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COVID-19 updates for researchers

This page has updates on the Health Research Council of New Zealand's response to the COVID-19 disease outbreak, including updates to our funding rounds and processes that are of specific interest to researchers.

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Message from our chief executive as Auckland heads into Alert Level 3

12 August 2020

Kia ora koutou.

As I write, we are about to re-enter Alert Levels 2 and 3, depending on our locations.
At the HRC office, which is in Auckland, we have always worked on the assumption that we would need to go back up the Alert Levels at some point. Our staff are kitted out to work from home, and have been doing so because of our introduction of a new flexible work location policy. We have also maintained our ‘no travel’ policy and have been continuing with remote meetings for our committees. These were strategic decisions made early on so that when we did have to change our practice, we could do so with as little disruption as possible to our staff and workflows. In turn, this means we hope to maintain supporting our research community as best we can in the circumstances.
I expect the situation will evolve over the next few days, and we will keep you updated with any potential impacts on application deadlines using our Update e-newsletter, HRC Gateway and this special page dedicated to COVID-19-related news.
In the meantime, there is no change to any of our processes. In respect to our second COVID-19 research call focused on equity of health and wellbeing outcomes, we tried to ‘future proof’ the call as much as possible, anticipating a return of community cases. This call is now clearly more important than ever, so we look forward to receiving your excellent proposals. Every day we can see the contribution of research to our national COVID-19 response.
Finally, may I take a moment to remind you all that the HRC's staff (apart from myself) all live and work in Auckland. For those of us in other parts of the motu, please consider that our staff may be juggling whānau responsibilities and a range of working-from-home scenarios, while you are working at your usual pace. Rest assured that we will pull out all the stops as best we can! Thank you all for your ongoing contribution to working through these unprecedented challenges.

Recent sector updates

Update - 12 August 2020: Chief executive's message as Auckland heads into Alert Level 3

Special Update - 4 August 2020: New call for proposals now open: COVID-19 equity response

Special Update - 30 June 2020: New COVID-19 round coming soon: equity, resilience and recovery

Special Update - 6 April 2020: Revision of assessment process due to COVID-19

Special Update - 31 March 2020: Message from our CEO and changes to health delivery research round

Update - 26 March 2020: All HRC assessing committee meetings cancelled

Special Update - 25 March 2020: Health Delivery Research Project Grant deadline extended

Special Update - 17 March 2020: Research contracts affected by COVID-19

Media release - 2 March 2020: COVID-19 research funding opportunities available now

Special Update - 2 March 2020: COVID-19 rapid research response funding opportunities available now

Media release - 24 February: Government agencies launch rapid research response to COVID-19 threat

Special Update - 24 February: COVID-19 rapid research response: funding opportunities opening soon

Earlier updates and answers to your questions

23 March 2020

In keeping with government advice on COVID-19, staff at the HRC will be working from home from the week of 23 March. This might mean a slight delay in responses to emails and phone calls. For the time-being, below are some answers to questions you might have, and we will be adding to this list as more questions arise.

To keep up with more news and developments affecting HRC researchers, make sure you're signed up to our updates that are delivered to your inbox - the short sign-up form is available here.

And for the government's latest updates and advice, visit the COVID-19 website which has information for the public all in one place.

How should I contact the HRC?
With staff now working from home, please do not leave messages on our main office line. Instead, please email us at and our administrators will forward your query to the most appropriate person. Alternatively, a list of all staff members, and how to contact us, is available here.

What changes to the application process should I be aware of?
For the foreseeable future (while COVID-19 remote-working measures are in place), the HRC will not require hard copies of applications. Submissions on HRC Gateway will suffice.  

Are application deadlines being extended for current funding rounds?
In light of the impact of COVID-19 on the health sector in New Zealand, the deadline for the Health Delivery Research Project Grant has been extended until 1pm, Friday 24 April. For all the details, read this Special Update. On 31 March, we announced further changes to the Health Delivery Research Investment Round - all details are in this Special Update. Closing dates have also been extended for the 2020 HRC Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases Cancer Call and the 2020 e-Asia Joint Research Program. Other rounds that are currently open on Gateway will still close on the expected date and time, unless otherwise notified.

Can I get an extension or suspension to my existing research contract?
Management of COVID-19 in New Zealand will have an impact on investigators undertaking research, due to limited access to their workplace, restricted travel, and activation of quarantine protocols. As communicated previously, the HRC will accept any extensions and/or changes to research contracts directly or indirectly caused by COVID-19. See our recent communication here.

How will research proposals be assessed?
We have cancelled our planned full-stage science assessing committee (SAC) meetings for the remainder of our annually-run funding rounds, and instead will collect scores from individual SAC members through HRC Gateway. This change was deemed necessary to ensure continuity in the HRC’s funding processes during this phase of the COVID-19 crisis, and to enable research to proceed once the restrictions of the Alert 4 lockdown are eased and a return to work is feasible. Read more in this Special Update.

I have just submitted an application to the HRC, but realise now that my research plans may be disrupted by COVID-19. What should I do?
Applications in current or ongoing rounds will still be assessed as submitted. However, any contracts offered may need to recognise that research plans may be disrupted and a delayed start would be negotiated. Applicants should consider withdrawing any proposal that is unlikely to be able to be done in the near future.

How will I be informed of outcomes to my funding application?
The HRC will seek to send outcome letters to Research Offices by email, as we always have. These funding results must remain confidential until the HRC releases them publicly – these details will be included in your letters.

Will new research contracts be offered this year?
The HRC has a number of funding rounds underway. At the completion of assessment, successful applicants will be offered research contracts as they normally would. However, with limitations due to COVID-19, there is no expectation that research contracts will need to start within 2-3 months of offer.

Is the HRC still accepting nominations for its annual medals and awards?
The Health Research Council celebrates health research excellence with three prestigious awards annually. Due to the impact of COVID-19, we have decided to extend the deadline for this year's Award nominations, which will now close at 1pm, Friday 15 May. Please visit our Celebrating Excellence section for details on how to make a nomination.