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COVID-19 Research Operations

Last Updated: 11:50 p.m. on October 29, 2020

The Office of the Vice President for Research partnered with schools, colleges and units across the University of Michigan to develop important FAQs about research operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. For information about research re-engagement efforts amid COVID-19, please refer to the university's Research Re-engagement webpage.


 

Research and Sponsored Projects’ Spending and Hiring Amid COVID-related Financial Challenges

  1. Are there any current restrictions imposed by U-M on the expenditure of externally-sponsored research funds?

    1. No. As President Schlissel stated in his "Weekly U-M Ann Arbor COVID-19 Update" on October 9, 2020:

      "... although the University of Michigan is currently under spending/hiring restrictions, these measures do not apply to the spending of federal or sponsored funds, including hiring for the purpose of completing the aims of a sponsored project. Faculty are encouraged to work with their schools and departments to process hiring and equipment spending on their externally funded grants."

      To that end, all units are encouraged to do what they can to eliminate unnecessary approvals or barriers that could delay or restrict the expenditure of externally sponsored funds (while of course remaining compliant with all relevant policies and procedures of U-M, the sponsor, etc.).

    2. PIs and project teams are reminded that during this pandemic (and always) they have a responsibility under SPG 500.01 to be prudent in their management of externally sponsored funds. During this pandemic, the "prudent person standard" includes keeping a careful eye on discrepancies between budgeted revenues and actual revenues, and halting expenditures whenever circumstances suggest that such variances are unsustainable or indicative of longer-term problems on the part of the sponsor to make payment.  SPG 500.01 states specifically that:

      1. Expenditures should be managed in conformity with the original budget or, where new circumstances require the use of resources that differ from the original plan, the deviation should be clearly explained and a plan developed to financially support these changes.

      2. PIs should partner with Research Administrators to ensure financial activity is reviewed for appropriateness and accuracy in a timely manner to assess spending levels to date, accuracy of personnel appointments and impact of future projections. October 14, 12:40 p.m.

  2. Can PPE be charged to NIH grants?

    1. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and related supplies are normally treated as indirect costs whenever the PPE is not integral to achieving the goals of the sponsored project, regardless of whether donning PPE is at the discretion of the employee or mandated by U-M. PPE may be allowable as a direct cost on a sponsored project if it is necessary for achieving the objectives of the project. As with all other U-M expenses, if PPE and related supplies are used for multiple projects, then they must be allocated to each project in proportion to the "relative benefit" each project receives using a defensible and documented allocation methodology.

      Notwithstanding the above, project teams should be aware that sponsors may have policies that put additional restrictions on direct charging of PPE. For example, the National Institutes of Health recently published NOT-OD-20-164 that allows for necessary PPE to be treated as a direct cost, but only if the expense of acquiring the PPE is below $500K and if the funded project is a clinical trial or clinical research. Certain NIH institutes are even more restrictive. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' position on PPE has led them to return non-clinical proposals that request funding for PPE on the grounds that they do not comply with NOT-OD-20-164. Applicants to NIAID may therefore wish to consult with the sponsor prior to proposal submission. October 2, 3:45 p.m.

  3. Will UMOR still provide cost-share on research for sponsored funding?

    1. Cost-share requests will be considered in light of the COVID-19 financial environment during the remainder of FY20 and FY21. Please work with your unit research leadership on cost-share requests. April 20, 12:45 p.m.​​

  4. ​Is the voluntary furlough available to staff whose salary is paid by federally funded grants?

    1. Yes. April 29, 7:45 a.m.

  5. Is travel allowed if it is budgeted in an internally- or externally-funded grant?

    1. Assuming it is not otherwise prohibited by a governmental entity, travel that is necessary to conduct in-person research is allowed provided a safety plan is in place at the unit level. Non-essential travel (e.g., conference attendance, professional development) remains restricted regardless of the source of funds. October 29, 11:50 a.m.

