Programmatic Impacts and Project Extensions

In general, we expect that the Office and Research Administration (ORA) and the Office of Research Support (ORS) will be able to submit proposals, negotiate and accept awards, and issue subcontracts/subawards even if staff are working remotely.  However, faculty who have upcoming application deadlines should be prepared for delayed responses from grant managers and central office staff that are working remotely and should adjust application preparation timelines accordingly.  Additionally, we have experienced technical issues that delay electronic submissions so faculty should be prepared to submit early to avoid missing a deadline. 

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Some research projects have a rigid timeline and we would have a scope of work timeline violation if we deviate from that. Therefore, there are concerns about a slow down, gap in activities, or if staff may need to work from home.

Clearly COVID-19 is an extraordinary circumstance. If the scope of work demands a precise schedule in order to make an experiment viable, then the investigator should recognize and document instances where that schedule was unable to be met and the data resulting from that experiment may not be able to be used (or can only be used with certain cautions). If it is not the case that such precision is required for scientific reliability, but rather needed for good business practices or to meet an agreed-upon sponsored project schedule, then it is anticipated that agencies will recognize the unique circumstance and be flexible if they can, including granting no-cost time extensions if needed beyond what the institution has authority to grant. If you are experiencing an issue on a contract, contact ORA for federal or foundation in SOM/SON, ORC for industry in SOM/SON, or ORS for Campus for assistance.

Should I notify my sponsor if certain project activities of a funded research project cannot be completed or have to be suspended as a result of COVID-19?

Yes.  Please follow the Sponsor Notification guidance located at https://research.duke.edu/notice-to-sponsors.   Examples of impact include: canceling a funded conference, inability to conduct fieldwork because of travel restrictions, inability to meet the scheduled deliverables or aims/goals/SOW, absence of PI or key person for more than 90 days.

Will agencies consider longer no cost time extensions if needed to finish a project after disruption?

Researchers should document the actual impact of COVID-19 on the progress of their grants to provide details for any future no-cost time extension request. For most federal research grants, Duke has the authority to grant a first no-cost time extension up to 12 months in duration.

Our federal sponsors have released the following guidance related to No Cost Extensions:

  • NIH: Considering on a case-by-case basis, as NIH has provided flexibility for projects to extend their final budget period by up to 12 months. Additionally, NIH will allow projects to receive a second No Cost Extension if related to COVID-19 issues.
     
  • NSF: Projects are instructed to follow standard procedures for No Cost Extensions.
     
  • DOD: No Cost Extensions must be supported in all possible cases. However, projects should keep in mind that funding expiration statutes may prohibit extensions. Contact the grants manager for award-specific guidance.

I have a financial or progress report due and I may be delayed in my submission. Are agencies providing any deadline extensions?

Most of our federal sponsors have released guidance that will allow for delayed submission of progress reports; however, they also caution that a delay in progress report submission may lead to a corresponding delay in the release of award funding. See below for agency-specific guidance:

  • NIH: The NIH may allow for delayed progress report submission, provided the project notifies the grants management specialist of the late submission.
     
  • NSF: For projects with progress reports due between March 1 and May 30, 2020 the NSF is automatically granting a 30-day extension.
     
  • DOD: The DOD is granting projects with financial, performance or other reports a three-month extension. 
     

How will a pause in my research impact my grant expenditures?

Generally, there should not be significant impact to your grant expenditures. All other project-related activities that are not affected by a pause can continue as normal. Additionally, there should not be a significant disengagement of the PI or other key personnel from affected projects.  If you feel that this will not be the case in your project, please contact ORA (Medicine/Nursing) or ORS (Campus).  If the award is ending within the next 30-90 days (on or before June 30, 2020), you should coordinate any grant expenditures with your grant manager to ensure expenditures are appropriate/allowable on the grant and reconcile any issues prior to close-out.