SGSAH COVID-19 Policy: Frequently Asked Questions

 Version History

Version 1  Tuesday 21 April 2020 
Version 2 

Wednesday 6 May 2020 - Additional Q2.2 on the process of applying for extensions and Q2.3 keeping a log of impacts

 

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, SGSAH has compiled frequently asked questions (FAQs) for its funded PhD researchers (both via the AHRC/UKRI and our ARCS studentships) and wider communities, in order to provide guidance on how your studentship might be affected, on our funding streams, and our training events and activities.

If you have queries regarding how COVID-19 will affect your studies in general, we ask that you consult your supervisor(s) and your home institution in the first instance.

For more general information on COVID-19, please see NHS guidance at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.

Should you have further questions, or if information provided is now out-of-date (particularly given the rapidly changing situation), please contact admin@sgsah.ac.uk. See also our website, Twitter feed, and sign up for our newsletter.

 

1. Sickness & Mental Health

1.1. I am an AHRC-funded student ill with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. What is the AHRC sickness policy? Should I request a suspension?

As detailed in our Sickness and Suspension Policy (available within the SGSAH AHRC Intranet), you will continue to receive your stipend for up to 13 weeks of illness within a 12-month period. 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.

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 as soon as you are able.

1.2. I have an ARCS-funded studentship. What is the sickness policy?

We are currently developing guidelines for ARCS studentships, and will update as soon as possible. We ask that you inform your home institution about any illness (see Q1.3, 1.4 and 1.5). 

1.3. How soon do I need to inform my home institution that I am ill with COVID-19?

You must inform your HEI admin at your host institution as soon as you are able 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 SGSAH as soon as you are able so that we can identify the best way to support you.

1.4. I am unwell, however it is not COVID-19 related. What should I do?

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, you should you report your illness as soon as you are able to your home institution.

1.5. I would not say I am ill, but I am struggling and it is affecting my mental health. What should I do?

Please talk to your supervisor and/or HEI admin for guidance and support. We would also encourage you to refer to the advice from your HEI for COVID-19 related wellbeing resources. Furthermore, many Researcher Development departments are signposting or creating useful and accessible resources, such as these examples from the University of Edinburgh.

We are aware that these are exceptional circumstances that will affect everyone’s ability to be productive. We suggest that you keep a log of any disruptions to your work, such as caring responsibilities, physical or mental ill health, working conditions, challenges of accessing research resources, or primary research or engagement activity that has been cancelled. See Q2.1 and 2.2 for more guidance.

1.6. My supervisor is off as a result of COVID-19. What should I do?

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 SGSAH at admin@SGSAH.ac.uk.

We expect supervision to take place remotely via email/phone/video call.

 


2. Funding Extensions for SGSAH-Funded Doctoral Researchers

2.1. I am funded by the AHRC via SGSAH. Am I eligible for a funding and deadline extension because of COVID-19?

Potentially, depending on your circumstances. See the UKRI policy, sub-section ‘Training Grants/Students’.

If you are a final-year AHRC-funded doctoral researcher (defined by your funding ending between 1 March 2020 and 31 March 2021; this does not include students who were already in a ‘writing-up’ period on 1 March), the UKRI is offering up to 6 months of additional funding. More detail is provided on the policy here, with FAQs here. Please note we are awaiting further information on the administration of this funding.

Please note: this extension currently only applies to AHRC-funded doctoral researchers whose funding is due to end in that period. UKRI have said that they will keep the situation under review for doctoral researchers whose funding extends beyond 31 March 2021.

If your funding is ongoing, UKRI’s policy is for funding extensions to be considered on a case-by-case and documented basis. We ask that you keep a log of all disruptions to your research (whether they are to do with disrupted fieldwork or access to archives and library resources, illness, caring responsibilities and inadequate working space which is affecting your ability to carry out your research).

Please note: we are awaiting further information on the administration of funding extensions and will communicate updates as available to us. In the meantime, your funding will continue as normal.

2.2. How will the AHRC funding and deadline extensions be processed?

If you are in your final year of funding you will be asked to write up to half a page describing the case for extension which will include how you and your research has been affected by COVID-19 and the amount of time (up to six months) you require to complete your doctoral work. If your funding is ongoing (ie if you are in Years 1 or 2) we will contact you in due course to request that you submit a similar document outlining your own particular circumstances, which will then be reviewed on a case by case basis.

