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Contract variations

Research contract holders are contractually committed to deliver the objectives identified in the research proposal, including using the funding as identified in the budget. Significant changes to your stated objectives or how you use your awarded funding must therefore be approved by the Society by an approved contract variation.

Please note that the Society generally will not approve requests for contract extensions or variations that have been submitted to us after the contract end-date. Also note that the contract end-date may be before the final report date. This is to allow the host organisation time to complete a financial reconciliation (where required) for the project and submit it with the final report.

This page will be updated as needed. Please let us know if you cannot find the answer to your question on this page.

Common reasons for a contract variation

When is a formal contract variation needed?

When is a formal variation not needed?

Can I take my research contract to a different host?

How to apply for a contract variation and what information is needed?

About postgraduate student support

Where should I send contract variations?


Common reasons for a contract variation:

  • Changes to personnel listed in the contract or the associated budget (e.g. parental leave, medical leave, FTE changes, sabbatical leave, personnel leaving the project etc)
  • PI leaves New Zealand
  • Awarded new funding with a time commitment that impinges on your current FTE obligations (see Fellowship FTE note)
  • Changes to students, e.g. unable to find a student to work on the project or late starting students (whose scholarship is funded by the grant), who are unable to complete their studies before the contract end date.
  • Changes that move funding between the general categories of salaries, direct expenses, scholarships or subcontractors (e.g. moving funding from direct expenses to salaries or sub-contractors, reallocation of scholarships to direct expenses or other staff, etc.)
  • Substantial changes to the proposed research (e.g. if significant parts of the project objectives need to be amended or changes made to the contract objectives/milestones)
  • Substantial changes to travel expenses

When is a formal variation not needed?

In general, changes within research expenses do not need a formal variation unless the re-allocation of funding will have an impact on the contracted work. For example, spending additional funding on travel instead of lab expenses is allowable if the work can still go ahead as planned. However, reallocation of funds originally ear-marked for an activity that is important to the project, must be pre-approved by the Society. For example, funding budgeted for gene sequencing that is an important outcome of the project cannot be used for travel if this means that there won’t be any funding left for the gene sequencing. On the other hand, if the research team has leveraged other ways to pay for the gene sequencing, this funding can be moved to other direct expenses without a formal variation.

What is the procedure for moving contracts from one host to another?

In general, Principal Investigators on Marsden grants or Fellowship contracts can take their contract to a new New Zealand host provided the new host can deliver the support needed to complete the project. Catalyst contracts, and in particular Catalyst Seeding contracts, are a bit different in that they seek to build enduring links between institutions. Where possible, the preferred arrangement for a Catalyst contract is therefore to find a new PI with the right skills at the original host organisation, and include the original PI as a collaborator at a different organisation.

The procedure for moving a contract from one host to another includes the following steps:

  1. The Society is notified of the move by the current host. If at all possible, this notification should include a transfer date.
  2. If the new hosts has not previously been contracted with the Society (e.g. a researcher wanting to set up their own company to host the project), the host must first be approved by the Society or the relevant oversight council (e.g. the Marsden Fund Council).
  3. The new host must confirm they will support the contract. If the transferred contract cannot start on the above transfer date (e.g. because time is needed to set up a lab, employ personnel etc.) the new host should notify the Society of the preferred start date (must be the first of a month). This date must be approved by the Society.
  4. The original host submits a financial reconciliation for the contract. This will determine how much funding is available to be transferred to the new host. Note that this can only take place when all activities at the original host have been completed and invoiced – it may therefore take a bit of time.
  5. The financial reconciliation must be approved by the Society. If applicable, the Society will issue an invoice for the return of unspent funds to the old host.
  6. The new host submits a budget for how the remaining funding will be used and other contracting documents as specified by the Society. These must be approved by the Society.
  7. The Society distributes a transfer schedule to be signed by all contract parties involved.

How to apply for a contract variation and what information is needed?

Contract variation requests must be submitted by the Host Research Office.

To process a contract variation request, the following information is needed:

  • A description of what changes are being requested and why.
  • If the request involves an amended budget, this must be submitted with the request.

Please ensure that:

  • If a previous contract variation budget has been approved by the Society, make sure this most recent agreed budget is used as the reference point.
  • The new budget should, where possible, show actual spending for past years and budgeted spending for future years.
  • The changes described should match the changes in the budget.
  • Student fees should be included under direct expenses, while scholarships are included where indicated on the budget template.
  • All salary and scholarship budget posts must be associated with an FTE value.
  • The values of Masters and PhD student scholarships must be as stated in the application guidelines (or award letter) the year the grant was awarded.

About postgraduate student support

  • In general, the Society does not allow Scholarships to be split between different grants. However, the Society may agree to allow this to happen under special circumstances if the host agrees to guarantee for the part of the Scholarship that is not funded by the Society-administered grant.
  • Students should be appointed in time for their degree to be completed before the end date of the relevant funding contract. For a 3-year contract, a PhD scholarship should be started no later than in the first year of the contract. For a 4-year contract, a PhD scholarship should be started no later than in the second year of the contract, and so on. The Society may agree to extend contracts to accommodate the completion of a PhD under certain circumstances. However, it may be wise to consider alternative solutions to a late starting student, e.g. by asking to convert a PhD Scholarship to salary for a research assistant, Masters student(s) etc.
  • Click for more information on Marsden-funded Postgraduate Scholarships.

 Where should send contract variations?

 See Contact Research Funding