Coronavirus (COVID-19): information for grant applicants and grantholders

This page has information for anyone applying for, or who holds, a Cancer Research UK grant. It contains new or updated information relating to a COVID-19 second wave.

Applying for Cancer Research UK funding

How have panel and committee meetings been affected?
In normal circumstances, most of our funding committees would meet to award funds twice a year; in Spring and Autumn. In mid-March 2020 we made the difficult decision to defer all our Spring 2020 funding committees. Applications submitted for the Spring funding round were considered alongside those in the Autumn 2020 funding round. For future funding rounds, please continue to check the funding scheme pages.

In future funding arounds, how will reviewers take into account this period of disruption when assessing applications? 
We recognise the disruption period may have disproportionately affected certain groups of people, for example, researchers: with caring responsibilities; who were seconded into frontline service in the NHS in response to COVID-19; who have been furloughed; who are vulnerable due to health conditions and may therefore have additional barriers to returning to work. Any disruptions to research funding activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be taken into consideration by our panels and committees to consider making appropriate adjustments when assessing your record of outputs, research achievements, and career progression. Applicants will be asked to submit a statement about how the pandemic impacted research for you, your team and your application.
 

If you’re funded by Cancer Research UK

If you’re a researcher or student funded by us, we understand this continues to be a period of significant disruption and anxiety for you and your teams. Here we outline the ways we can help support you through this period of disruption and help to minimise the impact on your research activities by offering as much flexibility and support as we can.  

For clinical academics, Clinical Research Training Fellows and Research Nurses

UPDATED: What is CRUK’s position on the re-deployment of CRUK supported personnel and resources to support NHS clinical service during subsequent waves of COVID-19?

When the Pandemic first struck the UK in Spring 2020, to preserve clinical capacity for treating patients, recruitment to most cancer clinical trials was suspended. At this time many research funders, including CRUK, supported the re-deployment of research personnel to support NHS services. Sites have since been able to recoup the salaries of research personnel re-purposed in this way.

From May 2020 cancer trials started to re-open and recruit patients and many cancer trials are back open to recruitment. If trials are paused again, there is a risk they will not be able to complete in a timely manner without a substantial additional investment from CRUK at a time when funds are under enormous pressure.

Thousands of cancer patients have lost out on the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial during March, April and May 2020 including some patients who will have missed the opportunity to access life extending treatments. To ensure that the needs of cancer patients are met, it is vital that the trials that have re-opened remain open throughout any subsequent waves of the pandemic and that every effort is made to recruit patients onto them.

In 2021, the current wave of the pandemic has once again caused patient numbers in hospitals to increase to critical levels in some places, and impact on cancer research and services is becoming apparent.

To ensure that the needs of cancer patients are met, it is vital that the trials that have re-opened remain open where possible throughout any subsequent waves of the pandemic and that every effort is made to recruit patients onto them. However, we do recognise that in some places, this may not be feasible.

For this reason, CRUK views that:

  • There should be no national pause on recruitment to clinical trials during subsequent waves of COVID-19. Trials should only be paused locally in response to, not anticipation of, exceptional strain on hospitals;
  • Re-deployment of CRUK funded personnel to support clinical service should only be considered in exceptional circumstances (e.g. local closure of lab or local blanket closure of trials resulting in staff being unable to work on their CRUK funded activity) and where possible to support front line cancer services. This must be with express permission of CRUK and only if there is a clear process and timeline for personnel returning to their normal role and for costs to be recouped;
  • CRUK funded personnel can only be re-deployed to support COVID services or research in the most extreme circumstances - e.g. if cancer services are stopped or severely curtailed locally;
  • The costs for staff re-deployed to support COVID-19 research must be supported with the appropriate funding not from CRUK funding.

UPDATED: Given the above position, what should I do if there is an exceptional circumstance for why I need to be redeployed?  
In these very exceptional circumstances, for research staff funded by CRUK, you should contact your CRUK staff contact and request express permission in advance, outlining the clear process and timeline for recouping costs. For clinical academic trainees, see the next question below.

You will need to be clear if re-deployment is to support cancer services or COVID services/research which includes vaccination programmes.

UPDATED: I am a clinical academic trainee. What principles will CRUK follow in the event of susequent waves?
The UK Clinical Academic Training Forum and Conference of Postgraduate Medical Deans of the UK have together produced some Principles that CRUK will follow in the event of future significant disruption to clinical academic training due to a second wave of COVID-19, locally or nationally, or indeed any future pandemic. Underpinning these guidelines is the delineation of a local process, overseen by the regional Postgraduate Dean, in which local academic partnerships work closely together, and with trainees and funders, to develop a co-ordinated approach to managing any potential disruption to trainees’ research and clinical training needs.

If you are re-deployed to clinical service, this should:

  • Be aligned with CRUK's position on re-deployment of personnel outlined above;
  • Have been requested by your Postgraduate Deanery or NHS Trust/Health Board or equivalent;
  • Be voluntary;
  • Be time limited - ideally no longer than 3 months. If you were already previously re-deployed during the first wave in 2020, your total contributions to clinical service should ideally not exceed 6 months.

