The Research Office

Wilson Hall
371 Wilson Boulevard
Rochester, Michigan 48309-4486
(location map)
(248) 370-2762
(248) 370-4111
research@oakland.edu

COVID-19 Research Continuity Guidance

COVID-19 Research Continuity Guidance

The following is guidance from the Research Office regarding the conduct of research during the COVID-19 pandemic. Information will be updated as conditions evolve.

General Guidance

Plans are in place to ensure that research can continue for as long as possible. Specifically,

  • Faculty, staff, and postdocs engaged in research are permitted to continue that research until or unless there is official notice otherwise. Principal Investigators should designate which of their laboratory staff are essential to the continuity of the research.
  • Graduate students whose research takes place in University labs will continue to have access to those facilities in consultation with their faculty advisors. Graduate students with appointments as Research Assistants should contact their faculty advisors to discuss any changes to the activities of the research group.
    • Graduate students supported by federal grant awards will be paid as usual, even if they are not designated as essential personnel by the PI.
  • As a precaution, we encourage all researchers to begin planning for a complete disruption of research. In case we move toward those kinds of decisions, Department Chairs should work with their faculty and report to their dean and the Research Office to indicate specific disruptions of service, access, or activity that would be catastrophic (scientifically or financially).
  • All PIs with an active grant are being contacted individually to discuss any challenges or concerns.
  • Also note that the Research Office is actively reaching out to sponsors to ensure continuity of existing projects and to obtain the latest information regarding proposal deadlines and review processes. Updates will be made on this website.
Research Continuity Guidance for Laboratories

University officials continue to monitor worldwide disease-related developments. Important information and updates for the OU community are provided here: https://www.oakland.edu/coronavirus/. The Research Office has assessed the status of our research infrastructure and can address the particular concerns that researchers will face as the disease spreads. The continuity of your lab’s operation and research facilities can be preserved for as long as possible through a set of recommended actions.

Animal Care:
Animal care services will be effectively maintained. Any PI-managed care will continue to be the responsibility of the research team.  Please see the recommended actions below.

Environmental Health & Safety:
Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) is operating under normal conditions. Should the University close, EH&S will maintain mission-critical support functions such as radioisotope delivery, essential regulated waste management services, and reporting to regulatory agencies.  Some support and consultation services will continue to be available, even if personnel are working remotely. Oakland University Police (248) 370-3331 can contact EH&S staff 24/7 if emergency assistance is required for any hazardous material incident.

Human Subjects Research:
All face-to-face contact on research studies is temporarily suspended, unless it absolutely must be undertaken now. If the research must be undertaken now, then attempt to replace in-person recruitment and data collection with remote procedures. Reference update policies here:  https://espace.oakland.edu/course/view.php?id=1342 and please bear in mind that this information is changing frequently. So, check for updates. If there are questions about any changes to participant risk, please contact the IRB staff, referenced below.

The IRB has waived the modification requirement for adding the following language to all screening/eligibility questionnaires.

  • Have you traveled outside of the US within the last 14 days? If yes, where?
  • Have you or members of your household been sick with flu-like symptoms, diagnosed with COVID-19 (disease caused by the Coronavirus) or asked to self-quarantine due to potential exposure to the Coronavirus?
  • Are you currently experiencing any flu-like symptoms?

If these questions are adopted by investigators, they should be documented in the screening or eligibility script in the same manner to every potential participant. For more information, please see https://espace.oakland.edu/course/view.php?id=1342

To access the e-space document referenced above, you need to login with your OU NetID information and click the "Enroll Me" button.

Research Compliance:
Research compliance committee reviews will proceed, but may take longer than usual.

Research Computing:
We expect that research computing services will remain largely unchanged. Bear in mind, however, that the expectations on UTS are extraordinary as all classes switch to online delivery with very short notice. So, help may take longer than usual, even though we anticipate no risk to your data.

Office of Sponsored Programs:
The Office of Sponsored Programs is able to submit proposals even though most personnel are working remotely. Agencies may be flexible about deadlines under difficult circumstances, but typically that leniency only applies to actual school closures. Because the university is fully operational, it is unlikely that deadlines will be waived. If the federal agencies themselves close, deadlines typically still apply; proposals simply wait in a queue for retrieval by the affected agency staff upon resumption of operations. Please do not assume that deadlines will be waived.

Federal agencies are currently drafting a procedure outlining allowability of costs associated with COVID-19 disruptions. We will update the OU Research page as more information becomes available. For non-federal sponsors, each sponsor must be addressed individually unless they offer broader guidance. Please reach out to our post-award office for assistance with this.

As we hear from funding agencies on any special considerations and any allowable deviations from typical grants and contracts procedures, we will disseminate this information to the OU research community and directly to the affected PIs.

