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Mitigating the Impact of COVID 19 on the Research Enterprise

Mitigating the Impact of COVID 19 on the Research Enterprise

The situation involving the COVID-19 virus is rapidly changing. Effective Saturday, March 21, per the Governor’s order and in compliance with campus guidance from the Chancellor and Provost, all research activities on campus, in the field, and at auxiliary sites ramped down to conduct only essential activities. This means that most campus research labs, facilities, and field sites ceased in-person operations—safely— with consideration during ramp-down of requirements to effectively ramp back up to resume activities when allowed. DRS developed a Laboratory Ramp-Down Checklist to assist in doing so. 

Facilities and Services has developed a cleaning/disinfection guide.

Campus COVID-19 website 

Information about returning to onsite research and scholarship 

WHAT IS ESSENTIAL RESEARCH?

With the requirement that effective social distancing (6 ft) can be maintained, essential research-related activities that require campus and field sites are defined as follows:

  • Work that directly relates to preventing, containing, or treating the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Work that is directly related to national security
  • Research support functions that are required by law
  • Work to maintain critical equipment, whether in stand-by mode or operational
  • Work to maintain critical biological or material samples and animal populations
  • Seasonally dependent agricultural research with critical implications for human and animal health, as well as food security
  • Laboratory or field work where discontinuation would result in loss of significant data and samples
  • Longitudinal or seasonal work where discontinuation would result in loss of significant data and samples

Experiments, projects, and studies that do not fit these categories must ramp down immediately and cease. Executive Officers in your unit, school, institute, and college should be consulted for clarifications that are discipline-specific. If further clarification is required, then Institute Directors or Associate Deans of Research can direct inquiries to ovcr@illinois.edu.

Research and scholarly activities that can be continued remotely are strongly encouraged!

 

Federal Funding Agency Websites for COVID-19 Information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Office of Management and Budget

USDA

Department of Energy

National Institutes of Health

Department of Health and Human Services

Department of Defense

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

National Science Foundation

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

Department of Justice (DoJ)

Department of Education (ED)

Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)

Sponsored Research

Sponsored Programs Administration has complied an FAQ to address common questions.

Human Subjects Research

Carefully evaluate your protocols and work with the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) ibc@illinois.edu or drs@illinois.edu and OPRS irb@illinois.edu to develop safety procedures for your personnel and subjects. Human research activities involving face-to-face contact with subjects should remain suspended through the end of the semester unless approved safety protocols are in place. 

The OPRS and the Illinois IRBs are expected to remain operational through the implementation of special provisions

Animal Research

The Division of Animal Resources has issued guidance on when we will implement emergency and contingency plans.

The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has contingency plans to address potential disruptions in operations.  For the foreseeable future, the IACUC office will continue to accept protocol submissions and amendments, and will process them as usual. At this time, we anticipate that the time needed for complete review and approval should remain close to normal.

Please also keep the following in mind during this time:

  • All protocol procedures, including monitoring, must be followed as described and approved in your protocol. If a need for changes in procedures is anticipated, including the need for addition of personnel to the project, these must be approved by the IACUC prior to their implementation. As usual, you should submit protocol amendments via our online portal.
  • Please review your ability to conduct research projects and teaching activities that are planned for the next few weeks in the event that availability of project personnel changes. If a disruption occurs in the ability of your personnel responsible for animal care to perform their duties, contact the relevant veterinary office (DAR or AACUP) and IACUC office immediately.
  • All principal investigators/research staff who currently have animals on projects should make sure that their emergency contact information, including cell phone numbers, is up to date in case you need to be reached for animal-related questions or decisions.

 

Graduate Students

The Graduate College has compiled information for graduate students and faculty advisors.

COVID 19 Guidance for Research Personnel and their Supervisors (March 20, 2020)

CONTINGENCY PLANNING

At the unit level, each research group or facility is best positioned to create a continuity plan that will meet their unique needs. Consider how you will manage disruptions, whether short or long term, to your research programs. The guidance below is provided to help you deliberately develop contingency plans with some immediate next steps. Within your research group and research service/support operations, please plan for:

  • Communication. Do you have an updated list of everyone’s cell phone numbers? Designate points of contact in your research, service or work group so that everyone receives timely information about your plans. These communication plans should include a contingency for those who will work remotely. 
  • Connectivity. Test your technology: be sure you can connect with others in your research group when meeting remotely. 
  • Decision-Making. Assess, consult and prioritize critical activities and identify back-ups for staff who are responsible for these tasks.
  • Assessment. (a) Identify any research experiments that can be ramped down, curtailed, or delayed. (b) Consider the impact of limited supplies and resources, particularly if they become unavailable.
  • Remote Work Plans. Develop remote work arrangements where appropriate, as an option for your research projects.
  • Travel. Travel is restricted. Talk to your Unit Executive Officer if you have essential business travel or research-related field work.

 

Additional guidance for OVCRI Units

Our philosophy

  • Communication is essential. We will do our best to keep you informed, and we ask that you do the same for us. If you supervise others, talk to your staff, be reasonable, and we will work with you to make reasonable accomodations.
  • We are in uncharted waters. We are all navigating this together, and often making decisions based on limited information. We understand that this uncertainty is not ideal. Please be safe, and also patient with our changing landscapes.
  • University research offices remain open. All offices have remote working capabilities and contingency plans in place to minimize disruptions. Do not close facilities without talking with the OVCRI.
  • At the unit level, each laboratory or research facility is best positioned to create a continuity plan that will meet their unique needs.
  • Be creative about remote working, especially for staff who may not be able to do lab work. Consider data analysis, record keeping, training, or reassignment within your units. If you have questions about HR-related issues, contact OVCR@illinois.edu
  • Please exercise special care if you are immune compromised or over 60, and remember that no matter your age or current health, your actions can have an effect on the broader community.

 

Division of Research Safety Guidance: Safe Conduct of Essential Research Activities

 

Donating PPE and Other Resources

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation has received a number of inquiries from members of the campus community about donating materials and supplies to fight COVID-19. We sincerely appreciate your interest, and we are working with our partners across the community to develop an inventory of university-owned personal protective equipment and supplies. The Division of Research Safety is working specifically with PIs in labs across campus to conduct this inventory, and we have been in contact with these members of the research community. Currently, we are only conducting an inventory—we are not yet arranging pickup of these supplies.

We recognize that other resources may exist. If your unit has supplies that you believe may be useful, please contact Richard Sallee in the OVCRI to discuss these materials.

A special note about costing
We have heard questions about federal and state costing rules related to this effort, and it is important to note that Federal Uniform Guidance remains in place. However, Federal agencies have the option to modify their accepted practices. The OVCRI PPE survey is being conducted in the spirit of agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), who just released their directive on the question of donating NIH-grant purchased PPE to local care providers.  Please see the NIH FAQ (Section D, Question 6)  Other federal agencies have not formally approved PPE donations, but higher education associations are aggressively soliciting NIH, in their health leadership role, to advocate for uniformity of PPE donations across all federal agencies. 

Thank you for your cooperation and patience as we manage and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign sponsored research portfolio and our broader community.

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