COVID-19 Research Funder updates

British Academy

Award holders should follow the advice of their institution and that of the government.

The British Academy encourages award holders to investigate, where necessary, all possible alternative ways of continuing to progress their research. However, they understand that the outbreak may impact on the activities associated with some awards and will treat all requests for no-cost extensions to awards and requests for virement of funding between cost headings sympathetically. These should be requested in the usual way.

If you have been unable to recover costs from a travel operator or insurance, costs can be charged to grants. Grants often end with an underspend and the British Academy expects award holders to be able to absorb these costs through this and other re-arrangements in their budgets.

Full statement: https://www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk/news/coronavirus-covid-19

European Commission

General guidance

While we are currently awaiting clarification from the Commission on the general situation in relation to research and innovation funding, any projects which have been affected by COVID-19 containment measures should refer firstly to Article 51 of the Annotated Model Grant Agreement covering force majeure, which stipulates that beneficiaries should contact the Commission, or relevant executive agency, to discuss issues that may affect the implementation of projects. We expect further guidance to be made available on the Funding and Tenders Portal shortly. It is also worth noting that the staff of the Commission Services and Agencies are now working remotely and that there is a specific warning on the Funding and Tenders Portal that, due to this non-standard way of working, delayed responses are expected for queries submitted to the IT helpdesk.

Call deadlines

So far, call deadlines have been extended for both Societal Challenge 6 (now 19 March 2020) and Research Infrastructures (now 14 May 2020) calls. Applicants intending to submit to calls on the Funding and Tenders portal should check the ‘Topic updates’ section of their specific topic to see if their deadlines have been extended. Further information on possible changes to Horizon 2020 call deadlines is expected to be available on the Funding and Tenders Portal shortly.

European Research Council

The ERC have posted a statement on their website stating that they are doing their upmost to remain fully operational during this period, that grant management activities continue as normal (although technical issues may slow some processes down) and that panel evaluations are currently being organised remotely. They do not currently anticipate any delays to evaluations or application deadlines.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions

The Research Executive Agency (REA) have released a statement advising grantees and fellows to follow the travel advice provided by national authorities and to cancel or postpone all non-essential travel where possible. REA will adopt a flexible approach towards projects that fail to meet grant agreement obligations due to the COVID-19 containment measures, and may apply the rules on force majeure, or extend the duration of projects. Projects will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and grantees and fellows should speak to their project officer if they require support.

Erasmus+

The Commission has released a statement explaining that it will apply maximum flexibility in the implementation of the programme, within the limits of the applicable legal framework. To deal with participants being unable to travel, or return home, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Erasmus+ National Agencies are now permitted to invoke force majeure clauses whereby they may accept additional costs up to a maximum grant amount. Planned activities may also be postponed by up to 12 months per project. Following the Commission’s statement, the UK National Agency has published dedicated travel advice for regions affected by the  COVID-19 outbreak.

Furthermore, the UK government has issued its own advice for UK education providers regarding staff and student overseas travel and project participants are advised to speak to their providers about arrangements. Participants under 18 are advised against all overseas education trips, while those over 18 who are due to travel should consult their education institutions on whether the travel should continue as planned. For any UK participants already overseas, they should continue to monitor the latest FCO travel advice and comply with any COVID-19 control measures put in place in their current host nation.

Creative Europe

The Commission has released a statement saying that it understands that containment measures may have consequences for Creative Europe projects, and are adopting a position of maximum flexibility in regards to implementing the programme, while still working within the applicable legal framework. They are also in close communication with the national Creative Europe desks.

COST Actions

The COST Association has recommended that, from 13 March 2020 to 3 April 2020 (minimum), all physical meetings, training schools and short-term scientific missions be suspended or cancelled. They encourage participants to explore video conferencing and remote networking tools as an alternative. Any participants currently attending COST events should follow the instructions of the host country and host institution.

Interreg

This is the guidance on Channel projects: https://www.channelmanche.com/en/news-and-media/latest-news/coronavirus/

and 2 Seas: https://www.interreg2seas.eu/en/news/covid-19-epidemic-guidance-project-partners

and NWE: https://www.nweurope.eu/news-events/latest-news/covid-19-implications-for-the-nwe-programme/

1)      Assess the situation based on the recommendation from the World Health OrganisationEuropean Commission, embassies, national health organisations and partner organisations.

