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Coronavirus (Covid-19) Frequently Asked Questions

Due to the ongoing Novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, SGSSS, with the help of the ESRC (UKRI), our HEI partners and collaborative partners, have put together the below frequently asked questions and answers, in order to provide guidance on how your ESRC-funded studentship or fellowship may be affected. If you have queries regarding how Covid-19 will affect your studies or fellowship in general, we ask that you consult your home institution in the first instance.

If you are looking for more general information on Covid-19, a free NHS helpline has been set up on 0800 028 2816.

Should you have any additional questions not answered below, or if you believe information provided is now out-of-date (given the rapidly changing situation), please contact us via email on team@sgsss.ac.uk.

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Sickness and Self-Isolation

As per the ESRC Postgraduate Funding Guide, you will continue to receive your stipend for up to 13 weeks of illness within a 12-month period. Typically, a medical certificate is expected when a student is off sick, however, we will be pragmatic about what is realistic given current advice not to attend your GP (doctor) Surgery if you have, or suspect you have, Covid-19. The UK government states you can receive an ‘isolation note’ by visiting NHS 111 online, rather than visiting a doctor.

 

To make this manageable, it is essential that you report your illness immediately as we will not be able to verify your situation after the fact. Studentships will be extended to cover the period of absence, up to 13 weeks.

 

Please Note: The above is applicable to any illness, not just Covid-19.

You must inform your HEI admin at your host institution immediately when you are off with any sickness so that it can be recorded, and the appropriate support provided. This applies to any illness, not just Covid-19.

 

Please Note: If you are completing an internship, please also inform your host organisation and the SGSSS immediately so that we can identify the best way to support you.

If you are required to self-isolate or social distance as per instruction from the NHS, UK/Scottish Government or similar, we would expect that where possible you will continue with your PhD research to the best of your ability from home (or where you are self-isolating/social distancing from). To maintain your supervision, we would expect communication with your supervisor via means other than face-to-face meetings, e.g. email/phone call/video call.

 

Please note, time spent self-isolating/social distancing will not count towards your 13 weeks of sick pay as we would expect you to continue with your research. If your personal circumstances meant you were not in a position to continue with your research during your self-isolation/social distancing, a funded extension may be considered. Please contact your home institution and SGSSS for further guidance.

Please see the response for Q1.1. If you are unable to seek medical certification for your illness due to official advice not to attend your GP (doctor) Surgery, it is essential that you report your illness immediately to your home institution as we will not be able to verify your situation after the fact.

 

The UK government states you can receive an ‘isolation note’ by visiting NHS 111 online, rather than visiting a doctor.

Please advise your supervisor and/or HEI admin of your situation. This way, if you do need support later on, we will have a record of things, which will make the process easier. We would also encourage you to refer to the advice from your HEI for Covid-19, for suggested wellbeing resources. Furthermore, many Researcher Development departments are signposting or creating resources. Please see the examples from the University of Edinburgh, which is accessible to all. 

 

Please see Q5.6 for extension information for SGSSS-funded PhD students (not including students in their Masters year) who have had to immediately reorient to new ways of working.

If your supervisor is working from home (self-isolating or your home institution’s campus is closed), then where feasible you should continue working with your supervisor via other means, e.g. email/phone call/video call.

 

If your supervisor is off sick, please seek supervision from your second supervisor. If for any reason, this is not possible, please contact your home institution and SGSSS accordingly.

Travel

Please Note: As per ESRC guidelines, SGSSS is not permitted to fund any travel (or associated costs) to countries the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against visiting.

Furthermore, as of 16 March, the UK Government is currently advising against all non-essential travel.

If you are required to return funds as a result of cancelled travel etc., please contact your home institution for the correct procedure on how to do so.

Please consult and act upon the official travel advice provide by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), the country you are visiting and your home institution. 

 

Please ensure you are keeping both your home institution and SGSSS up to date with your situation and any specific challenges you are facing.  

