COVID-19 information for fixed-term research staff and fellows

FOR FIXED-TERM RESEARCH STAFF

The report on the survey commissioned by the Research Steering Group (RSG) to better understand how the national lock down in response to COVID-19 has impacted the research progress and wellbeing of research staff is now available:

The following questions have been raised by research staff at OxRSS and the Research Staff Consultation Group meetings. The answers seek to signpost staff to guidance on a range of issues which are of particular concern to this group.  

The HR Support website provides resources to support homeworking and wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic. Information on the HR site is pertinent to all staff, including research staff:

Remote working and communication with managers

 

HR provide guidance to PIs and supervisors on keeping in touch with research staff. It is reasonable for research staff to expect their line manager to follow this guidance insofar as is reasonable in the circumstances of individual projects.

Some key points to consider:

Most staff will usually have regular meetings with their manager to check in with their work and with how they are more generally. This is an opportunity for you to discuss research priorities, the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on your work, and to receive and give feedback.

Check in with your manager or PI on a regular basis. Agree the frequency of contact with your manager, having due regard to both your current needs and your manager’s availability. If there is a mismatch between the two, explore the options with your manager. Consider whether the frequency could be adjusted for a limited time. Consider whether small group meetings might both suit your purposes and increase your manager’s availability. Think about whether you would like an alternative nominated point of contact to discuss the issues of remote working, childcare etc, leaving the time spent with your line manager to focus on progressing your research within the limits arising from the COVID-19 crisis.

The mode of contact is likely to influence the frequency of contact. Email is sufficient for many purposes, but should not be used as the sole method of keeping in touch. Microsoft Teams is the University’s recommended software for meetings. For some discussions, the telephone may be more appropriate.

Maintain a record of the impact of the pandemic on your research and use a log to frame your discussions with your manager on mitigating any negative effects on your research. Invite your manager to input into your log, or record their response based on your meetings. 

Agree core hours of work with your manager. These are the hours when you can be expected to be ‘at work’ and at the end of a phone, Teams invite, or email. Core hours for each individual might be different to their usual hours. Agree some boundaries so that you each know when it is acceptable for you to contact your manager, or be contacted by your manager.  

Consider whether a buddying system would be helpful to your situation. Alternatively, consider whether you could volunteer to pair up with a colleague in need of support.

If you work in a team, offer to set up virtual team coffee time. Maintaining a non-transactional line of communication with colleagues will be valuable to give mutual support and ensure that positive working relationships continue.
 

Funding

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Funders are releasing guidance and many are confirming that extensions to the project duration within the original awarded budget (so called ‘no-cost extensions’) in such circumstances will be allowed. Overall we expect funders will be pragmatic when considering requests to extend projects, although some may wish to consider such requests on a case-by-case basis.

At this stage, the position of the majority of funders with respect to providing supplementary funding to cover periods of extension is unclear. In the meantime, you should discuss with your research supervisor or group head who will be supported by their department or faculty to assess if there is flexibility for extension within the remaining budget on the research grant (subject to funder approval).

Links to the latest guidance from funders can be found on the COVID-19 guidance from research funders page.

 

It may be possible to extend some posts where there is remaining budget within the award and (where necessary) the funder agrees to the extension of the project duration. As for question 3, you should discuss this with your research supervisor or group head.

The existing budget in a research award may be insufficient to fund an extension of posts. The University, alongside other institutions, is in urgent dialogue with major research funders (including UKRI) and government about the provision of supplementary funding to enable projects impacted by COVID-19 disruption to be extended, including to provide for the extension of some posts to maintain delivery of research and support the careers of research and research support staff. The timing for decisions on these matters by funders in not known at the current time but as decisions are made, individuals and research groups will be informed.
 

 

The University is actively working with funders, in collaboration with the Russell Group as this is a sector-wide request. 

The latest response from major funders is being collated on the COVID-19 guidance from research funders page.

 

At the level of an individual award, the principal investigator of the award is responsible, with the support of their departmental research/finance team and the University’s Research Services team.

