With input from leaders across the university and in alignment with our AU Forward Health and Safety and Workforce plans, we share with you our roadmap for Restarting Research. This guidance provides recommendations for how AU researchers can operate this summer and in the 2020-2021 academic year and offers adaptable considerations to meet each researchers and research teams’ unique needs. Given the fluidity of the public health situation, please plan to remain updated on the most current information. This phased approach will require transparent, efficient, and equitable processes to ensure that the communities' health and safety are the highest priority. Each researcher should use the below checklist as a guide and consult with university guidance and unit administrators to determine the best way to proceed. The goal here is to provide uniform parameters and considerations that are specific enough to be actionable, but broad enough to be adaptable to each research team’s needs. Current research that does not require a presence on-campus or in off-campus space, including human subjects research that does not involve face-to-face contact, can and should continue.
All researchers that would like to return to campus create their teams and complete the checklist via SharePoint. Researchers should complete these forms at least two weeks prior to when they would like to return. The instructions below provide information in using SharePoint to submit your plans.
Chairs, Deans and/or Deans Designees will review each research team’s plan for completeness and also related to overall occupancy in the unit, coordination in use of shared spaces, and administrative needs to enact the plan. The AU Forward Health and Safety Guidelines must be followed by all researchers, including faculty, staff, and students as we re-enter campus to engage in research. Faculty who are permitted to come to campus for research purposes pursuant to the process outlined below should not assume they are permitted to work on-campus for all purposes.
As the COVID -19 situation continues to evolve, the Office of Research will continue to monitor any impacts relevant to AU Research and researchers. These FAQs will be updated regularly to ensure that the community has information regarding our research infrastructure and any needed changes in our procedures. For the most up to date information on the university’s response to the COVID-19 situation, please continue to access https://www.american.edu/coronavirus/
How to use the Restart Research App for AU Researchers
All AU researchers must register with their respective unit and Dean’s office and the Office of Research and identify all personnel, spaces, research team members, and research hazards associated with the research, as well as provide documentation of safety training requirements using the Restart Research SharePoint site. Each research team will have a responsible contact person who must (1) develop a protocol for returning to research, (2) complete the "COVID-19 Research Reopening Checklist", and (3) maintain contact with their team through this phased return to the research process. Those researchers who work in shared research spaces should coordinate with all users of the space in terms of attending to this checklist. Guidance documents to support the completion of the checklist can be found in the Restart Research SharePoint site. An infographic with detailed instructions on how to use this site is available.
- If you are engaged in Human Subjects Research and your research protocol has not been reviewed, or you have modified your protocol since it was last reviewed, you should contact the IRB at email@example.com
- If you have animal research and your research protocol has not been reviewed, or you have modified your protocol since it was last reviewed, you should contact the IACUC via firstname.lastname@example.org
- Create your Research Team in the Restart Research SharePoint site.
a) Create a Research Team Name – You can have a team of one and you can create multiple teams. You will complete a form for each team.
b) Create a Research Team Name – You can have a team of one and you can create multiple teams. You will complete a form for each team.
c) Click on the + sign to add Team Members. Enter the requested information for each team member.
- Complete the COVID-19 Research Reopening Checklist by clicking on the logo at the top left corner the Restart Research App
a) Access the COVID-19 checklist by clicking on my Checklists and then Start a new checklist.
b) Select the appropriate team and your School.
c) Respond to each of the questions with detail and clarity.
d) You will receive an email once you submit the checklist and at each stage in the approval process.
Checklist Review Process:
- The Department Chair will review the COVID-19 checklist and notify the relevant Dean's office that the checklist has been completed.
- Final approval of plans for reopening the research space will be provided to the VPR’s Office once the Dean's office approves the plan.
- The plan is then submitted to Facilities, Public Safety, and EH&S.
- EH&S may conduct a site visit after the research space is opened to ensure campus guidance and your COVID-19 safety plan is fully implemented.
Once the plan is approved, the research team can begin to implement the plan. The following pages present the steps for creating the research team and completing the checklist.
