CCS research update in response to COVID-19

Update on CCS research activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

The coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis is having an unprecedented impact on people around the world. For the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), this pandemic is the greatest financial challenge we have faced in our 80-year history. We are anticipating a roughly 50% decrease in revenue – a financial loss of $80 million – this year due to event cancellations, changes in philanthropy as people and companies face new financial stresses, and reductions in investment earning. Most experts anticipate a slow economic recovery and as a result, we are preparing for the impact to CCS to extend for years.

As the largest national charitable funder of cancer research in Canada, our goal is to ensure that we can continue to support our researchers not just in the coming months, but in the years ahead. Our CCS research team continues to monitor the evolving COVID-19 pandemic to determine how we can best support our research community, including our funded researchers and their teams, applicants to our competitions and our dedicated peer reviewers during this challenging time.

We have carefully developed a number of mitigation strategies to protect our research portfolio, in consultation with our Advisory Council on Research (ACOR) and CCS senior leadership. These strategies have been guided by the following overarching principles:

  • Maximize and sustain the value of our investments made in previous years and prioritize these commitments over new investments
  • Protect our core research programs such as our Impact, Innovation and Innovation-to-Impact grants
  • Strive to sustain our contributions to the health research ecosystem and minimize disruptions
  • Work with our partners, and honour our commitments, where possible
  • Make changes based on efficiencies and ease of implementation
  • Seek opportunities to make unique investments to reduce the short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on people with cancer
  • Carefully consider the long-term and possible unintended consequences of our actions
  • Maintain a balanced portfolio of research that reflects our commitment to inclusive excellence
  • Refrain from mortgaging our future, in the short term, as a result of changing events during these uncertain times
  • Support our research community and position them for a rapid recovery once normal operations have resumed

Modifications to our research programs

We recognize the COVID-19 pandemic has jeopardized the conduct of research, as well as the preparation and submission of grant applications and research reports. To balance the necessity of fiscal restraint, due to declining donor revenue, with our ongoing commitment to our funded researchers, we have made the following modifications to our program delivery. Given the rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be revisiting and re-evaluating these measures on an ongoing basis as the situation changes.

CCS grant competitions

  • The 2020 Innovation and Innovation to Impact (i2I) competitions have been completed
    • Applicants will be notified of decisions in mid-to-late May
    • The start date for these grants will be adjusted based on anticipated return-to-work for grantees but is tentatively scheduled for November 1, 2020
  • The Prostate Cancer Canada (PCC) Implementation Research competition will be completed as planned
    • Applicants will be notified of decisions by the end of June
    • The start date for these grants will be adjusted based on anticipated return-to-work for grantees but is tentatively scheduled for November 1, 2020
  • The Travel Awards competition has been suspended for 2020
  • The Awards for Excellence in Cancer Research for this year are under review and may follow a different format than in previous years
  • The Research Grants for Uterine Carcinosarcoma and other aggressive uterine cancers competition will be completed, with peer review scheduled in June
    • The start date of these grants will be adjusted based on anticipated return-to-work for the successful grantee
  • The Emerging Scholar Award LOI review process will be completed as anticipated
    • Results will be communicated to applicants at the beginning of May
    • The Full Application deadline will be extended and applicants will be advised of new dates, in due course
  • The Impact Grants LOI deadline of April 29, 2020 has been postponed due to work disruptions and to accommodate applicants who are performing additional duties outside their regular scope of work and care
    • We will share more information about Impact Grant deadlines (LOI and Full Application) once we know more about the impacts of COVID-19
  • Competitions planned for 2020 and beyond that have not yet been launched are on hold until the implications of COVID-19 on CCS resources are more fully understood

Supporting our funded researchers

  • In alignment with the tri-council agencies, CCS will accept as an eligible expense any non-refundable travel fees incurred as a result of COVID-19 and directly related to CCS-funded and PCC-funded research grants
    • For grants incurring non-refundable travel fees as a result of COVID-19, these fees will not be included in the grant maximum for conference travel
  • Going forward, grant payments currently made on an annual basis will be adjusted to quarterly payments
  • Some scheduled grant payments may be reduced by 50% until normal research operations are able to resume. To be clear, this is not a 50% cut in grant funding but rather a deferral of 50% of the scheduled grant payment to the end of the grant. We will communicate with those researchers affected as needed and in due course. We will continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds and will review our position as necessary, contingent on availability of CCS funds
    • Any deferred payments will be transferred to the end of the grant, as part of the anticipated extension period (see more below). Our hope is that this approach will allow for a quick recovery once research operations resume and support the retention of essential personnel during this challenging time
  • Annual progress reports and statements of account may be submitted as time and resources permit. Please note, however, that submission of reports will be required to release payments, as per CCS and PCC usual accountability procedures
  • To ensure that our donor dollars remain committed to the cancer cause, CCS grants cannot be used to cover the salaries for research staff that have been redeployed to COVID-19 efforts
  • No cost extensions (NCEs) (of 12 months) will be offered to all current grantees
    • 12-month extensions will be automatically applied to grants affected by payment deferrals
    • Grantees will receive further instructions on how to request NCEs in a streamlined manner
    • A reminder for our current grant holders that surpluses may be retained for an additional term beyond the grant end date without requesting an NCE; for more information on no cost extensions in general, see our current policy (#10) and PCC’s policy (applicable to PCC grant holders)

We will communicate any additional updates via our email list, directly to our applicants/grantees as required, and/or on our website at www.cancer.ca/research.

We are grateful for your ongoing support and your commitment to research excellence during this challenging time. Your work is a valued part of our mission and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with you in the months and years ahead.

If you have any questions, please contact us at research@cancer.ca.