COVID-19: Research Operations at USU2020-06-15T18:54:41+00:00


Updated: June 15, 2020

COVID-19 SOPs FOR RESEARCH ENVIRONMENTS

TEMPLATE AND RESOURCES

In response to concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19, Utah State University is moving academic courses online and canceling events and non-essential travel. Other functions of the university, including those performed by the Office of Research, will continue in as normal a fashion as possible, with some restrictions. That includes the work being done by researchers across the USU system. This page is intended to provide greater clarity and best practices for researchers at Utah State.

The university has also established a website regarding USU’s response to COVID-19. Researchers should familiarize themselves with the university’s infectious disease plan.

If you have any questions that are not addressed by the Frequently Asked Questions below, we have created a portal for you to ask your question. Using this form will allow us to provide you with an accurate answer in the most quick and efficient way possible.

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Current policies and procedures — FAQs

Are there funding opportunities related to COVID-19? (Added 4/14)2020-04-14T14:33:06+00:00

Yes, there are a variety of opportunities and the Research Development Division is available to assist with applications. View a list of funding programs here.

My research is being conducted with collaborators outside of USU. What procedures do I need to think about? (Added 4/10)2020-04-10T14:27:04+00:00

Please ensure that you are aware and working with your collaborators to inform them of the USU research COVID-19 response and are communicating and potentially making alternate plans or placing a study hold on research procedures. Ensure that you understand differences in operations that your collaborators may also be facing and required to comply with for their respective campuses or other non-USU locations.

Do I need to notify the DRIC if I plan to postpone activities under a TCP? (Added 4/10)2020-04-10T14:26:35+00:00

If your project is not feasible to conduct remotely and/or you voluntarily and/or must postpone activities, you are required to notify the DRIC through submission of an email to DRIC staff indicating you have decided to initiate a study hold. This email notification must describe the status of the study and the communication process that was used to inform the study team of the voluntary hold and any necessary security parameters that will be put into place to protect the project. The DRIC may also direct you to take additional security measures in the event of a study hold.

How does COVID-19 affect research data access and security? (Added 4/10)2020-04-10T14:25:48+00:00

We recognize the importance of working remotely during this time and in many cases remote activity does not pose research data security concerns. However, research personnel must consider whether or not appropriate data security and confidentiality measures can be implemented for work to be conducted from off-campus locations. Please remember that data security changes deviating from a currently approved protocol or data security plan must be approved prior to generating, relocating, accessing, or storing the data. In addition, changes may also require notification and/or amendments to sponsor agreements. In particular, research personnel must be aware of the types of data involved in their export-controlled determination and TCPs.

  • Data that is highly confidential, restricted, or sensitive and protection of the data is required by international, federal, state, university, or sponsor requirements needs particular care during these times. Please remember, the loss of confidentiality, integrity, or inappropriate access could have severe adverse impact on the University, research area, or project.
  • Emailing research data may not be appropriate or secure depending on the type of data and security requirements involved, and in some cases may be a violation of federal law. In particular, do not transmit ITAR-controlled data via normal email.
  • Appropriate IT security and confidentiality measures consistent with your Export Controlled determination or Technology Control Plan (TCP), sponsor/contract requirements, and Utah State University’s policy #588: Protecting Private Sensitive Information and Critical Institutional Data are required. Research personnel must consider and double-check protocols, TCPs, grant or contractual obligations related to data security, storage, and confidentiality measures prior to allowing work from off-campus locations or taking physical/electronic data off campus. Please check with Sponsored Program Office and/or Export Control Officer as appropriate to the type of research you are conducting. Some examples include but are not limited to:
    • ITAR and Covered Defense Information (CDI)
    • Some Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)
    • NIST/DFARS clause applicable data
  • Please reference IT guidance information regarding working remotely and utilizing resources such as IVC, Webex, VPN, and other cloud-based services.
    • It is also important to note that in some cases VPN and remote access of research data from or to a country with U.S. embargoes, sanctions, or restrictions should not occur. Please contact Export Control Officer if you believe this may occur.
  • We emphatically ask that research personnel seek DRIC and IT support before attempting changes or upgrades if any restricted, controlled, or sensitive research data is involved: https://dps.usu.edu/emergency/covid-19/working-remotely
What type of security measures should I ensure if I have export-controlled research, a determination, or a TCP? (Added 4/10)2020-04-10T14:24:19+00:00

Research personnel should double-check their determinations, TCPs, security requirements, and any applicable sponsor requirements to ensure they understand and can meet all compliance requirements.

Please remember that all physical and data security changes deviating from a currently approved protocol, TCP, or data security plan must be approved by the DRIC prior to generating, relocating, accessing, or storing the data or items/equipment. In addition, changes may also require notification and/or amendments to sponsor agreements.

Data/information/items that are highly confidential, restricted, or sensitive and protection of the data/information/items is required by international, federal, state, university, or sponsor requirements needs particular care during these times. Please remember, the loss of confidentiality, integrity, or inappropriate access could have severe adverse impact on the University, research area, project, or funding. This will often be the case with research protocols involving export control determinations or TCPs.

What if my project is currently being reviewed by the Export Compliance Program? (Added 4/10)2020-04-10T14:23:29+00:00

DRIC staff will continue the review of research projects through their normal review activities and through the regular first-in-first-out order as closely as possible. Please understand, at this time, priorities will be placed on items associated with ongoing research and projects, TCPs or determinations having been submitted for review that are impacted by the current COVID-19 outbreak.

If you have a new project, TCP, or determination moving through the review process, DRIC staff will be communicating with you further via email or phone if they believe remote activities are reasonable based on the current project and research requirements.

Do I need to change my protocol to accommodate remote activity? If so, and I’m under a determination or TCP is this required to be reviewed by the Export Compliance Program? (Added 4/10)2020-04-10T14:22:32+00:00

In many cases, PIs may not be able to complete required research activities remotely when a TCP is involved. Please ensure you are communicating with DRIC staff prior to implementing any changes to your activities under the determination or TCP to ensure U.S. export control regulations and/or sponsor requirements are not violated.