Internal Funds for Research and Scholarship

The following information was featured in the October 28 installment of VPR Update:

  • ​In an effort to strengthen research and scholarship, recent guidance will allow for the expansion of institutional spending. This guidance allows faculty to utilize institutional funding for research and scholarship purposes, and also aids in addressing inequities induced or exacerbated by COVID-19 across the research enterprise by those most dependent on internal funding. Spending restrictions previously implemented by the university in response to the pandemic inhibited faculty from using institutional funds for research and scholarship, which was a necessary move at the time given the financial constraints posed by COVID-19. By relaxing research spending restrictions, faculty can now utilize institutional funds to advance their research and scholarship without seeking an individual exception for the following:

    • Faculty incentive accounts for research

    • Research discretionary funds

    • Internal grants

    • Startup funds for research

    • Internal research funds may be used to hire research staff and to cover the costs of external vendors needed to conduct research

  • Examples of research activities that faculty cannot yet fund using institutional support include:

    • Travel for conferences or professional development

    • Administrative supplements or bonus pay on grants to circumvent the salary freeze or otherwise

    • Hosting

    • In-person events

    • Marketing

    • Remodeling

    • Furniture

    • Home Internet

  • Please work with your research associate deans or unit leadership if you have any further questions regarding this matter.

Research Facilities/Laboratory Safety

Please refer to the U-M Environment, Health and Safety website for more details about research facilities and laboratory safety amid COVID-19.

  1. What types of research activities are allowed to take place on campus?

    1. Most types of research and scholarship that require activities to take place on site have started a phased re-engagement process, including research in laboratories and studios, field research and human research. Please refer to the university's research re-engagement webpage for specific guidance by type of activity, as well as FAQs. June 18, 1:20 p.m.

  2. ​Will service personnel from vendors be allowed into buildings to perform maintenance or service of instruments?

    1. Yes, maintenance and service workers will be allowed in buildings. Please ensure any such workers needing access to buildings are approved by your chair or research associate dean, and they will have to follow all U-M screening procedures per state regulations. June 18, 1:20 p.m.

  3. Can researchers enter buildings after hours in cases of emergencies, such as when an alarm for an instrument is received remotely?

    1. In the case of an emergency with equipment, researchers may enter buildings using their Mcard after hours, assuming social distancing protocols are followed. June 18, 1:20 p.m.

  4. Can I continue my research remotely?

    1. ​All work that does not need to be done on site (on campus or at a remote location) must continue to be performed from home. This includes many aspects of research (analysis, computational work, etc.) and scholarship. Hazardous materials (chemical, biological or radiological) or laboratory equipment are prohibited from being removed from campus. June 18, 1:20 p.m.

Costs During the COVID-19 Health Crisis

  1. Who is eligible to use the paid time off options who need to be absent from work due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic?

    1. U-M Human Resources maintains a webpage with the authoritative information on who is eligible to participate in the Federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA), the U-M COVID-19 Paid Time Off bank and the Expanded Family Medical Leave Act (EFMLA) supplement.

    2. To clarify what this means for the U-M research community, a nonexhaustive list of employee groups who may draw on these time off options includes tenured, tenure-track, research and clinical faculty, research scientists, postdoctoral fellows, GSRAs, and regular and temporary full- and part-time staff, including student employees. July 14, 2:45 p.m.

  2. I am a principal investigator and am wondering who approves the use of the paid time off benefit programs on my grant? Are there any guidelines to follow?

    1. Whoever usually approves the timesheets of the individuals working on your grant (normally the PI) also approves the use of the EPSLA, COVID-19 and/or E-FMLA as part of the standard timesheet approval process. 

    2. If a faculty member needs to use one or more of these time-off options, PIs should follow their academic unit's process for approving exception time; if uncertain about the process, PIs should consult with their department chair or associate dean. July 14, 2:45 p.m.

  3. What documentation should we be keeping in regard to the impact of COVID-19 and how should we be tracking expenses related to COVID-19?

    1. U-M central offices are keeping a record of institutional communications that memorialize decisions or guidance to campus regarding research activity. PIs are similarly advised to document their key decisions and actions taken in response to U-M’s guidance, and to track as best they can the costs their grants incurred to implement U-M’s guidance.

