Tracking Effort During COVID-19

On March 17, 2020, Duke University issued directives that limited access to laboratory research activities in Duke-owned and Duke–leased facilities to only those activities essential to preserving the future viability of research.

Several federal sponsors (and some non-federal sponsors) have issued guidance related to allowability of project expenses while in a remote work status – particularly salaries when research productivity is impacted.  The guidance includes a requirement for grant-by-grant reporting of effort impacted by COVID-19 (or what we are terming here as “idle effort”). 

The term “idle effort” is used not to suggest that project staff are unproductive or not working at all, but to describe project activities that cannot be carried out because access to needed facilities and resources is limited.

The information included on these webpages is intended to assist Principal Investigators (PIs) and grant managers in identifying, verifying and reporting the effects of COVID-19 on planned and committed effort on sponsored projects at Duke University.

For information specific to the Principal Investigator’s role, click here.

For information specific to the Grant Manager’s role, click here.

Note: Idle effort information should be provided contemporaneously, so projects should follow the below timeline for collecting and entering idle effort information to University systems.

  March - April May June July
Idle effort provided by: May 15 June 26 July 24 August 10
iForms entered by: June iForms deadline July iForms deadline August iForms deadline Aug/Sept iForms deadlines


If you have a project-specific or a unique situation that you need help with, contact your unit grant manager or submit your question via the Ask a Question feature in the Research Help widget in myRESEARCHhome.  You can access myRESEARCHhome by visiting: and logging in using your Duke NetID credentials.  Questions are monitored closely and one of the myRESEARCHnavigators will be in touch with answers to your questions.



What is effort impacted by COVID-19?

Effort allocated on a project that cannot be conducted remotely.  Idle effort is that portion of effort previously allocated (on or after March 17) to a project, where at least one of two conditions exist: an individual is not able to work at full capacity and/or there is a material impact on the project’s ability to meet scheduled milestones or deliverables.

How should projects track effort during COVID-19 (including idle project effort)?

Effort tracking during COVID-19 is a three-step process that requires researchers and grant managers to collaborate and communicate to ensure accurate and sufficient documentation for each individual’s effort distribution on every award within the PIs portfolio.

Step 1: Collect effort information. An individual (usually the PI, but may also be a lab manager) with first-hand knowledge of project personnel and their ability to complete responsibilities remotely will collect and record individual effort distributions.  *Note, only the PI can record information if using the myRESEARCHhome tool.

Step 2: Verify the effort information. The Grant Manager should confirm that effort information has been received for every individual on every active project, that the information came from an individual with first-hand knowledge, and that no individual has more than 100% of their effort allocated to projects. This may need to be done in collaboration with Grant Managers in other departments.

Step 3: Enter the effort information in iForms. The iForm is intended to appropriately allocate idle effort as a result of COVID-19. Idle effort should be booked using separate payroll G/Ls 604900 or 605900.

Collecting idle effort information contemporaneously provides documentation necessary to:

  1. Validate programmatic delays described in progress reports
  2. Support requests for supplemental funding (if needed)
  3. Substantiate a justification for a future no cost extension request
  4. Confirm effort details when effort is certified later this year

All of these elements together must be in alignment with idle effort that is reported today in case of audit or if the sponsor requests idle effort information for your project.

Effort information for March and April should be provided and entered into iForms by the June iForms deadline.