Once your application for funding is successful or you’ve negotiated a research consultancy, there are certain steps that need to be taken before you can commence.
The Research Grants and Contracts Office will review the letter of offer or contract/agreement and will negotiate with Legal Services if necessary to ensure the University can comply with the conditions of award.
As all legally binding documents must be signed by a delegated authority on behalf of UWA, the Research Grants and Contracts Office will arrange acceptance of the award and execution of the agreement before setting up the Project Grant (account) and invoicing for the funds or making alternative financial arrangements. The following provides further information about the steps to be taken:
Research Funding Agreements
An increasing number of research grants are covered by complex funding agreements that place obligations on the University in relation to intellectual property, publishing, confidentiality, indemnities and other matters. Some funding agencies also require the University to enter into further agreements with other parties where research is collaborative or if it will be subcontracted.All research agreements, including research consultancy agreements, should be provided to the Research Grants and Contracts Office, who will arrange review, and as necessary provide instruction to Legal Services, including when agreements need to be drafted. As only members of the UWA Executive and selected others are authorised under the University’s delegations policy to sign agreements, Research agreements should not be signed by chief investigators, Heads of School or Deans.
The Research Grants and Contracts Office and Legal Services will seek to negotiate terms with funding partners, where practicable, with a view to protecting the interests of the University and the researchers. This would occur in consultation with the lead chief investigator. The Research Grants and Contracts Office will arrange for agreements to be signed on behalf of the University.
Accepting the Award
Although an offer will normally refer to a lead chief investigator and a specific project, the research is undertaken in the name of UWA, and UWA assumes legal responsibility. When a proposal becomes successful an offer is made to the University and the University is often required to enter into a formal agreement with the funding agency. The funding agency may also provide an acceptance, to be signed by the chief investigator, and possibly by others. Any agreements and acceptance forms should be provided to Research Grant for review. The lead chief investigator, on behalf of all other investigators, should review the agreement and any other documents that detail any conditions that the funding may be subject to.
Acceptance of OfferHaving reviewed the conditions of award, the lead chief investigator should complete and sign an Acceptance of Offer. The signed form provides the Research Grants and Contracts Office with confirmation of the following:
- the Chief Investigator/Head of School's commitment to adhere to the conditions of the award
- the agreement to the apportionment between two or more UWA schools where there is collaboration, so that the proportions are taken into account when the research component of the University's budget allocation to faculties is calculated
- details for entry into the research grants management database.
Additional DocumentsWhen submitting the Acceptance of Offer form to the Research Grants and Contracts Office the following should also be provided (if not already provided):
- Sponsored Research Deed Polls
- ethics clearances
- funding body notification of award
- funding agreement
- any relevant correspondence with the funding body
- conditions of award
- funding body acceptance of offer
- grant application
Student Participation in Research Grant Funded Projects
The University supports and encourages the participation of research higher degree students in grant funded research projects. Externally awarded research grants may provide funding for PhD (or masters) stipends, and/or may be used to support research costs for PhD projects.
Student involvement in grant funded projects provides excellent research training opportunities. There is the opportunity for the student to be part of a larger research team, and to make important contributions to national and international projects. With industry funded projects there may also be the opportunity for students to gain valuable experience working with industry and with other end users of research.
With ‘public good’ research, including research funded by agencies such as the Australian Research Council, and the National Health and Medical Research Council, generally the funder does not claim ownership of the intellectual property, nor place restrictions on publishing the outcomes of the research. This is consistent with the University Policy on Intellectual Property, under which students own intellectual property that they create, unless the student has agreed (in writing) to assign the intellectual property to others.
However, with commercial or commissioned research, including research funded by industry, and research funded by Commonwealth research and development agencies, it’s not unusual for the funder to claim complete or partial ownership of the intellectual property, to place restrictions on publishing, to impose restrictive confidentiality requirements, and to claim ownership of data, materials and project outputs. In such instances, the participation of students needs to be carefully considered and managed.
