The Presidium of the Czech Science Foundation has been creating and updating a number of rules for managing projects in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The changes include deadline extensions, more leeway in dedicated workload, and eligibility of new types of costs. Here is the complete overviews of the measures.
“The current situation is unprecedented in many respects, including the fact that certain activities cannot take place, such as conferences we had planned a long time ahead. More importantly, it places an increased burden on all of us – scientists included – for many reasons. We have been looking for ways to make their situation easier to the maximum extent possible, without an impact of those changes on basic research in the Czech Republic. I trust that the set of measures we have approved will help project investigators handle the situation better,” says RNDr. Alice Valkárová, DrSc, the Chair of the Czech Science Foundation.
The changes in rules allow scientists to request deadline extensions for projects to be completed this year by up to 6 months. They can also request a deadline extension for the submission of the final report – this deadline has been moved until the end of August. Deadline extensions also apply to Ph.D. students seeking aid within the JUNIOR STAR programme – their graduation deadline has been extended until 15 December. It is now possible to use grant funds to cover telecommunication costs incurred because personal meetings were impossible. Eligible costs now also include cancellation fees for activities which could not take place. The Czech Science Foundation has also allowed a more flexible modification to dedicated work hours, making it possible to modify the hours by up to 35% without requesting a prior approval or amending the Contract.
Following are the details of the individual COVID19-related measures:
Budgets Unexhausted in 2020 May Be Carried over to Future Years
Unlimited amounts may be drawn from unexhausted targeted aid in future years – and this was already possible on the basis of Tender Documents and in compliance with Decree 367/2015 on Principles and Deadlines of Financial Reconciliation with the State Budget, State Assets and the National Fund (hereinafter “Financial Reconciliation Decree”). (The Beneficiary must, however, deploy a specific accounting procedure other than an increase in the reported costs –the required procedure is to increase the targeted aid funds above the threshold defined by law.)
Items of the Basic Breakdown May Be Shifted in 2020
Items of the basic breakdown of the grant funds allocated to a Beneficiary or another participant may be shifted by up to CZK 100,000 until the end of 2020 without prior approval and it is not necessary to amend the Contract and a new decision on the provision of aid is not required.
It is still possible to shift items worth CZK 100,000 or more on the basis of an individual request approved by the Presidium, and an amendment to the Contract.
Eligible Costs in 2020
Eligible expenses may now include the costs of COVID-19 tests if required for travel abroad in order to carry out a grant project. The amount of eligible costs will be reduced appropriately if the grant project is not the exclusive reason for the particular trip abroad.
osts incurred in the course of a project may now be included among eligible costs (i.e. advances paid in the course of the project) if those costs were related to a conference which was postponed due to COVID-19 and was/will be held after the completion of the project, but no later than a year within such completion.
Eligible costs may include cancellation fees for cancelled conferences, including travel costs for cancelled business trips, both up to 100%, provided that the trip was cancelled due to COVID-19.
If the supplier refunds the costs or if the trip takes place on a different date (e.g. after redeeming a voucher) but the trip is not related to a specific project, these amounts will have to be included in the project-related revenues.
Until the end of 2020, eligible costs covered by grant funds may include the costs of telecommunication services and the costs of purchasing, maintaining, or repairing ICT devices and appliances (drawn from the material purchases or investments account), excluding phones, recorders and readers.
Fixed Asset Purchases
Until the end of 2020, eligible costs covered by grant funds may include fixed-asset purchases or fixed-asset depreciation (if the purchase cost exceeds CZK 40,000) as well as intangible assets (if the purchase cost exceeds CZK 60,000) with a useful life of over one year if such asset is necessary to carry out a grant project and the purchase and use of such asset is directly associated with the grant project.
This measure makes it possible for eligible costs to include the purchases or depreciation of fixed assets and/or intangible assets in 2020 due to the state of emergency hindering communication in person (even in case the Tender Document does not make such costs eligible within a specific project).
The eligible cost for projects carried out in 2020 will be equal to the purchase price of the asset or a proportion of such price corresponding to the actual allocation of the asset to the specific project based on time and the plausibility of such allocation.
Total Dedicated Working Hours of a Team May Now Change by up to 35% without Prior Approval
If it is impossible to work on a project according to an approved plan due to COVID-19, the changes in professional teams that include a change in the aggregate dedicated working hours (workload) of up to 35% of the team’s aggregate dedicated working hours (workload) as defined by the Contract, including a change in the investigator’s or co-investigator’s dedicated workload, are now possible through 2020 without a request for prior approval, and such changes do not require an amendment to the Contract or a new decision on the provision of aid.
Decrease in the Minimal Dedicated Working Hours of the EXPRO Investigating Team in 2020
If it is impossible to work on a project according to an approved plan due to COVID-19, the Beneficiary may request a reduction in the dedicated working hours of the individual team members carrying out the project pursuant to Article 5.1. of Annex 4 to the Tender Document.
Postponed Evaluation of the Final Report
If the Beneficiary has requested a deadline extension for the evaluation of the final report, and such report is to be submitted by 31 July 2020, the deadline for the submission of the final report is now extended until 31 August 2020.
Extended Project Period
If it is impossible to work on a project according to an approved plan due to COVID-19, the Beneficiary may request a 6-month extension to the period to carry out the project. To cover the costs incurred during the extension, the Beneficiary will draw from the funds not exhausted in 2020, which the Czech Science Foundation allows to be carried over into the following period in compliance with the pertinent Tender Documentation.
In compliance with the Financial Reconciliation Decree, the Czech Science Foundation makes it possible already now to carry over unlimited amounts of the unexhausted targeted aid into future project years and to draw from such amounts without limitation.
Detailed explanation: This year, it is necessary to request a 6-month extension due to COVID-19 only for projects which were supposed to be completed in 2020. Should the negative impacts of the COVID-19 related measures prevail with projects to be completed in later periods, the Presidium will take into consideration well-founded requests for extension submitted during the last year of such projects.
Deadline Extension for the Certificate of Completion of a Ph.D. Programme within JUNIOR STAR
The deadline to submit a Ph.D. diploma (or a certificate of an equivalent degree) of the Applicant pursuant to Article 3.1. (5) of the Tender Document for JUNIOR STAR grant projects – 2021 is now extended until 15 December 2020. This applies to situations in which, due to COVID-19 related measures, it became impossible to complete the Ph.D. programme by the original deadline and to submit a Ph.D. diploma (or a certificate of an equivalent degree) by 10 October 2020.