PIs should also monitor the COVID-19 Research Operations at USU as well as the Coronavirus (COVID019) Information updates and as it relates to USU operations, as needed. As a reminder, all changes to a currently approved technology control plan (TCP) or determination must be reviewed and approved by the Export Compliance Program prior to implementation.

My personnel and I are currently working on research under an export control determination or technology control plan (TCP), but is this recommended? (Added 4/10)2020-04-10T14:21:36+00:00

We urge USU research teams to make the necessary plans to move research activities to work remotely. Alternatively, the PI may decide to initiate a study hold on all research activities that cannot be performed securely from off-campus locations and are not essential to completion of the project until further notice. Off-campus work locations must meet the same physical and electronic security standards as the original work locations outlined in the determination or TCP.

PIs may choose to complete study tasks remotely if feasible for the study and if appropriate security measures are implemented. It is important to note that many projects involving a TCP and some EC determinations may not be appropriate for remote work or access of information. Any plans to work remotely must be approved by the DRIC prior to initiating the change.

Is USU’s Division of Research Integrity & Compliance (DRIC) and the Export Compliance Program operating as usual? (Added 4/10)2020-04-10T14:20:26+00:00

The DRIC Office is fully functional and all DRIC staff are operating remotely at normal capacity.

Review priority will be given to all inquiries, requests, applications, and change requests related to impacts of COVID-19. Communications about projects affected by COVID-19 should be sent via email to the general email (compliance@usu.edu) with your project title included in the email subject line. This will assist DRIC staff in identifying and tracking immediate requests. Subject Line Example: Review request –Project Title–COVID-19

Is SPO changing any of its business processes given the fact that many sponsors are reaching out to support USU research related to COVID-19 or are publishing relevant funding opportunities with very short turnaround times? (Added 4/10)2020-04-10T14:10:30+00:00
  1. SPO will prioritize the submission of any proposal related to COVID-19. As long as SPO is given a day’s advance notice, staff will review and submit COVID-19 related proposals by the deadline, regardless of when the proposal is finalized.
  2. To ensure your document is prioritized accordingly, please notify your SPO Preaward contact by phone or email as soon as you intend to submit a proposal for research related to COVID-19. If contacting your SPO Preaward contact by email, please include COVID-19 in the subject line.
  3. SPO also will prioritize the negotiation of any contract, agreement or clinical trial related to COVID-19.
  4. Note, as well, that all investigators who wish to carry out new or modified research projects related to COVID-19 that involve human subjects, basic laboratory or animal research, or require significant university resources to stand up, must contact the applicable compliance office (IRB, IACUC, etc.) as soon as reasonably possible.
I understand that there is an urgent need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies, and I would like to donate some lab masks that I purchased from my grant funds. May I, and is there anything special I need to do to make this donation? (Added 4/2)2020-04-02T19:13:53+00:00

We understand that the health, safety, and well-being of your staff is your first priority, and that different groups on campus will remain active.  However, for those researchers with a temporary shut-down of research activities, many supplies on hand can be replaced later. If items were purchased on a grant that is currently active, and you intend to donate PPE in support of efforts related to COVID-19, it may be necessary to move those charges to a non-sponsored account.

As of today, NIH is the only federal agency that has specifically allowed donation of PPE which have been purchased on NIH-funded grants, and you may rebudget NIH-grant funds to repurchase supplies at a later date, use large unobligated balances, or submit an administrative supplement request to NIH at a later date. Regardless of funding source, it will ultimately be important  to document the source of funds used to purchase the supplies and if/when/where they were donated in case of a later audit or opportunity for reimbursement.

Has COVID-19 affected USU’s Technology Transfer Services operations? (Added 3/30)2020-03-30T17:54:07+00:00

At this time, the Technology Transfer Services office is functional and operating at standard capacity. If there are delays in service due to the changing business environment, our staff will do everything it can to continue to process requests as efficiently as possible. Following social distancing guidelines, all TTS staff are working from home. Unless otherwise noted, all email addresses will continue to be monitored with the same frequency as typically provided.

Can I submit invention disclosures to the Technology Transfer Services office?2020-03-30T17:53:05+00:00

Yes, Invention Disclosures will be accepted through TTS’s online inventor portal. There is currently no disruption to this process.

Is Technology Transfer Services able to file patent applications in advance of a pending publication or other public disclosure?2020-03-30T17:51:05+00:00

Yes. Typically, once the invention disclosure has been submitted to TTS through the online inventor portal a TTS member will contact you within two weeks to review the disclosure. If the public disclosure is planned within this two week window we would encourage you to contact us directly.

With the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation and the potential for USU’s external law firms potentially having disrupted operations, it is more important than ever to provide as much lead time as possible prior to public disclosures.

Will licensing activities relating to my invention continue during a COVID-19 outbreak?2020-03-30T17:47:31+00:00

​Yes, although there may be some delays in negotiations.

Who may I contact if I’m not receiving a response to my inquiries? (Added 3/30)2020-03-30T17:41:38+00:00

If you have emailed and telephoned a Technology Transfer Services team member about an urgent issue but have not received a response, please email techtransfer@usu.edu.

Will deadlines imposed by governmental patent offices be extended during this time?2020-03-30T17:41:02+00:00

We are not aware of any current US patent office closures or changes in deadline resulting from the current situation. Any deadline previously described to you still applies.

Will the application deadline for seed funding or capital equipment grants be adjusted? (Added 3/26)2020-03-26T16:06:04+00:00

Applications for the USU Office of Research’s current round of seed funding grants and capital equipment grants are due soon.  In light of the current COVID-19 circumstances, the application deadlines for both programs have been extended from April 15 to May 15, 2020.  Additional details regarding these programs are available at the following websites:

https://research.usu.edu/rd/seed-grants/

https://research.usu.edu/rd/capital-equipment-grants/

The start date for the April seed grant funding cycle is typically July 1.  To best support PIs who receive funding this round, flexible (delayed) start dates will be available upon request.