The online form can be submitted at this site.
Human Subjects Research: As of July 15, 2020, all Human Subjects in-person data collection is suspended. However, researchers may now petition for a waiver of the suspension in some cases. If you have plans to engage in in-person Human Subject research on or off-campus, you are asked to provide your protocol number. If you have not yet made adaptations to your approach please get in touch with the IRB@american.edu to ensure that any necessary modifications of protocols can be reviewed.
Animal Research: If you need to revise your protocols for animal research, please indicate that in the checklist and also get in touch with the IACUC@american.edu to ensure that any necessary modifications of protocols are reviewed. If your research involves animals, you will be asked to provide IACUC protocol number.
Location: These guidelines are to be used in any research spaces on campus, and also to inform your unit leadership of your off-campus research activities. Spaces on campus can include labs, studios, offices, and other location. The form requires you to identify the location (s) of your research space, including building, room numbers, and contact information. You are asked to coordinate with other teams in the use of shared spaces. If your research takes place off-campus, please provide information regarding the locations in as much detail as possible.
Background: Please provide information regarding what type of research is conducted in your research space (lab, studio, office)? Describe if it is essential that the on-campus or in-person research restart? Also describe how students are involved in this reopening plan. Finally, please identify if the research activities relate to externally sponsored research, an academic program, or an internal research award.
Scheduling: You are asked to provide the days of the week and hours your team will be in the research space, your schedule for cleaning the research space, and who is responsible for daily, overall cleaning, and single use cleaning. As described in the Health and Safety guidance, some cleaning supplies will be available in the Fall. If you plan to be in the space before the start of the Fall 2020 semester, you will need to obtain your own appropriate disinfectant cleaning supplies.
Research Space Occupancy Limits: You are asked to identify the occupancy for your space based on guidance for occupancy limits from the Health & Safety guidance. These guidelines indicate that research spaces should limit the number of researchers in a space, so six feet between each person can be maintained while working. Researchers should limit the occupancy to allow for six feet between each person or one person per 100 square feet of lab space, whichever is lower. If there is more than one individual in the research space, all researchers must wear masks while working.
Researcher Temperature Monitoring: Campus researchers are responsible for monitoring themselves for fever, the most common symptom of COVID-19, and researchers experiencing COVID-19 symptoms must? stay at home. If a research team member has COVID-19 symptoms, please report to Employee Relations in HR or the Student Health Center. If a COVID-19 positive individual is known to have entered or worked in the research space, notify the unit employee relations representative. The research space may have to be temporarily shut down for cleaning and disinfection.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Supplies for Research Staff: All members of the AU community will be required to wear face coverings that cover the mouth and nose at all times while on campus, with the exception of inside residence hall rooms, alone in private offices, or outdoors in settings where they are able to maintain physical distance. Our community members will be required to provide their own face masks. Face masks will be distributed to essential and front-line employees upon request as outlined in the Health and Safety Guidance. PPE directly related to research safety will continue to be managed through the department or PI.
Protecting High-Risk Researchers: Accommodations should be handled through a central process administered by Employee Relations in HR for faculty and staff and the Academic Support and Access Center for students.
Emergency Equipment Check: Team members are asked to ensure all safety equipment is in working condition, e.g., eyewashes are operational, chemical spill kits are available, emergency contact numbers are available, and laboratory ID cards are up to date.
Cleaning and Disinfecting for Shared Instruments, Shared Office Equipment and Other Surfaces: As mentioned in the scheduling section, all researchers must identify any critical shared instruments that will need to be used and cleaned with appropriate disinfectant so as not to damage the equipment. Facilities Management has taken several steps to ensure overall facility safety including:
- Flushing water systems
- Upgrading HVAC units to high efficiency filters, as per CDC guidelines
- Increasing the amount of outdoor air brought into the system and reducing recycled
- Calibrating all HVAC controls to ensure they are operating as designed
Closing Shared Desk Workstations: To reduce density, please close and restrict the use of shared desk workstations in labs where physical distancing cannot be maintained. If the closing of computer workstations cannot be achieved, rotate the scheduling of research staff, and follow he guidance on cleaning and disinfecting shared office equipment.