Recommended Actions for Mitigating the Impact on your Research

  • Principal Investigators should develop a plan in case a significant percentage of your workforce becomes ill or is unable to come to work. Consider altering work schedules to meet the demands of the laboratory while also limiting close contact with other people
  • Students, post-docs, staff, and faculty should gain remote access to information (e.g. literature, existing databases, and research-related files) and work remotely whenever possible.
  • Use remote work technologies such as VPN (where absolutely necessary) and video and teleconferencing as an alternative to in-person meetings. Prepare multiple options for communication.
  • If possible, pause laboratory-based experiments and begin data analysis, which could happen remotely.
  • Re-schedule experiments or activities that cannot be interrupted. Staff absences, supply limitations, absence of external support services, and other factors outside your control could interrupt those activities, thus resulting in lost time and resources – and enhanced risk to investigators for no results at all.
  • If you are carrying out a long-term experiment and it is feasible to freeze or otherwise capture samples at specific steps, you might consider doing so more often now – for analysis later, while working remotely.
  • Identify procedures and processes that require ongoing, regular personnel attention (e.g. cell cultures, animal studies) and develop plans to both protect against possible disruption while bringing as few people to campus as possible.
  • Research meetings involving students and other staff are encouraged provide a remote access option (e.g., Google Meet). Students (undergraduate or graduate) should not be required to return to Grounds to participate in research labs, meetings, or to perform research duties unless they are essential personnel.
  • If your research continuity plans require modification to an existing IRB, IACUC, or IBC protocol, please contact the appropriate committee office to begin the review process for the required modifications.
  • Ensure that you have accurate contact information for all members of your research team so that everyone can receive timely and accurate information.
  • Ensure that all critical spaces and monitored equipment have appropriate protocols and staff contacts available to Facilities if systems should go into alarm.
  • Consider cross-training research staff to fill in for personnel who are out sick or unable to come to work.
  • Maintain a sufficient inventory of critical supplies that may be affected by global shipping delays.

Contacts for Questions or Concerns:
Sponsored Programs: Andrea Buford – abuford@oakland.edu
Animal Care: Janet Schofding – schofdin@oakland.edu
Human Subjects: Judette Haddad – haddad@oakland.edu
Compliance: Rebecca Sandborg – sandborg@oakland.edu
Laboratory Safety and Compliance - luongo@oakland.edu

Research Continuity for Research in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Education

Perhaps more so than in the bench sciences, each project in the social and behavioral sciences, humanities, education, arts, and field-based research has a unique scope and shape. Research norms and practices vary significantly; a literary scholar faces different challenges from a person working with children in schools, and a studio artist will confront different obstacles yet. So, please contact The Research Office for guidance unique to your particular situation.

IRB and Human Subjects Research:
Beginning March 12th , the Chief Research Officer has suspended all human subject research studies that involve direct subject contact, unless the research absolutely must be undertaken now. Human subject direct contact must be paused until further notice in recognition of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aspects of the research that do not involve direct human subject contact may continue. If there are questions about any changes to participant risk, please contact the IRB staff, referenced below.

The IRB has waived the modification requirement for adding the following language to all screening/eligibility questionnaires.

  • Have you traveled outside of the US within the last 14 days? If yes, where?
  • Have you or members of your household been sick with flu-like symptoms, diagnosed with COVID-19 (disease caused by the Coronavirus) or asked to self-quarantine due to potential exposure to the Coronavirus?
  • Are you currently experiencing any flu-like symptoms?

If these questions are adopted by investigators, they should be documented in the screening or eligibility script in the same manner to every potential participant. For more information, please see https://espace.oakland.edu/course/view.php?id=1342.

To access the e-space document referenced above, you need to login with your OU NetID information and click the "Enroll Me" button.


Office of Sponsored Programs:
The Office of Sponsored Programs expects to be able to submit proposals even if personnel are working from home. Agencies may be flexible about deadlines under difficult circumstances, but typically that leniency only applies to actual school closures. Because the university is fully operational, it is unlikely that deadlines will be waived. If the federal agencies themselves close, deadlines typically still apply; proposals simply wait in a queue for retrieval by the affected agency staff upon resumption of operations. Please do not assume that deadlines will be extended.

Federal agencies are currently drafting a procedure outlining allowability of costs associated with COVID-19 disruptions. We will update the OU Research page as more information becomes available. For non-federal sponsors, each sponsor must be addressed individually unless they offer broader guidance. Please reach out to our post-award office for assistance with this.

As we hear from funding agencies on any special considerations and any allowable deviations from typical grants and contracts procedures, we will disseminate this information to the OU research community and directly to the affected PIs.