In addition, as noted in question 2, the University is in dialogue with major funding bodies about the possibility of additional funding to support institutions to extend projects and contracts of researchers whose research has been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

 

This will vary dependent on the funder, what costs have already been incurred on the project, and how much budget remains.

The University is actively engaging with our major funders and UK government to seek clarity and appropriate measures on this.

Please discuss with your local research administrator and PI to check the context for the specific circumstances of your award.

 

There is likely to be significant variety in the responses and funding available from different research funders. Many of the funders' responses have been captured above on this page, and you should review these in the first instance. This is an emerging picture and these pages are updated daily.

While many funders wish to be supportive and pragmatic during the current crisis, funders who ordinarily only pay personnel costs for project-specific activities (for example, those with specific timesheet requirements) may not fund additional administrative work. The exceptions to this are UKRI and Wellcome. If in doubt, please check with your local research administrator and, if necessary, ask the PI to check with the project manager at the funding body. 

 

Please refer to the University’s guidance and FAQs on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, check your funder’s policy on furlough on the COVID-19 guidance from research funders page, and discuss with your department or faculty. 

 

Research Professional is an online research funding database and news service to which every member of research staff has access.

The database enables you to search across thousands of UK and international opportunities and to receive opportunities by email. In addition, articles highlight early career opportunities, niche funders, and enables you to learn from the experience of other researchers.

For more information see our Research Professional page.

Return to on-site working (RTOSW)

The following questions are those specifically posed by research staff.

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Personal circumstances (including personal risk, risk to other household members and caring responsibilities relating to the current situation) will be taken into account in any discussion with staff about the return to on-site working.

More detailed guidance and support for staff is available on the return to on-site working website.

 

The timing for opening each laboratory will depend on the nature and scale of activity, the outcome of a risk assessment, and the feasibility of implementing changes required to achieve social distancing and other measures.

Given that the overall capacity of buildings will be significantly affected by social distancing requirements, the return to on-site working will be complex and will require careful consideration in every case. Some departments may be faced with difficult choices about the prioritisation of particular activities.

The intention in the medium term is to increase gradually the building occupancy for staff who cannot work remotely, so long as it is safe, and consistent with any further changes in government guidelines.

 

The University’s Travel website explains additional measures such as temporary additional parking permits, and help with alternatives such as cycling that are available

 

Childcare Services and Bright Horizons are working on a phased reopening of the University's nurseries starting in early June, providing government regulations allow us to do so.

We are committed to providing high quality childcare to our families as soon as possible whilst ensuring the safety of the children, families and staff is our highest priority.

We have written to families to ask what their childcare requirements are and to inform them of the new safety measures that will be introduced. Please note that in order to meet government requirements, we will need to review the number of children who can attend in each room each day, and we may need to request flexibility on attendance. We may also need to operate a priority system to ensure that we can assist those families most in need of childcare.

Impact on my future

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Recruitment freeze and redeployment protocol

A recruitment freeze and redeployment protocol was adopted in April 2020, and revised in June 2020.

The protocol applies to all internally funded posts. It does not apply to posts where 80% or more of the costs are covered from external sources (although some divisions may set a higher threshold for academic posts such as associate professorships and statutory professorships).

This means job vacancies for externally funded postdoctoral research assistants or research associates will be advertised and recruited via the usual procedures.

Job retention and furlough

Some staff who have been unable to work because of the nature of their jobs or their caring responsibilities have been placed on furlough through the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).  The scheme ends on 31 October 2020. The University has committed to continuing to pay all furloughed employees 100% of their salary during any period of furlough supported by the current round of the government’s CJRS.

Furloughed staff members will see no changes to their salaries, benefits or pension arrangements. They remain employees of the University on the same terms and conditions.

If you are unable to work at all and have been furloughed, you may be eligible to apply to the Returning Carers Fund.

 

Research staff are eligible for the full range of Careers Service offer during their contract and for one full calendar year after it expires.

