SEE ADDITIONAL GUIDANCE AT “FAQS FOR RF FIELD STAFF AND PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS AS OF 03/31/2020"

Please note that the FAQs provided below are based on guidance already provided by NSF and NIH, agencies which have gotten out ahead of all other Federal sponsors in providing guidance.

The Research Foundation is reviewing questions relating to the allowability of costs associated with disruptions to sponsored projects stemming from the Coronavirus outbreak. Please continue to send questions to the Research Foundation and we will coordinate with all relevant offices. Allowable costs require consistent treatment across funding sources. Federal funding agencies are working on a unified message. Once it is published, we will post it on our website.

We urge all principal investigators to coordinate with their Grants Officers and their Provosts to establish a research continuity plan for their project/s.

1. I have a question related to COVID-19's potential impact on my research project, project-related travel, or field work. Where are some of the places I can find helpful information?

2. Will my sponsor provide for an extension to my award if the planned activities are disrupted by the COVID-19 public health threat?

Any actions taken on your award will require approval by the program officer for your award.  See the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG), Chapter VI.D.4 for additional informationMost Federal awards are eligible for one-year grantee-approved no-cost extensions and then further extensions as approved by the sponsor. If you foresee a need for an approved extension, it is our understanding that Federal sponsors are already approving such no-cost extensions.

3. If CUNY or a campus were to shut down – how does that impact RFCUNY employees and/or Graduate Students employed on Federal Grants?

Principal investigators should work with funding agencies to determine how grant-funded employees will be paid during this public-health crisis. We urge you to contact your program officer to request further guidance and/or needed approvals. This is the responsibility of each principal investigator.

Please note that the closure of a college does not necessarily mean that all sponsored activity comes to an end.  Federal agencies have been very helpful in giving flexibility to principal investigators during previous crises. Principal investigators can suggest postponing activities until the crisis and request a no-cost extension to make up for the hiatus of research activity caused by the coronavirus crisis.

Further, we strongly encourage that you consider working remotely. We provide below a checklist for remote work and provide a key considerations checklist below.  You can also refer to RFCUNY’s Remote Work Guidelines.

  • Priorities & Essential Work

Evaluate department/team priorities, considering customer/collaborator impact and feasibility of completing some or all of it remotely (with or without adjustments).

  • Ownership of Remote Work Plan

Managers and supervisors, in partnership with their college/unit leadership and HR, are responsible for the remote work plan for each department/team.

  • Timing

The university or the Research Foundation will announce status changes, though departments and individuals may opt to leverage remote work sooner.

  • Remote Work Scope & Candidates

Determine who, based on job responsibilities, is able to work remotely. Can positions that do not traditionally lend themselves to remote work be temporarily modified to allow for its use (by focusing on other work elements such as online training, documentation, etc.)? We encourage supervisors to afford maximum flexibility during this time to help minimize the spread of the illness.

  • Technology/Internet Connectivity

​​Identify who has a project-issued laptop. For employees who do not, find out if a back-up laptop is available. If their only option is to use a personally-owned computer, laptop, or other device, they are still responsible for following all university practices and policies to maintain security on their device. Verify internet connectivity at home - does the employee have wifi or ethernet? 

  • Contact Information

To the extent possible, compile cell phone and/or home phone numbers for all employees you supervise. Discuss how and with whom this information will be shared. 

  • Schedule

Determine how schedules and availability will be known and communicated to colleagues, customers, and others.

  • Meetings

Determine what tools you will use will you hold meetings virtually. Identify which upcoming meetings can/should be rescheduled if necessary. Practice holding meetings remotely before increasing remote work use.

  • Collaboration/Communication

Determine what the preferred group communication and collaboration tools will be and ensure all team members have access. Determine how frequently you as a supervisor/manager will connect with your team members.

  • Time & Performance

Discuss with employees how time and performance will be managed. Once remote work begins, in general, focus on the output and the completion of deliverables when evaluating performance. Review RFCUNY’s Remote Work Guidelines for field employees and discuss with employees relevant to their particular situation. 

We also understand that there may be instances where remote work is not feasible and must be conducted in a lab setting.  We recommend that researchers with active labs:

  • compile an inventory of sensitive research requiring continued support during any disruption
  • prepare a plan to provide support with limited staff and other resources
  • review plans for the continued care of research specimens

4. I have a Federal travel award, but the meeting has been canceled. Whom do I contact regarding the impact to the award?

