The exclusive declaration was introduced in H2020 as an alternative for the often unpopular timesheet. One declaration would cover a 12 or 24 month reporting period, with no detail of hours actually worked on an H2020 project, so simplifying the researcher’s life.
But auditors are now checking whether researchers are really exclusively devoted to their H2020 project, which gave rise to a number of questions at a recent event held by the EC’s audit and legal staff. The results are:
· auditors will check the internet including the beneficiary’s web site plus the researcher’s CV for evidence of non-exclusivity. They may also find evidence by interviewing the researcher to discuss their contribution to the project compared with the periodic report and – accidentally – while checking other expense items such as travel.
· If the researcher spent a few hours assisting a colleague with, say, a new research proposal, that would be ignored, as would a few working hours spent carousing at a Christmas party.
· But assisting a colleague with a new research proposal for two weeks or more would break the exclusivity, condemning the researcher to filling timesheets for the remainder of the reporting period. This would apply even if the time spent was actually outside the normal working hours of the researcher.
· And attending training courses (unless this was explicitly anticipated in the project proposal) would be ineligible for funding, so attending one would break the period of exclusivity. But not providing such training possibly breaches article 32 of the grant agreement on career development of researchers.
Simplification comes at a cost!