Oxford University’s careers support pages written for all research staff by specialist careers advisers are now being updated with the additional provision, plus tips and advice relevant to COVID-related circumstances, including predicted effects on the job market and wider economy:

Since COVID-19, the Careers Service has increased provision of 30-minute 1:1 appointments bookable online (via CareerConnect) with a careers adviser of your choice, including two who specialise in researcher career progression within and beyond academia. Note that research staff can book a series of appointments (maximum of one per week) to support them through a more challenging period.

For any research staff keen to give their career some focused attention, the Careers Service has created an online version of the highly interactive and increasingly popular career design and development course, inspired by the design-based thinking coming out of Stanford’s Product Design School. This course comprises 3 short workshops with development tasks in between, and is intended to support researchers in learning what has worked so far, exploring and evaluating potential future directions and getting equipped for next steps. 

The Careers Service series of regular seminars 'Insight into academia' continues online, as do sessions to support job applications and how to find or create internships (remote placements included). 

Research staff may gain careers insights, inspiration, connections and advice from the following two initiatives and are invited to come forward to participate with a view to bolstering their career progression:

Research staff who are approaching the end of a fixed term contract and are thinking of a change of career into a professional/management role at the University can contact the Priority Candidate Support Scheme who can assist with redrafting their CVs etc to draw out the transferrable skills suitable for this sort of role.

 

 

Many researchers are in this situation. Don’t feel pressured to work late into the night to make up lost time. Most universities already have well established processes in place to ensure that periods of family leave are taken into account in recruitment and grant application processes, for example by emphasising the quality of research outputs over quantity. We anticipate that these will be adjusted to reflect the impact of caring during the coronavirus crisis.

If you are unable to work at all and have been furloughed, you may be eligible to apply to the Returning Carers Fund.

We advise all researchers to log the time that they have lost due to caring responsibilities and for other reasons (see question 19 below).
 

 

Yes. Maintaining a record of the impact of the pandemic on your research should frame your discussions with your PI or line manager on mitigating any negative effects on your research.  

The record can also help you in managing the impact on your career, through informing discussions at your personal development review or career development review in 2020/21, as well as in job applications and research funding applications.  

Your PI or line manager may request use of the record to apply for funding from internal or external sources.

Health and wellbeing

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The University’s processes for returning to on-site working will ensure a safe working environment for all staff, as well as consider the needs of vulnerable groups. If you have any concerns you should discuss these with your line manager, supervisor or group leader in the first instance.  

HR are in the process of preparing further guidance and a link will be given here when available. 

 

Research staff are not eligible for University-owned graduate accommodation.

Information on renting housing in Oxford can be found on the website of the Welcome Service:

 

Disabled staff should seek support for making reasonable adjustments in the usual way, through discussing their needs with their manager or supervisor, requesting a management referral to Occupational Health or contacting the University’s Staff Disability Advisor. 

 

There is currently no consistent practice across all departments of the University.

Please check arrangements in your department with your local research administrator/HAF or HR Manager.

FOR FELLOWS

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Many funders of fellowships have issued guidance to holders of fellowships. Most are offering flexibility to help fellows affected by COVID-19 restrictions to complete their fellowship projects. Options can include no-cost extensions, moving to part-time working, suspending the fellowship on a temporary basis, and agreeing changes to the science of the fellowship project.  

Fellows should check with their funder and discuss options with their department before taking decisions – note in particular that few funders are in a position to provide additional funding.

For Marie Curie fellowships please contact the Research Services European & International Team for advice on options available (ecresearch@admin.ox.ac.uk). 

Answers to some key questions are given below where the funder view is known. 
 

 

Most funders are happy to agree a no-cost extension to give a fellow additional time in which to complete the activities of their fellowship, and some funders may consider funded extensions. Fellows should check their funder’s policy and discuss their position with their department. No-cost extensions depend on remaining available budget.  

