Info for Researchers
Updated March 30, 2020
The impacts of COVID-19 and related safety measures on KU’s research enterprise are not entirely known. To help address questions and concerns, the Office of Research hosted virtual town hall meetings on Friday, March 27.
- Wet and dry lab research | Watch video
- Human subjects research | Watch video
- Theoretical/computational research | Watch video
The Office of Research also hosted a virtual town hall meeting on Monday, March 30 focused on connecting KU researchers and scholars to the growing number of funding opportunities available to help us understand the novel coronavirus and combat the COVID-19 pandemic:
- COVID-19 research + funding opportunities | Watch video
As concerns about COVID-19 intensify, we are ramping up measures to protect our community by suspending all non-essential research activities on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses. We understand that this will significantly disrupt your current projects, but this is an unprecedented situation that requires us and our peer institutions to take this action. The following steps are to be implemented:
- Beginning Monday, March 23, all non-essential research activities that require personnel to be on campus are to be suspended.
- Essential research activities are those that must continue to prevent a significant long-term impact on the course of your research, not activities whose suspension would merely delay the project for the duration of the suspension. Essential activities thus include:
- Critical, long-term studies that would have to be repeated if interrupted or if time-sensitive data collection were to be impacted.
- Caring for animals or plants housed in your facilities.
- Work required to prevent damage to equipment that cannot be shut down temporarily.
- Campus buildings will be locked today, Friday, March 20. Researchers who normally have card or key access to buildings will retain access as normal, but building services will be limited and only personnel designated by the PI as necessary to conduct essential operations should access the building. Arrangements are being made to ensure that essential supplies can be delivered, but ordering should be limited only to these essentials.
- All other on-premises laboratory research is to be discontinued. Exceptions must be discussed with supervisors. When possible, researchers should sustain current projects by working at home. The only expansion of lab-reliant research allowed at this time is work related to COVID-19.
- All human subjects research that involves face-to-face engagement with human subjects must be discontinued unless the study can be modified to eliminate face-to-face interactions. Any such modifications or interruptions of studies must be reviewed and approved by the Human Research Protection Program. Contact HRPP if this applies to you.
- If you have concerns about a funded project, please review the FAQs referenced below. If you still have concerns, please contact Alicia Reed at email@example.com.
Learn more: COVID-19 Research-Related FAQs
In addition to prioritizing health and safety, KU is also committed to minimizing impact on your research activity and wants to provide guidance on best practices in the following categories:
- Agency communications
- Temporary financial policy changes
- Contingency planning for research
- Animal care
- Human subjects
- Sponsored projects deadlines
- Travel and travel cancellation
If you receive any communication from your sponsor regarding impact of COVID-19 and the Office of Research is not already copied, please forward those notices to Alicia Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org and work with Post-Award on any sponsor response.
Temporary changes to allowable costs for nonrefundable travel
To ensure maximum flexibility for the KU research community, we are updating our cost accounting policy and associated processes to allow expenses related to travel canceled due to COVID-19 to be charged to sponsored projects, including nonrefundable travel expenses and trip cancellation fees. For nonrefundable travel costs to be considered allowable on project funds:
- The travel must have been allowable on the project.
- Documentation showing that a request for a refund was made (and denied) must be provided and maintained as support for the transactions to be processed.
- The sponsor must not have explicitly disallowed these expenses.
This includes reimbursement of nonrefundable travel costs/cancellation fees on KU and KUCR p-cards as well as on personal cards. If credit for travel on sponsored project funds was issued, it is the traveler’s responsibility to ensure that these credits are applied to travel that is allowable on that funding source. Please mark these costs with Chartfield 1 (CF1) of COVID19.
No new arrangements should be made for travel in the next 60 days. If travel plans are being considered, please remember that requirements for most economical fare and disallowance of travel insurance are still in place.
Temporary changes to allowable payroll costs for project personnel
To ensure consistency in treatment of research personnel and payroll-related costs across KU, we are updating our cost accounting policy and associated processes to allow payroll expenses for personnel appointed to sponsored project funding who are unable to work due to COVID-19. For these costs to be allowable on project funds:
- Salary/fringe must be an allowable project expense.
- Individuals must be appointed based on sponsor-approved budget or a justification for benefit to the project (when individual can perform duties).