2)      Cancel meetings or avoid travelling if one or more of the following cases occur:

  • There is an official travel ban or travel warning / restriction for the region where the event/meeting takes place and/or where your participants are coming from
  • Your organisation has a formal written policy that restricts travels and/or attendance to meetings
  • For other justified medical conditions (e.g. personal medical certificate recommending a restriction of travelling).
  • Currently the public health advice in France is to delay travel abroad and therefore we will agree to the eligibility of non-refundable expenditure incurred for travels or meetings that have been cancelled, provided the link to the coronavirus outbreak is evidenced.
  • For same Country travel, a cancellation as a result of Force Majeure is acceptable as long as any claim is supported by an explanation, either of specific health risks to the individual or a corporate position on travel or home working.
    Cancellation of domestic travel in France will fall under the case of Force Majeure from 13/3/2020.
    Cancellation of domestic travel in the UK will fall under the case of Force Majeure from today onwards (17/3/2020).

3)      Apply preventive measures as suggested by the WHO and similar organisations and discuss them with the venue (eg to make hand sanitisers available at meeting rooms and to carry out a careful daily alcohol-based disinfection).

4)      Consider buying flexible tickets / contract suppliers with flexible conditions (eg for venues, hotels, etc), provided this is in line with your organisation’s internal rules

Should the event have to be cancelled, postponed or if partners/stakeholders could not attend for the reasons as mentioned above, we recommend that you:

  • Consider with those involved whether a videoconference is a suitable alternative, to minimise the impact on the workplan
  • Seek reimbursement for eligible costs (eg for venue, catering, travel tickets) within the rules of the Programme and of your organisation
  • For any ineligible costs: the view of the Joint Secretariat is that in the case of any circumstance listed under point 2, ineligible costs should be deemed as eligible, provided that the necessary documentation is submitted, alongside the justification, which should also be demonstrated (for example by screenshots of guidance about coronavirus from the authorities/organisation).

If you have further questions, please get in touch with your contact at the JS.

Leverhulme Trust

If you have paid costs for an event, fieldwork or travel which has been cancelled, and these costs cannot be reimbursed or claimed for under insurance, you can claim these against your grant.

If you will need to rebook an event, fieldwork or travel at a later date, then these costs can be charged to your grant. In the first instance the Trust would expect these costs to be managed within the existing budget.

They will generally allow requests to extend your grant if you don’t need additional costs.

You can also opt to delay the start of a new award or suspend a current award, if this would be a better option to manage your research.

They do however, require you to email and request any of the changes: grants@leverhulme.ac.uk

If there is the potential for research to be lost or severely compromised, then an application for a costed extension may be considered. You should approach the Trust only when you are in a position to be clear about the length of an extension and the cost involved. They will then advise you of the process to follow. Applications will be considered on a case by case basis.

Full statement: https://www.leverhulme.ac.uk/news/covid-19-and-industrial-action

 

NIHR

Until further notice, the NIHR Clinical Research Network is pausing the site set up of any new or ongoing studies at NHS and social care sites that are not nationally prioritised COVID-19 studies. This will enable the research workforce to focus on delivering the nationally prioritised COVID-19 studies or enabling redeployment to frontline care where necessary. These studies are enabling the clinical and epidemiological evidence to be gathered to inform national policy and will enable new treatments, diagnostics and vaccines to be developed and tested. The complete focus of the NIHR Clinical Research Network will be on delivering these highest priority COVID-19 studies.

During this time, the MHRA and HRA will continue to provide an approvals service for all studies, prioritised in accordance with the national situation, ensuring site set-up can restart promptly in due course.

Clinical and academic health and care professionals currently funded by NIHR who are working on topics other than COVID-19 should prioritise frontline care, where requested to do so by their employing organisations. Similarly, research staff with other relevant skills, such as pharmacists and laboratory technicians, should also prioritise support to frontline care. In addition, researchers should consult with their employers to make facilities which currently support research studies available for frontline care.

This will mean that many research studies funded by NIHR, or supported by NIHR (via the Clinical Research Network and other NIHR infrastructure) may need to be paused, to free up NIHR-funded staff to help bolster the frontline response to COVID-19. In addition, NIHR recognises that award-holding organisations may need to pause research studies for locally determined public health reasons.

However, clinical trials or other research studies which are funded or supported by NIHR should continue if discontinuing them will have significant detrimental effects on the ongoing care of individual participants involved in those studies. These are clinical decisions which will need to be made on a case-by-case basis by local decision makers on the basis of local risk and capacity assessments.