British Academy

The British Academy will treat all requests for no-cost extensions sympathetically. Grant holders should contact the British Academy to discuss their case before completing a change request form in the FlexiGrant system. Depending on the scheme, assistance is at grants@thebritishacademy.ac.uk or newtonfund@thebritishacademy.ac.uk or international@thebritishacademy.ac.uk

British Heart Foundation

The funder is prepared to support requests for no-cost extensions to grants to cover any delays caused by suspension of research. If suspension of research is prolonged and a costed extension is required, they will consider requests on a case by case basis in due course. They are currently developing the process for receiving and considering no-cost and costed extension applications across grant schemes, and expect to be able to announce this in the near future.

Cancer Research UK

CRUK's default position will be to offer a no-cost extension if needed. No-cost extension requests should be made in writing. They are currently prioritising requests for no-cost extensions to grants with less than 18 months left on the grant award letter. If your grant has less than 18 months to run, you can either request a no-cost extension now or wait until your research has resumed and a clearer understanding of disruption is known. They are not in a position to offer costed extensions due to the impact of COVID-19 on their fundraising income.

EC MSCA Individual Fellowships

Because of the way in which the fellowship funding works, to extend a fellowship the grant will first need to be suspended. During a period of suspension no costs can be claimed from the grant and the funding in the grant that covers the costs of employment of the fellow is not paid. The period of time equal to the length of the suspension is added to the end of the fellowship and payments resume when the suspension ends. The total number of funded months of the fellowship remains unchanged but the end date of the fellowship moves.  

Leverhulme Trust

The funder will generally allow requests to extend your grant if you don't need additional costs. They ask that you email grants@leverhulme.ac.uk to request such an extension. 

If there is the potential for research to be lost or severely compromised, then an application for a costed extension may be considered. You should approach the Trust only when you are in a position to be clear about the length of an extension and the cost involved. They will then advise you of the process to follow. Applications will be considered on a case by case basis.

NIHR

You will be able to request an extension to your fellowship to cover any research time lost due to the impact of COVID-19. This may be due to elements of the fellowship having to pause or move to a later date. Once you know the full impact on your research and/or training you should get in touch with the NIHR Academy to discuss the next steps. Any extensions will be agreed on the assumption that the fellowship can still be completed within the originally contracted budget. 
Requests for any additional costs will be considered on a case by case basis where the impact is on personal development. Where you are having to stop or reduce time on your research, for example due to extra clinical days/weeks, they suggest you keep a log of these changes. 

Royal Commission for the Exhibition 1851

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Royal Society

The Royal Society will provide no-cost extensions for any award holder whose research is delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Their website states that they are considering their position on additional funding during extensions where grant holders have lost access to research facilities at host institutions due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

UKRI and Research Councils

No-cost extension requests to grants impacted by coronavirus will be allowed.

Versus Arthritis

The funder will agree no-cost extensions to your award if needed. Please follow the process outlined in Grant Tracker. Where costed extensions are necessary, these will be considered on a case by case basis as required.

Wellcome Trust

Wellcome will agree to a no-cost extension of up to six months if your grant is due to end in 2020 or 2021 and your fellowship has been disrupted by the pandemic. They will consider longer extensions but only where your grant includes clinical trials, fieldwork or critical animal studies. The process through which these no cost extensions will be agreed will be advised in due course. 
Depending on your funding stream you may be eligible for six months' additional funding if your fellowship is due to finish in 2020 (three months' funding if your fellowship finishes in 2021). Wellcome will advise you if this is applicable to your fellowship. 

 

Funders may be happy to discuss this option with fellowship holders – particularly if the option to change to part-time working is in any case possible under the terms and conditions of your fellowship funding. You should discuss this with your host department.

British Academy

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

British Heart Foundation

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Cancer Research UK

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

EC MSCA Individual Fellowships

It is possible to amend your fellowship grant agreement to allow for part-time working. The minimum time on grant allowed is 50% full time equivalent. Because of the way in which the funding works, moving to part time working will automatically extend the duration of your fellowship. For example 2 months full time is the same as 4 months at 50% FTE. It is possible to move temporarily to part-time working then to revert to full time at a later date. 