    2. U-M also has created a new program code, COVID, within M-Pathways to identify incremental costs (i.e., additional costs above and beyond those expected to be incurred under normal operations) associated with the outbreak. Units may open chartfields/shortcodes mapped to the new COVID program code.  If your unit has already opened a set of chartfields to track this activity, such as a new program code or dept id, contact the Shared Services Center (SSC) for assistance in remapping previously recorded transactions as appropriate. March 20, 7:45 a.m.

  4. How should I charge my employee on a grant during the COVID-19 crisis?

    1. If an employee is currently paid on a grant and continues to be able to productively work on the grant remotely at the same level of effort, no change is needed.

    2. If an employee does not have enough work for the allocated time to the project, other work may be identified to fulfill the appointment hours. Depending on the type of work being done, these hours may require a change in effort distribution/funding source in the HR system. Activity should be reflected and may need to be charged to another grant, discretionary funds or other funds within the unit, dependent on the activity performed.

    3. If other work is not identified to fill the employee’s appointed hours, the hours for which “no work” is assigned can be paid -- if not from federal funds -- using the paid time off benefits as described in this table on the Human Resources site.  As a university benefit, these hours may be charged against the sponsored project at the same effort distribution work was assigned.

    4. When all of the paid time off benefits and eligible exception time are depleted, the employee's position will need to be handled consistent with university policy in place at the time. Further information will be provided as it becomes available. July 14, 3:35 p.m.

  5. What are some activities that I can have my research staff do remotely that can be charged to a grant?

    1. The Medical School Office of Research compiled a comprehensive list of activities that research staff can do remotely.

    2. Click here for additional activities that U-M research staff can do remotely. April 13, 2:10 p.m.

  6. Is there a way to get reimbursed for the costs my lab incurred during the pause on my NIH-funded human subjects research?

    1. NIH issued a notice on March 16, 2020 stating that If unanticipated costs related to clinical trials or human subject research are identified due to impacts of COVID-19, and unobligated balances are not available to rebudget, recipients may request administrative supplements from NIH. March 17, 8:45 p.m.

  7. Will my grant have to pay for project-related costs incurred during the university’s ramp down in research operations if we aren’t able to work on the project (e.g., animal per diem, idle lab staff, etc.?)

    1. ​​​​In general, the answer is “Yes,” your grant will likely be required to cover the costs incurred during the ramp down in research operations -- provided U-M would likewise require a nonsponsored fund to pay for the same cost in similar circumstances. Put the other way around, if the university would not allow a certain cost to be incurred on a nonsponsored fund during the ramp down, the university will not allow the same cost to be charged to a sponsored project. This practice adheres to the federal government’s Uniform Guidance (2 CFR §200.403) requirement that costs be incurred “consistent with policies and procedures that apply uniformly to both federally financed and other activities of the non-Federal entity.” March 20, 7:50 a.m.

  8. I am a principal investigator working remotely from home during self-isolation. Can my effort still be charged to my federal grant?

    1. In general, yes, provided you remain engaged in your project. Current NIH and NSF prior approval requirements regarding disengagement from the project for three (3) months or more, and effort reductions of 25 percent or more, remain in effect.

  9. I am a principal investigator and am required to work from home as a result of COVID-19. Can I charge supplies relating to telework (i.e., such as a laptop, printer, office supplies, etc.) to my grant?

    1. No. These types of expenses are considered indirect (Facilities & Administrative) costs, and generally are not appropriate as a direct cost unless specifically approved by the sponsor. The ramp down in research operations at U-M does not change this fact. If you need to work remotely from home, please consult with your department or school to identify whether computing resources are available. March 20, 7:50 a.m.

  10. I had planned to travel to a conference to present my federally funded results, but the conference was cancelled due to precautions regarding COVID-19. Can I charge trip cancellation fees to my federal grant?

    1. ​​​​​​​​Yes, provided the federal sponsor has issued a policy statement allowing trip cancellation fees.​​​​​​​​ April 29, 8 a.m.

  11. I have a temporary employee/student worker who no longer has available work as a consequence of the COVID-19 situation. What are my options for keeping this individual on the university payroll?