No. SGSSS follows the same policy as our host institution, the University of Edinburgh. The current advice is that there is to be no non-essential travel. This includes fieldwork, visits, training and conferences. We will advise when non-essential travel will again be permitted.

 

Given that travel restrictions may continue for some time, we strongly advise you to develop a contingency plan.

If you have returned early from your visit as a result of Covid-19, depending on the outcome of your initial visit and the achievements made, we will assess each case individually to ascertain if a future return visit would be permitted.  

 

If your visit was cancelled as a result of Covid-19, please resubmit an application when we announce the next OIV call (likely in 2020/21). When assessing your new application we will take into consideration that you had received a positive outcome previously and were unable to undertake your visit due to Covid-19.

 

Please ensure you are keeping both your home institution and SGSSS up to date with your situation and any specific challenges you are facing.

If you have returned from your fieldwork earlier than originally planned as a result of Covid-19, we would expect you to undertake a review of the data you have collected with your supervisor, to ascertain if a second visit is required or if you can amend the parameters of your research to suit the data available to you.    

 

If your fieldwork has been cancelled due to Covid-19 we would ask you to undertake a review of your workplan with your supervisor to establish how your workplan may be altered to complete your PhD without overseas fieldwork, given that travel is likely to be disrupted for an unknown length of time. Please see Q5.7 for more information on extension requests.

 

Please Note: If you had planned on undertaking DLT in the field, you will need to advise your home institution that this will no longer be going ahead.   

Please follow the medical advice of the country/local authority where you are based, informing both your home institution and SGSSS. 

Please see the response for Q2.2 

Please see the response for Q5.7

You should advise your home institution and SGSSS of the situation and seek a refund for related costs from the event organisers and your travel insurance provider. Please ensure you are keeping both your home institution and SGSSS up to date with your situation and any specific challenges you are facing.

 

In some cases, a planned activity (such as a conference or training course) will be postponed until after your award end date. As of 18th March, UKRI have stated they will allow a no-cost extension (non-funded) to permit attendance. Furthermore, as an exception the cost of attending this activity can be claimed in the usual way from RTSG.

Applications for OIV, OFW and DLT are currently suspended for the reminder of the 2019/20 academic year, however non-travel related applications for RTSG can still be submitted.

 

Please Note: ESRC have advised that RTSG should not be used to support additional equipment for working from home unless there is a clear justification i.e. you requires a specific desk set up that is usually accommodated through the equipment accessed on campus.

 

As per existing guidance, if you do not use your notional RTSG amount this academic year, this will be carried forward.

Closures and Remote Working

Yes. Now that HEI campuses have closed, there is an expectation that University staff will continue working from home. As such it is expected that you would also continue with your PhD research while your home institution’s campus remains closed. You should continue to receive your stipend payments as normal. Please make sure you check with your home institution regarding their Covid-19 guidance.

In the case that collaborative partners close their offices, there is an expectation that you would continue with your PhD research, whilst following any relevant advice from the collaborative partner.

 

Please ensure you keep your home institution, collaborative sponsor and SGSSS up to date with your situation and any specific challenges you may face.

Please contact SGSSS and we will assess the impact of the cancellation or suspension of your internship on a case by case basis.

No. However, if your personal circumstances meant you were not in a position (temporarily) to continue with your research, a funded extension will be considered. Please see Q5.7 for information on how to apply for an extension.

No. However, if your personal circumstances meant you were not in a position to (temporarily) continue with your postdoc, a ‘no-cost’ extension will be allowed. We are awaiting guidance from UKRI regarding the possibility of funded extensions for Postdoctoral Fellows.

Now that HEI campuses have closed, there is an expectation that University staff will continue working from home. As such it is expected that you would also continue with your PhD research while your home institution’s campus remains closed. Please make sure you check with your home institution regarding their remote working guidance. If your personal circumstances meant you were not in a position to (temporarily) continue with your research, a funded extension will be considered. Please see Q5.7 for information on extensions.

