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Module 6: Grant and Contract Administration

Topic 2: Administration of research contracts

You may enter into a research contract as a result of applying for a research grant (for example, an ARC Linkage Projects grant scheme). In this scheme, the researcher applies to the ARC for research funds, and partner organisations pledge to provide matching funds if the application is successful. When the grant is awarded, the institution signs a funding agreement with the ARC and also enters into a research contract with the partner organisation(s). The funding agreement covers Commonwealth support for the project and the research contract covers the funds provided by the partner organisation(s).

When you apply for a research grant you respond to an advertised call for the submission of research proposals. Your application is assessed by a panel and/or individual experts nominated by the funding body, and it is ranked against all the other applications. Only a small number of grants are awarded as the process is highly competitive.

When you enter into a research contract it is likely to be the result of direct contact. Universities promote the expertise and successes of their researchers, which attracts organisations to seek their services. It is the researcher, or research team’s reputation, that prompts the organisation to engage them, so although not competitive in the sense of applying for a grant, you still have to be highly competitive to attract research contracts. Research contracts are not always the result of direct contact, but can be the result of applying successfully to a call for tenders.

Although there are similarities in administering research grants and research contracts so far as ethical and biosafety clearances, budgets, project personnel, and accountability and transparency are concerned, the relationship between you and the company funding your research will in the latter case be closer and of a more collaborative nature. From the outset you probably will have had face-to-face contact with their representatives: you will have discussed the initial research problem, worked with your respective lawyers to negotiate a contract, and you will continue to interact with them as the project unfolds. Communication, therefore, has been and will continue to be a key element in managing your project. In the section on managing the research contract, we will look at the importance of communication and managing mutual understanding, the relationship between milestones and money, and balancing desired academic outcomes with project deliverables.

Learning outcomes

After completing this topic you should be able to:

  • Identify whether any work you are asked to perform complies with the definition of consulting or the definition of research.
  • Provide your lawyer with information relevant to the review or creation of a research contract.
  • Develop strategies for initiating and maintaining communication with project stakeholders.
  • Initiate discussions with your funder about incorporating flexibility into financial and milestone requirements, and into the reporting of outcomes.

Topic content

Additional Reading/Activities

Researchers will find the following publications provide helpful advice in the area of grant and contract management:

  • Allen, David. (2001). Getting Things Done: The art of stress-free productivity. New York: Penguin Books
  • Making the Right Moves: A practical guide to scientific management for postdocs and new faculty. (2006) Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. Based on courses held in 2002 and 2005 by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and HHMI, this book is a collection of practical advice and experiences from seasoned biomedical investigators. Available online at:
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