A message from the VPRED: COVID-19 and Research Continuity Guidance

March 17, 2020 @ 2:44 a.m.

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Auburn University researchers,

As you have seen in recent communications from senior leadership, in an effort to maintain the health and well-being of students and university personnel as the coronavirus (COVID-19) has entered the state of Alabama, Auburn has transitioned to a model of remote instruction and—as much as possible—a remote work environment for employees, through April 10.  Accordingly, this message is to provide guidance on how these changes will impact research operations during this time period. We would like to emphasize that most of our current operations are electronic and we do not expect any disruption in our operations.  While much of our work through April 10 will be conducted remotely, we will work to ensure that deadlines will be met.

Principal investigators should develop plans for their research activities that are consistent with Auburn University’s plan of action. 

  • Stay in communication with all research and laboratory staff.  We suggest creating an emergency call or contact list that includes all members of your research team, designating a specific point of contact for all research-related activities.
  • Identify essential research operations and who will be responsible for performing essential activities (including back-up plans as appropriate). 
  • Identify research functions that can be performed remotely.  Remote work time could be used for preparing manuscripts, proposals, literature reviews, etc. 
  • Consider what resources are needed for ongoing experiments and whether to adjust orders and/or related needs to maintain continuity of research operations.
  • For regulatory approvals that may expire soon, contact the appropriate office to request an extension, if needed.
  • Consider shutting down non-essential equipment that will not be damaged by shutdown or that requires reagents where supplies may not be readily available.  Plan for maintenance of equipment and disinfection of laboratory surfaces and equipment to protect research personnel (for laboratories that must remain open).

Additional Research Continuity Guidance:

Research Integrity

Research Integrity activities are expected to continue without disruption. 

Research Compliance

The IBC, IRB, and IACUC will continue regular operations to the extent possible.

Based on concerns related to COVID-19, regulatory oversight agencies have issued statements that in-person compliance committee meetings may be supplemented or replaced with remote technology-assisted voice or video conferences.  Such options will be made available for compliance committee meetings during this time.

Compliance checks for sponsored projects are expected to continue without disruption.

Principal investigators on IRB protocols are encouraged to submit renewal requests as early as possible to allow adequate time for processing and review.

Principal investigators on IRB protocols desiring to amend procedures to address concerns or challenges related to the current environment will need to submit a request for protocol modification.

Sponsored Programs (OSP, CGA, PSFS)

If you are planning to submit a proposal, the appropriate College-level designee or OSP Contract Administrator will continue to the best of their ability to submit proposals even if personnel are working from a remote location.  All new applications should go through the usual review process including the routing of the e-Cover Form (note that e-CF creation/review/approval from off-campus will require VPN).  Agencies may be flexible about deadlines under difficult circumstances beyond our control.  However, if agencies are officially closed, proposals will likely remain in queue, pending resumption of agency operations. You should move forward to submit by the published deadline regardless.

Support from staff in Proposal Services & Faculty Support (proposal development assistance, funding searches/PIVOT support, etc.) will continue to be available as long as the university is officially open and operational.  If a closure occurs, all attempts to work remotely will be utilized to the best of our ability.

Contract/grant negotiations, processing of awards, modifications and subcontracts, account set-up and other post-award actions will continue without disruption as long as the university is officially open and operational.  As necessary, all attempts to work remotely will be utilized.

If you are the principal investigator of a grant/contract and you anticipate that your deliverables will be delayed by offsite work or staff disruptions, please contact your program officer or technical point of contact immediately to let them know of your work plan adjustments and copy the Office of Sponsored Programs (ospadmn@auburn.edu) on the communication.  The appropriate OSP contract administrator will be made aware of the notice.  Additionally, please prepare a brief explanation of the delay for your next progress report.  The explanation should outline the alternative work completed and your plan for accomplishing the original deliverables.  For non-federal sponsors (industry, state, other), this contact will be critical as there is less likely to be information shared directly by them during this time (similar to the notices being released by federal agencies).

As we hear from sponsors on any special considerations and allowable deviations on current grants and contracts, we will post these updates to the following link.   Federal agencies are aware of the current challenges and the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) has developed a repository for both specific agency guidance (as it becomes available) and institutional guidance on mitigating the impacts to research.  COGR has also released an FAQ document regarding COVID-19’s impact on federal awards.

Risk Management and Safety (RMS)

RMS will continue to offer the following mission-critical support functions for research, although staff will primarily be working remotely:

  • safety and health consultation
  • emergency response
  • radioisotope delivery
  • regulated waste management
  • testing and certification of critical lab equipment (safety showers, fume hoods, biological safety cabinets)
  • protocol review
  • communications and interactions with regulatory agencies 

Noncritical functions such as laboratory inspections and in-person training will be postponed until further notice, although training and meetings may still be conducted remotely to the extent feasible. 

Libraries

Auburn University Libraries' three buildings will be closed to the public. This includes Ralph Brown Draughon Library, the Library of Architecture, Design, & Construction and the Cary Veterinarian Medical Library.  

However, the Libraries' faculty and staff will work to meet your teaching and research needs as best they can and to make access to library resources as seamless as possible.

Research-Related Travel

Currently, all university travel, both domestic and international, is suspended through April 10.  For updates, see https://ocm.auburn.edu/news/coronavirus/

Standard Precautions

For additional information on appropriate hygiene and workplace safety, see the CDC’s COVID-19 safety guidance.

Updates specific to the research enterprise will be posted, when needed, at research.auburn.edu

For university-wide updates related to COVID-19, visit https://ocm.auburn.edu/news/coronavirus/.

Contacts for questions or concerns:

 

James Weyhenmeyer, PhD

Vice President for Research and Economic Development

Auburn University

202 Samford Hall

Auburn University, AL 36849

Email: jweyhenmeyer@auburn.edu

Phone: (334) 844-4784

research.auburn.edu  

Categories: OVPRED


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