strive to ensure that the MRFF funds priority-driven research that is informed by diverse voices and experiences. We do this through several channels, including feedback from across the research sector, including from applicants and assessors and RAOs, outcomes of public consultations and roundtable discussions, advice from diverse expert advisory bodies such as our Consumer Reference Panel and our Indigenous Health Expert Advisory Board, and lessons learned from previous grant opportunities.

And the key changes to the assessment criteria descriptors have been informed by the outcomes of these processes and can be summarised in the following four points that I've indicated here. The first is streamlining and simplification of language to assist applicants and assessors and clearly draw out the elements to be assessed. Integrating specific expectations for research that focuses on priority populations, which are clearly defined in the Grant Opportunity guidelines and include First Nations Australians, older people experiencing diseases of ageing, people with rare or currently untreatable diseases or conditions, people in remote and rural communities, people with a disability, individuals from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, LGBTIQ+ people, and youth. And there are also now more explicit expectations for consumer involvement across the life of the grant, as Steph presented to us just a few minutes ago. So, the scoring materials that are used by assessors to score applications have been updated to align with these changes.

So, what do these changes mean? Well, first of all, I want to emphasise that MRFF applications will continue to be assessed against the same four criteria. However, the information that applicants are required to provide in response to each of those criteria is unique to the Grant Opportunity. Now, the Grant Opportunity Guidelines are always the source of truth for application requirements. So, the key message for you today is don't assume all MRFF grant opportunities are the same. Check sections five and six of the Guidelines in particular. These are your best guide to what kind of research the Grant    is seeking to fund, what information you're required to provide in response to each criterion and in what form. The MRFF and its administering hubs provide guidance and support to MRFF Grant Assessment Committees on how to interpret and use the assessment criteria and scoring materials based on the information specified in those sections. So, they are your best source of truth and guidance.

And the Department will continue to be actively involved in this process as grant assessment committees incorporate more diverse voices and experiences into the assessment of applications. As Steph foreshadowed earlier, it's a key priority for the Medical Research Future Fund that we actively pursue strengthened involvement of consumer and priority populations in the overall delivery of the MRFF. So, this will be reflected not only in further refinements to the assessment process but also the design and implementation of future funding calls. So, I will leave it there and hand back to Ragini.


Thank you, Anne, for taking us through the criteria refresh. I would like to remind the audience that you can start sending in questions, but we will have a separate Q&A session at the end after all the speakers have finished presenting. I'd now like to pass to Associate Professor Cindy Thamrin, who's going to talk us through the monitoring, evaluation and learning aspects.


Thanks very much, Ragini. I'm lucky last, and I'm here to talk to you about the strategy of monitoring, evaluation and learning activities at the MRFF, and I'm speaking to you as Director of Performance Evaluation within the Health and Medical Research Office. So, I'll talk you through briefly about the strategy behind the monitoring and evaluation learning activities at the MRFF and some of the activities that we have progressed and that have taken place and are in progress. I'll mention a little bit about the performance indicators that we've just recently published, as well as activities relating to reporting of funding statistics and information and backgrounds. Here we go. So, monitoring and evaluation at the MRFF occurs continuously, and we actually have a framework for doing this. And this framework is published in 2020-2021, and you can find this on the Departmental website. This document, the Monitoring Evaluation and Learning Strategy for the MRFF, contains the framework as well as the strategy as to how continuous monitoring and learning activities can take place and also sets out a schedule for our learning, monitoring and evaluation activities.

The document was put together based on legislative and strategic documents that help guide the MRFF, and it was put together in consultation with stakeholders from the Health and Medical Research community as well as industry and other stakeholders. So, one of the things that are contained within the framework is the underscoring fact that all MRFF evaluations need to be independent, need to be conducted in an independent manner. And part of that involves evaluation of MRFF initiatives. The evaluation strategy actually establishes a schedule for a rolling series of MRFF initiatives, and the goal of these initiatives is to assess the progress of the program and guide future investments within initiatives. And to date, three MRFF evaluations have been completed, and these relate to the RART, or the Rapid Applied Research Translation initiative, the Medical Research Commercialisation initiative, as well as the Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission.

