General | Essential research | Working remotely | Using MS Teams for research | Research funding, contracts and patents | Conference and travel funding | Research integrity (general) | Research integrity (animal and veterinary) | Postdoctoral research fellows | Postgraduate supervision
Who do I contact at the Research Office?
Will I be allowed to continue my research during the lockdown?
UCT remains as fully active as possible from a research and postgraduate point of view, continuing with desktop and library-based research.
However, in line with the national lockdown put in place by government at midnight on Thursday 26 March to stop the spread of COVID-19, the university has put on hold all research being done on campus – whether in the laboratory, in the studio or in the field.
There are certain categories of research in the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), where special exemptions have been given as the activities have been deemed essential services in line with government regulations.
For FHS researchers, please follow your faculty guidelines.
For researchers in other faculties, all research activities that involve on-site work, be it laboratory work, field work, studio work, performance or creative arts activities (including human, animal and laboratory research) must be put on hold. Instead, research that can be done from your desktop at home and which has the requisite ethics approval in place is strongly encouraged.
It is critical that, despite the challenges, our researchers and postgraduates continue in a research-active manner, once we are settled into the new environment under lockdown. We suggest you use this as an opportunity to focus on literature reviews, data analysis, grant applications and other activities that continue to be possible.
What forms of COVID-19-related research are considered ‘essential’ and may occur during lockdown? Will research on COVID-19 that is not directly relevant to the current pandemic be considered essential?
It is essential that COVID-19-focused studies align with the need for benefit to outweigh risk, as assessed through appropriate regulatory processes and in alignment with the lockdown regulations.
Any research activity will have a knock-on impact on services, and these services need to prioritise the most essential research to ensure it can continue. Knock-on services include: lab support (e.g. hazardous waste disposal), cleaning (bathroom facilities), supply chain problems (obtaining the necessary lab reagents, which could become limited), protective gear (availability of PPE).
Very little research that is not critical and focused on COVID-19 can be allowed to continue, in order to reduce the number of people on campus and the associated services as much as possible. This has been limited to research in which its interruption would negatively impact the human subjects involved as well as a very few exceptions where research involves animals. All such research has passed through careful assessment to gain approval and new work is not starting, unless approved based on COVID-19 relevance. Critical operations required for maintenance of research capacity and care of microbial, plant and tissue repositories are ongoing.
Certain research-related activities have been deemed essential or ‘critical’ operations and so must continue during the lockdown. Will Properties and Services personnel continue to provide cleaning and maintenance services in the areas where essential work is continuing (e.g. replenishing toilet paper and soap for handwashing)?
Yes. However, this does expose them to risk, and that is why we are ensuring that the fewest people possible are on campus to continue with critical research. Such research must have gone through an approval process within your faculty.
Can you recommend collaborative online platforms and the use of these for group discussion and learning?
UCT recommends the use of MS Teams, which is easy to use for setting up group meetings and providing a platform for collaborative working, with whiteboard and data storage provisions. For more on MS Teams, staff can complete the training courses on Success factors. ICTS has also provided a useful information pack regarding MS Teams. Their extensive Microsoft Teams web article will help you become acquainted quickly with this powerful tool.
Remember to check ICTS’s flexible working toolkit too for a detailed overview of what ICT services you have access to off campus.
Who do I contact for advice around virtual servers, systems and workflows for international research projects involved with sensitive data?
What is MS Teams and how does it work?
What is the difference between a team and a channel?
How can I keep my channels well-ordered?
How should I manage rights levels and permissions?
Click here to download a detailed pdf about rights levels and permissions, and how to set these up.
How should I manage my files and folder structure within MS Teams to avoid confusion down the line?
How should I best manage my team’s folders?
How should I best manage my team’s files?
What are the limitations of MS Teams for research?
MS Teams was designed to facilitate collaboration in a professional team; it is not intended to be a repository for research data, nor to store or communicate confidential information. Sensitive research data and large datasets are best stored on the central data store provided by ICTS. The use of Microsoft Teams is complemented with the use of ZivaHub (UCTs instance of Figshare) for publication of research data as well as a host of discipline specific repositories.