- The sponsor must not have explicitly disallowed these expenses.
Follow Human Resources guidance on tracking these COVID-19-related costs. If there are concerns about these costs affecting project performance or you have sponsor communication that explicitly disallows these costs, please contact Alicia Reed.
Basis for changes
We are updating these practices in accordance with guidance from the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) that points to reasonableness, consistency of treatment and appropriate documentation, as well as a newly released National Institutes of Health (NIH) notice that allows cancellation costs for nonrefundable travel and salary for those unable to work during the COVID-19 outbreak.
We previously advised all research groups to plan ahead in the event that full access to your research space is not possible for some time period.
Now is the time to consider implementing plans that:
- Minimize the need for your research team to be on campus: Prioritize aspects of the project that can be done remotely and identify the IT (and security) resources needed to move offsite.
- Minimize social interaction if on-campus work is essential for the continuity of your research: Consider changing the physical location of workstations or movable instruments/equipment to minimize contact; or consider modified work schedules that reduce the number of personnel who will be in the space at any one time. Remember that the 10-person limit applies in the lab, too.
- Take appropriate hygiene measures specific to your research: For example, disinfect microscope oculars and controls between users, clean keyboards on common computers and controls on instruments, and avoid sharing personal protective equipment.
KU’s Department of Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) has created a laboratory ramp-down checklist to help researchers prepare for reduced traffic in labs. If you have additional questions, please contact EHS at email@example.com or 785-864-4089.
Essential research activities are those that must continue to prevent a significant long-term impact on the course of your research, not activities whose suspension would merely delay the project for the duration of the suspension.
Examples of essential research activities that would have to continue on campus include:
- Maintaining research instruments that cannot safely or economically be shut down for a period.
- Assuring research samples are preserved (e.g., in -80°C freezers or liquid nitrogen).
- Caring for research organisms housed in your own facilities (invertebrates, plants).
- Continuing long-term experimental procedures (e.g., some cell culture or organoid experiments can be months long) or animal studies.
- Collecting critical, time-sensitive data and samples from long-term studies and field experiments (that might require returning samples to storage or immediate analysis on campus).
For other types of research, essential activities need not require being on campus. For example:
- Communicating with participants, partners (e.g., district leaders), funding agencies, research team members, and HRPP regarding project activities (e.g., modifications, reports of new information, suspensions).
- Continuing large-scale, long-term studies involving human subjects (e.g., longitudinal randomized control trials, longitudinal descriptive studies) while considering how to mitigate delays or pauses in interventions and assessments.
- Maintaining physical infrastructure at field stations and remote sampling sites.
You will need to identify who will be responsible for essential activities and who would take their place in the event they were not able to come to campus or otherwise fulfill their role.
KU’s Animal Care Unit is responsible for the welfare of research animals on the Lawrence campus. During any emergency, the first priority is employee well-being. All ACU employees will follow KU’s emergency management plan. Only after any threat to employees is eliminated will the ACU emergency management plan for animals go into effect. As with any campus closure, a designated animal care technician reports for duty, and veterinary staff are available at all times via mobile phone – similar to care provided over weekends and holidays. During times of emergency, basic care and husbandry for animals will be provided with ongoing evaluation and consultation by veterinary staff to ensure the preservation of animal health and welfare.
Availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. The ACU utilizes various forms of equipment, such as face masks, isolation gowns and coveralls. Currently, the main supplier of this equipment has limited purchases to a monthly allocation to maintain adequate supplies in the long term. The ACU has adjusted PPE requirements to conserve its existing stock of face masks and has purchased additional disinfectant supplies. If PPE availability changes, the ACU will communicate with all animal users and make additional adjustments based on risk assessment.
Note that work with animals must follow approved protocols or an amendment must be requested and approved. We encourage you to contact IACUC@ku.edu with any questions or requests to modify existing animal protocols.
Reminders and considerations for respectful, responsible human subjects inquiry in the changing landscape created by the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Human Research Protection Program (HRPP) at KU is responsible for reviewing all human subjects research conducted under the auspices of the Lawrence, Edwards and Juniper Gardens campuses.
- We anticipate HRPP staff will be available to support researchers and ensure the safety of all research participants.