How might we have to proceed with grants and contracts from industry, foundations and other nonfederal entities in regard to changes in costs or expected outcomes? (Added 3/20)2020-03-20T13:59:36+00:00

Due to the variance of nonfederal sponsors, it is not easy to make a blanket statement. We advise following the general principles from federal grants (e.g., if a cost wasn’t allowable on the grant in regular times, it likely won’t be allowable now), but more specific issues around effects of timelines on nonfederal projects will likely have to be discussed with the sponsor. If the terms of the award need to be amended, SPO personnel are available to help through this process and discussions.

The IRB has required a temporary stoppage of some research. What are the criteria? (Updated 3/16)2020-03-19T21:42:02+00:00

(Updated March 16, 2020) All in-person research procedures (including recruitment, informed consent, data collection, and analytic efforts involving in-person interactions such as member checking or meaning-making processes) between researchers and participants must temporarily stop. The IRB will notify you when these procedures are once again permitted.

Where possible, researchers should adjust research procedures that are conducted in person. For example, in-person interviews can be moved online in many cases. Video conferencing software can be utilized in place of larger meetings.

Please note that these modifications should be filed as an amendment to your protocol before they are implemented, so that the IRB can assess the risk associated with any changes. Office staff are prioritizing COVID-19 related communications and amendments.


All research that involves in person interactions (anything from recruitment to data analysis) with high risk individuals must temporarily pause those in person interactions. High risk individuals are:

  • People aged 60 or over
  • Immunosuppressed or immunocompromised participants
  • People with heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes.

Right now, there is no need to report a stoppage of activities to the IRB. The IRB will be in touch with researchers overseeing protocols where stoppage should occur.

USU researchers and their affiliates are conducting research all over the world. The IRB recommends, but does not require, that in-person research activities pause in areas with community spread of the virus.

What research activities can continue? (Added 3/16)2020-03-19T21:40:52+00:00

All research activities that do not involve in-person interactions can continue. If your data collection efforts are complete and your data analysis does not require in-person meetings between researchers and participants, you may continue work on your project, even if it initially involved in-person data collection efforts.

Researchers are reminded that changes to procedures to accommodate these new restrictions must be approved by the IRB before they are carried out, unless needed to eliminate an immediate hazard to a participant.

As it relates to research proposals, how is the U.S. Department of Energy responding to COVID-19 public health emergency? (Added 3/19)2020-03-19T14:35:21+00:00
​With respect to proposal submissions, on March 16, 2020, the DOE Office of Science stated in a notice related to COVID-19 that: “If the lead principal investigator (PI) or the applicant institution are subject to a quarantine or a closure, deadlines for submitting pre-applications, letters of intent, or applications may be extended by no more than fourteen (14) days from the applicable due date.”
Are the LARC facilities still accessible? (Updated 3/18)2020-03-18T19:40:47+00:00

(Updated March 18) Per the LARC Epidemic Response Plan (linked above), new applications for facility access will not be granted at this time.


Access to the LARC facilities will not change at this time, and all technicians, graduate students, etc. will continue to have the normal access to facilities and animals.  At this time no additional safety precautions beyond those already recommended are required for work within the LARC.

Will training still be available for new researchers wanting to work in the LARC? (Updated 3/18)2020-03-18T19:38:33+00:00

(Updated March 18) Per the LARC Epidemic Response Plan (linked above), the office will no longer provide in-person training.


Yes, we will continue to process applications and provide training for new research team members seeking to work in the LARC.

​I have a temporary employee/student worker who is no longer able to work on my grant as a consequence of the COVID-19 situation. What are my options for keeping this individual on the university payroll? (Added 3/17)2020-03-17T17:01:00+00:00

If a temporary employee/student worker is no longer able, for whatever reason, to work on a sponsored project, the principal investigator (PI) should first determine if the individual can be legitimately reassigned to other grant-funded activities. If yes, the individual’s appointment should be moved to the appropriate award. If the PI does not have work for the individual to perform, then the PI should check with his/her unit to see about reassignment to other nonsponsored projects or activities. If reassignment is not feasible, then the unit should work with Human Resources for assistance in transitioning the employee to a new opportunity, if possible. Please note that student employment can be a condition of (or impact) a student’s financial aid package so the USU Financial Aid  (Financial Aid) should be consulted before terminating employment to help ensure against any negative impact to the student’s aid package.

I am a principal investigator working remotely from home during self-isolation. Can my effort still be charged to my federal grant? (Added 3/17)2020-03-17T17:00:28+00:00

In general, yes, provided you remain engaged in your project. Current NIH and NSF prior approval requirements regarding disengagement from the project for three (3) months or more, and effort reductions of 25 percent or more, remain in effect.

Will my grant have to pay for project-related costs incurred during a reduction in operations if we aren’t able to work on the project (e.g., animal per diem, idle lab staff, etc.?) (Added 3/17)2020-03-17T17:00:03+00:00

​In general, the answer is “Yes,” your grant will likely be required to cover the costs incurred during a reduction in operations — provided USU would likewise require a non-sponsored fund to pay for the same cost in similar circumstances. Put the other way around, if USU would not allow a certain cost to be incurred on a non-sponsored fund during a reduction in operations, then USU will not allow the same cost to be charged to a sponsored project. This practice adheres to the federal government’s Uniform Guidance (2 CFR §200.403) requirement that costs be incurred “consistent with policies and procedures that apply uniformly to both federally financed and other activities of the non-Federal entity.”

How can I reach my SPO contact amid a COVID-19 outbreak? (Added 3/17)2020-03-17T16:59:02+00:00

In the event of a COVID-19 outbreak, SPO employees who are working remotely will respond to emails and monitor phone calls as normal. Please note that for the time being, the preferred form of communication is email.