How should I manage my data storage and backup in MS Teams?
All data related to a project should be accessible from within MS Teams. Therefore, data related to the work of the team should be stored in the authoritative location for the type of data:
What other support and resources are available for me?
How do I work on MS Teams if I have unreliable or poor internet connectivity?
It is possible to use MS Teams offline, and just sync your work when connected. Download this pdf for more on working offline and how to sync.
Will the funder allow deliverable deadline extensions and even reformulation of such deliverables bearing in mind the impact of COVID-19 on the particular grant/project?
The COVID-19 pandemic may be considered a force majeure event (unforeseen circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract).
UCT is currently engaging with funders around research contract obligations during the current COVID-19 pandemic. To help us to do so, we would like to draw the attention of the Principal Investigators to an email from Research, Contracts & Innovation (RC&I) distributed in March, requesting information about research contracts in your research groups and the likelihood of delay, particularly where these are laboratory, studio or fieldwork-based and fund our researchers’ salaries and stipends directly. For UCT to be able to plan adequately for our research enterprise and particularly those staff at UCT dependent on research contract income, we need to have the necessary information. We therefore implore PIs to take note of that email and respond as soon as they can.
If you did not receive that email, please download it here.
For RC&I's summary of feedback from funders, please download this document.
How is Research Finance operating during this lockdown/containment period?
To ensure financial operations continue as smoothly as possible during the containment period/s, the central and faculty-based finance functions/units went into ‘remote’ mode as quickly as possible. This includes:
Are previously advertised UCT funding schemes still accepting applications during COVID-19?
Yes. Applications will be accepted during COVID-19. Please visit the current funding page for all open funding opportunities.
Can I keep submitting grant applications to external funders?
Yes, researchers are encouraged to submit grant applications. The standard internal approval of research proposals and contracts will continue as usual through UCT’s electronic research administration system (eRA). (Login to eRA here.) This includes faculty-level review and approval (through the faculty finance team and the dean or deputy dean) as well as approvals and submissions by Research Contracts & Innovation.
The international grants hub is also operating and helping researchers with grant writing during this time.
Must we keep providing information requested for UCT’s annual research outputs assessment (publication count)?
Can I use an electronic signature instead of an original signature for my NRF conditions of grant (CoG)?
Yes. Please remember that you and your witnesses should initial each page.
Can I submit a hardcopy of my conditions of grant?
Unfortunately, you cannot submit a hardcopy as the Research Office staff are all working from home. Please scan your signed CoG (a phone photograph will suffice) and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where do I send my signed NRF conditions of grant?
Please send it to email@example.com.
Can I have an extension on my NRF application?
Please liaise with the staff member who is managing that particular funding call. Visit the current funding opportunities page for the details of the responsible person.
Will there be an extension of the NRF deadlines for funding calls?
Due to the closure of universities and research institutions, the NRF has decided that all calls for proposals that were scheduled to close in March 2020 will be extended to 30 April 2020. The NRF will continue to review the call closing dates in accordance with the prevailing conditions and will communicate further on other changes to future calls as and when they happen. At the time of writing, no communication about the extension of the One Call deadline has been made.
Further the call for postgraduate funding applications has just opened and includes applications for all postgraduate funding through the NRF, including grantholders bursaries and bursaries associated with Centres of Excellence and SARChI chairs.
Is this a good time to review my research work for patentability?
Yes, definitely. While there is a pause in research activity, it is a great opportunity to review your work to determine whether something may be patentable. Contact Philip Hoekstra at Research Contracts and Innovation (RC&I) for more information or to get access to TotalPatent One to search for existing patents. You can also visit the RC&I website to download the invention disclosure form.
Once the technology has been protected, RC&I help PIs to develop it further using the various types of seed and innovation funding that are available to the UCT research community. The RC&I team are available online to assist with the assessment of patentability and to appoint patent attorneys to draft the patent applications.
I have heard that a COVID-19 fund has been set up by the university? What kind of costs can I claim from this fund?
I received funding to host a conference in 2020. Will the URC allow for funds to be transferred/used to host a conference in 2021?
Yes, these funds can be used to host the conference in 2021. If you cancel the conference, you will have to return the funds.
