Accessibility statement

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Limitation of Operations

Contingency Advice for Staff regarding matters of research and research-related activity

LATEST UPDATE - Friday 20th November

The University limited campus-based research operations in order to support the efforts to delay transmission of the Coronavirus (COVID 19), to protect the health and wellbeing of its staff and students. As lockdown eases, activity on campus is increasing; however, the situation around COVID 19 continues to change, and it is important that the University and its staff, students and visitors engaged in research abide by the most up to date advertised guidance put out by Public Health England and the Foreign Office advice on travel. The University regularly updates its main Coronavirus web pages with information about the local situation.

We understand that the situation has wide ranging consequences on your research and on the research and research-related staff you manage, and research students you supervise. This guidance will help you to navigate those changes. The information here is updated regularly.

There are significant questions and concerns affecting the entire sector for which we do not have definitive answers yet. Please be assured that we are liaising within the University, across the sector, with our funders and the Government to provide further advice as soon as we are able. We ask that you are patient at this difficult time for us all.

Given the size of our operation, you will understand that we are trying to limit the number of queries going directly to multiple individual email addresses. Your line manager, Departmental research administrator, Departmental Research Chair and Head of Department may be able to offer updates on Department-specific research activities. Alongside the PVC (Research), PVC (Partnerships and Engagement), the Deans and Associate Deans for Research, we are all working together to understand the most frequent issues and find solutions as soon as we are able.

The Research Contingency Group (RCG: chaired jointly by the PVC-R Professor Matthias Ruth and Special Advisor to the VC (Research) Professor Deborah Smith) meets regularly to consider all aspects of the response.  Communications on the Group’s discussions are circulated to all departments and an archive can be found on the Coronavirus Update messages - research webpages.

Should you wish to contact Research and Enterprise with a question relating to covid-19 contingency planning in relation to research specifically, please email UoY Research Contingency, noting that we will respond as soon as we are able and have the relevant information and decisions required.

1. Research support business continuity

All of Research & Enterprise’s teams are working from home. Operations are running smoothly in the circumstances and access to our systems (e.g. Worktribe, Pure and Agresso) is working well. This means that the majority of our usual business processes and points of contact remain exactly the same as usual. Further information and reminders of contact details were sent to departmental research administrators on 20 March by Dr David McBeth, Director of Research and Enterprise.

2. Planning for a return to some campus-based working

On 4 November, the Government issued additional Higher education: new national restrictions guidance for HE activities during the New National Restrictions.  

Within this HR guidance, there are sections relating to research.

It states that: “Researchers and research students will be able to continue in-person research activities if the research work cannot reasonably be conducted from home” and so on campus-based research activities for staff and students can continue as is, with our current Covid-19 risk assessments in place. 

However, the guidance goes on to say that “in-person research activity requiring gathering with others should be paused for the period of national restriction”, meaning all off-campus face-to-face research activity is paused, but where face-to-face research activity is on campus solely involving UoY staff and students, this can continue with appropriate distancing mitigations in place.

There is also guidance on performing arts, confirming performance arts-related research of a directly face-to-face nature, which cannot be completed any other way, can continue on campus. Particular effort should be made to maintain physical distancing (2 metres, or one metre plus where this is not possible) along with ensuring the spaces are well ventilated with fallow time in between different uses of the space.

Where staff are affected by the above and cannot work from home or campus to complete their research, they need to discuss this with their line managers who will inform HR of this notification via the hr.enquiries@york.ac.uk mailbox. HR will then assess whether the member of staff is eligible to be furloughed in accordance with the extended furlough scheme, also known as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

3. COVID-19 External Research Funding Opportunities and Additional Oversight

Many COVID-19 specific funding opportunities have been announced, and more are anticipated. We recognise that many staff feel they can make a positive contribution to these efforts,and a list of current opportunities is being kept up to date. These schemes are popular, and in order to ensure that the university is aware of such efforts and can support them fully, it is important that we know of plans in development.

As campus facilities become more accessible, specific access requirements should be handled within the relevant departments. Even if you don’t need to access campus to complete your proposed project, we still need to be made aware of your COVID-19 application and a very light touch additional step has been created to help you do this by completing the Covid-19 Research Funding applications form. Completing this form will also give the necessary oversight to enable the relevant Associate Dean for Research to sign your Institutional Letter of Support where required.