Will my proposal still be submitted to the federal government on time if the federal agency to which I intend to apply is closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak? (Added 3/17)2020-03-17T16:58:27+00:00

At present, all federal agencies are accepting proposal submissions as usual. In the event a COVID-19 outbreak closes a federal agency that is currently accepting proposals, we expect the agency will continue to accept proposals; however, the proposals will most likely remain in a queue (e.g., within the Grants.gov system), pending resumption of agency operations – as has been the case during recent federal budget-related shutdowns. The SPO news feed  features comprehensive links to key federal agencies’ COVID-19 operations.

Are Conflict of Interest Disclosures, Export Compliance and RCR training requirements still being reviewed? (Added 3/16)2020-03-16T18:40:47+00:00

Right now, the office staff are working normal hours and at full staffing. Our staff are working remotely to minimize disruptions to Utah State University’s research mission, but are more than happy to set up a Zoom meeting in place of in-person meetings.

Our office staff are prioritizing changes and communications related to COVID-19 for at least the next week. Please note that our administrative reviewers might be experiencing disruptions in their lives as they work to accommodate the changes brought on by COVID-19, so COI disclosure reviews may take longer than usual. We thank you for your patience as we assist our stakeholders in working through these critical and dynamic circumstances.

Please contact Jodi Roberts to discuss any concerns at 435.797.4208 or email compliance@usu.edu.

Is the IRB still operating and reviewing protocols? (Added 3/16)2020-03-16T18:12:19+00:00

Yes. Right now, the office staff are working normal hours and at full staffing. Staff are promoting social distancing as much as possible, but are more than happy to set up a Zoom meeting in place of in-person meetings. Our staff are equipped to work remotely to minimize disruptions to Utah State University’s research mission. The Convened IRB has met remotely using Zoom in the past and can continue to do so as long as needed; our meeting schedule remains unaffected.

Our office staff are prioritizing changes and communications related to COVID-19 for at least the next week. Please note that our faculty reviewers might be experiencing disruptions in their lives as they work to accommodate the changes brought on by COVID-19, so scientific reviews may take longer than usual. We thank you for your patience as we assist our stakeholders in working through these critical and dynamic circumstances.

Are there exceptions to the temporary stoppage? (Added 3/16)2020-03-16T18:11:16+00:00

The IRB will consider exceptions to the temporary stoppage in any of the following circumstances:

  • There are direct benefits to participants in your research that are of therapeutic value, and there is no alternative way to deliver those benefits.
  • In-person procedures are required to immediately eliminate hazards to participants or others.
  • It would increase the long-term risk of participation to participants to stop in-person research procedures.

If any of these circumstances are present in your protocol, please contact Nicole Vouvalis to discuss an exception to the temporary stoppage: (435) 797-0567 or nicole.vouvalis@usu.edu.

Is my entire protocol suspended? Do I need to notify my sponsor? (Added 3/16)2020-03-16T18:10:07+00:00

No. No entire protocols are suspended. The IRB is requiring a temporary stoppage of procedures that take place in person.  You may wish to notify your sponsor of the IRB’s decision to require temporary stoppage of these kinds of activities if you are on a reporting timeline that is impacted by this decision. Your sponsor is welcome to contact our office with any concerns or questions.

What do I do to confirm with the IRB that I’ve stopped my in-person research procedures? (Added 3/16)2020-03-16T18:08:13+00:00

Right now, focus on connecting with your participants and research staff. Let them know that the IRB has determined that the known and unknown risks related to COVID-19 transmission are too high to allow in-person research procedures to continue at this time. If you have sessions scheduled with participants, cancel those sessions.

The IRB will be in touch with you to confirm stoppage of in-person research procedures for your Active protocols.

My protocol has a Reliance Agreement or Authorization Agreement in place. How should I advise my colleagues at other institutions? (Updated 3/16)2020-03-16T18:07:24+00:00

(Updated March 16) If the protocol is reviewed and approved at Utah State University, all in-person interactions between researchers and participants must temporarily stop, regardless of what institution the researchers are affiliated with. If the protocol was reviewed and approved elsewhere, you must follow the most restrictive guidelines that are in place. No researcher affiliated with Utah State University may, at this time, carry out in-person research interactions (from recruitment through data analysis efforts) for research purposes.


Researchers should follow the most restrictive guidelines in place among the institutions involved in the research. If the protocol review took place at Utah State University and your colleague is at an institution that has implemented a stoppage to all nonessential functions, you should advise your colleague to heed their institution’s guidelines. If your colleague is at an institution that has implemented no restrictions, please heed the restrictions in place here at Utah State University. You can learn more about those on the COVID-19 Task Force page and by signing up for Code Blue Alerts.

Should a student working in an extracurricular research setting still be participating in that work?2020-03-16T03:26:23+00:00

Students who are employed or working for credit in research settings outside classroom instruction are still allowed to participate in this work. Please work closely with PIs and students to ensure that there is clear communication on expectations and that researchers follow the USU guidelines for controlling the spread of infection. Lab and practice courses are being held online where possible.

Can a student still apply for Undergraduate Research Travel Funds?2020-03-16T03:24:40+00:00

Undergraduate Research Travel Funds are available, but students should NOT apply for travel during the restricted period. We are encouraging students to wait to purchase any non-refundable tickets or reservations until we have a clearer picture of how long the travel restriction will be in place. Students with URT funding who have already paid for travel during this period should work with their departmental or college travel specialist to secure refunds or credit.

Will URCO applications for this summer still be processed?2020-03-16T03:23:22+00:00

Summer 2020 URCO applications are currently under review and notifications will be made in a timely manner; students who have built travel into their budget will need to provide alternative plans if funded.