And two are currently in progress, and these are the Australian Brain Cancer Mission and the Clinical Trials activity. And when evaluations are completed, you will find a publicly available report published on the Department’s website and these links will be available to you on the slide deck after the webinar.

What the monitoring evaluation strategy also sets out is defining, based on what was defined as the impact measures of the MRFF. So, many of you will know that the MRFF is a priority-led fund with a key emphasis on translation. And so it follows that the key impact measures by which MRFF success is measured are centred around translation and the ability to improve Australian lives and economic growth. So, you see this listed here in this logic diagram, for those of you who are familiar with such things, and that is better health outcomes, beneficial change to health practice, increased health efficiency, increased job and export potential and economic growth.

Now, many of you will also be familiar already with the eight MRFF measures of success, which is one of the key features of the monitoring and evaluation strategy. It outlines the eight measures of success that lead towards these five impact measures. And these measures of success, as you may know already, are: increased focus on research on areas of unmet need; more Australians access clinical trials; new health technologies are embedded in health practice; and new health interventions are similarly embedded in health practice. There's a measure of success around the ability of the research community to have greater capacity and capability to undertake translational research. There's a measure of success around health professionals being able to adopt best practices faster, and one on the ability for the community to engage with and adopt new technologies and treatments, and finally, the increased commercialisation of health and medical research outcomes. And so, these eight measures of success are something you would have had to deal with or applicants and grantees would have had to deal with in putting together your applications for MRFF grant opportunities as well as for grantees to consider when they put together their progress reports.

And why are they important? Well, measuring impact of the MRFF, both in terms of the program's success as well as the impact of the research being funded, benefits the public, researchers, consumers, government and other stakeholders. As you can imagine, it promotes the accountability of the MRFF. It also provides policy and research benefit by supporting translation of research outcomes into practice by providing a framework by which we can consider translation activities and its success. Measuring the impact of the MRFF also helps promote public engagement, supports the community in engaging in research. If they are aware of the successes and what efforts the MRFF are putting in towards health and medical research translation, then they have a better opportunity to be able to engage with the research that's being conducted. And related to that is that it promotes visibility of MRFF research, not just to Australia, but on the international stage as well, and allows for a basis for comparison.

Measuring the impact of the MRFF also benefits individual researchers because it provides researchers with the evidence or allows assistance in building evidence to support future funding applications. It helps them in considering their impact, provide evidence for their own career progression. It gives them the opportunity to assess their research achievements, the opportunity to strategically prioritise research activities. Researchers would already be familiar with this, for instance, with the NHMRC increasingly asking researchers to consider the impact in their applications, in their research applications, in their grant applications. So, having the measure of success framework to work with, what we've done recently is to add a layer of detail to the measure of success, which are, as you can imagine, fairly high level. We've recently developed a set of performance indicators to enable us to start assessing and tracking progress towards these MRFF measures of success, and ultimately be able to measure the impact of the MRFF.

So, here is that logic diagram with more detail attached to it. And you'll be able to find this on our website, as it was published just last week, under the 'Monitoring and Evaluation' section of the website. So, with the inputs and the activities that take place within the MRFF or that go towards the MRFF, you can see that what we're ultimately working towards is the impact measures, the five impact measures at the end, and the measures of success being the outcomes that lead towards those impacts. The performance indicators that we've come up with sit one level below the measures of success and they are meant, as I indicated before, to enable us to track progress against those outcomes, and ultimately, the impacts. And they're broadly categorised into nine performance indicators from projects targeting priority populations, those targeting emerging issues, which Anne has already touched upon earlier. We are also looking at outputs or indicators that relate to clinical trial activity, research workforce indicators which attempt to capture increasing capability and capacity of the research workforce.