All organisations holding NIHR awards that are paused will, in the short term, continue to receive payments from DHSC in line with existing NIHR contractual payment schedules. This will be reviewed and, if necessary, payment schedules will be updated as usual following the annual statement of expenditure. Where necessary, contract deliverables will be rescheduled, allowing staff to concentrate on frontline care and COVID-19 research.

Full statement: https://www.nihr.ac.uk/news/dhsc-issues-guidance-on-the-impact-on-covid-19-on-research-funded-or-supported-by-nihr/24469

Q&A: https://www.nihr.ac.uk/documents/qanda-on-the-impact-of-covid-19-on-research-funded-or-supported-by-nihr/24467

Further information: https://www.nihr.ac.uk/covid-19/

 

Royal Society

The Royal Society’s offices will be closed from 5pm on Wednesday 18 March and all staff will be working remotely. Grants teams will still be contactable via grants@royalsociety.org or +44 (0)20 4751 2666.

Applications

All funding programmes and calls currently remain open for applications in line with advertised dates. The Royal Society will endeavour not to make any changes to application deadlines, interview dates or decision dates.

Some grant committee and panel meetings will take place remotely and they will be in contact with any affected applicants.

If an applicant’s institution is closed and unable to approve and submit an application, the Royal Society can do this on their behalf, with agreement from the institution.

Awards

To minimise the impact of the global health situation on award holders, the Royal Society will provide as pragmatic support as possible, recognising the impact of the coronavirus on research is significant and evolving.

The Society is working with award holders and their organisations as well as the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to ensure that fair and appropriate support is in place.

They will be aiming to minimise the impact of the coronavirus on funded activities as far as possible.

Full statement: https://royalsociety.org/grants-schemes-awards/grants/coronavirus-covid19-grants-information/

UKRI

UKRI’s office-based staff are being advised to work from home where possible. If you need to contact a member of its teams please do so via email and/or mobile phones in the usual way. If you were due to visit one of UKRI’s office locations, institutes/research establishments or Catapult for a pre-arranged meeting, please contact the relevant team before setting off.

UKRI has contingency plans in place to prioritise its core operations but there will inevitably be some disruption.

UKRI is working to understand the nature of any impacts on its funded projects to ensure the appropriate support or advice is in place via its Councils and grants teams. This work is ongoing.

UKRI is taking a very pragmatic approach. For instance, where travel is impacted, if researchers or students cannot travel due to government/official advice, or it poses a risk to the individual (due to an underlying medical condition etc), this can be charged to the grant in line with any other cost. If that cost cannot be absorbed by any overall underspend on the grant then UKRI will cover that small addition. In the same circumstances, no cost extension requests to grants would be allowed.

Full statement: https://www.ukri.org/news/coronavirus-impact-on-ukri-supported-research/

UKRI have launched a single web portal for streamlined shorter grant and innovation applications, including guidance for researchers currently holding UKRI standard grants that wish to repurpose their funds for COVID-19. Details can be found here: https://www.ukri.org/research/coronavirus/

 

Wellcome Trust

Application deadlines – Submission deadlines are extened by one week for any schemes with a deadline up to the end of April 2020. There will be no further extensions to schemes within a deadline within that date.

No-cost extensions – 6 month extensions for ALL grants ending in 2020 and 2021 (longer in certain circumstances). Process to be confirmed.

(Projects with end dates in 2022 and beyond need to apply as normal and demonstrate significant disruption to work that has not been able to be corrected for.)

Studentships – Those finishing in 2020 will be granted an additional 6 months to complete. 2021 finishers will be granted an additional 3 months,

Supplements to grants – Sick pay will be reimbursed to the institution for all Wellcome-funded staff affected by Covid-19.

ALSO

For grants ending in 2020 – 6 months extra money to pay for salaries/stipends

For those ending 2021 – 3 months extra money to pay for salaries/stipends

For those ending 2022 – expected to manage existing funds

Wellcome will be contacting eligible grant holders.

 

Grant management during lock-down

  • All grant holders must continue to pay the salaries and stipends of all Wellcome PhD studentships, fellows and staff employed on their grants (i.e. no furloughing).
  • Costs paid for cancelled travel or events – if these costs cannot be reimbursed or claimed for under insurance, you can claim these against your grant.
  • Costs to help people work from home – Wellcome will not provide additional funding for laptops or video conferencing activity, but you can use your existing grant funds to cover these costs. if you want to do this, the usual policy on transferring costs between budget headings applies.

https://wellcome.ac.uk/grant-funding/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-grant-applicants-and-grantholders