This year’s NCUR was canceled. What should I do about a refund and the travel arrangements?2020-03-16T03:22:38+00:00

We are working closely with MSU and CUR on registration fee refunds. Students should work with departmental or college travel administrators as appropriate to cancel hotel reservations or other travel not covered by my office.

Who should I talk to if I have questions about student research?2020-03-13T22:20:57+00:00

For most questions, we recommend using our question portal, accessible at this link. That is the most efficient way for us intake your question and provide an accurate response. Our office will still be open, though, and our staff will be functioning as normal.

I’m a student working in a lab. What should I do?2020-03-13T22:18:34+00:00

Students who are employed in research labs, or who are engaged in non-course-based research in lab, clinical, or fieldwork research settings should be able to continue their work. However, consult with the PI or lab director for details on your specific lab’s contingency plans. Lab courses will either go online or continue on campus according to necessity – please contact your instructor.

I keep hearing the phrase “social distancing.” What does it actually mean?2020-03-13T21:53:19+00:00

According to the CDC, social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.

Is the Office of Research still operating during the COVID-19 outbreak?2020-03-13T21:50:12+00:00

All Office of Research functions and programs are fully staffed and operating as usual, with appropriate social distancing measures in place. 

Will supplies for the animals be limited?2020-03-13T21:49:03+00:00

We have been in contact with the primary suppliers (feed, bedding, etc.) and have no reason to believe that services and deliveries will be impacted.

Will the functions of the IACUC office be limited?2020-03-13T21:48:20+00:00

The USU IACUC will continue to accept and review all new IACUC protocols, amendments, and renewals.  We expect little-to-no impact on IACUC function due to the USU coronavirus response.

Will animal orders be delayed?2020-03-13T21:45:06+00:00

As USU implements telecommuting and other aspects of the campus coronavirus response there may be some delays in processing orders.  We do request individuals consider providing additional time when ordering animals to help ensure the order can be processed and placed in sufficient time to permit animal delivery when planned.

My protocol involving high risk populations is currently limited to data analysis. Can I continue?2020-03-13T20:10:34+00:00

Yes, absolutely. This is not an overall research stoppage. The IRB has taken action to limit the spread of COVID-19 among high risk populations. Recruitment, informed consent processes, data analysis, and online or other indirect data collection procedures that does not involve an in-person interaction are still permitted at this time.

My research meets the criteria for temporary stoppage. What do I do next?2020-03-13T20:09:54+00:00

Consider possible alternatives that would allow you to complete your research without interacting directly with these high risk populations. In-person interviews, for example, might be conducted using WebEx, Zoom, or FaceTime. Focus groups could be completed using videoconferencing software. Clinical intakes might be completed using REDCap or Qualtrics.

The IRB is working to identify all Active protocols that involve high risk populations and in-person interactions. We will be asking you to confirm that you have paused the research procedures that involve those interactions, and encouraging you to submit amendments for alternative procedures where possible.

I’d like to modify my in-person study procedures so that my research can continue without posing any additional risks to my participants. What do I do?2020-03-13T20:09:02+00:00

To change your procedures, please file an amendment to your protocol. You can find instructions on amending your Protis protocols here, and instructions on amending your Kuali protocols here. IRB members are prioritizing amendments and communications that are related to COVID-19 changes or concerns. Modifications to recruitment processes, informed consent processes and documentation, study procedures, or measures in place to protect privacy or confidentiality must be approved by the IRB before they are implemented, unless they are taken to eliminate an immediate hazard to the health, safety, or welfare of a participant.

What best practices are you suggesting for research that involves an in-person component?2020-03-13T20:08:41+00:00
  • Utah State University is currently operating at a level three under its Infectious Disease Plan. This means that researchers should be planning for alternatives to research that is conducted in person. For example, in-person interviews can be moved online in many cases. Video conferencing software can be utilized in place of larger meetings.
    • Please note that these modifications should be filed as an amendment to your protocol before they are implemented, so that the IRB can assess the risk associated with any changes. We are working hard to respond to amendments as quickly as possible, given the anticipated need for many researchers to shift their plans.
  • If your research is ongoing (via colleagues in other areas or with other institutions) in an area of community spread, consider rescheduling, postponing, or temporarily suspending those research activities.
  • Consider screening activities for the safety of your participants and your research team. Information on symptoms and travel is available from the CDC; once you have developed a screener that is relevant to your project, be sure to include it in an amendment to your protocol.
  • In all cases, follow general best practices for staying healthy. Avoid touching others; cover coughs and sneezes; sanitize workspaces and other shared areas; wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; and stay home if you are ill. Here are the CDC’s recommendations on cleaning and disinfection.
My research involves travel. Nonessential university travel is on hold until April 8. What should I do?2020-03-13T20:05:24+00:00

USU’s COVID-19 Task Force has asked that nonessential travel be cancelled. View their travel recommendations and requirements here. Many in-person research interactions require some level of travel, from local visits to statewide travel. In line with USU travel restrictions, mission-critical travel to complete research within the State of Utah (which can be conducted with appropriate social distancing) and does not involve one of the high-risk populations identified above is permitted. Out of state travel will be supported as essential on a case-by-case basis; please contact Nicole Vouvalis at nicole.vouvalis@usu.edu to discuss out of state research-related travel needs.

In all cases, the IRB will support a dean or VP’s determination that travel is essential if stoppage of the research activities would pose an increased risk to participants. The IRB can only make a recommendation on essential travel, it does not ultimately make that determination.

I had planned to travel to a conference to present my federally funded results, but the conference was cancelled due to precautions regarding COVID-19. May I still charge the travel-related costs to the grant?2020-03-13T20:00:21+00:00

To date, there is no federal guidance relating to charges to awards for travel, conferences and related expenses due to the coronavirus. Please continue to follow USU travel policies and any cost principles described in your award or the sponsor’s policies and procedures. We encourage you to contact the program officer for your affected grant for guidance and to determine how to best proceed. Please document the discussion with the sponsor to the extent possible. An email or other form of documentation that clearly indicates a sponsor’s approval to post unrefundable travel to the grant is required for USU to charge those expenses to your sponsored award account.