Leverhulme Trust

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

NIHR

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Royal Commission for the Exhibition 1851

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Royal Society

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

UKRI and Research Councils

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Versus Arthritis

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Wellcome Trust

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Funders may agree to the temporary suspension of a fellowship. Suspension would usually mean no grant payment during the period of suspension, not even for salary.

British Academy

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

British Heart Foundation

If research institutions shut down for a period of time, the current position is that the British Heart Foundation will continue to pay the salaries of staff funded on grants. This is regardless of whether work can continue on the fellowship. 

Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK will consider requests to suspend your grant if you want to pause payments and activities on the grant. Please let them know in writing the proposed suspension dates to your grant.

EC MSCA Individual Fellowships

Your fellowship can be suspended and then restarted. During the period of suspension no costs can be claimed on the grant. Funder advice is that unspent budget for research, training and networking could in principle be used to provide funding for salary during a suspension. Please be aware that this must be discussed with departments/faculties and that funding available is likely to be small. 

Leverhulme Trust

This is an option that would be considered by the funder. Please contact grants@leverhulme.ac.uk

NIHR

Your fellowship may be paused to enable you to contribute to the COVID-19 effort. In these circumstances payments will continue in line with existing payment schedules and the funder will also extend awards where necessary. This will be managed at the end of your award. Applications for additional funding to cover additional research costs because the award has been extended will be considered. Once you know the impact on the research time in your award you should contact NIHR Academy to discuss the required extension.

Royal Commission for the Exhibition 1851

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Royal Society

The Royal Society does not expect fellowships to be suspended. 

UKRI and Research Councils

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Versus Arthritis

The funder website guidance states: 'The decision to pause or close down any research will be a local decision to be made by the chief/principal investigator and the sponsor. We will support any local decision to move personnel to front line duties and will work with teams after the crisis to explore ways for research projects to be reinstated'.

Wellcome Trust

Wellcome do not expect grants to be suspended. Salaries are expected to continue to be paid in full (though furlough can be considered if appropriate). Special arrangements apply if grant holders are directly involved in COVID-19 service delivery. 

 

Please refer to the University’s guidance and FAQs on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and research and research support staff, and discuss with your department/faculty.  

British Academy

The furlough scheme does not allow furlough for employees funded through public funding. 

British Heart Foundation

Where appropriate, the funder is encouraging employing institutions to use the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for staff funded on grants. They will fund the unrecoverable portion of the salary. 

Cancer Research UK

If the University determines that you/your team are eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), Cancer Research UK (CRUK) encourage you to take advantage of the scheme. Your CRUK grant funding can be used to cover any shortfall in payments through the CJRS.

EC MSCA Individual Fellowships

It is unlikely that furlough would be regarded as appropriate for MSCA fellowships.  

Leverhulme Trust

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

NIHR

The furlough scheme does not allow furlough for employees funded through public funding. 

Royal Commission for the Exhibition 1851

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Royal Society

The furlough scheme does not allow furlough for employees paid through public funding. 

UKRI and Research Councils

The furlough scheme does not allow furlough for employees funded through public funding.

Versus Arthritis

The funder supports furlough and unrecoverable costs can be charged to the grant. Evidence of University policy may be requested. 

Wellcome Trust

In principle researchers funded by the Wellcome Trust can be furloughed under the University’s scheme. Please discuss this option with your department if you feel it would be appropriate. Note that if the sponsor deems your fellowship eligible for additional funded months any period covered by CJRS would be deducted from the additional months possible funding. It would be wise to discuss your position with the sponsor before making decisions.  

 

Funders may be open to discussion about how your fellowship has been affected by COVID-19 restrictions and therefore to agreeing changes to the science of your project. 

British Academy

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

British Heart Foundation

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK have committed to offering as much flexibility as possible for ongoing management of your award including the possibility that research activities may have to be adapted in light of COVID-19. 

EC MSCA Individual Fellowships

Funder advice is that if there are no other ways to mitigate for the disruption caused by COVID-19, changes to the science of your fellowship can be discussed. 

