Impact of Coronavirus on UKRI-supported research

Please read carefully the ESRC guidance. Last updated on 23 March 2020.

The ongoing situation regarding coronavirus has significantly impacted the research and innovation community. The nature of these impacts will evolve and increase over the coming weeks and months.

UKRI Chief Executive Professor Sir Mark Walport said:  “During the coronavirus pandemic, UKRI has two priorities: the safety and wellbeing of our workforce and, as far as possible, the continuation of our business as a national funder of research and innovation.

“We will work with our communities, institutions and other funding organisations to understand and respond to the impacts of coronavirus, helping to develop the necessary support to mitigate these.

“This work has already begun and will continue in the coming weeks and months, and we will provide regular, updated information. Thank you in advance for working with us to support the research and innovation systems we are proud of and that have a key role to play in responding to the global pandemic.”

Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, Professor Sir Mark Walport, has written today (19 March) to Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, in response to the organisation’s letter to UKRI yesterday (18 March). To read the letter please click here (PDF, 32KB).

Information for institutions/grant holders/applicants

There will clearly be major impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on all existing awards from UKRI. We will work with the many institutions affected to understand the full extent of the issues and we will discuss these with the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy and other government departments.

We are planning that UKRI funding programmes will continue, but we will work to identify any impacts on specific calls or research disciplines.  Our funding systems – Je-S, IFS and _connect – are operating as normal.  We will review our call deadlines and, if required, extend or reopen calls in light of the impact of coronavirus. This will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the appropriate Council or fund. We will continue to receive and decide quickly on grants relevant to the management and follow-up of the coronavirus pandemic.

‘No-cost’ extension requests to grants impacted by coronavirus will be allowed.

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The REF team has written to heads of institutions to outline the UK higher education funding bodies’ current position in relation to contingency planning for coronavirus for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021.

Training Grants/Students

We recognise that students may find themselves unable to complete essential tasks and/or experiments in order to be ready to submit their thesis, for example due to departmental or institution closures. To avoid unnecessary pressure on students, extensions to submission dates should be awarded.

We recognise that extensions to submission dates due to COVID-19 will be reflected in Research Organisations future submission data. Student health and wellbeing should be the priority during this unprecedented and uncertain time and no penalties will be applied to Research Organisations as a result of COVID-19 extensions.

UKRI Training Grants Specific Guidance

UKRI is taking a pragmatic approach to supporting students during this time and below we cover what we expect will be the most common impacts on students.

Self-isolation

  • Where a student is ill, you should follow the standard T&Cs. For the purposes of the T&Cs, UKRI will accept any revised Government guidance regarding medical certification
  • Where students are not ill, but self-isolating, you should not suspend their studentship.
  • In many cases students will be able to work from home even if the activities undertaken change. For short periods of self-isolation, even if they cannot work, many students will have sufficient time left that they can make this up over the remainder of their doctorate. In these cases, extensions to funded periods should not be applied.
  • Where self-isolating undermines a student’s ability to finish their doctorate within the funded period, an extension should be considered. In keeping with UKRI T&Cs, we would expect these to be costed extensions, funded in the first instance from any underspend on the grant. Where there is no underspend, UKRI will reconcile this at the FES stage and increase grant cash limits appropriately. Examples (not exhaustive) of when an extension may need to be applied include:
  • A significant period of self-isolation (we do not define significant as this is likely to be proportional to the time left in the funded period)
  • Postponement of critical activities where alternatives are not available. Examples could include:  experiments due to take place at a national/international facility which will delay the research for a significant amount of time; access to critical archives being unavailable for a significant period

Events/activities

  • In some cases, an activity (such as a conference or training course) due to be attended before the training grant end date will be postponed until after the grant end date. Providing the student can/wants to attend the new date please request a grant extension in the usual way. We will apply a no-cost extension to the grant to allow them to attend. To confirm (recognising it is most likely to be outside the student’s funded period as well), as an exception we will allow the cost of attending this activity to be drawn from the grant even though it is beyond the student’s funded period.
  • In some cases, the individual student’s funded period will be breached by a postponement, but not the training grant end date. In these cases, UKRI will not apply a grant extension as this is unnecessary. However, we will allow the cost of attending this activity to be drawn from the grant even though it is beyond the student’s funded period. We will not cover any other costs outside the funding period as per our usual T&Cs.

We realise that the situation is fast moving and that this guidance may need to be updated as the situation develops.

Travel

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.

UKRI offices

Following updated government advice, UKRI’s office based staff are being advised to work from home where possible. If you need to contact one of our teams please do so via email and/or mobile phones in the usual way. If you are due to visit one of our office locations, institutes/research establishments or Catapult for a pre-arranged meeting, please contact the relevant team before setting off. We have contingency plans in place to prioritise our core operations but there will inevitably be some disruption in the short-term as we adapt to the new working circumstances so, please bear with us.

General

UKRI is working to understand the nature of any impacts on our funded projects as the situation evolves.  This work is ongoing. Thank you to all those who have helped us identify potential issues so far.

Further information will still be provided through your established relationships, such as programme or grants teams, and we will provide further updates via our website.

Source ESRC website: https://www.ukri.org/news/coronavirus-impact-on-ukri-supported-research/