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Covid-19 Research Grants and Contracts Update – University of Reading

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  • Covid-19 Information

Covid-19 Research Grants and Contracts Update

For the latest information from research grant funders, please click on the Covid-19 research grants funder statements in the menu to the left, or click Covid-19 Research Grants Funder Statements. For European Union funded projects click on the Covid-19 Research Grants EU Statements page for specific funder information from the EU.

 

This page was last updated on 05 May 2020.

Research grants

Some major research grant funders (including UKRI and the EU) have now published advice for grant holders concerned about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on their grants. All are taking a pragmatic approach and will approve extensions, and potentially cover additional costs incurred, where work has been directly affected by COVID-19.

Examples of disruption could be:

  • Not being able to travel to countries to carry out research due to travel restrictions or health reasons

  • Collaborators being unable to travel to the UK

  • Buildings and labs being closed and therefore practical work having to be delayed

  • Participant trials having to be paused

     

Costed vs no cost extensions

The Wellcome Trust has recently announced automatic extensions of grants due to end in 2020 and 2021, and some other funders (BHF and NIHR) have said they will consider costed extensions on a case by case basis.  However, some of our major funders (notably UKRI and the EU Horizon 2020 programme) have yet to confirm if they will consider costed extensions.  See our funder guidance for the latest statements.

 

Suggested Approach

If your grant is in its final 3-6 months and is, or has been, affected by the pandemic to such an extent that you are unable to complete some of the work within current grant timescales and there are no alternatives, then you check the funder guidance and should speak to them about an extension.  In all cases, you should let your Research Accountant know and advise them of the funder's response.

  • For UKRI grants, extensions should be requested through the grant maintenance function in Je-S

  • For BA and Royal Society, changes should be requested through Flexigrant

  • For Wellcome, use their grant management system

For grants with more than 6 months remaining, you should note the disruption to your project and monitor the progress you are able to make. You should be in a position to request a no cost extension towards the end of your grant to accommodate the disruption caused if you have not been able to redesign or reschedule your project activities. Some funders may meet additional costs to the project where there is demonstrable delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will be monitoring any communications regarding this. Some funders may allow you to pause your project and we recommend that this is only explored where you don't fund staff salaries directly from the grant, for example Research Assistants, Project Managers.

 

Details of the specific statements published by the funders can be found here, but it is important to note that this is an evolving situation and we expect that more detail we will published by funders over the coming months.

 

Contract research, consultancy and technical services

If you have a contract with an external organisation (e.g. contracts with industry, Met Office or ECMWF) to deliver a set piece of research, consultancy or technical services please check the agreement you are working to and establish how much of the project delivery will be impacted by the current situation. For example you may be able to do a lot from home and alter slightly the timing and order of project deliverables, so the effect could be minimal. Speak to your funder informally to establish whether objectives, deliverables or timescales can be amended.

Some funders, such as the Met Office for their CSSP China awards, have issued guidance for grant holders so please check with your funder if they have specific requirements (some guidance is contained within our funder guidance pages).

Any changes are then likely to require a formal contract amendment, in which case please contact your Contacts Manager or Associate; similarly if a formal notification is required please contact your Contacts Manager or Associate.

If you are unable to locate your contract, please contact your Contacts Manager or Associate for a copy.

 

Furloughing research staff

If staff are unable to work at all during this period, it may be possible for them to be furloughed. Several funders have encouraged this to be used where staff are unable to work and have released guidance on how to deal with this.

Wellcome have confirmed that staff should be paid at 100% during furlough but have said grant funds could be used to make up the 20% shortfall in salaries. Please note that if grant holders are claiming the supplementary funding on offer, they can't make use of furlough.

British Heart Foundation have said they encourage furloughing where staff cannot work and they will cover the shortfall in funding via additional funds.

See individual funder statements for more details.

 

studentships

Some studentship projects may have to be disrupted during this period for a variety of reasons, for example, if labs and buildings will be closed or access to critical archives being unavailable for significant periods of time. In many cases, students will be able to work from home even if the activities undertaken change and it may be possible to revise objectives such that analysis or other work can be done online at home.

 

If it isn't possible for work to continue, extensions to funding may have to be sought.

 

It is important to note that PhD students will continue to receive their stipends throughout this period, even if the project has to pause temporarily, and they will not be financially disadvantaged.

 

Extensions to studentships

UKRI have now published guidance on when their training grants should be suspended and how they will deal with extensions. They also announced (on 9th April) that all final year students will be eligible to receive costed extensions of up to 6 months. Please read the information and implementation guidance on these pages carefully for details of the process for notifying UKRI of the extensions and the information required.

 

The University has also announced that students in their final year of funding, who are receiving stipends or bursaries from the University (either from central funds or from schools) will be eligible for cost extensions of up to six months if their research has been interrupted by COVID-19. This includes cases where the pandemic prevented access to laboratories, archival resources, or other research infrastructure, or where work was disrupted because of care responsibilities or significant changes in the working conditions because of the need to work from home.

The University will also cover, if necessary, the full costs of a six-month extension of University studentship stipends co-funded by industry partners for students in their final year of funding, if the partner is unwilling or unable to pay.

 

Contact information for studentship queries:

  • For UKRI DTP and/or CDT studentships (e.g. NERC SCENARIO, AHRC SWW DTP, ESRC SeNSS DTP, EPSRC DTP), please contact the DTP/CDT administrator (where relevant) or the Graduate School

  • For grant-funded studentships (e.g UKRI CDAs and BHF studentships), check the funder guidance and the PI should speak to the funder about an extension, letting the Studentships team in Research Accounts know.

  • For University studentships, please contact the Graduate School for advice.

  • For industry-funded studentships (with contracts), it is recommended that the PIs have an informal conversation with the funder as to whether objectives, deliverables or timescales can be amended and then speak to your Contracts Managers or Associate

 

Forthcoming application deadlines

UKRI have recently announced changes to deadlines in April and May and many other funders (e.g. EU Horizon 2020) are doing the same.

Some charities e.g. Alzheimer's research Trust have announced the suspension of grant rounds and delays in applications under going review.

Please ensure you check funders' websites on a regular basis for the most up to date information.

 

RES and Research Accounts support

All RES and Research Accounts staff are equipped to work from home and we are hoping that we can maintain business as usual as far as applications, contracts, offer acceptance/project set up and grant finance queries are concerned. Please contact you usual contacts within the teams via email as per normal.

We may experience significant staff shortages due to sickness and therefore will have to reduce our service provision to the essential activities and timescales for responses may increase. We are asking staff to give us as much time and notice as possible and to adhere to the internal 5 working day deadline for applications.  We may be unable to deal with short notice proposals or requests during times of significant staff shortage.

 

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