    1. If a temporary employee no longer has available  work on a sponsored project, the principal investigator (PI) should first determine if the individual can be legitimately reassigned to non-federal sponsored activities. If yes, the individual’s appointment should be moved to the appropriate award. If the PI does not have work for the individual to perform, then the PI should check with his/her unit to see about reassignment to other nonsponsored projects or activities. If reassignment is not feasible, then the temporary employee’s appointment may need to be terminated . Units are responsible for determining the appropriate appointment effort and number of hours of paid time off for their part-time and temporary staff. For more information, see U-M Human Resources’ COVID-19 FAQJuly 14, 3:35 p.m.

  12. I understand there are paid time off benefits that my lab personnel can access for a variety of COVID-19 related reasons (e.g., they have contracted the virus, there isn’t sufficient work in the lab to keep them busy due to a pause in research activity, etc.), but who pays for it? Is the paid time off charged to my grant or will U-M cover the cost?

    1. Please continue to pay lab staff as you normally would, asking staff to use the appropriate time reporting code as described in this table on the Human Resources COVID-19 FAQ page. With the exception of RPN time on federal funds for idled employees, if your lab personnel are currently supported by your grant(s), their paid time off would also be charged to your grant. July 14, 3:35 p.m.

  13. Will the EPSLA, COVID-19, and E-FMLA paid time off benefits be available for research personnel who are full-time temps and therefore not currently eligible for U-M benefits?

    1. Temporary employees are eligible for a prorated amount based on effort. Please see the Human Resources COVID-19 FAQ page for additional information. April 1, 8:40 p.m.

  14. What percent effort should I or my exempt laboratory staff charge to my grant during a pause in research activity?

    1. Employees’ effort should initially be charged at the rate in effect at the time that the pause in research activity was announced. During the COVID-19 pandemic, as before, changes in one’s appointment are allowable (indeed required) to the extent they correspond to changes in one’s effort. April 8, 8:55 p.m.

  15. As it relates to core services and other research-related recharge operations, should I continue to charge budgeted salary and other expenses to the recharge rate even though service requests have temporarily decreased or ceased due to the research ramp-down?

    1. For the time being, continue to charge budgeted salary and actual expenses to recharge rates as you normally would.  Do not shift effort off of the recharge to other internal funds. This includes staff who are using the COVID time bank. March 30, 2:30 p.m.

  16. I am the PI on a non-federal grant, and I received a letter from the sponsor indicating they will allow charges for idled employees in excess of the benefits provided by the university. Can my lab staff take advantage of the more generous benefits allowed by this sponsor?

    1. No. Similar to other grant management issues, the university's policies prevail when they are more restrictive than what a sponsor will allow. For example, if a sponsor allows charges of up to 60 days for idled personnel, but an employee only has 50 days available of benefits for COVID-19 related idle time, the employee is not entitled to an additional 10 days by virtue of the fact that the employee is supported by this particular sponsor. April 6, 3:50 p.m.

  17. I am the PI on an award from a non-federal sponsor (in this case a contract from a corporate sponsor), and the sponsor has been silent with regard to how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted U-M and my research. Is it okay to charge the time and effort of idled research personnel to this project in the absence of an explicit sponsor policy? 

    1. Yes. U-M will consistently provide COVID-19 related benefits to idled research personnel, regardless of funding source, unless the sponsor states the practice is not allowed. April 6, 3:50 p.m.

  18. My sponsor has indicated that it will not allow the salaries of research personnel to be charged to my grant if they are unable to work remotely and have exhausted the various banks of COVID-19 exception time. The sponsor has even suggested issuing a Stop Work order. What does this mean for my lab staff?

    1. The answer depends on the terms and conditions of the award, particularly the termination and force majeure clauses. But generally speaking, how these matters get resolved has not materially changed since the COVID-19 crisis. If an employee exhausts their COVID-19 benefit and exception time, or if the sponsor issues a stop work order, the situation should be handled the same way it would have been handled months ago in similar circumstances, starting with moving that impacted employees’ effort off of the grant. See also Question 7 of this section, “How should I charge my employee on a grant during the COVID-19 crisis?” April 6, 3:50 p.m.