We also have knowledge gain indicators, acknowledging that whilst MRFF is focused on translation, we do consider knowledge gain as an indicator of success, and this also reflects that we do fund a certain amount of discovery research, as well. As you've heard from Steph before, we are increasingly focusing on the ability to involve consumers at all stages of the research pipeline. There are indicators in relation to that as well, as well as health care change indicators and indicators indicating progress towards commercialisation. And we recognise, as is often the case with these things, that quantitative measures are not sufficient to be able to track progress towards impact, which can often be very highly complex and highly nonlinear, and in these cases, qualitative descriptions or case studies demonstrating impact are also considered an important source of information and output to be able to track against outcomes and impacts.

So, I won't go into every single one of the nine performance indicators in detail. You can find it on the website, but I'll give you an example with one performance indicator. In this case, I selected the consumer involvement indicators, and as I briefly mentioned before, this hopefully allows us to capture a level of involvement in relevant consumers throughout the research pipeline, from priority setting to co-design, through to dissemination and all the way to translation, as well. So, we look at measurable outputs such as: the number and value and proportion of projects that include consumer organisations as project partners or advisory groups; in projects that involve consumers in priority and co-designer study; that involve active consumer input in data gathering or analyses; active dissemination of results to consumers that deploy strategies to include traditionally underrepresented groups and to be able to access them or provide access to these groups; and those that involve consumers in project governance as well. I hope you can see that what we've done is to try and provide more detail to these very high-level measures of success in order to assist you in your consideration of how researchers can meet measures of success or track towards them.

Now, in saying all this, we acknowledge that measuring research impact is not easy, and many of you will already be familiar in this space. Known challenges include gathering evidence and linking research from funded projects all the way to higher-level impacts. We also know that impact is a longer-term indicator. It's now well published that it can take typically up to seven years for research to be published from the point of it being funded. And it can take 17 years for research to be actually translated into health policy outcomes. There are challenges also related to attribution. So, to what extent can you attribute a success or an impact to a particular funder or a project, or a researcher or an organisation? And as I briefly mentioned before, links between the research and its impact is not always linear, and so this can be quite challenging to try and quantify and map and track. However, these indicators represent a first step towards the understanding of the MRFF's impact, and our aim is to continually review these indicators as time goes by, against to our intent to continually learn and improve our processes as well as our understanding of impact for the MRFF.

So, how will we try and measure these indicators? So the Department will aim to collect the information and data on these performance indicators from a range of sources. We'll make use of, as much as we can, information that is already available to us via the grant administration processes anyway, program information from administrative grant data, the progress and final reports that grantees submit. They capture a wide range of data. They contain information on clinical trials, publications, workforce capacity and capability and impact case studies. And we'll be looking to continually improve how we can capture data from those as well over the next future. What we cannot collect, we will try and capture via survey to grantees and care will be taken to minimise burden on researchers, which we are highly cognisant of, and we will try to do this on a regular basis to be able to track progress over time. And we'll also pull up data from other sources as well, from bibliometrics databases, from clinical trials registries, submissions for regulatory approval, reimbursement and patent registries.

Our aim is to be able to produce a report on these performance indicators in the next financial year, which will help us support broader policy and program development and improvement as well. So, what does this mean for researchers? So, as I alluded briefly to, the Department will continue to monitor the progress and final reports that you submit to help support our assessment of impact. I mentioned the survey before, and that's planned for later this year. Again, taking care to minimise researcher burden. But what this also can help and what we also hope is that the researchers can use the performance indicators as a means to consider their own impact, both in terms of their applications and in their writing of their progress reports, wherever they are asked to identify their project's contribution to the MRFF's measures of success. So, these performance indicators don't form part of formal application assessment or aren't explicitly mentioned in progress reports at the moment, but they provide a guide as to how you may be able to address the measures of success. And they are, by no means, exhaustive and they will be continually reviewed as well as we learn more about what the impact of our research that we fund are.