Training

Please click here to view a message on our training plan from Dr Joanna Ferrie, SGSSS Deputy Director (Training). 

Please Note: If you are required to return funds as a result of cancelled travel etc., please contact your home institution for the correct procedure on how to do so.

All Spring 2020 internships are currently on hold and applicants were emailed with further information. If you applied to the scheme but have not heard anything, please contact team@sgsss.ac.uk.

No. All face-to-face training events due to take place up until the end of August 2020 have been cancelled or postponed. Those affected have been contacted and advised of the next steps.

No. Spring into Methods 2020 has been postponed and we are investigating alternative options with the workshop organisers. Those affected have been contacted and advised of the next steps.

A virtual Summer School will take place from 9th to 11th June. Further details will be released in due course.

Please seek a refund from the travel company or accommodation provider in the first instance. If a refund is not possible, please then contact SGSSS for reimbursement. You will need to provide us with proof that you registered for the event and proof of any applicable costs (travel/accommodation/childcare etc.).

Implications for your Studentship/Fellowship

A suspension is typically only recommended for illness lasting longer than 13 weeks. Our recommendation is to take sick leave so that you are still able to receive your stipend and an extension for any time lost.

As per the existing ESRC Postgraduate Funding Guide (please see for details) you would need to discuss and agree a suspension to your PhD with your home institution in the first instance.

 

Depending on your circumstance, you may be eligible for an extension. Please see Q5.7 for further details.

As it stands all funding competitions will continue as normal until advised otherwise. We are undertaking processes to mitigate any delays, however those individuals affected will be contacted if the situation changes.

If your Masters has been disrupted, training may continue, albeit via a different mechanism (i.e. online), however if that is not possible please contact your home institution and SGSSS and we will discuss whether you have sufficient training in order to embark on your Award. It may be decided that you will be required to complete additional training during your PhD as part of you Award; this additional component may be eligible for an extension to your Award.

For those undertaking Masters programmes associated with your Award or who are undertaking individual courses as part of your funding, there are a number of factors to consider.

 

For most Masters students, the credits remaining to be completed will focus on your dissertation work.  Some universities have already indicated that expectations of dissertations will be adjusted to take account of Covid-19 – where this is the case, we would expect that students would not require an extension unless they had significant extenuating circumstances – these extensions would first need to be agreed by your institution. Where other universities do offer routine extensions to dissertation deadlines then we will ensure that Masters students with a 1+3 are not disadvantaged.

 

For others, there will have been disruption to the conduct and assessment of core modules. Where you pass a module but are concerned that you have not been able to cover all the material that you would ordinarily have covered then we would want you and you supervisor to discuss this as part of your training needs assessment in the autumn.

No. However, any SGSSS-funded PhD student (not including students in their Masters year) who has had to immediately reorient to new ways of working (this includes technology; working schedule; location; caring responsibilities; and other research or supervision related challenges) is eligible for a one month funded extension.

 

To qualify for this extension, you must have experienced at least one of the “Immediate reorientation to new ways of working” criteria in the last 30 days. Declaration of this is via the Implications of Covid-19 on Studentships form on GradHub, which was emailed on Monday 30th March and must be completed by Monday 13th April. We will review all requests within 4 weeks following the deadline. If you did not receive this email, please contact team@sgsss.ac.uk or your HEI admin.

 

Where necessary, we will support longer term extension requests and are in the process of confirming the appropriate mechanism with our partner universities. For more information on the types of extensions available, please see the following presentation from Prof Jamie Pearce (SGSSS Director) and Prof Mhairi Mackenzie (SGSSS Deputy Director - Studentships and External Communications).

 

Please Note: You can request a no-cost extension (non-funded) as per UKRI guidance, to attend postponed conferences/training etc.

No-cost extensions are processed through Je-S (see the UKRI website for more information). Please seek guidance from your research office for help with this, keeping SGSSS up to date with any changes.

 

Please note, we are still in discussions with UKRI regarding funded extensions for current fellows and will provide an update as soon as possible.