Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology

Mitigating Impacts to Research Activities due to COVID-19: Ongoing Updates

Posted: 3/17/2020 ()

The University is closely monitoring COVID-19 and extensive emergency procedures are in place. Be sure to read UW’s coronavirus FAQ page, as it contains important information for everyone in the UW community. Researchers should be prepared, too. Below are continual research updates from NIH, NSF, UW Office of Research, and more. 

UW Human Subjects Division (HSD) Updates:

NOTICE: Temporary Halt to Some UW Human Subjects Research (Effective Monday, March 23, 2020)

Which studies or study procedures must be paused? This mandatory temporary halt applies to all ongoing and new studies (or study procedures) that involve in-person interactions with participants except those that involve: 

  • A significant likelihood of direct and meaningful benefit for individual participants. This means that study participation has a probability of directly having a meaningful positive impact on the serious medical or serious psychological condition of individual subjects for one or more of the study groups, OR
  • A necessary safety monitoring procedure for already-enrolled participants that cannot be done in an alternative manner. However, new participants should not be enrolled unless the study meets one of the other criteria listed here. OR
  • Clinical trials where all in-person interactions can occur solely in the context of a needed clinical care visit, OR
  • Diagnosis, treatment, interventions, or other research activities directly focused on COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2, OR
  • Studies involving in-person interactions that can be modified to appropriate remote interactions (e.g., phone calls, emails) that don’t compromise participant safety or the scientific integrity of the research.

This restriction is aligned with the recent actions of many peer institutions, such as the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University, as well as NIH Guidance and FDA Guidance. Many research teams have already implemented some or all of the appropriate actions – i.e., halting new enrollment and/or modifying in-person procedures to remotely-conducted procedures. 

Questions. The Human Subjects Division COVID-19 webpage has more detailed information, and HSD staff are available to answer questions. Contact your HSD Team or hsdinfo@uw.edu. We will answer your questions as quickly as possible, but we anticipate that the volume of inquiries may slow our response somewhat in the first few days after this announcement. 

NIH Updates:

NIH announced flexibilities for applicants and recipients affected by COVID-19 as well as accompanying FAQs.

NSF Updates:

NSF has issued an advisory FAQ about their grants and grant policies. For information about both please click the link below.

Further, NSF announced March deadline date extensions for some solicitations and Dear Colleague Letters (DCLs). Please click this link for a list of the solicitations or Dear Colleague Letters (DCLs) with extended deadline dates. Additionally, NSF strongly encourages that you check the NSF Coronavirus Website regularly for critical updates.

UW’s Office of Research Updates:

The UW’s Office of Research has also provided additional guidance for researchers (click for continual UW Research updates). For convenience, there is a checklist included at the bottom of this message. 

Emergency personnel. At this time, there are no plans to restrict access to University research spaces, but it is wise for every research group to plan ahead in the event that full access is not possible for some time period. In the case of campus suspended operations, the usual policies would apply. This includes the need for emergency personnel to carry out specified duties.  The suspended operations link above includes the definition of emergency personnel, and below are the general categories:

The position is necessary to support or maintain:

·       Human health, welfare and/or safety.

·       Information technology services or security.

·       Building or property security, safety, and integrity.

·       Research animals, specimens, or equipment.

·       Critical infrastructure (power, water, heat, roads, etc.).

·       Critical business, contractual, or legal obligations including employee payroll.

In each unit, emergency personnel should be already designated. If you are unsure of who in your research project is designated emergency personnel, work with your department administrator or an equivalent administrator to identify such personnel.

Precautions. Remember, all personnel should stay home if they experience any symptoms including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. It is also advisable to encourage limiting physical contact with others, such as hand-shaking (substitute elbow bumps or bows) and sharing of food.  Finally, the most effective prevention measure is frequent, thorough hand-washing.

Communications. If a communications plan for your research group is not already in place, designate points of contact so everyone receives timely information.

Plan for researcher time. Principal investigators and research group leads should discuss approaches now, in the event that some personnel are unable to come to work. Such advanced planning will make future decisions straightforward and minimize disruption to research activities.

Remote access. All students, post-docs, staff, and faculty involved in research projects should ensure that they have access to information they need to carry out work remotely.  This might include, for example, access to literature, access to existing datasets and research-related files, and access to meeting software (such as Zoom).  Principal investigators should prepare to carry out meetings remotely, using similar approaches as for remote teaching of classes. If you are unsure about whether you have access to such tools, it is wise to test them now.  Examples of the types of research work that can be done remotely are: data analysis, literature reviews, writing proposals, reviews, or research papers, writing the background sections of theses, computational work, meetings, discussions, etc.

Prioritization. Depending upon the nature of your research, you might consider prioritizing work that can only be carried out in your research facility, and put off work amenable to remote support, such as data analysis. Stockpiling results and data now that could be analyzed remotely in the future is a potential option that might create future flexibility. 

Save samples along the way. If you are carrying out a long-term experiment and if it is feasible to freeze samples at specific steps, you might consider doing this more often.

Proposal deadlines.  In general we expect that OSP will be able to submit proposals, even if personnel are working remotely.  Our experience is that federal agencies are very flexible about deadlines under difficult circumstances beyond our control.  However, if agencies are officially closed, proposals will most likely remain in a queue, pending resumption of agency operations – as has been the case during federal budget-related shutdowns.  Information will be posted on the OSP website, if necessary.  

Travel. Should you cancel planned research-related travel such as to a conference, site visit, or other laboratory?  Not necessarily. Be sure to access the list of travel restrictions – which will apply to everyone who travels on UW funds, including research grants or contracts — and use caution in considering travel to a country with restricted access to specific locations. As always, you should use your own judgement based on the circumstances. 

 Advance planning will allow everyone in your research group to focus on their own efforts and work together as a team, rather than wondering how they and their team members are to proceed.  Even if such plans are not needed for the current situation, they are still a good learning experience for the future.  

Checklist:            

ð  Identify emergency personnel and ensure they know what to do in the event of suspended operations

ð  Remind lab personnel of your communication plan or create one if not in place

ð  Identify priorities in case of restricted access

ð  Ensure remote access to files, data, servers, etc.

ð  Prioritize experiments

ð  Plan for remote proposal submission

ð  Check travel restrictions before making travel plans.