Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Washington State University
WSU Research WSU Coronavirus Q&A

COVID-19’s potential impact on research

Principal investigators must exercise their best judgement for starting or continuing research activities and work with their campus, college, and immediate leadership to develop plans in the event of a campus closure or reduced operations. Please work in collaboration with your unit leadership and coordinate with your associate deans or vice chancellors for research and appropriate WSU regulatory/compliance bodies (e.g., IRB, IACUC, IBC, OCV, EH&S) to implement your plan. Your plan must prioritize safety of all personnel engaged in research and incorporate the considerations outlined in the OR COVID-19 general guidance communication.

A. General Information


1. Where can I find helpful information if I have a question related to COVID-19’s potential impact on my research project, project-related travel, or field work?

First contacts for questions related to COVID-19’s impact on research are:

Grants Administration Connect with your unit grants administrator or team.
Proposal and Award Processing Office of Research Support and Operations (ORSO)/
Dan Nordquist
Post-Award Allowable Cost Inquiries Sponsored Program Services (SPS)/
Casey St.Clair
Animal Care OCV/
Nina Woodford
IACUC Animal Welfare Program/
Alan Ekstrand
IRB Human Research Protection Program (HRPP)/
Joe Crossno
Research Safety Research Safety Program/
Levi O’Loughlin
IBC – Biosafety RSC – Radiation Safety
Programmatic Activity on funded grants You may contact your Program Officer

 

2. If I have a grant, who should I contact if my project activities are impacted by COVID-19?

      • As Principal Investigator (PI), you continue to be responsible for conducting your research in a safe and secure manner. WSU leadership is providing resources and assistance to aid you as you make decisions regarding your research. Accordingly, if project activities are impacted, contact your immediate supervisor, unit leadership (Chair, Associate Dean, other), central offices (particularly OR, IRB, IACUC, IBC, OCV, EH&S, etc.), collaborators, or sponsors, as appropriate.

3. How will the pause in my research impact my grant?

      • Generally, there should not be significant impact to your grant. All study-related activities that are not affected by a pause can continue as normal. Additionally, there should not be a significant disengagement of the PI or other senior key personnel from affected projects.

4. I have a progress report due in the near term, and my study is impacted by the pause.  Should I include information relating to the pause in my progress report?

      • Yes.  Please contact your local grant administrator or ORSO for assistance if needed.

5. If people employed on my grant are unable to be on campus to conduct research during a pandemic, and their time can’t be expended on the grant, will the University provide bridge funding for these employees?

      • Contact your immediate supervisor or ORSO for detailed guidance.

6. Will a sponsor provide an extension to my grant award if the planned activities are disrupted by COVID-19?

      • Many sponsors allow for one-year grantee-approved no-cost extensions. If your sponsor does not provide for this pre-approval, please contact your unit’s grants administrator who can work with ORSO, as needed, to determine how to make an extension request to the sponsor.

7. If the agency program officer or grants officer is unavailable (or if the agency is closed) due to COVID-19, can grant personnel continue to work and charge salary to the project?

      • In most cases, grantees should be able to continue work until their period of performance and funding is exhausted. If prior approvals are required, the grantee should continue to submit their request to the funding agency electronically. Contact ORSO for further information.

8. Research studies with a lab component already have gloves available. Who would pay for other supplies (e.g., masks, wipes), if needed?

      • Personal protection equipment needed to perform the grant can be a direct charge. Supplies needed for cleaning are to be covered by a non-grant account.

9. What happens if local, state, and/or federal government employees get furloughed or are unavailable to perform their duties (e.g., issue prior approvals or process awards)?

      • We expect that funding agencies will put out guidance in the event these circumstances become likely.  Contact your departmental administrator if you experience this issue prior to agency guidance being released.

10. Where can I learn more about available work and leave options for WSU employees?

      • The Department of Human Resource Services has put together an FAQ on leave and work options for faculty and staff on its website here.

11. What is the definition of essential employee?

      • It is important for units themselves to identify essential personnel.  These are those personnel who perform critical procedures, processes, or equipment management that require regular attention so that they will be able to continue to access labs.  This includes personnel responsible for ensuring safety and security of research operations and human/animal welfare, equipment maintenance, experiments with a small window for completion, perishable and not easily replaced materials, and infrastructure services (e.g., delivery of liquid nitrogen, waste treatment processes, IT, safety, security, campus veterinarian services, hazardous materials shipping, or protocol reviews).