- We encourage you to contact HRPP at 785-864-7385 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
- Protocol modifications must be reviewed and approved by HRPP. If you need to make any changes to your study, submit a modification through eCompliance in accordance with HRPP instructions.
- Your research participants
- Vulnerability: Do your participants include populations at heightened risk of being very sick from COVID-19? Special care will be needed for vulnerable populations, including older individuals or those who may have underlying health issues that would make them more susceptible to the virus.
- Exposure risk: Could research procedures – such as close interpersonal contact, handling items or equipment used by others, or collecting biospecimens – put participants at greater risk of exposure? Can risk be mitigated with a change in research plans or procedures?
- In the interest of participant safety, when the project or individual cannot use remote means to conduct study procedures, HRPP encourages asking participants who may be vulnerable or at greater risk of exposure if they would like to opt out or postpone (if feasible) participation in the study. We encourage you to explore shifting to procedures that support social distancing. Consider eliminating in-person interactions altogether.
- Your research team
- Exposure risk: Could research procedures put your research team at greater risk of exposure? How can these risks be mitigated?
- Availability: How might study team absences affect continuity of your research, including ongoing interactions with participants?
- Your research plan
- Participants: Would your data or results be affected if your participants had to self-quarantine or if they contracted COVID-19? Should your participants be screened for COVID-19 as part of your inclusion/exclusion criteria?
- Setting: Is the location of the study remaining open (e.g., school, day care facility)? Have new procedures been implemented in the setting to slow the spread of COVID-19 that will impact your ability to continue your study as planned?
- Activities: Do your approved study procedures involve in-person meetings, monitoring or data collection? Can these procedures be shifted to remote meetings or monitoring, or online data collection systems (e.g., Qualtrics)?
- Data security: How might these shifts in activities impact data security? What protections and routines will you put in place to ensure data security?
- As you review study procedures, keep in mind it is possible that COVID-19 might change the risk/benefit ratio, resulting in the need for a study to be suspended.
- Your action plan
- Forecast your project needs and develop contingency plans for meeting objectives and ensuring human subjects protections.
- Communicate these contingency plans to all members in your research group.
- Review your IRB-approved protocols and determine if any modifications are necessary to procedures (e.g., shifting from in-person interviews to interviews conducted using remote technology) to protect participants and project staff.
We anticipate that research administration and KUCR financial staff will be available to support ongoing proposal submission and award support. At this time, we have not noted agencies shifting proposal or award reporting deadlines, and most federal agencies – including NIH and NSF – do not grant prior approval for late submissions and consider after–the-fact approval on a case-by case basis. Please plan to meet existing, established submission deadlines. To assist in Pre-Award staffing plans, please contact Pre-Award or your research center if you are planning to submit to a proposal deadline through May 15, 2020.
If you have an extenuating circumstance and believe you will miss a proposal deadline, please discuss your situation with your assigned Pre-Award or research center proposal preparation staff. If you believe you will be unable to meet an award reporting deadline, please discuss your situation with your Post-Award staff.
NSF has established a website that contains FAQs and directed attention to its Responses to Natural Disasters page to provide agency-specific guidance. NIH also has provided FAQs, reiterated case-by-case assessment of late submissions and referred to its page on natural disasters and other emergencies.
All travel on sponsored projects, except that in Kansas and Missouri, must be discontinued immediately. No new plans for travel in the next 60 days should be made. Under extreme circumstances, exemptions to the travel restriction will be considered in advance by the provost or her designee. Travel appeals should be sent to email@example.com.
- Regional travel is still acceptable: At this time, regional travel in Kansas and Missouri is still allowed. Please stay apprised of any new announcements, though, as this situation is rapidly evolving. Additionally, if you have research personnel located remotely, they are still allowed to travel regionally, as long as they are following guidance from their local health departments.
- Travel already in progress: If you or members of your research team are already traveling, you are not being recalled at this time. Travelers should follow CDC guidance on travel risks and preventing illness.
The CDC’s COVID-19 travel guidance is a good resource, especially if you have future research-related or personal travel or are planning to host a sponsored conference. As noted in its FAQs, CDC’s travel notices provide recommendations on postponing or canceling travel based on location, as well as a domestic map showing state-by-state risk levels.