COVID-19 and Research Activity
*Please note that the following details are subject to continual change and updates will be posted as they become available.
The NEOMED Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP) is committed to the health and safety of faculty, staff, students and research participants and ensuring our research community is informed of critical changes to operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. NEOMED’s Current Advisories and Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Information webpage is updated regularly to provide the NEOMED research community additional information specific to the management and conduct of research.
Faculty leading research groups and overseeing facilities are responsible for managing smooth and safe operations in this disrupted environment in the context of directives from Department Chairs, the Vice President for research and/or the University leadership. At this time, there are no plans to close research laboratories, but on-campus presence of faculty, research staff and students should be limited to conducting essential research activities as noted below.
Faculty and staff may also be interested in Federal agency updates related to COVID-19
Essential Research Activities (On-Campus, In-Person)
- COVID-19-related research that has the potential to mitigate the pandemic;
- On-campus, laboratory procedures requiring timely and regular attention to maintain critical laboratory infrastructure and experimental conditions. These may include:
- Essential care for animals, unique or expensive cell cultures or biological specimens that would otherwise be lost,
- Preservation of unique reagents and other unique or expensive research materials,
- Maintenance of instruments and equipment (e.g., liquid nitrogen and liquid helium systems, and shared computational clusters) that cannot be maintained remotely or shut down without significant cost or consequences to the research effort, and
- In progress studies that must be completed in order to avoid catastrophic data loss.
- On-campus, laboratory studies that do not require interventions or interactions with human subjects and which are needed for a thesis or dissertation defense during the 2020 Spring or Summer terms or the completion of studies for postdoctoral fellows who are within 3 months of an end of an appointment or fellowship funding that do not require interventions or interactions with human subjects. Students must request permission to be in the laboratory for these reasons from their advisory, Department Chair and Vice President for Research in sequential order.
- Exceptions may be granted on an extremely limited basis by submitting a written request for sequential approval to the Chair, Dean, and Vice President for Research. The request should include a description of the essential nature of the research and a detailed plan for promoting the safety of all personnel, including social distancing, laboratory layout, shift work possibilities, etc.
Other Permitted/Encouraged Research Activities
- Any research activities that can be conducted remotely or virtually, including the initiation of new projects, are encouraged and can proceed with required local scientific and institutional regulation/sponsored award approvals, when applicable. Examples include the following:
- Data processing/analysis
- Survey research conducted via the web or telephone
- Proposal writing
- Publication and abstract composition and review
- Patent applications
- Grant and proposal reviews
- Virtual focus groups
- Research/laboratory administrative meetings
- New non-essential studies can be submitted for scientific, sponsored award, regulatory and/or budgetary review.
When individuals must be present in the laboratory, best practices for social distancing must be used, including:
- staggering work times,
- working six feet apart, and
- limiting interactions.
If working alone is unavoidable, work when there is someone present otherwise on the same floor. If someone is not in the lab with you under these extenuating circumstances, you should always keep your mobile phone on your person, let someone know where you are, how long you will be there, and when to expect your return (a virtual buddy system).
Trainees (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows)
No trainee should be compelled to come to campus for any purpose, and faculty and Departments/Colleges must be flexible to support remote work arrangements.
- Graduate students and post-docs may be permitted in laboratories for completion of studies needed for a thesis or dissertation defense during the 2020 Spring or Summer terms or the completion of studies for postdoctoral fellows who are within 3 months of an end of the appointment or fellowship funding when those activities do not require interventions or interactions with human subjects and can meet the social distancing requirements.
- Faculty advisors and mentors should work with their graduate students and postdocs to develop or update individualized plans to continue their research remotely.
- In the event that a laboratory requires a trainee to maintain a physical presence in the lab for the completion of their specific studies or to maintain other essential research, a written exception request including at least the name of the trainee, the physical space they would occupy, and justification that the research is essential is required from the PI/advisor. The request must be approved by the following in sequential order listed below:
- Department Chair
- Vice President for Research
The resulting decision will be reported to the trainee, PI or Program Coordinator, and the PI’s Department Chair and College Dean’s Office