Restricting Access to Non-Essential Staff: All research teams are asked to limit access to only essential lab members and essential staff, including AU Police, environmental health and safety and facilities maintenance personnel performing work-related duties. Please do not allow any lab visitors who are not wearing face masks to enter the research space and keep doors secured at all times
Ramp-down Plan: As part of the checklist, research teams will be asked to consider how they can ramp down quickly to only essential research activities if necessary. Team members should indicate what those activities would be and what steps will be taken to restrict activities as soon as possible.
How are sponsors responding to the evolving situation?
PIs and research administration staff should feel assured that sponsors of our research have been responsive to the changing conditions of the COVID-19 Pandemic. For example, NSF, NIH, NEH, Open Society Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation continue to update their communications and guidance for researchers that allow for flexibility in award management functions and continue to accept applications to programs. PIs should work with their department, unit-level, OSP, and GCA contacts to proactively consider specific changes to their projects.
GREAT RESOURCE: Institutional and Agency Responses to COVID-19 and Additional Resources from the Council on Governmental Relations.
NEW: Seattle International Foundation- If you have a current grant with SIF and expect changes to the funded project or program, please contact your Program Officer – This includes changes to (1) timeline, (2) budget and (3) scope of work. Your PO will work with you to make any necessary adjustments.
NEW: NASA’s guidance as to how the Agency is implementing the OMB guidance (M-20-17). This site also contains a FAQ that provides additional clarifications.
NEW: Guidance issued by OMB in regards to: Administrative Relief for Recipients and Applicants of Federal Financial Assistance Directly Impacted by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) due to Loss of Operations.
NEW: The National Science Foundation has issued Important Notice No 146 to the Community Regarding COVID-19. NSF has also issued additional guidance on NSF’s implementation of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Memorandum (M-20-17), entitled, Administrative Relief for Recipients and Applicants of Federal Financial Assistance Directly Impacted by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) due to Loss of Operations. NSF has implemented flexibilities authorized by OMB from specific administrative, financial management and audit requirements contained in 2 CFR Part 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards without compromising accountability requirements. Any questions about the policies described in the NSF Guidance should be directed to email@example.com.
NEW: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, has issued Guidance to Award Recipients Impacted by COVID-19: Short Term Relief for Various Administrative, Financial Management, and Audit Requirements.
What is AU’s current policy on student/faculty/staff travel?
All official university travel outside of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area will remain suspended until February 6th, 2021. The policy will be reviewed again in November 2020. Future travel policies will be based on Centers’ for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other government agencies’ guidance, and the university’s risk assessment of travel conditions and exposure risks.
Now that all travel has been canceled, what should PIs do about travel arrangements?
A petition can be made for an exception to the moratorium on travel by contacting the Vice Provost for Research at VPR@american.edu. The petition should include: AU research participants; travel details including location, timeframe, and mode of transportation; a brief description of the purpose of travel and a rationale for the exception that explains why delaying this research will harm the effort; and grant or funding source, if applicable.
For human subject's research, the petition should also include the status of AU’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). Researchers are reminded that all requests to restart human subjects research must be submitted directly to IRB for consideration and approval. For more information, see the IRB website.
What if my faculty/staff member already left the country before the travel suspension was issued?
Faculty/staff who are already in international locations are encouraged to return as travel difficulties are expected to increase in the near term. If there is an extraordinary situation that does not allow the faculty/staff member to vacate, they must inform their Dean/supervisor, acknowledge they will not be covered by our travel insurance, and assume all risks related to the decision to stay. Any waiver, including the use of university and sponsored research funding, must be approved by the provost.
I have a proposal where I plan to include travel. Can I still include this in the proposal?
We recommend not to plan or promise a sponsor that AU faculty/staff can travel within the next 3-4 months. For proposal planning with travel scheduled beyond the next 6 months, international travel can be included. If awarded and the travel situation remains restricted, we will take the necessary precautions. If the award is pending and travel is planned within the near future (3-4 months), the PI should consult Deans and interim VP for Research.
