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Research Operations Office

 

Research Office Update 26th March 2020

The Research Office aims to continue to support academic and departmental colleagues as effectively as is possible given the challenging and changing circumstances. Our offices at Greenwich House, the Old Schools, Mill Lane and the Biomedical Campus are now closed and all Research Office staff are working remotely. Our staff have access to email, MS Teams, University Systems and we have daily virtual meetings within our teams. However, given that some of our processes are largely paper based, and we cannot access physical files, it will not be possible to provide normal levels of support. We are also managing staff absences and in order to maintain a level of service across all Schools we may need to prioritize support across the team and this in turn may affect service levels.

The Research Office will be prioritising all activity relating to COVID-19. Furthermore, to ensure that we can prioritise other work across the office we are implementing the following changes to our procedures until further notice:

Applications

  • As an interim measure, Departments must notify the Research Office by 5pm on 1st April of your intention to submit any grant applications in the period 1st April to 27th April. The Office will assess the volume/demand of applications and will confirm if the Office has the capacity to manage the work necessary to submit these applications by the funder deadline.

Effective from Monday 27th April

  • Departments are required to give the Research Office a minimum of 4 weeks’ notice of their intention to submit to a particular scheme. The only exception will be where the funder call provides less than 4 weeks’ notice in which case the Department must inform the Research Office as soon as possible.
  • The Research Office will then liaise with the Department to assess whether adequate resources to support the application are in place.
  • Departments must send the Research Office the full proposal no less than 7 working days in advance of the funder deadline.
  • Small applications: Departments to send the Research Office the full proposal no less than 2 working days in advance of the funder deadline.
  • In exceptional cases, any Head of Department can request dispensation for submission of a late application from the relevant Assistant Director or Head of Research Operations. The Research Office will only consider any such cases that are received a minimum of two working days before the funder deadline. The Research Office cannot guarantee submission of any such late applications. Please consider carefully the use of Head of Department approvals, as an increased reliance on them could have severe financial implications for the Department in the future.

Action for Departments

  • Heads of Departments are asked to provide the Research Office (via CROCompliance@admin.cam.ac.uk) with details of their authorised deputies.
  • Departmental Administrators are asked to provide the Research Office (via CROCompliance@admin.cam.ac.uk) with details of their delegated authorities and any temporary signing limits they may have.
  • Where necessary, Heads of Department and Departmental Administrators will be asked to prioritise their grants to assist us to manage work in progress.

Restricted Calls & PVC Support Letters

  • Currently it may be difficult for the University to operate an effective selection process and therefore the number of restricted calls that the University can respond to will be limited. Further details of the supported restricted calls will be issued through the standard restricted calls communication channel once this has been agreed by the PVC-Research.
  • With effect from 1st April 2020, until further notice, all requests for VC / PVC Research support letters must be submitted to the Research Strategy Office 4 weeks before submission deadline.

Managing an Award

  • Award Management e.g. activating grants, raising invoices, making budgetary amendments will continue as far as is possible for the time being.
  • Final Expenditure Statements – when required, the Research Office will request an extension. If this is not possible, the submitted FES will claim all current expenditure on CUFS.

Contracts

  • The Research Office will progress current contract negotiations, where possible. Negotiation with external partners is also likely to be affected by the current situation and delays can be expected.
  • Signing documents - the University will use Docusign where possible. Alternatives methods of signing, including a very limited facility of wet signature, will be explored although this facility is expected to become unavailable as further shutdowns are mandated.

Staffing & Resources

These revised arrangements are contingent on appropriate staffing and resources being available in both the Research Office and the host Departments. Cross cover is in place across Research Office Teams, but this will mean that staff may be unfamiliar with funders' schemes.

Review and Planning Ahead

We will continue to assess our resources and systems availability and it may become necessary to make further changes in the coming weeks. We will keep an open dialogue with departments and update you with any further developments. As far as possible, the Research Office website will hold the latest information, including links to information from funders.

We will update you if there any changes. Thank you for your continued support.

 


Funder Guidance

The Research Office premises are closed and staff who are able to are working remotely, therefore the level of service that we can provide during this period will be significantly reduced. Research funders continue to update their guidance and advice for researchers, here are some of the major sponsors.

Alzheimer’s Research UK

BHF

British Academy

CRUK

Leverhulme Trust

NIH

NIHR

Royal Society

UKRI

Wellcome Trust

This is not an exhaustive list so please check with your own funder regarding their current position.  

European Funding and COVID-19 

Article 51 (Page 347) of the H2020 Model Grant Agreement (H2020 MGA) sets out the general framework and conditions in which the force majeure clause can be used. As a general rule under H2020, in case of force majeure, a party will be excused from not fulfilling its obligations (i.e. there will be no breach of obligations under the GA and none of the adverse measures for breach will be applied). Costs will be eligible, if they fulfil the general eligibility conditions like any other costs incurred under the action. The Research Office will monitor this as further guidance from the Commission emerges.
 

ERC

MSCA

Erasmus 

 

Further Guidance

We recommend the following approach:

  • Gather information – if the University is leading a research project, keep in regular contact with collaborators, sub-awardees and sub-contractors and ask them to alert you as soon as possible to any impacts of COVID-19 on their performance of the project.  This includes inability to perform, delay and additional expense.  The aim is to build a holistic picture of how the project is likely impacted so appropriate mitigation can be discussed.

  • Keep everyone informed – keep the sponsor or lead institution informed in writing about any impact of COVID-19 on the performance of the research project they are sponsoring or on your scope of work as appropriate. Check your contracts for details of the relevant contacts for notices and keep them in copy (unless they advise you otherwise).

  • Make contingency plans – think about workaround solutions to keep the impact of COVID-19 on your research project to a minimum (e.g. to what extent can technology and remote working be used to avoid travelling or the risk of interacting with someone who has travelled to an affected region).  Where appropriate agree mitigations with the other parties to your contract.

  • Contact ROO if you need a specific contract amendment – if your workaround solutions require a specific contract amendment (e.g. change in scope of work, extension of time or increase in financial contribution) please contact the Research Office with details of what you have agreed in principle and we will prepare a formal contract variation.

The Research Office is particularly busy at the moment with the challenges that COVID-19 is placing on our resources.  While our support of the University’s research community is ongoing, we want to work with you in managing your expectations and interactions with our office at this difficult time.