Following disruptions attributed to the COVID-19 outbreak, MSCA fellows have launched an online petition for paid extensions of MSCA projects. They are notably concerned with the pandemic’s impact on Individual Fellowships (IF) and the replies received so far with regard to project extensions.
The European Commission (EC) appreciates the current crisis may have critical effects on some projects, and will continue to ensure as much flexibility as possible under the existing framework.
MSCA beneficiaries (host institutions) are strongly encouraged to continue running their projects, even if the research training activities cannot be implemented as planned. Recruiting institutions are encouraged to shift project tasks (to the extent possible) to allow for work to continue. For instance, activities requiring a physical presence (e.g. experiments/lab work) may be postponed until the confinement measures are over.
With due consideration of the national confinement measures, MSCA fellows are encouraged to telework or to use other forms of remote working (the corresponding costs are considered eligible). MSCA researchers can work during the confinement period on project-related tasks that can be done remotely (e.g. desk research, publication(s), reports and/or patent applications, virtual trainings).
MSCA beneficiaries must continue to ensure the working conditions set out in the MSCA IF grant agreement are respected during the COVID-19 crisis. Suspension of projects, or changes to part-time working arrangements can be accepted only if the researcher has explicitly agreed with these measures and with any resulting temporary suspension/reduction of the salary, and as long as the researcher’s contract is extended accordingly to allow him/her to finalise the work.
Part-time arrangements could for example allow fellows to work on other facilities such as health agencies and hospitals and apply their expertise in COVID-19-related matters.
In addition, the unit-cost funding system of MSCA IF provides sufficient flexibility to cater for this exceptional situation. For example:
- Periods in which a researcher is absent for 30 consecutive days or less (for reasons other than normal annual leave) may still be charged to the IF project, i.e. the costs remain eligible.
- Unspent institutional unit costs can be used to maintain the salary of the researchers during suspension periods. Recruiting institutions may also cover these expenses from dedicated national or own resources.
- The monthly living allowance paid to the MSCA IF researchers is a gross amount, including compulsory deductions under national law, such as employer/employee social security contributions. This means that MSCA IF researchers should also be able to benefit from national social security systems if they are left temporarily out of work.
If necessary, MSCA National Contact Points will be able to provide detailed information. The respective Project Officer in the Research Executive Agency can also provide assistance.
In light of the evolving situation, the Commission services are continuing to monitor the situation and are absolutely committed to ensuring the MSCA is flexible enough to face these unprecedented challenges.