12. What does extreme social distancing mean in a laboratory?

      • Laboratory personnel should be reduced to a minimum density within the space to ensure social distancing of at least six feet. For many labs at WSU, this looks like 1-2 researchers present at one time. However, labs with large footprints (e.g., greenhouses, open concept labs, core facilities) may be able to accommodate more staff at a given time. Consider common equipment in the laboratory that congregate individuals when assessing proper staffing. Frequently touched surfaces should be wiped down with disinfectant between shifts of research personnel. Faculty should consult with their leadership should they have questions.

13. Why am I completing my laboratory research checklist?

      • Checklists are provided as a tool to assist PIs in the evaluation of their laboratory operations preparedness should there be a more restrictive directive issued to WSU resulting in an emergency closure.

14. What is meant by “Other activities essential to maintain enduring WSU research capabilities?”

      • As a Tier 1 Research Institution, WSU has many varied ongoing research projects and some are more adaptable than others to current circumstances. An additional example beyond those listed in our communication include work that is required by law. The Principal Investigator should consult with their leadership following normal supervisor relationships on all critical activities.

15. Are trainees allowed in the lab and are they essential personnel?

16. Has the federal government released guidance to support grant recipients associated with COVID-19?

      • Yes.  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has released OMB Memo. M-20-17, “Administrative Relief for Recipients and Applicants of Federal Financial Assistance Directly Impacted by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) due to Loss of Operations” in order to provide flexibility to grant recipients performing essential research and services necessary to carry out the emergency response related to COVID-19.  The OMB memo. is posted on the COGR Institutional and Agency Responses to COVID-19 and Additional Resources website.

17. Are federal agencies going to allow grant recipients to request supplemental funding because of the impact of COVID-19?

      • Yes.  As sponsors provide funding opportunities, ORAP at orap@wsu.edu can help faculty locate funding and answer any questions related to additional funding.
      • We would use the standard agency process for requesting supplements and agencies should make decisions through their normal agency processes.

18. As a PI, do I need to document grant expenses related to COVID-19?

      • Yes. The University has provided guidelines for your unit to help track for COVID-19 grant expenses. In addition, the federal government is allowing, via OMB Memo. M-20-17, “Administrative Relief for Recipients and Applicants of Federal Financial Assistance Directly Impacted by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) due to Loss of Operations”, therefore documenting these costs are important if we are able to take advantage of this relief. Please work with your Grant Administrators for support. See expense and revenue refund tracking for more details.

19. At what point do I need to contact the sponsor of my grant?

      • When your research project results in:
        • A technical or programmatic occurrence that the PI wants to alert the sponsor about*;
        • The disengagement of the PI of 3 months or more to the research;
        • A reduction of 25% or more in the time devoted to the project;
        • A change in scope of work;
        • A significant delay to complete the project on time; or
        • A significant increase in costs to complete the project,

         

        *Best practice would be to notify program officers for federal grants of substantive changes or interruptions to your protocol at your earliest convenience.   This will allow them to best represent the challenges grantees are facing to their respective agencies.

        Please contact ORSO at orso@wsu.edu to help coordinate and communicate these impacts with program officers, managers, or sponsor personnel as required.

20. Are central infrastructure and research operations, including Kamiak, expected to remain available?

      • The Center for Institutional Research Computing is able to have system administrators maintain Kamiak remotely and computational scientists can consult with researchers via Zoom facilitating research without interruption. WSU infrastructure, including waste management, University Stores, Veterinary Services, Public Safety, WSU Core labs (NMR and LBB), Campus Veterinarian and Office of Research units will continue service under their continuity of operations plans. Additionally, critical infrastructure on each campus have been preparing under their continuity of operations plans to maintain operations, including staffing to adhere to social distancing expectations.

21. Please see the following Washington State Department of Health website for information on emergency volunteer health practitioners

B. Remote Work


1. Where do I find information regarding remote work?

2. I am a PI/researcher and required to work from home as a result of the coronavirus. Can I charge my grant for supplies relating to telework (e.g., laptop, printer, office supplies)?

      • These types of expenses are considered administrative costs (indirect costs), and generally are not appropriate as a direct cost unless specifically approved by the sponsor. Contact your supervisor about your needs in order to be set up to work from home.

