Syracuse University Guidance for Researchers in Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The latest University-wide guidance for students, faculty, and staff is available on the University’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) website.

Letter from Interim Vice Chancellor and Provost John Liu and Interim Vice President for Research Ramesh Raina (March 20, 2020)

As national and state-wide mandates increase to control the spread of COVID-19, University recommendations and requirements are also changing. New guidance specifically in relation to the conduct of research at Syracuse University is provided below, organized by major topic. These sections will be updated as additional guidance is provided.

Importantly at this time, for the safety of our entire research community, all in-person data collection activities for non-essential human subjects research must pause until further notice. From a regulatory perspective, this is considered a temporary pause in data collection involving human subjects. In addition, all non-essential campus-based research activity must pause, and essential research activities scaled back to a minimum. Effective immediately, no more than 2 people from any lab should occupy the lab at one time. Those that remain must be conducting essential research activities only. More information about these requirements is provided below.

Animal Research

Q – What plans are in place for the care of animals?

Lab Animal Resources (LAR) will be working on-site to conduct daily animal husbandry. A full emergency plan is in place to ensure all animals are cared for and in accordance with social distancing procedures. Please contact LAR with questions.

Building Access

Q – Why are University building doors locked?

As the majority of the University’s workforce has transitioned to remote operations, access to most University buildings has been limited. Many academic and administrative buildings have transitioned to swipe card access (SU I.D.) only. Please carry your SU I.D. card if you are coming to campus to access your office or lab.

Human Subjects Research

Q – Can I continue with data collection for human subjects research?

Given the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic and our shared goal to reduce the risk of infection within our community, the Office of Research together with the Office of Research Integrity and Protections and the Institutional Review Board have determined that, for human subjects research deemed non-essential, data collection activities involving face-to-face interaction with participants must pause until further notice; this includes social, behavioral and educational research, as well as biomedical research. This is in keeping with the need to minimize personal contact. From a regulatory perspective, this is considered a temporary pause in human participant research activities for those studies impacted.

If a research activity involving face-to-face interaction with participants provides a significant health benefit, and is considered an essential research activity, then the activity may continue. However, such studies must be approved for continuation by the Department Chair, Associate Dean for Research, and Vice President of Research through the disclosure of essential research activities form, available on the Office of Research web page.

For non-essential human subjects research, data collection activities for any biomedical or social, behavioral and educational study that involves in-person, face-to-face interactions with participants – including faculty, staff, students and community participants – must be paused. Research studies that limit participant interactions to online or remote communication, telephone contact, remote monitoring, remote data collection or secondary data analysis may continue.

For more guidance on pausing your study, go to Considerations for Human Participant Protections Related to COVID-19.

Research Management

Q – Are the Office of Research Departments operating? 

Yes, all departments are operating. See the Office of Research Service Continuity Planning for COVID-19 for full details.

Q – If I am not supposed to come to campus, what do I do about my ongoing and planned research projects?

For currently active projects, researchers are required to discontinue campus-based research activities and when possible move all non-essential lab research to home/online modalities. Researchers must postpone the start of any new data collection activities that cannot be carried out remotely until further notice.

 

All non-essential campus-based research activity must pause, and essential research activities conducted in campus-based facilities scaled back to a minimum. Effective immediately, no more than 2 people from any lab should occupy the lab at one time. Those that remain must be conducting essential research activities only. Approval for the continuation of essential research activities must be received by the Vice President of Research from your Department Chair and Associate Dean for Research. An online portal for the disclosure of essential research activities to the University will be made available on the Office of Research web page.

Q – What are essential research activities?

Essential research activities are things, which if halted will have an irretrievably detrimental impact to a long-term research program or to the maintenance and care of high value research material. Essential research activities may also include those that respond to the current world health crisis. Some examples of these activities are:

  • A long-term ongoing research experiment which cannot be stopped without jeopardizing the entire experiment
  • Longitudinal study that is already underway that addresses an important topic relevant to human health
  • Care of animals, plants, cell lines, microbial strains, freezers containing valuable research material, major pieces of equipment, and other specific items/agents that are of high research value and are extremely difficult or very expensive to replace
  • Activity that maintains critical equipment in facilities and laboratories
  • COVID-19 related activity that has a timeline for deployment that could address the current crisis
  • Activity that has US government-mandated security and access requirements, cannot be performed remotely, and whose activity is deemed critical by the US government
  • Activities specifically requested by a US Government sponsor to continue during this time

Q – What guidelines are to be followed for remaining essential activities in labs?