Research-Related Travel:
Travel-related reimbursements and planned research-related travel (e.g., conference attendance, data collection, archival research, in-person meetings with research partners) are particularly important for field-based researchers and their projects. If you must cancel travel, first seek waivers and refunds directly from the airlines and hotels; your Assistant Dean may be able to help you with this process. If airlines and hotels are not issuing waivers or refunds, employees can submit expense reimbursement requests through normal channels after the date of travel.  Researchers who currently find themselves outside the country and presently unable to return should contact their department and the Research Office. Some sponsors have released guidance on reimbursement related to COVID-19 canceled travel; this information will be posted on The Research Office website.

Deviations on sponsored projects are an important issue right now. As we hear from federal funding agencies on special considerations and allowable deviations on current grants and contracts, including information on reimbursements, we will disseminate the information to the OU research community through this website. For non-Federal grants, we will need to approach each sponsor individually, unless they issue broader guidance. Please let us know if you would like us to do that, using the contact information below.

Faculty, staff, and students planning future grant-funded travel should consider delaying the purchase of tickets, given various travel restrictions. When travel is essential, we encourage the use of University-based options for making those travel arrangements rather than putting those charges on personal cards, to avoid the need to seek reimbursement.

Other Research Related Supports:

  • Ordering and receipt of research and field related supplies and materials may be delayed.
  • Processing of visas by the federal government may be delayed, resulting in delayed appointments and global travel for faculty, staff, students, and visitors.
  • Core research computing facilities will continue to be available.
  • Core facilities and other fee-for-service resources may not be fully functional.
  • Library services that can be provided remotely, such as online journals, reference service via chat, interlibrary loan, and instructional scanning will continue to be available, even though the Library is required to close as a public space.
  • Support from Facilities Management and contract service providers may be delayed.

Recommended Actions and Considerations for Mitigating the Impact on Your Research Team

  • Faculty, staff, and postdocs engaged in research are permitted to continue that research, excluding direct interaction with human subjects as noted above.
  • Principal Investigators can designate some of their research team members and postdocs as essential to the continuity of their research.
  • Principal Investigators should develop a plan in case a significant percentage of your project staff is out sick or unable to come to work. Work assignments may need to be shifted for some staff and other project investigators to accommodate work from home options.
  • Project Investigators and paid staff (e.g., postdocs, research assistants) are expected to continue to fulfill their job responsibilities; however, accommodations in work location and duties should be made when possible.
  • We anticipate that in most cases, graduate students whose research takes place in the University’s labs will continue to have access to those facilities in consultation with their faculty advisors. Graduate students with appointments as research assistants should be in touch with their faculty advisors to learn about any changes to the activities of their research group.
  • Offsite work options and reassignment of project duties should be planned to allow the research to advance.
  • Research meetings involving students and other staff are encouraged provide a remote access option (e.g., Google Meet). Students (undergraduate or graduate) should not be required to return to Grounds to participate in research labs, meetings, or to perform research duties unless they are essential personnel.
  • Faculty are also encouraged to alter work schedules for staff, faculty, and postdocs to meet the demands of the projects while limiting close contact with others.
  • If a communication plan for your research team is not already in place, ensure that you have accurate and updated contact information for all team members so everyone receives timely information regarding changes to data collection procedures and project timelines.
  • Consider cross-training research staff or other investigators who conduct similar activities to fill-in for those who may be out sick or unable to work. Ensure that these personnel have the appropriate training and supervision to execute the assigned duties in light of compliance requirements (e.g., IRB). Consider documenting critical step-by-step instructions for fill-in personnel.

Recommended Actions and Considerations for Mitigating the Impact on Your Field-based and Applied Research Projects