Can I plan my future travel and book flights and accommodation?
We recommend that faculty do not confirm or purchase transportation in the next three months. For travel beyond three months, faculty are asked to only book travels that is refundable and changeable and reasonably priced.
What travel insurance does AU have that cover cancellations for the COVID-19 situation?
Contact your Deans office for information.
- Communications with federal awarding agencies should be coordinated with OSP and/or the school’s central research office.
- Retain all documentation relating to the cancellation or other costs charged to a grant in accordance with record retention requirements.
- Retain documentation relating to research delays caused by COVID-19.
I need to make changes to my IRB approved protocols. How should I do that?
Federal regulations that guide the oversight of research require that we review revisions to protocols before they are implemented, there is one important exception, “where necessary to eliminate apparent immediate hazards to the human subjects.” 21 CFR 56.108(a)(4). Should you determine that changes in your procedures are required, you can implement them immediately, without prior notice to or approval from the IRB. You will need to ensure that you are not introducing other risks, and you may need to ask subjects to sign revised informed consent forms. The changes should be reported to the IRB as soon as possible, and we will request justification for a delay of more than five business days. If a full revised protocol cannot be completed in that time, a document that describes the changes and explains how they will protect subjects can be submitted, along with copies of any new or revised subject-facing materials.
How do I handle any financial impact CVOID-19 may have on my sponsored research award?
As protocols may vary by sponsor or award type, all PIs should reach out to unit administrators who will coordinate with Grants & Contracts Accounting (GCA) point of contact to determine what costs are allowable or unallowable on the grant (i.e.: travel change fees, conference cancellations, labor, consulting fees, etc.), what costs will be covered by the university and what steps need to be taken to maximize grant funding. GCA will involve the Office of Sponsored Programs if the above referenced changes result in the need for contractual modifications (i.e. no cost extension, request for additional funding, re-budgeting of grant expenses, etc.) on your grant. GCA contacts by unit are listed in this form. Most sponsors are allowing flexibility (eg see recent OMB guidance) so please remain in touch with your contacts in these offices as you find areas where you need to make adjustments in your project.
I have an upcoming proposal that I’m looking to submit shortly, but I don’t have something to put in Cayuse yet. How will I submit if staff are teleworking?
First of all, Great! The Office of Sponsored Programs will be reaching out to College, School and Center research administration staff to create a list of upcoming projects so that we can all proactively plan for submissions. OSP and unit staff will have contact information for each other so proposal submission can continue uninterrupted. OSP staff have the necessary tools to continue all work remotely.
Have proposal submission deadlines been changed?
So far, we have not received notification from any federal sponsors that deadlines have been changed. Please check the sponsor’s website frequently if you are planning on submitting a proposal.
We have other sponsors who have notified us that they have changed due dates (list will be updated as we receive updates):
- Hubble Space Telescope Call for Proposals for Cycle 28
- NSF FAQ: You should reach out to the cognizant NSF program officer if you are directly affected.
- STScI, NASA, ESA, and CSA have decided to delay the proposal deadline for JWST Cycle 1 GO proposals to no earlier than May 27th 2020. They are continuing to monitor the situation, and will provide an update on the schedule on April 15th 2020.
Where can I find resources:
I have a sub-awardee, Professional Service Agreement or other partnership that is vital to my project. Should I provide them with any information?
Please do keep in contact with the sub-recipients on your projects and keep them apprised of any changes that you are anticipating in your research. Please keep in mind that the AU policies and procedures as well as the Prime Sponsors CODIV-19 guidance flow down to the subawards. The Office of Research can provide a letter that can be sent to your partners should you want to provide them with information about our status.
Major event considerations, should I cancel or postpone?
CDC has issued guidance to avoid gatherings of 50 people or more. Until CDC issue new guidance allowing gatherings we recommend to cancel or postpone your event regardless of the size.
If you have any pressing or urgent concerns, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.