Tracking Effort During COVID-19: Information for Grant Managers

While the Grant Manager is generally not the individual with first-hand knowledge of work performed and should not be the person providing idle effort, they play a critical role in all three steps of the idle effort collection process.

Step 1: Collect effort information. The PI, or an individual with first-hand knowledge of project personnel, must provide effort information; however, the grant manager can offer guidance and advice in determining which effort should be designated as idle.

During the collection phase, grant managers have an important responsibility to engage with their PIs, initiating conversations to evaluate what, if anything, should be considered and reported as idle project effort.  For example:

  • How has the requirement to work remotely affected the individual’s ability to access materials and information necessary to complete their assigned responsibilities?
  • Is there a chance the project would need an extension for a progress report or other deadline?
  • Is there a percentage of work that has been reallocated to another project?
  • How are the collection documents telling the story of impacts to the project?
  • Is there effort information for every individual on every active project?

Step 2: Verify effort information. Once a PI has provided effort information, a Grant Manager should confirm that effort information:

  • Has been received for every individual on every active project
  • Was provided by someone with first-hand knowledge of work performed
  • No individual has more than 100% of their effort allocated

The grant manager should assist with verifying the reasonableness of the effort information provided. In doing so, Grant Managers should consider the context of the information provided and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Step 3: Enter effort information in iForms. Once the PI has provided the effort information and the Grant Manager has verified it, the next step is for the unit Grant Manager or Human Resources representative to enter the effort information into iForms using new pay GLs:

  • 604900 – COVID-19 Idle Effort EXEMPT Faculty/Staff. This is for effort for exempt personnel allocated without the ability to perform work.
  • 605900 – COVID-19 Idle Effort NON-EXEMPT Staff. Effort for non-exempt personnel allocated without the ability to perform work.

No effort should be cost-shared or written off. The effort should either be coded to the new payroll GLs or reallocated to the projects for which it was expended.

The information collected and recorded by the PI will then be verified by a Grant Manager and entered into iForms. 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 August
Idle effort provided by: May 15 June 26 July 24 August 10 September 9
iForms entered by: June iForms deadline July iForms deadline August iForms deadline Aug/Sept iForms deadlines September iForms deadline


Other Resources:


Should PIs limit the amount of “idle” time recorded on a project if the sponsor will not pay for the salaries associated with that lost productivity?

If a sponsor has indicated they will cover idle or inactive effort, the sponsor will be charged for this time. At this time, if a sponsor has either not indicated whether they will pay for the effort, or even if they have indicated they will not pay for the effort, projects should not cost share or write off the effort. Information recorded on iForms should be a true reflection of the idle or inactive time so that Duke is able to accurately report the impact of COVID-19 on its activities.

Should projects collect effort information on grants their departments do not own?

No. Grant Managers should ensure that effort for all staff on department-owned projects is collected. This means that faculty/staff working on projects owned by other departments will be collected elsewhere (in the owning department). It is important that departments coordinate with each other regarding effort of faculty with multiple appointments.

What does it mean to “verify” idle effort?

To verify idle effort information, Grant Managers should confirm that information has been received for all active individuals on all active projects from someone with first-hand knowledge (this is usually the PI) and that no one individual has more than 100% effort allocated (the sum of all idle and worked time).  Grant Managers should follow-up with the PI if there are any questions about the idle information received.