And we also hope that these performance indicators can help researchers consider their impact of their own research at all stages along the research pipeline, even from the point of design of their research. And we also have a request to enable us to facilitate accurate and broader data capture. We ask that researchers to please attribute the MRFF or the Department of Health in your publications. This is something that we have found to be a challenge and it would really assist us greatly. And finally, overall, from a big-picture point of view, your participation in MRFF evaluation activities help us improve and help us shape the operation of the MRFF, and hopefully will result in improvements in the health and medical research sector more broadly.

Now, I'll just briefly touch on this, but part of monitoring and evaluation is also reporting, and I know that there is a lot of desire from the sector to see more reporting from the MRFF. The Department is working on improving its reporting of grants data to the public. You may already be aware that we already currently publish a list of grantees awarded that's on the Department website. What you may not know is that we also produce other reports. There is a report, for instance, on financial support for medical research and innovation priorities, which are updated every two years in accordance with changing priorities. This is available also on the Departmental website and we are working towards incorporating more detailed funding information and statistics into our reporting more generally. You may also be aware that we've published a gender data report, first published in March last year, and soon to be updated and to be updated annually. This is also available from the Department's website. And if you are interested in any more information about monitoring, evaluation activities and the strategy and about reporting, you can find that information by following this web link to that particular section of the Health Department's website.

And if you have any questions about the performance indicators or about evaluations more generally, you're very welcome to contact the Evaluations Team, we are available at that email address. I think that covers my part of the webinar, so I will hand over back to Ragini. Thanks very much.


Thank you so much, Cindy, for that great presentation. We will now proceed to the question and answers section of this webinar, but prior to taking questions from the audience, I just want to pass over to Anne to address a query that's come in previously through email, with a request to address it as part of this webinar, and that query relates to partner versus participating institutions on grant applications and letters of support. So, Anne, over to you to answer that.


Thanks, Ragini. Yes, so as Ragini said, we're aware that there have been some questions from the sector about the role of partner organisations in MRFF applications. This is obviously something that applies specifically to applications submitted through NHMRC as the administering hub, particularly in relation to their contribution to the project and the requirement for letters of support and institutional contracting requirements should an application be successful. I guess, the headline message is that it's not our intent to increase the administrative workload for applicants or RAOs, but we acknowledge that this can be an unintended consequence of the wording in our guidelines as it currently stands. So, we are actively working with NHMRC to clarify this wording and it will be reflected in the guidelines for future Grant Opportunities, and we will also be preparing and circulating further information, which will be made available to you in the next few months, that explains those requirements.

So I just wanted to provide reassurance to you all that we understand and appreciate the current administrative issues that you're experiencing, and our overall intent is to reduce that unintended consequence in the changes to the guidelines in the future.


Thank you, Anne, for addressing that question.

So, we're receiving questions from the audience here today which we will attempt to answer, and any that we're unable to get to in time or don't have the appropriate directors here present on the day to answer on the spot, we will take away on notice and publish the responses on the MRFF webpage. When responses are published, they're generally also communicated through the MRFF newsletter.

I'd like to highlight that we did receive a lot of questions following the RAO webinar last year, and in general, throughout the year from the sector. Those questions have been collated and responses have been now provided on the MRFF webpage along with the recording of the previous RAO webinar, so please check that out if you haven't already. In relation to these questions, so the first one today is asking about, can a researcher pay a consumer for their time writing a grant application? Can this be included in the application budget? Consumer costs - if the consumer is on the research team, they are supported, and there are specific eligible and ineligible expenditure details which are outlined in the Grant Opportunity Guidelines; section four generally specifies these, which are the direct costs of research.

What can't be done is retrospective costs, i.e. costs incurred prior to that grant activity commencing cannot be claimed through grants. So, I will invite other directors if they want to add to that. No, I think not.