Please recall that all costs to a Federal award, including costs for travel, must meet the requirements of the Uniform Guidance (2 CFR 200).  In general, in order for a travel cost to be allowable, it must (a) benefit the project, (b) be necessary and reasonable for the performance of the project; and (c) not exceed what a “prudent person” would pay under the circumstances at the time the decision was made to incur the cost.  The Federal government also considers whether (a) the cost was necessary for the proper and efficient performance of the project, and (b) the cost was prudently incurred in light of USU’s responsibilities to its employees and students.

If a sponsor will not allow for unrefundable travel costs to be charged to the sponsored award, principal investigators will need to work with their business manager to move any travel costs already charged to non-grants funds.

Trip cancellation insurance is typically unallowable on grants unless the sponsor expressly states otherwise.

I am a principal investigator and am required to work from home as a result of COVID-19. Can I charge supplies relating to telework (i.e., such as a laptop, printer, office supplies, etc.) to my grant?2020-03-13T19:58:59+00:00

No. These types of expenses are considered administrative costs (indirect costs), and generally are not appropriate as a direct cost unless specifically approved by the sponsor. A reduction in operations at USU does not change this fact. If you need to work remotely from home, please consult with your department to identify whether computing resources are available.

If employees must have their home as their work location, will they still be able to get paid by grants? Specifically, if they usually are supervised, or punch in and out, etc., is it inappropriate to suspend such oversight while allowing the work to continue?2020-03-13T19:58:26+00:00

If you are asked to work remotely and if you can work successfully and remain engaged in your project in that environment, then your salary can continue to be paid on federally funded sponsored awards. For staff who normally punch in/punch out or are subject to direct supervision, the principal investigator should consider deploying alternative forms of work verification (e.g., requiring the employee to be on an electronic messaging system, or to email their supervisor with arrival or departure times.). Such accommodations are likely to be considered reasonable, at least in the short term, and should be approved by the program officer prior to implementation.

What should I do if I am conducting a sponsored program for which the COVID-19 conditions will likely halt or slow progress to completion within the funding period?2020-03-13T19:57:27+00:00

If your scope of work demands a precise schedule, then the principal investigator should recognize and document instances where that schedule was unable to be met. Principal investigators should reach out to the program officer as soon as a delay is anticipated. It is important to document your specific situation to provide a basis for any adjustments that may need to be requested when business return to “normal”.

As it relates to research grants, how does the National Science Foundation respond to natural disasters and other emergencies?2020-03-13T19:56:43+00:00
  • Per NSF’s Proposal and Awards Policies and Procedures Guide(link is external): “In the event of a natural or anthropogenic disaster, or when NSF is closed due to inclement weather or other reason that interferes with an organization’s ability to meet a proposal submission deadline, NSF has developed the following guidelines for use by impacted organizations.”

 

    • Natural or Anthropogenic Disasters: Flexibility in meeting announced deadline dates because of a natural or anthropogenic disaster that impacts a proposer’s ability to submit a proposal to NSF may be granted with the approval of the cognizant NSF Program Officer. Where possible, such requests should be submitted in advance of the proposal deadline. Proposers should contact the cognizant NSF Program Officer in the Division/Office to which they intend to submit their proposal and request authorization to submit a proposal after the deadline date. Proposers should then follow the written or verbal guidance provided by the cognizant NSF Program Officer. NSF will work with each impacted organization on a case-by-case basis to address its specific issue(s). Generally, NSF permits extension of the deadline by up to five business days.

 

    • To submit the proposal after the deadline date, proposers must check the “Special Exception to the Deadline Date Policy” box on the NSF Cover Sheet, indicating NSF approval has been obtained. A statement identifying the nature of the event that impacted the ability to submit the proposal on time should be uploaded under Nature of Natural or Anthropogenic event in the Single Copy Document section in FastLane. If available, written approval from the cognizant NSF Program Officer also should be uploaded in your Kuali proposal or under the Additional Single Copy Documents in the Single Copy Document section in FastLane.

 

    • Closure of NSF: When NSF is closed due to inclement weather or other reason, deadline(s) that occurred during the closure automatically will be extended to the following business day after the closure ends.

 

  • NSF recently developed a webpage for the research community with detailed guidance regarding COVID-19. This includes guidance for awardee organizations, researchers and reviewers of NSF proposals. Learn more (link is external)
As it relates to research grants, how does the National Institutes of Health respond to natural disasters and other emergencies?2020-03-13T19:54:07+00:00
  • With respect to proposal submissions, on March 9, 2020, NIH published the following notice related to COVID-19:
    • NIH Late Application Policy Due to Public Health Emergency for United States for 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)(link is external) “When delays occur because the applicant or recipient organization is officially closed or unable to submit grant applications due to the effects of COVID-19, the NIH will consider accepting applications late, on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with the NIH Grants Policy Statement, Section 2.3.9(link is external), under the following circumstances:
      • Institutions must submit applications or reports as soon as possible after reopening or resuming operations so that grant applications can be submitted, not to exceed the number of days the institution was officially closed or unable to submit grant applications.
      • Institutions must submit a cover letter with the applications with enough detail about the delay so that NIH staff can make a determination whether circumstances justify accepting the application late.
      • Institutions need not request advance permission to submit late due to this declared emergency.\

 

  • On March 10, 2020, NIH also published the following notice related to COVID-19:
    • General Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) – Proposal Submission and Award Management Related to COVID-19(link is external) “This Guide Notice intends to address general questions associated with proposal submission and award management that may arise in relation to COVID-19. NIH is providing this information as a service to our applicant and recipient communities in the hopes it will address high-level questions that may arise in this regard. Please note that given the fact that COVID-19 and associated impacts continue to evolve, applicants and recipients are strongly encouraged to monitor this website for updates. NIH intends to publish detailed guidance related to administrative flexibilities and associated FAQs.”

