Updating risk analysis in research projects

13. Apr 2020

Lessons (to be) learnt from living with Covid-19 (#6)

by Elke Dall and Klaus Schuch

While revisiting the intial risk analysis for research projects is sometimes more a "compulsory exercise" that needs to be done during the interim and final reporting for projects, we felt an urgency mid March to seriously take a look at different risks and mitigation measures that we might use in our projects. As ZSI also coordinates several Horizon 2020 projects, we formed a task force and discussed different aspects of the COVID-19 crisis and the upcoming socio-economic crisis and re-assessed several project risks.

Several general dimensions need consideration:

  • Issues related to institutional capacities
  • Issues related to the implementation of project activities, in particular events and stakeholder engagement activities
  • Issues related to the project content that might need adaptations
  • Issues related to expected impact

In the attachment, you find the current version (2020-04-10) of our general risk assessment for projects. You can consult it as source for inspiration. We would be happy to receive feedback from you too.

As usually, when preparing for the more general risk analysis, we

  • describe the risk
  • assess the likelihood of it occuring
  • the parts of the project that it might affect (here each project then had to look into more detail)
  • potential mitigation measures

and then drew conclusions for the individual projects, in particular to ensure availabilty of contact persons and replacements, potential delays and needs for amendments that have to be communicated to the project officers, potential adaptations of project content to leverage possibilities and to formulate adequate messages in the crisis.

At institutional level, the challenges for a research institute caused by Covid-19 are manifold. Most challenges, however, are comparable to those most companies face. Indeed it is very beneficial that we have a profound team work and cooperation culture. We are used to work in virtual spaces as well. Nevertheless, we increasingly face serious limitations since many of our projects employ engagement processes and call for participation by including also groups and processes which cannot be easily virtualized. The longer the shutdown lasts (and the post-shutdown period will be different than the ex-ante), the more we need to explore alternatives. Doubtlessly, there will also be cases without alternatives.

Since more or less the whole of EU is under quarantine and shutdown conditions, we think it is important NOT to postpone the deadlines for HORIZON2020 calls for projects. It is much easier to work remotely on project proposals than to implement projects. There are hardly any proposal coordinated by us without Italian or Spainish partners. On the contrary. Only for calls in the area of medical research a postponement to autumn makes sense. As regards the other calls for research projects, we urgently need them now without delayed deadlines, because we need to be ready for the future. Otherwise we also would need to think about short-time work or other emergency steps which we could successfully avoid by now.


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Tags: Corona Virus, project management

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