3. If I have a proposal due and my institution closes, will ORSO submit my application?

      • ORSO will ensure proposals are still submitted on time in the event the University moves to reduced operations or closure. Coordination with WSU Spokane and Vancouver research administration personnel will ensure all services will have back-up, as needed, to allow for absences without losing out on grant opportunities.

4. If a student or a researcher needs to access a dataset from home in order to keep working on a project, how do we address privacy requirements?

5. If schools or elder-care facilities close, can award-funded employees stay at home to do child-care and elder-care and still charge their salary to a grant?

      • If an award-funded employee stays home due to school or other facility closure for child or elder care needs, the employee’s salary would be charged in accordance with their institutional leave policy.

6. How can I begin to assess the potential impact of COVID-19 on my research in case of research team members having to self-quarantine or University closure?

      • PIs remain responsible for safe and secure conduct of their research, and should contact their immediate leadership, central offices, collaborators, or sponsors for assistance as needed (See Questions 1 & 2 above). As you formulate your plans, consider the following:
        • Evaluate your plans to allow for the continuation or mitigation of the interruption of studies that involve participants, animals, ingredients, or experiments that would be adversely affected.
        • Review any standing purchasing orders or human resource issues that might be impacted.
        • Review data collection/analysis/storage impacts and the costs associated with these impacts.
        • Review any regulatory approvals that may expire soon and determine the viability of early renewal.
        • Determine any sponsor reports or deadlines which may be due during this time.
        • Consider the need for a no-cost or for-cost extension request for any of your sponsored projects.

7. If one or more members of my team is working remotely, what are the best methods for remaining in contact?

      • As part of your team’s Continuity of Operations Plan, you should identify how your group will communicate in event of disruption, and test those plans in advance. WSU provides Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and VPN.

C. Travel


1. My research-related meeting has been cancelled due to COVID-19, but I had already paid for my airfare and other travel related expenses, can these still be charged to the grant?

      • Grant sponsors first rely on institutional policies and procedures and normal processes on travel costs related to cancellations – please review BPPM 95.07, Transportation. It’s important that, to determine the allowability of costs connected to your grant, you need to ensure that the costs are necessary and reasonable and benefit the project. If this principle is not met, you may need to move the cost to a non-grant account.  For more information, please contact the appropriate contact listed on the SPS website here.  Fees charged for changing a non-refundable ticket are payable/reimbursable if justified by circumstances outside of the traveler’s control (e.g., a health and safety event).

2. Should I be traveling to research-oriented meetings?

3. How should credits from cancelled travel costs be handled on sponsored projects?

      • If a traveler has charged (e.g., through a travel advance) an airline ticket or other travel cost to a sponsored project, and then that trip is later cancelled, the credit must accrue to the sponsored project.

D. Animal Care


1. What about animal care during the outbreak?

      • All animal facilities have contingency plans in place. The OCV and the ORA are working together with the colleges and campuses to review the continuity of operations plans for animal care at each campus and area.
      • Until more is known about the virus, the CDC recommends restricting contact with animals if you are experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 and to always use good hygiene after contact with animals. More information at the following link – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#animals.
      • If the outbreak circumstance requires that you need to modify research procedures or routine husbandry practices that could cause a protocol change, please notify the Animal Welfare Program at iacuc.wsu.edu or 509-335-7951. We will utilize the designated member review process or veterinary verification whenever possible to expedite the approval process.  Animal care and welfare are always a priority.
      • Please contact the Office of the Campus Veterinarian at ocv.alert@wsu.edu or 509-335-6246 with any questions or concerns regarding care of animals at WSU.

E. Human Subjects Research: IRB and the HRPP


1. What do I do if I need to alter or deviate from my IRB-approved protocol due to impacts of an outbreak (or any other event)?

      • First, report it to the IRB Office. Also, please see IRB guidance on HRPP deviations here.

F. Biosafety and Radiation Safety


1. What do I do if I need to alter or deviate from my IBC-approved protocol or have biosafety and/or radiation concerns due to COVID-19?

      • If you need to alter your IBC-approved protocol or have additional biosafety concerns due to the outbreak, contact the Biosafety Officer at: ibc@wsu.edu or 509-335-1585.
      • Discuss all concerns regarding the use of radioactive materials or radiation-producing machines due to the outbreak with the Radiation Safety Officer at: radsafe@wsu.edu or 509-335-6763.

G. Federal Guidance and Additional Resources


See Council on Government Relations Website for most up to date information

 

 

 

Quick Links