Research guidance from Provost and VP for Research

Dear RIT research community,

We hope you are well and we want to thank everyone for the extraordinary job they are doing to continue their research pursuits during this challenging time. We understand the obvious difficulties you and your students face as you try to continue your research without access to many of the resources you normally rely upon (i.e., facilities, face-to-face meetings, ability to travel, collaborator visits, etc.).

Sponsor Guidance

We thought that it might be reassuring to share with you some of the communications we have received from our sponsors. The National Science Foundation has provided us with guidance which includes such things as the allowability of costs not normally chargeable to awards (i.e., travel cancellation charges), allowability of salaries and other project costs not normally allowed, automatic award extensions, automatic closeout extensions, and reduced financial reporting requirements. Specific guidance will vary from agency to agency. Overall, our sponsoring agencies and the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are providing extraordinary latitude to PI's on the execution of their projects at this time. The guidance we are receiving is collected on the Sponsored Research Services website.

We know there are many of you who are struggling with the question of: How can I, my students, and my staff possibly deliver on your projects as originally proposed? This is understandable and the good news is that you are encouraged to get creative, which is what you are good at! Please consider alternative activities that can be completed remotely (e.g. writing papers, analyzing data, reviewing the literature, organizing notes, working on bibliographies, running computations, developing new models or analytic methods). The salaries and stipends of your staff, students and postdocs who work remotely on these types of activities can continue to charge their projects.

Graduate Students

As we all begin working remotely, our first priority must be our students. While much of our attention has initially been directed toward our undergraduates (not surprising given their sheer numbers), we also need to consider the academic progress of our graduate students as we make our new research plans. No doubt some of them will feel that they cannot possibly finish their programs without being able to continue work in physical research or creative space. Therefore, they will really need your help to figure out alternative activities that will allow them to accomplish their research goals. This also includes students who have been using our facilities for independent study and other capstone/research projects in addition to thesis or dissertation work. We are requesting that you work with these students to develop activities that supplement the work that they have done to date to allow them to successfully complete these courses and their degrees. Rest assured that our Dean of Graduate Education, Dr. Twyla Cummings, has already put the necessary processes in place to accommodate remote thesis and dissertation defenses.

Please do all you can to help our graduate students during this challenging time. A few suggestions that may be helpful are:

  • Scheduling a video conference with your graduate students on a weekly/biweekly basis
  • Creating a daily schedule for them which includes contact with other students/group members, support network, etc.
  • Developing a timeline for the completion of degree requirements for certification in spring or summer semester
Purchasing

We have received many questions regarding the President’s note on March 20 regarding purchasing. An exemption will be provided for grant expenditures on federal projects which are consistent with the project plan of work. Please understand that this does not apply to purchases on contingent accounts, corporate, or NYS funded programs. Those will still have to abide by the process outlined in the President’s note.

Soft Funded Employees

We have also received several questions about continuity of pay for employees who depend on research grants for their support. If, in the view of their supervisor, an employee absolutely cannot perform their work from home, even with all of the flexibility mentioned above, they can be “excused with pay” based on their scheduled work time. Both exempt and non-exempt employees can be paid for up to 10 work days (14 calendar days) with the expense continuing to be charged to the account they are currently costed to. Please understand this only applies to employees and the expectation is that the funds for these expenses will come from their supervisor’s grants, unrestricted gift funds or overhead return accounts. If the supervisor does not have the funds, the normal expenditure escalation approval process will apply. After this period, if these employees have skill sets which are vital to the unit and are considered essential, supervisors will be allowed to charge the expense to their unrestricted gift funds or overhead return accounts. Otherwise, local administrators should work with HR to assist in closing out positions which they have determined to not be sustainable for the foreseeable future.

Additional Questions

We realize that new questions related to your research activities are going to continue to surface. We have a web form where you may submit your questions. We will continue to answer these individually and use them to develop generalized FAQs. If you have an active sponsored project, your Sponsored Programs Accounting representative will be reaching out to you to get a sense of how your project is being impacted and what costs will be allowable.

In conclusion, be well and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any concerns. We are both confident we can work through this together.

Sincerely Yours,

Dr. Ellen Granberg, Provost
Dr. Ryne P. Raffaelle, Vice President for Research and Associate Provost