  19. ​Can you please explain the university's COVID-19 paid time-off bank, and how does it impact my research support?

    1. The COVID-19 paid time-off bank is a benefit to U-M faculty and staff, similar to vacation/sick leave. The time-off bank is not, however, a new or existing source of funding. To be clear, non-federal grants will be charged for the cost of COVID-19 related benefits.

    2. Given that U-M employees are entitled to the COVID-19 PTO, EPSLA and/or EFMLA benefits, if a grant has insufficient funds to cover the cost of these benefits, the PI/department/school will be responsible for finding an alternative source of funding.

    3. PIs should understand that, in the absence of being allowed a time extension and/or supplemental funds from the sponsor, it is possible that they might not be able to achieve their stated grant aims/deliverables under the original time schedule. April 16, 10:05 a.m.

  20. Are principal investigators eligible to apply for paycheck protection program grants?

    1. No. April 21, 4:25 p.m.

Proposal Submission and Award Management

  1. Will my proposal still be submitted to the sponsor on time amid a COVID-19 outbreak?

    1. At present, proposals are being submitted by the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (ORSP)/Medical School’s Grant Services & Analysis (GS&A) according to U-M’s new internal proposal submission deadline policy. In the event of a COVID-19 outbreak at U-M, proposals will still be submitted timely. ORSP and GS&A have Continuity of Operations Plans (CoOPs) to ensure proposals will be submitted amid the COVID-19 situation by having staff work remotely.

  2. Will my proposal still be submitted to the federal government on time if the federal agency to which I intend to apply is closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak?

    1. At present, all federal agencies are accepting proposal submissions as usual. In the event a COVID-19 outbreak closes a federal agency that is currently accepting proposals, we expect the agency will continue to accept proposals; however, the proposals will most likely remain in a queue (e.g., within the Grants.gov system), pending resumption of agency operations – as has been the case during recent federal budget-related shutdowns.

    2. The Council On Governmental Relations developed a webpage that features comprehensive links to key federal agencies' COVID-19 operations.

  3. Amid a COVID-19 outbreak, what level of review will my proposal receive under U-M’s new internal proposal submission deadline policy?

    1. At present, proposals are being reviewed by ORSP/GS&A according to the standards identified in U-M’s new internal proposal submission deadline policy. In the event of a COVID-19 outbreak at U-M, the standards and timelines for full and limited reviews will still be enforced, assuming ORSP/GS&A are adequately staffed. In the event that the number of available ORSP/GS&A staff is severely compromised (e.g., a COVID-19 outbreak within one of the offices), the service level standards for proposal review in the deadline policy may be temporarily suspended in favor of the timely submission of proposals.  Project Teams will be advised of any changes in level of service provided by ORSP.

  4. How can I reach ORSP or GS&A amid a COVID-19 outbreak?

    1. In the event of a COVID-19 outbreak, ORSP and GS&A employees who are working remotely will respond to emails and monitor phone calls  as normal. For ORSP staff, you should check their MCommunity profile to see their preferred method of communication. For GS&A staff, you may reach out to the individual and include msgrants@umich.edu with any questions.  Since the vast majority of the work done by the two offices will continue to be facilitated by the eResearch Proposal Management System (eRPM), staff also can be reached easily by “posting a comment” to the relevant Proposal Approval Form (PAF), Unfunded Agreement (UFA) or Award (AWD) record in eRPM.

  5. Will I be able to get an extension on a proposal deadline in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak?

    1. Most of U-M’s sponsors do not accept late proposals, and if they grant extensions, they do so on a case-by-case basis. Given that ORSP/GS&A may be working remotely, and thus operational, it may prove difficult to convince a sponsor that your circumstances warrant granting an extension. Faculty who are working on a proposal now should therefore plan on submitting by the sponsor’s stated deadline regardless of whether there is an active COVID-19 outbreak at U-M.  If you personally experience impacts from COVID-19, reviewing the sponsor's standard exception policies may be warranted.