 

  • ​​With respect to award management, on March 12, 2020, NIH published the following notice related to COVID-19:
    • Flexibilities Available to Applicants and Recipients of Federal Financial Assistance Affected by COVID-19(link is external) The NIH-funded USU research community is strongly encouraged to read this NIH notice, which provides a number of important flexibilities for managing NIH awards during this public health emergency. Highlights include:
    • Expanded use of allowable pre-award costs
    • Extended due dates for Financial and Other Reporting (e.g. RPPRs)
    • Waiver of certain prior approval requirements
    • Allowance of certain costs that would normally not be allowable (e.g., stipends, salaries and benefits when no work is being performed on the project, cancelled travel costs, etc.)
Will I be able to get an extension on a proposal deadline in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak?2020-03-13T19:49:45+00:00

Most of USU’s sponsors do not accept late proposals, and if they grant extensions, they do so on a case-by-case basis. Given that SPO staff may be working remotely, and thus operational, it may prove difficult to convince a sponsor that your circumstances warrant granting an extension. Faculty who are working on a proposal now should therefore plan on submitting by the sponsor’s stated deadline regardless of whether there is an active COVID-19 outbreak at USU.  If you personally experience impacts from COVID-19 contact your SPO representative who will discuss your sponsor’s standard exception policies with you.

Amid a COVID-19 outbreak, what level of review will my proposal receive under USU’s internal proposal submission deadline policy?2020-03-13T19:48:26+00:00

In the event of a COVID-19 outbreak at USU, the standards and timelines for full and limited reviews will still be enforced. In the event that the number of available SPO staff is severely compromised (e.g., a COVID-19 outbreak within our office), the service level standards for proposal review in the deadline policy may be temporarily suspended in favor of the timely submission of proposals.

Will my proposal still be submitted to the sponsor on time amid a COVID-19 outbreak?2020-03-13T19:47:05+00:00

Proposals will continue to be submitted by the Sponsored Programs division. SPO is able to access all USU and sponsor systems whether working in Old Main or remotely. All proposals are required to be submitted through Kuali and the 3-business day deadline policy remains in place.  Extra effort to provide proposals to SPO prior to the 3-business day deadline is strongly encouraged to ensure proper submission.

Major Recent Updates

Request to Continue On-Campus Research Activities2020-06-03T15:09:28+00:00

(Added March 29)
In the event that we move to Level 1 of USU’s Infectious Disease Plan, we must prepare for severe limitations on access onto campus. Consequently, the Office of Research is working to determine research activities that are necessary to continue on campuses and other university facilities. We have worked to established criteria to identify eligible on-campus activities, which can be reviewed here.

If you believe your research fits within these criteria and want to request continuation of your on-campus research activities, please fill out the form below.

The university has also established a website regarding USU’s response to COVID-19. Researchers should familiarize themselves with the university’s infectious disease plan.

If you have any questions that are not addressed by the Frequently Asked Questions below, we have created a portal for you to ask your question. Using this form will allow us to provide you with an accurate answer in the most quick and efficient way possible.

REQUEST TO CONTINUE ON-CAMPUS RESEARCH ACTIVITIES
Personal Protective Equipment Inventory and Donation Report2020-06-03T15:08:53+00:00

(Added March 28)
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we expect that the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) will increase, especially in the critical healthcare field. To assist our community clinics and hospitals, as well as important USU COVID-19 research, we are asking USU researchers to inform us of PPE they have on hand and would be willing to donate for those purposes. Use this link to declare your inventory.

USU Research Transition Considerations2020-06-03T15:08:31+00:00

Research and researchers are critical to the mission of Utah State University. The Office of Research wants to support all research faculty and personnel in considering how to continue their activities during the COVID-19 response period.

To assist you, we have created a list of considerations that encourages best practices and research productivity while promoting safety and risk mitigation.

VIEW THE RESEARCH TRANSITION CONSIDERATIONS
Laboratory Animal Research Center Epidemic Response Plan2020-06-03T15:08:15+00:00

(Updated May 14, 2020)
Please contact Dr. Aaron Olsen (aaron.olsen@usu.edu) for a detailed description of current and potential facility responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Office of Research Communications on COVID-19

Town Hall: Standard Operating Procedures for COVID-192020-06-17T14:27:45+00:00
Research Update — Standard Operating Procedures For COVID-192020-06-17T14:26:05+00:00

Dear researchers,

Ensuring that you and your research colleagues are protected from COVID-19 transmission is a key element in USU’s overall pandemic response. For that reason, the USU Employee Safety Committee has approved a plan requiring each PI or laboratory director to develop COVID-19 specific standard operating procedures (SOPs) for their research environment.

Researchers who work independently or do not have a research space other than their office should also formulate an individual plan to mitigate risk of exposure to and transmission of COVID-19 during research activities.

The steps for completing a plan are as follows:

1) Review the guidance at https://research.usu.edu/covid-19-sops-for-research/.

2) Download the template COVID-19 specific SOP document from that website and complete for your research environment.

3) Submit the completed SOP document by June 30, 2020 to your Department Head or equivalent supervisor for review and approval.

There will be a town hall meeting on COVID-19 SOP preparation this Friday, June 12 at 1 p.m. to address questions regarding this process.

The event will be moderated, with questions coming from USU faculty. You can ask questions until the end of the day Thursday at the link below, or via chat during the livestream.

To address as many questions as possible, the moderator may combine similar questions and will prioritize those asked most frequently.

Plan to periodically check the website above as we plan to add additional resources (e.g., example COVID-19 specific SOP documents).

We also encourage all researchers to review more USU COVID-19 specific information at https://www.usu.edu/covid-19/.

Please note that the most cautious approach will still be the most effective, so where possible prioritize continuing remote work for yourself and members of your research group.