Please note that review on a case by case basis does not mean that we will refuse your application. We simply recognise that each individual’s case is different and impacts will vary. As yet we don’t have detail on whether there will be a maximum duration for extensions, but SGSAH and AHRC are committed to ensuring your doctoral projects are completed and submitted. We do not expect to ask you for this information for a number of weeks or possibly months so keeping a log (see Q2.3) will be useful to look back on.

2.3. What kind of information will you require for a funding extension request? How should I keep a track of the impact of COVID-19 on my work?

The information the UKRI/AHRC have asked us for Year 3 funding extensions is a short description (up to half a page) of the case for your extension, including how the student and research programme are affected by COVID-19; and the time needed to complete doctoral work. The UKRI/AHRC have also emphasised that we should not place an onerous burden of proof on you to provide evidence to justify your extension. We recognise that your work might well be disrupted in multiple ways (e.g. additional caring responsibilities and cancelled fieldwork).

You might find it useful to keep some kind of log of the impact COVID-19 has had on the progress of your work, particularly if you are in Years 1 or 2 and anticipate applying for an extension in due course (see Q2.2). There are a number of different ways you might do this: please work out what’s right for you, as we don’t want this recording process to add to any anxiety you might be feeling. Please note that we won’t require you to show us your log - it’s for your own purposes. However, it might be useful to discuss it with your supervisor, so they can support your funding extension.

For the log, we suggest:

  • Establishing what your ‘normal’ timeline might have looked like. What were your key milestones? You may already have a version of this you have worked on with your supervisor, or have been asked to prepare for an annual review. We suggest that having monthly objectives is useful for this, over a 6- to 12-month period.

  • Keeping a quick and regular record of how much work you’ve managed to do (or alternatively how many hours you’ve managed to work, if any). You might want to do this daily, but for others a weekly log might be better. For some this might be in the form of a notebook entry, or digitally in a Word or Google doc. Others may prefer to do it on a spreadsheet. This is up to you, and remember that we won’t require to see it.

  • Reviewing your regular record against your original timeline line on a monthly basis, so you have a sense of to what extent your work has been delayed. You might then - with your supervisor - create a revised timeline to work to so you have a more realistic sense of what is (and isn’t) achievable, depending on your circumstances.

  • NB if you’ve been ill due to COVID-19, please do include this in your log, but see the responses to 1.1 (for AHRC-funded students) and 1.2 (for SFC-funded students) for how we deal with COVID-19 and other forms of sickness.

2.4. I am a SGSAH ARCS doctoral researcher. Am I eligible for a funding extension?

We are currently developing guidelines for ARCS-funded students and will update you as soon as they are available.

2.5. I have applied for a SGSAH-funded AHRC studentship to start on 1 October 2020. If I am successful, will my funding be affected by COVID-19? What if I need to start later than 1 October because of my personal circumstances, or because any ongoing lockdown restrictions prevents travel to Scotland?

If this is the case – congratulations! We look forward to having you as a SGSAH-funded doctoral researcher in October, and your funding will not be affected by COVID-19. Our offer letters will indicate the potential for a later start if this becomes necessary for you.

We hope that lockdown restrictions will have been lifted and you will be able to join your home institution on 1 October in person. However, if circumstances are such that there are still elements in lockdown in place, we will keep you in touch about meeting you virtually.

 


3. Remote Working, and Working Conditions

3.1. My home institution has closed its campus. Will I still continue to receive my stipend?

Yes. As HEI campuses have closed, there is an expectation that University staff will continue working from home. As such it is expected that you will also continue with your PhD research while your home institution’s campus remains closed. You will continue to receive your stipend payments as normal.

See Q1.6 for what to do if your supervisor is sick, and Q3.4 for what to do if you are unable to work from home.

Please also check your home institution’s COVID-19 guidance.

3.2. My CDA or ARCS partner has closed its offices or other workspaces as a result of COVID-19. What should I do?

There is an expectation that you would continue with your PhD research, following any relevant advice from the collaborative partner. If aspects of your work have become impossible to carry out, please see Q 2.1 and 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4 for guidance on seeking funding extensions.