I received conference travel funding to attend a conference in March 2020. I paid the conference registration fee, purchased flight tickets and applied for a visa. How should I report on funding spent?
You should report on the expenses incurred and if there are any funds left, these should be returned. In the report, you should mention the various restrictions in place that hampered travel i.e. travel ban and closure of country borders.
Can applications submitted for the round 1 cycle be extended to 2021?
The Research Office will work with the eRA team to ensure that these applications are reproduced for 2021.
Will all documentation submitted on eRA be required again for postponed conferences?
The Research Office will work with the eRA team to ensure that resubmission of documentation is not needed.
I received funding to host an international visiting scholar at UCT in August 2020. Will the scholar still be able to come to UCT?
This is dependent on the regulations set out by the national government. UCT has to adhere to these guidelines. But in all likelihood this might not be possible. Please look out for regular national updates.
More and more events/conferences are being made virtual. Will the university allow funding requests for virtual participation?
Yes this will be possible. Currently, this process is under review to allow for virtual participation. However, adherence to funding call deadlines will still remain.
No adhoc requests will be accepted.
Will the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) be working during the lockdown, to help with queries relating to research misconduct, questionable research practices, authorship and publication practices, conflicts of interest (or any other query I would usually direct to the ORI?
Yes, we are set up to work remotely and will still be able to help you with all the usual queries that you might direct to us. There may be a delay in some of our processes, owing to the remote working set-up, but we are still functioning.
Where can I get guidance on ethics approval during the lockdown?
I signed up for a seminar that was due to be hosted by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) and the Emerging Researcher Programme (ERP). What will happen now?
In consultation with the ERP, we have decided to postpone the ORI seminar series to a later date. We are aware that many of the people who signed up for the sessions are the very same people who are suddenly having to plan to take their own curricula online. We understand that you have different priorities at the moment and do not want to pressure you further. We will reschedule the seminar series for a time after everyone has settled into the new online learning environment. We are investigating different ways to offer the sessions remotely so that everyone is able to participate. We are excited to share the important content with you but understand that everyone needs time and space to adjust to our new working environment.
Contact ORI for more information.
Will the Office of Research Integrity be assisting with Department of Health Import Permits?
Yes. We will continue to help as best we can. To date we have struggled to contact the Department of Health Import Permits section via telephone and email, and do not expect it to get better during the lockdown. We will do our best but ask for your continued patience.
Contact ORI for more information.
Will the Senate ethics committees still meet?
Yes, the Senate ethics in research, animal ethics and institutional biosafety committees will continue to meet during this period. The meetings will be conducted remotely, via Zoom – all committee members will receive the necessary dial-in details ahead of time.
Contact ORI for more information.
I submitted an ethics application through my faculty’s Submittable portal. Can you tell me the status of this application?
Please direct your query to your faculty ethics committee administrator/chair, who will be able to assist you.
I started to set up a Submittable form to receive ethics applications in my faculty/department. I need help – can you assist?
Absolutely. This is a great time to take your processes online. Please contact the Office of Research Integrity’s Paula Saner to set up a Zoom/MS Teams meeting to talk through your needs.
What is the current status of animal research?
Researchers are advised to follow their faculty guidelines. While some research is ongoing, no new studies will be permitted to start under the current circumstances. The studies that are continuing have been given permission by both the animal ethics committee and the animal unit, and provision has been made for the care of the animals.
Will the ORI and DAFF be processing Section 20 permit applications?
Yes, the ORI will continue to receive, review and process Section 20 applications. The applications which have been held until this point will be submitted to DAFF, as will new applications that we receive.
DAFF staff are returning to work in their offices two days per week in order to, inter alia, process Section 20 applications. They are working through a backlog but have endeavoured to stick to the usual three-month turnaround time for applications. Please remember that you are not permitted to commence your research until all the necessary permits are in place. If you have an urgent application, please refer to the guidance in the next question.
(updated: 2 June 2020)
I want to conduct an urgent study and the Section 20 approval cannot wait until the lockdown period has ended, what do I do?
Please email Werner van der Ross directly, the ORI will handle this on a case-by-case basis.