4. COVID-19 Research expertise - Activities and opportunities to contribute

We know that many of you are contributing your research expertise towards the COVID-19 response and we are keen to know what is happening and to support you in whatever way we can. Just some of the activities underway already are described online and in the Vice Chancellor’s message, and information on our wider support for the region can be found in dedicated web pages. The opportunities to pledge your expertise webpage includes a very short survey aimed at finding out who is signed up and/or already active.  If you have ideas for research that should be featured on our covid web pages, particularly case studies, please contact Sheila Perry.

5. Speaking to the media

Informing the public about the vital work that is being done within universities is crucially important, and many academics have already described their research and its role in the pandemic response.  However, we are also aware that news organisations are making unsolicited approaches to staff for comment on topics outside of their own research expertise.  If you have ideas for COVID-19 related stories, wish to speak to the media about your research, or if you are approached by the media for comment, please contact Alistair Keely (Head of Media) for advice before doing any interviews or written articles.

6. HR guidance

Human Resources has put together guidance for staff and line managers on the various options available for staff who are directly or indirectly affected. HR questions should be directed through these pages in the first instance.  

Further to an announcement by the Vice Chancellor on 23 April, and the creation of the business critical recruitment process, new guidance on recruitment is now available and is applicable to staff to be funded through external grant income.  Please consult this guidance and your HoD and HR contacts in the first instance.

In relation to staff whose contracts depend on research grants, we appreciate that there are two main areas of concern. Firstly, we would like to reassure such staff that, to date, no funders have indicated an intention to terminate or curtail any such grants. You can find information provided by all of the official guidance and/or replies that we have obtained from research funders to date on the Covid19 - Funder Information webpages. All staff on research grants will continue to receive their salary in line with their current contract of employment.

To address these concerns, both the University, and UKRI via a block grant to the University, have made funds available to allow those grants most affected by Covid-19 restrictions to bid for resources to extend the contract of fixed term staff directly employed on staff an/or for other resources   Full details of the process for mitigating the disruption caused by COVID-19 to externally funded research grants, including eligibility, are available on the Internal Funding website. 

7. PGR students and supervisors

Recognising that there may be travel restrictions and intermittent lockdown conditions in parts of the world the YGRS have created an option called Temporary Remote Research (TRR) which can be used when the nature of a particular project allows for a student to begin their research away from York. If a period of TRR (from one month up to initial maximum of four months, ie latest date for arrival in York would be the last day of January 2021) is approved, a PGR will start their programme on time but in their current location, moving to York as soon as it is practical and safe to do so. Whilst on a TRR period, when students do not have access to York’s physical campus, supervision meetings will take place via video-conferencing. Training, networking and other support, both academic and pastoral, will also take place via video-conferencing or other online means. Further details about TRR will be made available online shortly.

To further support existing students support students the University will ‘underwrite funded extensions of up to 6 months for our PhD students in their final year of funding, whose academic progress has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, who either receive funding from UK research funders or who are directly funded by the University, and whose funding is due to end between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021’. Decisions about PGRs not in the final year of funding will be made in due course. The YGRS is working with colleagues across the University to ensure that students are given a meaningful and safe research experience.

The option of Temporary Remote Research is available to new and existing studens who are not able to return to campus. 

The University has announced it will be waiving all Continuation Fee charges for a further final six months - so up until 31 March 2021. Any PGR who enters into their Continuation Year before or on 31 March 2021, will not be charged. Details on the Research Student Community blog on 06 October:

PGR Community

The YGRS Community Blog is being used to provide updates on professional development, wellbeing, community and combatting isolation. Advice is also available from the Student Hub and the Graduate Student Association (GSA). To support wellbeing and community engagement a new peer to peer buddying scheme has been launched for all new PGRs  and a mentoring scheme for PGRs in the final stages.  All prospective and continuing students have been sent a direct email advising them of this support and providing reassurance about the safety and security of the campus.  To ensure that the PGR voice is heard the YGRS in collaboration with the Graduate Student Association have run two Question Time/Town Hall style events. The panel included the Dean of the Graduate Research School, representation from PGR serving professional services; the Graduate Student Association (GSA). The accessibility and honesty of the panel was welcomed by students. The two events can be seen on the video links: 7 May and 19 June.

All updates and information for PGR students and supervisors are signposted from the York Graduate Research School homepage. This includes links to policy and assessment changes detailed on these pages. PGR students are asked to contact their supervisor and Department about questions related to their research.

8. External grants and contracts

We have compiled a list of the latest information received to date from our main funders. Our main funders, such as UKRI, have asked that, for now, universities and their staff do not contact them individually about specific grants/applications. Please be assured that we are in constant contact with the main funders and will update information here as soon as definitive information is available.