  • For faculty whose research is impacted by travel constraints, the inaccessibility of research subjects or sites, and the widespread cancellation of professional activities, please be in touch with The Research Office or your Research Development Officer to discuss reconfiguring your research agenda for the coming months.
  • Faculty affected by the disruptions brought on by COVID-9 should identify and prioritize work that can be done in lieu of planned but necessarily cancelled research plans. Please also begin to think through with your Chairs any long-term effects that such consequences may have on your academic and professional goals.
  • To the extent possible, ongoing and planned research projects should continue to advance, acknowledging there may be considerable restrictions and access issues for field-based work, and the restrictions on direct interactions with human subjects noted above.
  • Investigators should not assume that data collection will proceed as planned, and thus should develop contingency plans for cancellations, travel restrictions, and other access issues. Adjustments to the timeline and sequencing of activities will likely be needed for field-based projects in active stages of data collection.
  • For projects that need to adjust data collection activities and/or project completion or intervention activities, carefully document such changes to the protocol and the reasons for those changes (e.g., limited access to participants due to location closure, travel restrictions, staff shortage). Some of those changes may require IRB or sponsor approval, and/or updates to pre-registration in the case of research trials. This may be particularly salient for field studies that involve experimental or longitudinal study designs, and those which are sponsored. If your research plans require modifications to an IRB or data security plans protocol, please contact the appropriate committee office to get the review process started for the required modifications. Some modifications may not require approval. For details see https://espace.oakland.edu/course/view.php?id=1342 .
  • For sponsored projects, PIs should communicate with their Project Officer for guidance and approval for adjustments to project timelines, scope of work, or site changes. Sponsor pre-approval will likely be required for significant changes to the project. Your Research Development Officer can assist with this process, if you like.
  • For non-sponsored research and/or studies with more flexible timelines, investigators should consider postponing field-based projects and in person data collection efforts.
  • Depending upon the nature of your research, you might consider prioritizing work that can be carried out remotely (e.g., writing, literature review, analysis of de-identified data).
  • Consider using remote work technologies such as VPN (for work at home) and video and teleconferencing as an alternative for in-person meetings (prepare multiple options for communication). Students, postdocs, staff and faculty involved in research projects should be encouraged to gain remote access to information such as journals, existing databases, and research-related files so that they can work remotely as needed.
  • For projects that previously included plans to go into the field this spring or summer, researchers will need to develop a revised timeline for data collection or alter the data collection plan to another format (e.g., on-line, by phone).
  • Maintain regular communication with study partners, subcontractors, and study sites to stay abreast of their own health risk status and local policies and procedures. It is important to recognize that other agencies and organizations (e.g., schools, community centers, agencies, organizations) may also have their own restrictions on staff time, travel, and access to data collection sites or otherwise restrict your access to participants.
  • Investigators should carefully review their data security plans with all students and staff on the project to ensure compliance with those plans in the event some individuals on the project need to work remotely. Data security and data-related compliance agreements (e.g., IRB) should be maintained during this and all other times. UTS is available to provide consultation on remote storage and data access, within the constraints of approved data use and security procedures.
  • Maintain a sufficient inventory of critical supplies and materials that may be affected by global shipping delays.

Contacts for Questions or Concerns:

Guidelines for Human Subjects Research

Temporary Stoppage of In-Person Research Procedures
Considering the current public health concern with the fast spread of the Coronavirus, and the recent actions taken by the state of Michigan, the Oakland University is mandating a temporary stoppage of all in-person human subjects research procedures, effective immediately.

The Research Office and the OU IRB will consider exceptions to the temporary stoppage in any of the following circumstances:

  • There are direct benefits to participants in your research that are of therapeutic value, and there is no alternative way to deliver those benefits.
  • In-person procedures are required to immediately eliminate hazards to participants or others.
  • It would increase the long-term risk of participation to participants to stop in-person research procedures.

To be considered for one of these exceptions (or another based on similar principles), please contact Dr. David Stone, Chief Research Officer at dstone@oakland.edu, Dr. Judette Haddad, IRB Manager at haddad@oakland.edu.

If you are granted an exception, please see the IRB recommendations below.

Actions to be Considered by Researchers
Based on the stoppage, researchers conducting human subject research need to consider the following:

  • Call or email participants to cancel or postpone any scheduled in-person data collections that do not meet the stoppage exceptions listed above.
  • Replace all in-person recruitment and data collection methods with remote procedures.
    • Recruitment can be done via email invitations, phone calls, online invitations
    • Data may be collected through phone or on-screen interviews, web conferencing, or online survey/questionnaire.
  • For online data storage and sharing, please follow the UTS guidelines at https://www.oakland.edu/uts/common-good-core-resources/options/

If the changes need to be done immediately, researchers are encouraged to make the changes and then report the changes to the IRB staff by submitting an amendment to the approved research project within 10 business days.

IRB Recommendations for Research with Exceptions from the Stoppage:
For the purposes of in-person data collection and follow-up visits that have been granted exceptions from the stoppage, the IRB asks researchers to call participants before the scheduled in person visit and ask the questions listed below. 

  • Have you traveled outside of the US within the last 14 days? If yes, where?
  • Have you or members of your household been sick with flu-like symptoms, diagnosed with COVID-19 (disease caused by the Coronavirus) or asked to self-quarantine due to potential exposure to the Coronavirus?
  • Are you currently experiencing any flu-like symptoms?

Researchers can add the questions above without the need to submit an amendment/modification to the IRB.

Researchers must document these questions and the follow-up process that will occur (according to best-available public health resources) should a participant give an affirmative answer. Such actions could include a participant not being eligible for the study, re-contact/re-scheduling for contact at a later date.

The above changes will be in place until further notice and may expand as more information is known.

For questions regarding IRB projects, please contact the IRB staff, Judette Haddad, PhD haddad@oakland.edu or Kate Wydeven kwydeven@oakland.edu.

For additional information regarding the Oakland University response and guidance regarding Coronavirus and COVID-19 disease, please visit https://oakland.edu/coronavirus/.