Will the Office of Research Integrity continue to support veterinary import permit applications?
Yes, the ORI will continue to receive, review and process veterinary import permit applications. The applications which have been held until this point will be submitted to DAFF, as will new applications that we receive.
DAFF staff are currently working through a backlog of applications but have endeavoured to stick to the usual three-month turnaround time for applications. Please remember that you are not permitted to import any materials covered by the regulations until all the necessary permits are in place. If you do so, the import may be stopped at the border/port of entry. If you have an urgent application, please contact the ORI.
(updated: 2 June 2020)
Will I be able to receive training and competency assessment for procedures authorisation from the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) during the lockdown?
All researchers who require training and SAVC authorisation please follow the Faculty of Health Science formal application process for students and staff staged return to research. Please indicate your training needs to Dr John Chipangura.
(updated: 01 July 2020)
Will the annual maintenance fee payment process continue during the lockdown?
Yes, this process will continue as normal. The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) will receive invoices for South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) authorised personnel and will distribute them to the relevant researchers/students. The researchers/students must then arrange for transfer of the fees to the ORI (via journal), and the ORI will make one monthly payment to the SAVC for all the fees received in a given month.
The SAVC are set up to work remotely and have already informed us that they will continue to offer the usual services, with few exceptions. These exceptions include processes where the SAVC need a physical file or a physical signature on a document to move their process forward. So the process will continue but might be slower than usual: the changes to UCT’s internal finance processes (as a result of remote working) might delay the transfer of money to the ORI and the ORI’s timelines in raising a purchase order to pay the SAVC.
Contact ORI for more information.
Will the Senate animal ethics committee’s inspecting veterinarian process continue during the lockdown?
Yes. The inspecting veterinarian conducted most facility inspections before the lockdown began. He will be writing up his usual facility reports during the lockdown and submitting them to the Office of Research Integrity. We will then collate feedback and submit requests for written responses from the facilities. However, we will be cognizant of the (in)ability of the facility managers to provide comprehensive feedback during this period. We will work with the facilities to set achievable deadlines for feedback to the inspecting veterinarian and Senate Animal Ethics Committee.
Contact ORI for more information.
What support services are available for postdoctoral research fellows?
Postdoctoral research fellows (PDRFs) are encouraged to continue with those elements of their research that can be conducted remotely, data analysis, writing of reviews, papers and grant applications as possible. Support for the postdoctoral fellows will be ongoing and PDRFs can contact the following service providers for support:
How can we help postgraduates who need laptops and data?
Access to both laptops and data is a challenge for many of our postgraduates. There is currently work being done at a national level with telecommunication companies to get students and postgraduates access to South African-hosted websites, including all educational sites, for as long as they are unable to work on campus. However, this is still work in progress. It is unlikely to provide our researchers with the facilities needed for data-intensive research, for which a different plan will have to be made. We encourage you to use the UCT VPN where possible to access and operate systems on campus, all of which are running. Data transfer can then be managed in the normal way using the underlying systems via the access granted by the VPN.
There is also a plan in place to distribute laptops to students in need. Due to the challenges of acquisition and distribution, this will be to a limited group of students in the first instance. The criteria for this and how it will take place is discussed in the recent DVC Desk. Please do complete the survey it refers to for us to understand your connectivity. The survey will help us prioritise and allocate laptops according to greatest need.
If we purchase data for our postgraduates, will we be refunded later for it? And if so, what is the budget for this?
We are working on this issue, and will update you as soon as possible.
If my postgraduates (on scholarships) cannot complete their field research this year, what advice do I give them about their funding situation?
We are working on this issue, and will update you as soon as possible.
My postgraduate researcher was at the point of collecting data before the lockdown. How should we proceed? And what will happen if a delay in completing fieldwork has an impact on submission dates?
We are working on the issue of delayed submissions, and will update you as soon as possible.
In the meantime, it is important that postgraduate researchers continue with their research remotely wherever possible, working for instance on research reviews, data analysis, writing up parts of their thesis and working on papers. Supervisors are encouraged to work closely with their postgraduates through the many remote tools we have available to provide them with good support, while being aware that our postgradruates may have data limitations too.