As a clinical trainee, you should request permission for re-deployment from your Training Centre (rather than CRUK) and discuss a no cost extension to your training. We expect your Training Centre to manage and record any no cost extension requests.

I am a clinical academic trainee who was deployed to clinical duties earlier this year. What advice can you provide to help me resume my research? 
To support your return to research, we have signed up to these overarching principles and practical actions in response to the disruption to clinical academic training by COVID-19 to be addressed by UK institutions and organisations responsible for supporting and progressing the careers of trainee clinical academics.
 

For all CRUK grantholders

What flexibility will CRUK offer me in managing my grant during subsequent second waves of COVID-19?
We will continue to offer you as much flexibility as we can in managing your award and we understand your research activities may have to be adapted in light of COVID-19. We’ll offer to delay your start date, offer you a no cost extension and to suspend your grant. 

We’ll be more flexible with the use of underspend and budget virements to cover exceptional and additional costs due to COVID-19 such as change in staffing costs, downscaling and upscaling of animal colonies, freezer storage costs etc or other costs in line with direct research costs allowable under our Costs Guidance

Will CRUK waive the current budget virement rules for vacant posts and equipment on my grant?
Our grant conditions usually stipulate you can’t ordinarily vire from a post vacant for 6 months or more. Given the present circumstances, we will waive that stipulation if a post is affected by delays due to COVID-19. We will also allow virement from unused equipment budgets. If you need to repurpose funds from a post vacant for 6 months or more or equipment to use for additional and exceptional costs due to COVID-19, you can do this. 

What should I do if I’m not able to conduct my research at the moment?
We understand your research may be disrupted and alternative research activities may need to be considered/implemented where feasible. You can propose any appropriate, alternative research activities and we’ll consider requests for no cost extensions (see below).  

Where my lab is closed, can research staff salaries be charged to the grant? 
Salaries funded by the grant can be charged to the grant throughout this period and you can apply for a no cost extension if needed (see below). Unfortunately, we are not in a position to fund costed extensions across the board. The government has announced a range of business continuity measures which are intended to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic. We would of course encourage your institution to explore these options fully if and while you are unable to work (see next question).

We understand that staffing may need to change due to the disruption in activities and CRUK will be supportive and flexible so you can use any underspend on the award to cover additional staffing costs to cover this period of disruption. You can also repurpose funds from a post vacant for 6 months or more.

What is CRUK’s position on the UK Government’s job support schemes?
If your employer determines you/your team are eligible for tjob support schemes, you can take advantage of schemes if you feel it is the right approach in managing your grant. Your CRUK grant funding can be used to cover a shortfall in payments through job support schemes, provided that:
•    Any salary top up for a researcher whose salary is usually funded by CRUK should be in line with University/employer policy (i.e. CRUK grants aren’t the exception). 
•    As with all related policies, we reserve the right to change our position if the Government extends its scheme for a longer period.
As these are Government schemes, they can provide you further guidance on whether an employer can access them.
 
How can I delay my start date?
You can write to us to request delaying your start date by up to 6 months. Providing we have no concerns from a scientific perspective, we are prepared to waive the rule in our Grant Conditions that stipulates you must activate the Grant within 3 months of the start date. 

If, prior to COVID-19, you had already delayed your start date for several months and you now need a further delay of up to 6 months, we will also consider this, so please do contact us.

When and how can I request a no cost extension?
If you’re a grantholder, CRUK is supportive of no cost extension requests that can be made in writing to us. We understand that the period of time for research activities to get back up to speed again after the disruption may likely be longer than just the initial period of disruption.

We’re currently prioritising requests for no cost extensions to grants with less than 18 months left on the Grant Award Letter. If your grant has less than 18 months to run, you can either request a no cost extension now or wait until your research has resumed and a clearer understanding of disruption is known.

If you have more than 18 months left to run on your award, we’ll be supportive in the future of your request, but we ask that you come back to us when there’s less than 18 months left on the Grant Award Letter.

If your intended original start date is not yet in the past, you can request a delay your start date instead of a no cost extension. 

When and how can I request to suspend my award?
We’ll consider requests to suspend your grant if you want to pause payments and activities on the grant. Please let us know in writing the proposed suspension dates to your grant.

Can I apply for a costed extension?
We’re not in a position offer costed extensions due to the impact of COVID-19 on our fundraising income. If you’ve already approached us about a possible costed extension, unfortunately it won’t be considered.

CRUK will only consider further costed extensions where it is allowable under our existing policies (for example eg parental/sick leave and clinical trials). As above, whilst we’re not able to provide you additional funding, we are offering as much flexibility in managing your grant as we can.

How will CRUK take into account any period of inactivity on my grant?
We understand this period of inactivity on grants will be disruptive to your work. We'll take this into account when assessing research progress, outputs and career progression. We’ll work together with you to adjust expectations about whether the full research studies can be carried out, what can be delivered and achieved during the programme of work once we all understand more clearly the impact of the disruption on research.