  6. As it relates to research grants, how does the National Institutes of Health respond to natural disasters and other emergencies?

    1. With respect to proposal submissions, on June 16, 2020, NIH published the following:

      1. “NIH has announced an updated late policy for the parent institutional training grants which have just a single due date each year. In addition, some NIH ICs have issued late notices for specific funding opportunities, which are posted on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Information for NIH Applicants and Recipients of NIH Funding website. For all other Funding Opportunity Announcements NIH is taking a very flexible stance for applications submitted within the standard two week late policy. Applicants should include a cover letter with an explanation for the late submission.” July 14, 3:50 p.m.

  7. What if a NIH-funded project requires an immediate change that affects the outcomes or trajectory of a clinical trial or human subjects research protocol? Do the changes need to be approved by the program officer?

    1. ​If you need to make changes because of safety, that’s top priority. The first administrative authority would be IRB. Do what you need to do. Then please get in contact with your program officer. Please don’t let administrative concerns with the agency get in the way of public health or patient safety. March 17, 8:20 a.m.

  8. As it relates to research grants, how does the National Science Foundation respond to natural disasters and other emergencies?

    1. ​​​Per NSF’s Proposal and Awards Policies and Procedures Guide:

      1. “In the event of a natural or anthropogenic disaster, or when NSF is closed due to inclement weather or other reason that interferes with an organization’s ability to meet a proposal submission deadline, NSF has developed the following guidelines for use by impacted organizations.”

        1. Natural or Anthropogenic Disasters: Flexibility in meeting announced deadline dates because of a natural or anthropogenic disaster that impacts a proposer’s ability to submit a proposal to NSF may be granted with the approval of the cognizant NSF Program Officer. Where possible, such requests should be submitted in advance of the proposal deadline. Proposers should contact the cognizant NSF Program Officer in the Division/Office to which they intend to submit their proposal and request authorization to submit a proposal after the deadline date. Proposers should then follow the written or verbal guidance provided by the cognizant NSF Program Officer. The Foundation will work with each impacted organization on a case-by-case basis to address its specific issue(s). Generally, NSF permits extension of the deadline by up to five business days.

        2. To submit the proposal after the deadline date, proposers must check the “Special Exception to the Deadline Date Policy” box on the NSF Cover Sheet, indicating NSF approval has been obtained. A statement identifying the nature of the event that impacted the ability to submit the proposal on time should be uploaded under Nature of Natural or Anthropogenic event in the Single Copy Document section in FastLane. If available, written approval from the cognizant NSF Program Officer also should be uploaded under the Additional Single Copy Documents in the Single Copy Document section in FastLane.

        3. Closure of NSF: When NSF is closed due to inclement weather or other reason, deadline(s) that occurred during the closure automatically will be extended to the following business day after the closure ends.

    2. NSF recently developed a webpage for the research community with detailed guidance regarding COVID-19. This includes guidance for awardee organizations, researchers and reviewers of NSF proposals. Learn more

  9. As it relates to research proposals, how is the U.S. Department of Energy responding to COVID-19 public health emergency?

    1. ​With respect to proposal submissions, on March 16, 2020, the DOE Office of Science stated in a notice related to COVID-19 that: “If the lead principal investigator (PI) or the applicant institution are subject to a quarantine or a closure, deadlines for submitting pre-applications, letters of intent, or applications may be extended by no more than fourteen (14) days from the applicable due date.” March 17, 7:55 a.m.

  10. What should I do if I am conducting a U-M Office of Research-sponsored project for which the COVID-19 conditions will likely halt or slow progress to completion within the funding period?

    1. Please direct your questions to the contact for the specific UMOR funding program. Each case will be assessed and addressed based on the project circumstances and needs.

      1. Faculty Grants and Awards (UMOR-FGA-Submissions@umich.edu)

      2. Mcubed (MCubedinfo@umich.edu) June 18, 1:30 p.m.

  11. Will requests for no-cost extensions on projects need to be run through ORSP?

    1. Yes. March 18, 7:55 p.m.

  12. How might we have to proceed with grants and contracts from industry, foundations and other nonfederal entities in regard to changes in costs or expected outcomes? 