Be well,

Lisa M. Berreau, Vice President for Research
Alexa Sand, Associate Vice President for Research
Blake Tullis, Interim Associate Vice President for Research

Town Hall: Human Subjects Research (May 28)2020-06-11T15:26:36+00:00
Office of Research Update — May 112020-06-02T19:58:51+00:00

Dear USU Faculty,

Utah State University has passed $100M in Sponsored Awards for FY20!

Congratulations, USU Researchers!

Want to know what your sponsor is doing related to COVID-19 and how it impacts your sponsored award?

Sponsored Programs’ website includes links to sponsor announcements and a federal agency guidance matrix to help USU researchers navigate the evolving landscape of conducting sponsored research:

https://research.usu.edu/spo/sponsored-programs-impacts-of-covid-19/

Increased number of submissions

Sponsored Programs (SPO) has experienced a significant increase in proposal submissions the past few weeks. To ensure successful proposal review and submission, please provide SPO with your proposal applications in final form (ready to send to the sponsor) as soon as reasonably possible, but no less than the required 3 business days prior to the submission deadline.

Contact your USU Sponsored Programs Grant and Contract Officer 

It is very important that you communicate with your assigned Sponsored Programs Officer as soon as you know you will be applying for a grant and throughout the grant preparation process to ensure the successful submission of an application.

As a reminder, our website contains the latest guidance, policy updates, and tools for researchers related to the COVID-19 situation. The website includes a form for you to ask questions directly to the Office of Research.

Be well,

Lisa M. Berreau, Interim Vice President for Research

Office of Research Update — April 16, 20202020-06-02T19:41:34+00:00

Dear USU faculty,

Research and researchers are critical to the mission of Utah State University. All functions and programs of the Office of Research remain staffed and operating.

COVID-19 Related Funding Opportunities

New funding opportunities for COVID-19 related research are evolving rapidly.  Federal agencies as well as private companies and foundations are providing funding to address a variety of aspects related to COVID-19. Current funding opportunities and guidance related to COVID-19 are detailed on this page. The Research Development Division is available to assist faculty with COVID-19 related applications.

PPE donations still needed

There is still a significant need for more donations. As the medical situation worsens, more PPE will be needed to protect those on the frontlines who are addressing this crisis. You can declare your inventory for donation at this link.

As a reminder, our website contains the latest guidance, policy updates, and tools for researchers related to the COVID-19 situation. The website includes a form for you to ask questions directly to the Office of Research.

Be well,

Lisa M. Berreau, Interim Vice President for Research

Request to Continue On-Campus Research Activities (March 30)2020-04-16T15:29:34+00:00

Dear USU Faculty,

In the event that Utah State University moves to Level 1 of the Infectious Disease Plan, USU will institute limited, controlled access onto campus and restrict nonessential university functions. At that time, we will direct all faculty to take steps necessary to suspend on-campus research activities and continue research remotely during the COVID-19 response period.

Researchers should prepare to place their activities in a state where they can be restarted without loss of progress when restrictions are lifted. We have already sent out a Research Transition Considerations list, which can help to illuminate the questions and issues that need to be addressed to make those transitions.

As the university begins the process of determining essential on-campus personnel, the Office of Research has established criteria to determine exceptional cases of research activities that may be approved to continue on campus. They include:

  • Research directly related to COVID-19.
  • Projects that, if paused, would result in a loss of years of effort or data.
  • Projects that, if paused, would result in a loss of a major investment.
  • Work that maintains major research equipment in a safe standby mode in labs.
  • Work that maintains crucial samplesplants, and animal populations.
  • Other projects deemed essential by university administration.

We understand that many of you have research that, if paused, will result in a delay on your research progress for grants, publications, tenure, etc. Please note that those potential delays would not be sufficient reasons for continuing on-campus research activities in these circumstances. At the same time, note that these circumstances are nearly universal across the country and around the world, and that organizations are offering significant leniency to account for these challenges.

For faculty who believe their research activities fall within the set criteria, we have created a form to request consideration for continuing of on-campus research activities. All submissions will be routed for approval to the faculty member’s department head and dean, and then to the Office of Research and Office of the President. A more detailed explanation of the process is included in this handout.

It is critical to note that, if we move to Level 1, we are not discontinuing research. It is our hope that many important activities will be able to continue–in your home offices, living rooms. backyards, via Webex meetings and Slack conversations. All research that can be done remotely is strongly encouraged.

We are taking these steps in the interest of health and safety of USU faculty, staff, and students, as well as our broader Cache Valley community. We understand that these restrictions may result in lost time and resources for our researchers, but we must do all we can to help “flatten the curve” during this pandemic.

If you have questions or concerns, please visit our Office of Research COVID-19 website, which is updated on daily basis and often more frequently. The website includes a form where you can submit additional questions for rapid response.

Sincerely,

Lisa M. Berreau
Interim Vice President for Research

PPE Inventory and Donation Request (March 28)2020-04-16T15:29:24+00:00

Dear USU Faculty,

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we expect that the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) will increase, especially in the critical healthcare field. To assist our community clinics and hospitals, as well as important USU COVID-19 research, we are asking USU researchers to inform us of PPE they have on hand and would be willing to donate for those purposes.

We will use these responses to create a USU inventory. In the event of a community or state PPE shortage, hospitals will be able to request items from the inventory, and, at that time, EHS personnel will arrange for pickup of supplies as needed. (Please note that all items should be in good condition.)

Thank you for your willingness to support our potential community needs!

Personal Protective Equipment Donation Form

As a reminder, our website contains the latest guidance, policy updates, and tools for researchers related to the COVID-19 situation. The website includes a form for you to ask questions directly to the Office of Research.

Be well,

Lisa M. Berreau, Interim Vice President for Research
Alexa Sand, Associate Vice President for Research
Blake P. Tullis, Interim Associate Vice President for Research

Office of Research Update — April 6