For other research staff funded by CRUK

What is CRUK’s policy if I’m unwell, need to self-isolate or have caring responsibilities for someone affected?
We’ll follow the policy of your Host Institution if any staff on a grant are unwell, need to self-isolate or have caring responsibilities for someone affected.

My salary is funded by CRUK, what paid sick leave entitlements will CRUK cover?
If your salary is grant-funded by CRUK and you need to take a period of sick leave, paid sick leave entitlements can be charged to the Grant in accordance with the Host Institution's usual policy. If your salary is part-funded by the Grant, paid sick leave entitlements may be charged to the Grant on a pro-rata basis.

I’ve incurred travel costs but can no longer travel, can I charge these to my grant?
If you’re a researcher (or student) funded by us and you now cannot travel due to government/official advice, or it poses a risk to you (due to an underlying medical condition, etc) you can use underspend to cover reasonable incurred costs, where it’s not covered by insurance. This includes reasonable travel, subsistence, childcare and conference costs where the purpose of the planned travel related to the grant and costs were eligible under our Costs Guidance.

For students funded by CRUK

Is CRUK offering Costed extensions to their PhD Students?
CRUK funds ~550 PhD students through our Centres, our Institutes and our Response-Mode awards (e.g. Programme Foundation Award, Senior Cancer Research Fellowship, etc). CRUK wants to support its early-career researchers whose research has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and has mandated that current CRUK-Funded PhD Students in their final and penultimate years are supported, if necessary and fully justified, with costed extensions of up to 6 months. The extensions, which need to be COVID-19 related and will only be provided on a case by case basis, will be financed locally using CRUK awards (Centre Training Accounts, Clinical Academic Training Programme, the Institute or the PI on the grant). These extensions are offered to ensure that students can deliver their PhD studies to completion and shows CRUK’s commitment to protect the next generation of cancer researchers. CRUK will not be providing blanket extensions for every PhD student or additional funds, and as such, each location and award-holder will need to manage their extensions internally.

I am a CRUK-funded PhD Student, what do I need to do?
You don't need to contact us to provide information about your extension or to request an extension. You should discuss it with your supervisor, and, if funded through a Centre or an Institute, with the Centre Manager, the Institute Ops Director or the training lead at your location. 

I am a Centre Manager, what do I need to do and what information should I provide to CRUK?
Although discussions have already been had, if additional students require extensions, or the length of the extensions already provided change, please let us know so that we can update our records. Similarly, if a training account needs to be extended because the award end date doesn’t cover the length of all the studentships, please send us an email to students@cancer.org.uk providing the A Reference of the award, the name of the student(s) and the new required end date of the training account.

I am the PI of a response-mode award that included a studentship, what should I do in order to offer a costed extension to the PhD Student on my award?
As a PI on a response-mode award (or a Project Manager on aCRUK Cancer Grand Challenge), you should have been contacted by us. If you haven’t, that means that we don’t hold information about your student(s), or that the dates we hold are incorrect (we have only contacted PIs with students on their final and penultimate years of study). Our expectation is that you flexibly use the funds available on the award to support this extension. Please contact students@cancer.org.uk to discuss further and inform us about your student’s extension.

What is the impact of funding cuts on CRUK’s student training accounts?
Whilst CRUK is having to make some tough decisions and cut funding across the portfolio, our aim is to limit the impact on the long-term future of cancer research in the UK. To this end, training accounts for non-clinical PhD students and the clinical academic training programmes for clinical PhD students have been protected as best we can. If your studentship is attached to a parent programme, programme foundation award or fellowship, your studentship may be subject to cuts as part of their overall award, but in all cases your student stipend must be protected. 
  
What is CRUK’s policy if I’m unwell, need to self-isolate or have caring responsibilities for someone affected, what?
We’ll follow the policy of your Host Institution if any staff on a grant are unwell, need to self-isolate or have caring responsibilities for someone affected.

What paid sick leave entitlements will CRUK cover for students?
If you’re a non-clinical student funded by us and you need to take a period of sick leave, we will provide funding for paid sick leave entitlements for a duration as determined by CRUK in line with our studentship entitlements for long-term leave outlined in our parental or other long-term leave policy.

For Clinical Research Training Fellows, as your salary is grant-funded by CRUK paid sick leave entitlements can be charged to the award in accordance with the Host Institution's usual policy. 

How can I request a no cost extension as a student?
If you’re based at a training centre, you should discuss a no-cost extension with your Centre who we expect to manage and record any no cost extension requests. If your studentship is attached to a parent programme, programme foundation award or fellowship, the grantholder should request a no-cost extension in writing to CRUK. For costed extensions, please see above.

What other flexibility will CRUK offer on student training accounts?
We are offering further flexibility to students and training centres in terms of recruitment and start/end dates.

We will update this page as required.

Page updated 06 January 2021