First, practice social distancing, including laboratory-specific guidance

  • Keep at least 6 feet between people when together for prolonged periods.
  • Shift work spaces to maintain distance.
  • Stagger shifts to maintain no more than two people in the lab at any given time.
  • Work elsewhere for non-laboratory work, such as writing, planning, or data analysis.
  • Establish access connections and communication tools to ensure effective remote work.

 

Second, plan for contingencies:

  • Plan research activities such that essential functions can be carried out by designated lab members, who could serve as essential personnel if needed.
  • Coordinate with colleagues and consider if cross training of personnel is feasible for managing critical activities.
  • Order crucial research supplies and materials now to ensure availability if there is a disruption in supply chains.
  • Connect with your departmental leadership to learn about their plans for operations on which you depend, such as facility needs like loading docks or IT support.
  • Even in the case of essential activities, plan procedures to idle or shut down experiments and equipment, should it become necessary.
  • Document contingency plans and share the plan with lab members.

Research Proposals and Grant Administration

Q – Can I still submit my research proposals?

As COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold, the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) has transitioned to a virtual office environment and is continuing to provide full service and staffing to maintain our normal levels of faculty and staff support.  Please contact your OSP Research Administrator by email with any request that you may have for assistance with the submission of a proposal, the setup of an award, or any other questions that you may have. See more information here.

Q – Are some sponsors pushing out near-term proposal submission deadlines to accommodate disruptions due to COVID-19?

Some are, yes, while others are not. We advise PIs to check the sponsor’s funding opportunity web page for the solicitation for their target funding opportunity on a daily basis to see whether the sponsor has adjusted the submission deadline.

Q – Is there federal research funding available to study COVID-19?

Yes, funding opportunities related to COVID-19 are being updated here.

Q – What guidance is available from federal agencies and sponsors regarding the impact of COVID-19 on research?

Various federal agencies have issued information updates for researchers on practical matters like late applications, salary, stipends, clinical trials, travel, and conference grants, as they relate to closures and cancellations in response to COVID-19.  We will continue to update this listing as more information is released.

 

Q – My postdoc and graduate student funded as a research assistant are not able to remain on campus. Can I still pay them for working remotely on a grant-funded project?

Yes, first and foremost, the faculty, staff and post-docs are Syracuse University employees and students engaged in sponsored projects are Syracuse University research assistants. As long as these individuals are paid in accordance with University Policy, and the employees have discussed their employment arrangements with their supervisor (and have registered their flexible work arrangement with Human Resources here ), then charging their effort to a sponsored funding source is allowable. The federal guidance relies on the University to follow its own established policies and procedures, applying them uniformly regardless of funding source.  As the University workforce transitions to working remotely, supervisors should work with their employees to accommodate their needs as best they can so that they can continue to work in a virtual environment.

 

Research Travel or Conference Travel

Q – Can I still conduct travel for my sponsored research project? Will I be reimbursed for cancelled travel?

Impacts from COVID-19 on sponsored project related travel will vary. Federal guidance on these matters is still developing, and we are providing the most current information available. The National Science Foundation (NSF) guidance and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidance have both been issued in the form of FAQs specifically addressing the COVID-19 outbreak, and how to address grant related travel interruptions or cancellations. Speaking broadly, if travel or conference hosting plans have not yet been made, we recommend temporarily postponing these events to a future date once the COVID-19 crisis has passed. If travel was a requirement of the sponsored project, your program manager should be alerted to the delay and their guidance sought in coordination with the Office of Sponsored Programs.

For the updated information on all University travel, see the University’s Coronavirus Travel Guidance page.