The project lead investigator and supervisors must ensure that students coming onto such a project are informed of the intellectual property provisions contained in the funding agreement, and of any other provisions that may adversely impact on the students, including any publishing restrictions and confidentiality requirements.
The lead investigator will need to provide a copy of the funding agreement (and any associated documents) to the student, and ensure that prior to coming onto the project the student assigns ownership of any IP they produce to UWA (to enable UWA to then provide ownership or a licence to the funder) via submission of a Student Deed Poll. The Student Deed Poll also captures any confidentiality obligations required of the student.
There are additional complications when students are also employed as staff on the same project on which they are working as students. In addition to the assignment of IP, contingency agreements might be required to cover other situations that might arise from the differences between the rights and responsibilities of staff and students, for example conflict and performance management and leave and separation provisions.
Failure to adequately manage the involvement of students in such projects can result in disputes arising, within the research group, and between the University and the funder. It can also result in considerable disruption and distress for the students, if the students discover, well into their PhD, that an external funder is claiming ownership of the intellectual property, is claiming that they are not free to publish, or is claiming that they are not free to use data and materials that they have generated, created, or otherwise obtained in the course of undertaking their PhD.
Ethics & Other Approvals
The lead chief investigator is responsible for obtaining any necessary approvals, and for maintaining and complying with those approvals. Copies of approvals should be provided to the Research Grants and Contracts Office. Some funding agencies will not provide funds until approvals have been obtained and provided to them. In these instances the Research Grants and Contracts Office will provide notification and/or provide copies of approvals to the funding agency once they have been provided to the Research Grants and Contracts Office by the lead chief investigator. Information on obtaining approvals from UWA or recognition of external approvals:
The Higher Education Research Data Collection (HERDC)
The Higher Education Research Data Collection (HERDC) is an annual report of research income data collected by universities and submitted to the Australian Government. The HERDC specifications are updated annually by the Department of Education and Training and control the collection of higher education research data.
How research income affects federal fundingThe HERDC data, along with data from the Higher Education Student Data Collection, is used to determine the annual research block grant (RBG) allocations to universities and is designed to ensure the RBGs are allocated in a fair and transparent way. The purpose of RBGs is to reward the success of universities in obtaining competitive grants and supporting them to continue to undertake research and research training activities. The allocation of RBGs is a competitive process between the universities, and the success of UWA is relative to the success of the other universities when determining the amount of funding to be awarded. As such, it is important that income received by the University is correctly allocated and distributed as per HERDC Specifications.
In December 2015 the Commonwealth Government announced changes to the RBGs to commence 1st January 2017. The changes will reduce the current six research block grants down to two programmes: Research Support Programme (RSP) and Research Training Programme (RTP). The changes include a drive for greater research-industry collaboration that will give equal emphasis to success in industry and other end-user engagement, and to research quality. Under the new funding arrangements, Australian Competitive Grants (Category 1) and end-user research income (Categories 2, 3, and 4) will be given equal weighting, with each driving approximately 50 per cent of RBG funding for the RSP.
- Category 1 - Australian Competitive Grants (as listed on the Australian Competitive Grants Register)
- Category 2 - Public Sector Research Funding (Australian Government sources)
- Category 3 - Industry and Other Funding (Grants, Contracts, Donations both domestic & international)
- Category 4 - Cooperative Research Centre Funding
Under the HERDC Specifications, income reported must:
- be for the purposes of research as defined by the HERDC Specifications
- be from a source external to the University
- include a contract or agreement for the research activity (an email is not sufficient)
- be the net receipted income (income that remains at UWA after shared grants are transferred out)
Shared research funding
Some research grants include collaboration with other research institutions under Multi-Institutional Agreements (MIA), Sub-contracts or Collaborative Agreements where researchers external to UWA are named in the application. The external researcher's track record has formed part of the assessment criteria and they take intellectual responsibility for the research. A portion of the grant value is often transferred to their institution. This is known as “shared research income” or a "shared grant". The transfer of shared research income to the other research institution is managed by the Research Grants and Contracts Office as it reduces our reportable research income under HERDC and must be recorded correctly.