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

3.3. I am a SGSAH/AHRC-funded student, but now have additional caring responsibilities because of e.g. school and nursery closures, which is impacting on my capacity to conduct my PhD research. Should this be treated as sick leave, or should I formally suspend my study?

No on both counts. You should not suspend your study. If your personal circumstances mean you are not in a position (temporarily) to continue with your research, a funded extension will be considered. Please see Q2.1 and 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4 for information on funding extensions.

3.4. My HEI campus has closed and I am unable to work from home. What should I do?

We recognise that your home circumstances may make working away from campus difficult or even impossible. If your personal circumstances mean you were not in a position to (temporarily) continue with your research, a funded extension will be considered. Please see Q2.1, 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4 for guidance on seeking funding extensions.

3.5. Is there funding to support remote working if I have specific needs due to a disability, my mental health or a learning difficulty?

AHRC-funded students can apply for Disabled Students Allowance (DSA), which is intended to help with additional expenditure for the costs of study-related requirements that may be incurred as a result of a disability, mental health challenges or specific learning difficulties. The allowance can cover the cost of non-medical personal assistance, items of specialist equipment and general expenses. Please speak to your HEI admin for further information.

Please Note: For support not related to disability, mental health challenges or specific learning difficulties, you may be able to use your RTSG (see Q5.6).

 


4. Travel, Fieldwork and Archival Visits

4.1. My plans for fieldwork and archival visits have been cancelled or disrupted because of COVID-19. What should I do?

Please discuss any implications with your supervisor(s), including ways you may be able to conduct your research online. However, we know this may not be possible. If you are a SGSAH-funded doctoral researcher, please see Q2.1, 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4 for details about funding extensions as a result of disruptions to your research

4.2. I am a SGSAH-funded doctoral researcher and would like to apply for funding for future travel. Can I do that?

Yes, however restrictions based on government recommendations may still apply. See the FAQs in Section 5.

4.3. I am a SGSAH-funded doctoral researcher and was on an international research trip or placement and had to return home, or had funding for an international research trip or placement in place for the future. What should I do?

Please contact us at admin@sgsah.ac.uk with details of your particular circumstances, if you haven’t already.

 


5. Additional Funding for Current Doctoral Researchers

5.1. Can I still apply for Cohort Development Funding?

Yes, we are keen to receive applications for online workshops and events.  We are unable to support in-person events until we know how and when the lockdown will end. See here for details of how to apply. If you have been granted funding for an in-person event which can no longer take place, please contact admin@sgsah.ac.uk to discuss.

5.2. Will you be opening the SURCAS (Scottish Universities Research Collections Associate Scheme) in 2020?

We hope so, but it is dependent on access to research collections. We will update the website and via our newsletter once we have information.

5.3. Will research residencies be available this year?

We hope so, but these are dependent on the ending of lockdown. We will update the website and via our newsletter once we have information.

5.4. I would like to apply for an internship or artist residency. Is that still possible?

We hope so, but these are dependent on the ending of lockdown. We will update the website and via our newsletter once we have information.

5.5. I had funding for an internship or artist residency this year. What should I do?

Please get in touch with us via admin@sgsah.ac.uk to discuss the particular details of your situation.

5.6. I am a SGSAH-funded doctoral researcher. Can I still apply for Visiting Doctoral Researcher, Engagement Funding or (for AHRC doctoral researchers) RTSG?

We will still receive applications for Visiting Doctoral Researcher and Engagement Funding, and can agree them in principle, but given the current lockdown situation, we cannot release funds for any travel or in-person activity at this time. Once there is more clarity about travel and in-person events, we would ask you to review your budget and intended dates, and contact us at admin@sgsah.ac.uk to discuss options. For RTSG, please speak to your HEI admin as they administer this.

5.7. I am a SGSAH-funded doctoral researcher, and had received agreement for funding to be a Visiting Doctoral Researcher or for Engagement Funding, or was part-way through funding for either scheme. What should I do?

Please contact admin@sgsah.ac.uk to discuss your particular details, if you haven’t already.

 


6. Training and Events

6.1. Is SGSAH still offering training and events?

Yes. We are currently adapting to remote working and online delivery. Our Summer School programme will now be offered online between 22-26 June 2020. Please see our website, Twitter, and sign up to our newsletter for details as they become available.

For ideas or specific needs for online workshops or sessions, please contact admin@sgsah.ac.uk.