So, I'll move on to the next question, which states, some grant opportunities say addressing a priority population is mandatory, others do not. For those that do not, will applications not addressing a priority population be scored lower? I might invite Anne to answer that one.


Sure. Thanks, Ragini. So I guess what I would start off by saying is that applicants proposing research that focuses on a priority population, according to the definition in the guidelines, will always be required to address additional descriptors in their response to each criterion, and these are always specified in section five. So, if your application focuses on a priority population, whether it's a mandatory requirement for the grant opportunity or not, there will be those additional descriptors in section five that you'll be required to address. If a Grant Opportunity is seeking to fund research that does require or prefer a focus on a priority population, this will always be specifically highlighted in section 1.3, which is where you will find the objective statements for the Grant Opportunity as well as section five. So, if an application does not focus on a priority population under circumstances where it is required or preferred and stated as such in section 1.3, then they may not score well, as their research doesn't align with the objectives of the Grant Opportunity. But that's the only scenario in which that would be the case.


Thank you, Anne. We're getting quite a few questions on assessments and releasing outcomes and scores, essentially. So, I might combine those questions so that we can address them in one go. The questions state, why when we have an exemplar such as the NHMRC for assessment and communication of assessment with scores and freely available outcomes, which is transparent, does the MRFF not do this? It would not only assist applicants to improve their competitiveness but also enable research services, the research community and the institutes to improve applications, which can only help those who can benefit from this valuable research: the national community. There's also ones that are requesting publishing MRFF outcome reports and questions around publishing success rates as mentioned, similar to what NHMRC and ARC do. So I might address a part of that and then hand to Cindy to talk about it a little further, but I would like to acknowledge that, yes, that's something that the Department is actively engaged with and does acknowledge.

And we have made several improvements in the recent months to try to address some of these questions and concerns. One of these improvements has been that we now aim to release successful and unsuccessful notifications out to the sector at the same time on the same day. In addition, what we're working with are two hubs, NHMRC and the Business Grants Hub to do is to provide some feedback to applicants in addition to scores. So scores are already provided to applicants who apply for MRFF grants through NHMRC. Cindy, I might call upon you to address the release of outcomes and reports related to that part of the query.


Thanks, Ragini. Yes, as Ragini indicated, in terms of outcomes and scores, that is something that we're already working towards, but in addition to that, funding success rates is also something we're very mindful that is important for visibility and for transparency. And as you can appreciate, MRFF runs across a large range of grant opportunities and so it is a task that we are working towards together with the grant hubs, and this incorporates both NHMRC, as well as Business Grants Hub to be able to provide these scores not just as a once-off, but just more regularly in our reporting in general. So, that is something that we are working towards. Back to you, Ragini.


Thank you. There's also just a slightly nuanced version of that question, Cindy, about a request to also please include streams when announcing applications, or including information on the website. Again, echoing Cindy's words there, we definitely take all of this feedback on board as we’re continually aiming to improve the way in which we release outcomes and provide data back into the sector. So thank you for those questions.

There is a question regarding, will the PowerPoint slides be provided to the applicants? Yes, the PowerPoint slides will definitely be provided to the participants. After the session, they will be uploaded to the MRFF webpage and they'll be communicated once they're uploaded through the MRFF newsletter. So, please sign up to the newsletter, if you'd like to keep track of when we publish these slides.

Additional questions: scores are not provided to all applicants. If applications are NFFC’d or NHMRC scores are not provided, it would be good if all applicants received these scores.

Cindy, would you like to add anything there in relation to that particular question?


I might have to pass that one on to someone, Ragini, because scores aren't... We'll definitely take that question under consideration. I think there are different considerations for reporting of scores to individual applicants versus the funding rates and statistics that we make available publicly. But that's definitely something we'll take into account in the latter. I might actually hand over to Anne with regards to the individual scores question. Thanks Anne.


