Potential research funding impacts from COVID-19 and the provincial budget

COVID-19 has significantly affected most, if not all, University of Alberta research projects in various ways. In the case of research funding, there are some potential impacts principal investigators (PIs) and project holders should consider—including that despite the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 situation, research funding can still only be spent according to a funder’s specified terms and conditions. PIs and project holders are responsible for always ensuring compliance with funder obligations and terms per the university's Research Administration Roles and Responsibilities Procedure.

To try and manage and minimize COVID-19 related impacts and risks, as well as additional pressures from the provincial budget, the university recommends that PIs and project holders: 

  • Assess project status and milestones - review project terms/conditions against project status and review expenditures and determine if funding terms and conditions can be met in this highly uncertain situation. You can view project terms, conditions and expenditures in the Researcher Home Page. Contact your funder if there is potential for milestones to be missed. For researchers with Tri-Agency funding, consult agency websites for information CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC.
    If your funder requires a formal written amendment or requests other changes such as payment amounts or dates to be made, contact RSO so they can help with the amendment paperwork. If there is no agreement on an alternative plan, contact RSO immediately to discuss possible options including reducing ongoing expenditures or early termination and return of unspent funds to funders.
  • Review project payroll situation - COVID-19 has affected research project productivity. While some funders have permitted continued salary expenditures where employees are unable to complete their work, this does not address how research objectives will be met. PIs and project holders must assess how their research activities could continue to be affected and identify available options, including temporary workforce reduction options, if required. Temporary workforce reduction options vary depending on appointment type. Contact your dean's office or HR partner to discuss your current situation and the options available.
  • Assess funding disruption potential - funders are also affected by COVID-19 (e.g., due to not-for-profit fundraising shortfalls or government organizations dealing with budget reductions). The province has mandated the university operate strictly within its budget, which may be difficult if funding commitments are not met. To minimize the university’s financial risks if funders are unable to make payments or must defer, research budgets may need to be adjusted, deferred or reduced. Therefore planned project expenditures and commitments (including payroll) should be reviewed. 

RSO will work with you through these changes and provide guidance and assistance, if needed.