    1. Due to the heterogeneity of nonfederal sponsors, it is not easy to make a blanket statement. We advise following the general principles from federal grants (e.g., if a cost wasn't allowable on the grant in regular times, it likely won't be allowable now), but more specific issues around effects of timelines on nonfederal projects will likely have to be discussed with the sponsor. If the terms of the award need to be amended, ORSP personnel are available to help through this process and discussions. March 18, 8 p.m.

Research Involving Animals

Please refer to the U-M Animal Care & Use Program website for more information about guiding principles for working safely with research animals in the vivarium.

Research Involving Human Subjects

Please refer to the university's research re-engagement webpage for important FAQs about human research reactivation efforts.

Research Commercialization/Technology Transfer

Please refer to the U-M Technology Transfer website for important FAQs about research commercialization efforts amid COVID-19.

Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Research

Graduate students and faculty advisers should refer to guidance and resources from Rackham Graduate School, including guidance for research and scholarship during COVID-19 and frequently asked questions.

Postdoctoral researchers are considered staff and must therefore work first through their immediate supervisor to discuss plans for re-engaging in research activities. For postdocs in the Medical School, please see the Office of Postdoctoral Studies' COVID-19 Postdoc Policy FAQs. For postdocs in other schools or colleges, please see your individual unit for guidance and Rackham Graduate School’s resources of postdoctoral fellows.

  1. ​The COVID-19 situation will impact my graduate research and/or dissertation. What should I do?

    1. We will work to mitigate any challenges that the COVID-19 situation creates in completing research projects and/or dissertations on time. Labs and other employers that are expecting you to arrive after you defend your dissertation should be understanding of the delays due to the pandemic. We encourage open communication to ensure agreement about procedures for graduate student researchers. We ask all faculty to work with students to accommodate their particular situations, while helping each student continue their research path under the current circumstances.

    2. Remember that research and scholarship involves many activities that can occur remotely, including literature reviews, experimental design, data analysis, reading the literature use of digitized archives and other online research and data collections, video and phone interviews, and writing. We ask all faculty to work with graduate students to allow flexibility with regard to where research is performed.

    3. More information of specific interest to graduate students is available on the Rackham Graduate School website. March 18, 3:40 p.m.

  2. My study was impacted by the pause, which could lead to delays in completing my U-M graduate degree or professional certification. What resources are available to me?

    1. Rackham Graduate School has posted guidance on its website. Please consult with your faculty adviser or the administrator of your certification program for available options. June 18, 5:05 p.m.

  3. I understand that postdocs are to be entitled to the same benefits as other university employees. Where can I find this information?

    1. Per U-M HR's COVID-19 webpage (see the section entitled "Paid Time Off Programs for COVID-19"), postdoctoral fellows are eligible for EPSLA, U-M COVID-19 PTO, U-M COVID-19 PTO Supplement and E-FMLA. April 21, 4:40 p.m.

  4. ​I have postdocs and graduate students who are currently supported by NIH grants, but they cannot do their experiments. They do not have sufficient computational work to do. Can they be on NIH grants while not working for NIH projects? Will NIH provide supplemental funds because now we have to pay NIH-supported people who are not working for the NIH projects?

    1. Generally, postdocs and graduate students who cannot do their lab experiments should be directed to work remotely on grant-related activities which can also include things like training, literature reviews, paper and proposal writing. If it is not possible for them to work remotely, it is allowable for them to be supported by the grant, as long as they have not exhausted their various COVID-19 benefits.

    2. Unless expressly disallowed by the sponsor, federal and non-federal grants will continue to assume the costs of postdoc and grad student salaries and benefits, including benefits related to COVID-19. If the sponsor doesn’t allow, postdoc and graduate student salaries and benefits should be handled the same way they were prior to the pandemic when a sponsor won’t allow a cost or refuses payment -- by moving their appointments to another source of funding. If the new source of funding is another sponsored project, however, the trainee must perform work directly related to that project and not the original grant. April 21, 4:40 p.m.

References and Resources