<< Back to Sponsored Research page


Archived Page
Last Updated: September 2, 2020


For the most up-to-date information and updates related to the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the Duke Coronvirus Response website.

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.

At that time, several federal sponsors (and some non-federal sponsors) issued guidance related to the allowability of project expenses while in a remote work status – particularly salaries when research productivity was impacted (or what we are terming here as “idle effort”). On June 18, federal sponsors released updated guidance which imposed two major limitations on universities who had been previously charging idle effort to federal awards:

  1. It must be consistent with institutional policies to fund all salaries from all fund sources and,
  2. The University must exhaust other available funding sources.

Given these imposed limitations, effective June 17, 2020, Duke will only apply charges for grant-related work to externally funded grants and contracts (federal and non-federal) when the work can be performed.

Projects are still required to track and report idle effort for compliance and auditing purposes, by reviewing and reporting personnel effort in myRESEARCHhome.

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.

Throughout these webpages, 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.

Additional resources:

  • The recording from Duke’s Office of Scientific Virtual Research Town Hall update on Change in Policy Regarding Funding Idle Effort on Sponsored Research, 8/3/2020.
  • 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 - AprilMayJuneJulyAugust
Idle effort provided by:May 15June 26July 24August 10September 9
iForms entered by:June iForms deadlineJuly iForms deadlineAugust iForms deadlineAug/Sept iForms deadlinesSeptember iForms deadline

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: mrh.duke.edu 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.

Related FAQs

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.

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.

Continue to manage as you have been since March – allocate idle effort to the appropriate sponsored project WBSE using the idle effort G/Ls.

On June 17th, the Office of Management and Budget reissued guidance related to charging idle time to Federal sponsors.

Please complete one iForm – the cost-share entry will take be based on the average for the month.

Idle effort is captured by PIs using MRH, and then recorded in iForms so that it posts to the general ledger.  The entry to cost share the idle effort will be completed by personnel from the Office of Post Award Administration executing a JV.

The department will need to cover the idle effort but will NOT serve as the general backstop code for the project as a whole. Once the backstop code is charged for the idle effort, transfers can be completed to re-allocate or transfer funds from other sources. The G/Ls that will reflect the charges are 808000 (Cost Share: Salary) and 808001 (Cost Share: F/B).

The annual effort reporting must be completed, so ensuring that any changes for effort through June 30, 2020 are completed by the August iForms deadline of August 13, 2020 will help in making sure the changes are posted in August and effort certification can take place after any revisions have posted.