CSO Statement: CSO granted funded projects paused due to COVID-19

CSO Statement: CSO granted funded projects paused due to COVID-19

Approach to CSO response mode grant projects affected by COVID-19

On 19 March 2020, CSO issued a statement in relation to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on research that stated: “CSO will continue to honour CSO research grant or fellowship awards that are paused. Principal investigators should work with their grant holding institutions to consider and make adjustments to research plans and payment profiles as appropriate. These should then be discussed and agreed with the relevant CSO research manager. Since this is an evolving situation, arrangements should be kept under review.”

Following further careful consideration, CSO is introducing the following arrangements for projects paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This approach recognises that projects may be affected differently and will be at different stages of progress, and is being implemented to support the research teams working on CSO grant funded projects.

To support implementation of these arrangements, projects have been categorised in four broad groups:
(i) awarded but not yet set up (i.e. no staff yet employed on the project);
(ii) set up with experimental / fieldwork underway;
(iii) nearing completion of experimental / field work;
(iv) analysis and write up with all experimental / field work completed.

It is expected that where projects can continue to be progressed safely in a manner in line with Scottish Government COVID-19 guidance, and with the agreement of the grantholding institution, these should proceed and will continue to be funded as planned. However, where projects are on hold because of COVID-19-related restrictions and/or because key members of the research team are supporting the NHS response, the following principles will be applied by CSO depending on the stage of the project:

(i) For grants awarded but not yet set up (i.e. no staff have yet been employed to work on the project), grant payments will be paused and payments re-profiled when the project recommences with an appropriate no cost time extension given to allow the project to complete successfully.

(ii) For projects underway, funding will continue in order to cover the salaries of staff employed on the grant (i.e. the directly incurred staff costs) and the salaried time of staff allocated to the project (i.e. the directly allocated staff costs). This funding will be at the level stated in table 2 in section 14 (Financial Support) of the response mode grant application form that was submitted for the relevant project. However, should research staff shift to work on other separately funded research projects, costs should be covered by the funding for these other projects. Where clinical academic staff have been redeployed to the NHS, the NHS should cover the appropriate salary costs in these instances. Unless working on separately funded research projects, research staff employed on paused CSO grant projects should conduct alternative research activities wherever possible, safe and practical to do so and in line with Scottish Government COVID-19 guidance. This will also require agreement from their institution and supervision from the Principal Investigator. These activities should ideally be aligned as closely as possible to the CSO grant project (e.g. systematic literature reviews, secondary data gathering, evidence syntheses, report writing etc). Costed extensions will be provided when projects resume in order to cover the grant funds expended while they were on hold. It is expected that consumables and equipment costs will be minimal on paused projects but there may be exceptions.

(iii) For projects nearing completion of field/experimental work, an assessment should be made by the Principal Investigator about whether the data collected are sufficient to satisfy the aims of the project. If that is the case, then these projects should move to the analysis and write up stage with the approach set out in (iv) followed. Otherwise the approach described in (ii) above will be followed.

(iv) Projects at the analysis and write up stage with all or sufficient field/experimental work completed should continue to completion if possible with funding continued as planned unless critically dependent on clinical academic members of the team who have been redeployed in the NHS. In these circumstances, projects should be paused and then re-profiled when the project resumes and an appropriate no cost or costed extension provided to allow the project to complete successfully.

These arrangements will cover the period from beginning of lockdown (23 March 2020) to 30 September 2020 but will be kept under review by CSO given the evolving COVID-19 situation.

Research and Finance Offices of the grantholding institutions are expected to continue to ensure rigorous accounting of costs as CSO expects subsequent no cost or costed extensions to be fully justified by the Principal Investigator and grantholding institution. For those projects in stages (ii) to (iv), payment schedules will continue as currently profiled with funding expected to be re-profiled later at the time of a request for a no cost or costed extension, where applicable. Research and Finance Offices of grantholding institutions are also expected to avoid double funding with any furlough arrangements that institutions may have put in place for staff whose salary is wholly or in part funded through CSO grants. Furthermore, they should also note that the CSO standard terms and conditions of grant remain in place, including those set out in section 3 on the responsibilities of the grantholder with respect to staff.

Restart of paused projects at the earliest time is encouraged provided it is safe and practical to do so, in line with Scottish Government guidance on COVID-19, and has institutional agreement (with the decision residing with the grantholding institution). CSO has issued a statement on a framework for restarting research activities paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance in this statement should be followed.

Principal investigators are asked to review the details set out above and the statement on the framework for restarting research activities, liaise with the Research and Finance Office in their institution, and then agree arrangements with the relevant CSO research manager. The arrangements proposed could include adjustments to the research project as a result of circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic that may have altered the nature of the research or research questions. However, any suggested changes should be within the financial envelope of the original grant award.

CSO has been in touch with all current CSO Fellows. Any further enquiries about CSO Fellowship schemes should be directed to Julie Simpson