You should contact the program officer for your award about this situation.  In view of the public health threat, you may wish to consider alternate plans, such as providing or using options for virtual participation. In addition, most program officers will be open to rescheduling the conference or using the funds for a future meeting that is consistent with the original scope and objectives of the award.

5. A conference has been canceled, but I have nonrefundable travel and/or hotel costs. Can these be charged to the Conference or Travel grant?

Federal agencies have not yet provided any guidance on this. We suggest that you send an email to your program officer requesting clarification on reimbursement. Agencies are working on this guidance and on several proposal and award-related issues pertaining to COVID-19. We will communicate with you as soon as further information becomes available. In the meantime, please continue to follow all relevant current policies and procedures.

6. I am involved with a Conference or Travel award for a meeting that is taking place in the coming weeks. Should I continue with plans for the meeting?

We recommend that you first reach out to the conference organizer or host to see whether the conference will be held. They may recommend having contingency plans if the event is ultimately cancelled or re-located, or might be planning to provide options for virtual participation. If you are the organizer, you may wish to consider developing contingency plans. If the conference involves foreign travel, we also suggest checking the State Department Travel Advisories website and the Centers for Disease Control.

7. My NSF grant involves an exchange of researchers (including students) and/or other foreign travel. Should I continue with plans?

Please contact the program officer for your grant. Sponsors understand that original proposal plans might be disrupted to the point of needing extensions on original award durations.

8. If I am quarantined/isolated for a period of time and have to deliver regular reports on my grant to my sponsor by a deadline but some essential materials I need are in my office and my building has been closed, how can I request an extension to the deadline?

Researchers or sponsored projects office staff from organizations that have been directly affected and are unable to meet stated NSF deadlines should contact the sponsor program officer to discuss the issue. Generally, Federal agencies will consider extensions to the submission deadline on a case-by-case basis (and, in a few cases, on a program-by-program basis).

9. I am a principal investigator on a Federal grant with the participation of faculty and students. If a student or a faculty member who appears sick, can I ask them to return home?

See RF Guidance for Field Staff 

10. I am considering replacing face-to-face interaction with the use of virtual technology.  Beyond simple videoconferencing, I would like to use augmented reality or other technology to make the interactions more effective.  May I submit a supplemental funding request to purchase and distribute the necessary equipment and/or contract with a service provider?

Yes, if supplements are recommended by sponsors, then by all means request a supplement. However, keep in mind that some grants allow institutions to reprogram costs up to a certain percentage of the total award amount. If your grant or your sponsor provide you with this authority, and it is within the allowable cost limit, then the answer is yes you can reprogram and charge costs related to telework on your grant, assuming that you are converting a specific in-person activity (e.g. conferences, steering committee meetings, training, etc.) to a remote or virtual setting. If your grant or your sponsor does not provide you with that authority (or has not implemented special COVID-19 flexibilities related to telework) and you need to work remotely or virtually then please consult with your department or school to identify whether computing resources are available. Keep in mind that these costs might require sponsor approval so it is important to obtain sponsor approval and to keep separate track of all COVID-19 related costs. If you need additional guidance please contact your RF program administrator.

11. I have agreed to travel to a Federal sponsor to participate in a merit review panel. I am not sure I want to go now that public health alerts have been issued. What should I do?

Contact your Federal program officer as soon as possible.

12. I understand that NSF and NIH are providing grants to researchers interested in submitting a COVID-19 related proposal? Is there a deadline by which I must make this contact?
NSF and NIH have issued announcements for these grants. All questions about these programs should be directed either to a program officer managing an NSF programs with which the research would be aligned or to rapid-covid19@nsf.gov. Guidance for NIH funding for research on the Coronavirus can be found at NIAID’s Multi-Pronged Response to the COVID-2019 Outbreak. NSF and NIH are seeking to support research that will address the immediate public health threat of COVID-19. NSF, NIH, and other sponsors will be as responsive to queries for information as they want to support research that eliminates the threats posed by the coronavirus.

Contact your Federal program officer as soon as possible.

13. I am concerned that the annual and sick leave balances on my sponsored program will be depleted by staff who have chosen to use this leave during the Coronavirus outbreak. What should I do?

Annual and sick leave can be used during the COVID-19 event. However, the Research Foundation can only pay employees for the usage of annual and sick leave that has been budgeted in accordance with the grant. Please coordinate with your grants officers with any budget concerns.

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