Yeah I just wanted to add that the provision of feedback to applicants is something that I know is of great interest to the sector, and we're very keen to sort of work with applicants' scenarios to provide that feedback. It's a programme of work that we're actively progressing at the moment across both of our administering hubs, actually. So, just looking at the data that's collected sort of during that pre-award assessment phase and how we can package it up in a way that is useful and constructive and consistent for applicants because we want it to be useful and we want it to contain information that gives a good indication of just the breadth and quality of applications that were received and how an individual application is benchmarked against that group of submissions. So, I guess the key message here is that it's something that we're actively working on, and hopefully, you will see it rolled out across not just NHMRC but also the Business Grants Hub in the next few months.


Thank you, Anne. The next question is: milestone reporting in Sapphire, it's a function still active for MRFF grants, however the process is to submit these directly by email. This is causing confusion and additional burden when these reports are completed twice. Can MRFF either make it possible to report in Sapphire or organise with NHMRC to remove the option?

I might attempt to answer that. Parts of it we'll also take on notice so that we can discuss it further with NHMRC, but we are definitely aware of that, and NHMRC is consistently seeking to improve their Sapphire functionality at this point in time as well. They're working on a larger range of priority enhancements to Sapphire and this is definitely being considered as well, but to give you a concrete response to this, I'll have to take this one on notice.

Any other questions? I think we've answered all that have come in so far. If not, I might move back to the final part of the presentation. So finally I'd just like to remind everyone, please do keep connected with us.

We really value the engagement with the research administration offices and our grantees. We're really receptive to any feedback or any suggestions for improvements that you might have, and we definitely engage with our hubs actively to try to address them as soon as they're raised. You can engage with us on a variety of fronts: you can subscribe to the MRFF News, the link is provided here; you can send any questions either through the hubs if they pertain to specific grants, or if they're very general questions they can be directly emailed to our MRFF email address; you can register for MRFF grant opportunities on In addition, you can also follow the Department of Health and Aged Care on Twitter for MRFF updates.

I'd like to thank everyone for coming today. There is, sorry, one additional question, so I might take that since we've got a couple of minutes and then sign off. Are there any improvements to the checking of eligibility of CIs in the pipeline for RAOs? This one again, we'll have to take on board and on notice because eligibility of CIs and the platform that does these sorts of checks is actually with the hub, so NHMRC through their system, Sapphire.

At the moment, the system doesn't conduct checks of CIs directly, but this also has been a question that's been raised in the past and is on their radar. At this stage however, it's not front and centre, but definitely, something for us to consider and pass on to NHMRC and BGH for further discussions.

An additional question on progress reports. Any update on when the new progress report template will be available? With all MRFF grants needing to report at the same time, it will be a significant burden for some research offices. We will need to contact CI's early so that we don't end up with an avalanche of reports to process at the last minute. It would be great if the new template could be ready in June. Thanks.

So in relation to that question, at this stage there are no anticipated significant changes to the progress report template prior to June, but if that is the case, if there is something that's identified that needs to be immediately implemented, we will certainly make that available upfront well before the June timeframe.

Also in relation to progress reports and final reports through NHMRC, we have moved to standardising some of the timelines for these reports, especially the progress reports, which are now due for grants around 30th September where there's annual reporting, and for grants with biannual reporting, they're due towards the end of March, in addition to being due on end of September. So, hopefully that predictable cycle of reporting, especially for grants administered through NHMRC, should help alleviate some of that burden and make the reporting cycles more predictable for the sector.

Once again, thank you, everyone, for joining us today. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to send them through, and as I stated, the questions, along with the presentation slides, will be made available after the RAO webinar. Thank you, everyone.

Video type:
Publication date:

On 30 March 2023, we hosted a webinar on the MRFF for Research Administration Officers.

Topics included:

A questions and an answers session followed the presentation.

Read the webinar presentation.

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