Leverhulme Trust

This is not a topic addressed in funder guidance for grant holders affected by COVID-19 issues. If there is the potential for research to be lost or severely compromised, then an application for a costed extension may be considered – see 'Can I extend my fellowship?' above.

NIHR

The funder website states that if, because of the impact of COVID-19, it makes sense for your research and wider fellowship to make significant changes to your original plans (for example, if a part of your research has had to be stopped altogether and is unlikely to restart) then you should get in touch with the NIHR Academy to discuss significant changes that you want to make.

Royal Commission for the Exhibition 1851

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Royal Society

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

UKRI and Research Councils

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Versus Arthritis

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Wellcome Trust

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

 

Funders are likely to be sympathetic where objectives cannot be met due to COVID-19 related issues. Depending on your funder you might need to talk to them now about this possibility. 

British Academy

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

British Heart Foundation

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Cancer Research UK

The funder has committed to take any period of inactivity on grants into account when assessing research progress, outputs and career progression. Cancer Research UK have committed to offering as much flexibility as possible for ongoing management of your award including the possibility that research activities may have to be adapted in light of COVID-19. They expect to work with you to adjust expectations about whether the full research studies can be carried out, what can be delivered and achieved during the programme of work once the impact of the disruption on research can be fully assessed.

EC MSCA Individual Fellowships

At the discretion of the funder force majeure is a legitimate reason for not being able to complete a fellowship as anticipated in Annex 1 of the grant agreement. Please talk to your project officer now (through the communication facility on the funding and tenders portal) if you are likely to need to rely on the force majeure clause when reporting at the end of your project. Records of effects and mitigation action taken need to be kept. 

Leverhulme Trust

If there is the potential for research to be lost or severely compromised, then an application for a costed extension may be considered – see 'Can I extend my fellowship?' above. 

NIHR

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages, but see 'Can I change the science of my fellowship?' above

Royal Commission for the Exhibition 1851

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Royal Society

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

UKRI and Research Councils

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Versus Arthritis

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages

Wellcome Trust

No specific guidance available from the funder's webpages, although the Trust is operating flexibility on extending grants affected by COVID-19 restrictions

British Heart Foundation

Researchers whose posts are directly funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), including fellows, may, at their discretion, devote their time and the time of any support staff funded in their award to COVID-19 research, until they are able to return
to their normal research activity. BHF ask that you inform them of your plans by email to research@bhf.org.uk.

Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK supports Clinical Research Training Fellows (CRTFs) being seconded back to the NHS to support front line service delivery. They ask that you email them to tell them you are stopping work on research. For clinical academics seconded
back to the NHS, their expectation is that the NHS will cover your salary whilst working on the COVID-19 response. Please discuss with your department how they intend to manage the salary reimbursement. You can also request a no-cost extension to
your grant or studentship.

NIHR

NIHR understands that clinical professionals may need to focus purely on clinical work in the short term and they will be flexible to support this. They will continue to make payments in line with existing payment schedules and will also extend awards
where necessary. This will be managed at the end of your award. Applications for additional funding to cover additional research costs because the award has been extended will be considered. Once you know the impact on the research time in your award
you should contact NIHR Academy to discuss the required extension.

Royal Society

If an award holder is recruited to support the coronavirus response, the Royal Society may provide additional funding to extend their fellowship appropriately. Such requests should be made in advance by submitting a change request on Flexi-Grant and will
be considered on a case by case basis.

UKRI/Research Councils

It may be possible to apply to change the direction of your research to directly support the COVID-19 effort. UKRI stress that they value all their funded research and that they will assess applications to redirect effort on their merits. More information
can be found on the UKRI website.

Versus Arthritis

The funder will support any local decision to move personnel to front line duties and will work with teams after the crisis to explore ways for research projects to be reinstated.

Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust COVID-19 webpage provides details of support available for those directly involved in delivery
of the COVID-19 response. Separately, the Trust will consider requests to switch the focus of your research to COVID-19 activity that does not directly help to manage the immediate pandemic. However, they will not provide additional funds for this
purpose.