The Research Grants Operations Team in Research & Enterprise will continue to provide the necessary support for research grants, offering the existing levels of service but working remotely. Where there has been clear advice from the funder about its approach to contingency (e.g. no-cost extensions are allowed and will enable your project to complete), change requests should be processed as usual though your relevant RGO contact person and we ask that you contact them directly. 

Please contact your relevant Grant Coordinator via email with non-covid-19 related queries and remember that all normal approval processes apply.

9. Internal priming funds

Proposals on the management of internal priming funds in light of COVID-19 disruption have been approved by URC and endorsed by UEB.  This included approval to continue spending on current projects, and the streamlining of competitions for available funding in the next University financial year.  A summary was sent to Departments in May.  Principal Investigators have been informed of the effect of these decisions on their individual projects.  It should be noted that the availability of funding for the new University financial year (from August 2020) from some internal and external sources is not yet known, meaning it is not possible to complete all mitigation activity and answer all of the questions colleagues will have.  

10. Disrupted activities

We recognise that many of our usual research activities will be severely disrupted, but public health is our first concern and all current advice should be followed. Your first contact point with questions and concerns should be within your Department.

  • a) Work with the public/patients/vulnerable groups

Discussions are taking place about when and how research activity that includes face-to-face contact with the public might resume.  Further information will be made available as soon as it is available. If your research includes patient and public involvement (PPI), please do not forget to keep in touch with your lay reps, patient advisory groups, patient panels, service-users and carers groups. Please also carefully consider whether remote working tools are accessible, available, and/or appropriate to maintain your patient and public involvement activity in the short term.

Staff from the NIHR Yorkshire and Humber Research Design Service based at the University are available to provide further PPI specific guidance for NIHR funded research and other national peer reviewed funding competitions. Involvement@York is also continuing to support patient and public involvement activities with researchers and patients, carers and members of the public where possible.

  • b) Access to sensitive data and data security

While recognising that access to some data and systems may not be possible from home, data security is important whatever your area of research. IT Services have created "IT security - a condensed guide" to help you.

  • c) Working at home as a researcher

While researchers are unable to conduct face to face meetings with participants, some data collation may be conducted online. The Research Strategy and Policy Office has created a guidance document with some points to consider before making the move to data collation using online interviews.

  • d) Access to fieldwork sites

Consideration has been given to how research staff and PhD students can resume access to their fieldwork sites while observing all necessary health and safety requirements. This work is being overseen by the Research Contingency Group, chaired by the PVC-R.  Please contact your Departmental Manager or Technical Support lead for more information on the resumption of fieldwork within your department.

11. Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021

The revised national REF 2021 submission date has been confirmed as 31 March 2021. For further details on the changes, including to our internal timetable, please view the REF 2021 webpages

12. KEF Delayed

The previously advised deadline for submission of KEF narrative statements (Friday 29 May 2020) no longer applies and the new deadline will be 17:00 on Friday 16 October 2020.

Previously Research England had asked institutions to focus their narratives on activities that occurred during the preceding three years. However, the extended deadline will also allow providers to include the most recent activities, including responses to the coronavirus pandemic, where relevant to their narrative.

R&E's Enterprise Services teams will continue to work on this activity and if you have any questions or suggestions as to content for our KEF submission please contact amanda.selvaratnam@york.ac.uk.

13. Enterprise Services

The five R&E enterprise services teams Economic Development, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, Commercialisation, Apprenticeships, and Continuing Professional Development are all working from home and continuing to support Departments across the University.

The CPD Unit is helping departments to identify where existing training courses can be delivered online or where new content can be developed to directly address business challenges that are arising due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This support takes the form of advice and guidance, market research, signposting to technical support, marketing, costing, and management and administration of courses and funding. Please contact cpd@york.ac.uk for assistance.

The other teams are also working on existing and new enterprise related projects including patent management, partnership development and new project development.

Feel free to contact any of them on their generic emails
Economic Development EDT-group@york.ac.uk 
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, ktp@york.ac.uk 
Commercialisation commercialisation@york.ac.uk 
Apprenticeships apprenticeships@york.ac.uk
Continuing Professional Development cpd@york.ac.uk

14. Further information to be added

It is our intention to update this information regularly and include new sections in light of the questions and queries that we receive in the coming days. You will be notified via the VC’s email or Departmental channels each time this webpage is updated.

15. How to submit further questions

Should you wish to contact Research and Enterprise with a question relating to coronavirus contingency planning in relation to research specifically, please email Research Contingency (admn769@york.ac.uk), noting that we will respond as soon as we are able and have the relevant information and decisions required.