• uconn
  • uconn health
Page content relevant to:

Frequently Asked Questions: Research & COVID-19

This page will be updated regularly with information about research activities at the University of Connecticut. For general information related to UConn’s response to COVID-19, visit the University’s main COVID-19 Updates page.

Phased Reopening of Research

What is the University plan to restart research?

Consistent with Governor Lamont’s April 30th Update on Connecticut's Coronavirus Response Efforts, a phased reopening of UConn and UConn Health research programs will begin on May 20, 2020. Labs and research programs CANNOT resume research activities without written approval from the OVPR. The Phased Reopening of Research at UConn and UConn Health page outlines what is required to obtain OVPR approval and what is required after approval is obtained. Please note that labs and research programs should not expect immediate approval; however, the goal is to allow resumption of research activities as rapidly as possible while ensuring safety.

Will all labs and research programs reopen on May 20, 2020?

No. Labs and research programs will open in phases. Labs and research programs CANNOT resume research activities without written approval from the OVPR. Labs and research programs CANNOT resume research activities if they are unable to implement approved safety plans or provide required PPEs. Labs and research programs should not expect immediate approval; however, the goal is to allow resumption of research activities as rapidly as possible while ensuring safety.

Do I need any training to return to research activity during the phased ramp-up?

Yes. Returning to Research COVID-19 Safety Training:  it is mandatory that all individuals complete the online training module before returning to research work. Documentation of completion must be retained by the lab or research area.

Are there any guides to help my lab prepare for ramp-up?

Yes. Environmental Health and Safety has worked with the OVPR to develop a UConn Research Lab Ramp-Up Preparedness Guide.

How can I get PPE for my lab?

UConn Health researchers can find guidance on this subject by visiting Guidance on UConn Health General Use PPE for Research.

Faculty, staff and researchers who cannot do their jobs from home and are approved by a department head or dean can submit requests through online web forms for face masks, hand sanitizer, pre-packaged disinfectant spray with paper towels and gloves through University Business Services. Other PPE can also be obtained during the normal procurement process through HuskyBuy. The provisions apply to employees at the Storrs and regional campuses, along with the agricultural extension offices.

Is there a guide on cleaning and disinfecting?

Yes the CDC has published Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes, which provides information for cleaning and disinfection practices.

What should I do if someone in my lab develops symptoms of COVID-19?

You should refer to the Human Resources COVID-19 FAQs for the most current requirements and steps.

Can research projects that require out-of-state travel be approved?

Until the University modifies or lifts the restrictions on out-of-state travel, this research is not permitted. The only exception that would be considered is for projects where not continuing the work would result in the loss of critical data. Approval from the Office of the Provost for travel would also be required, in addition to OVPR approval for the research.

Are undergraduate students permitted to return to the labs?

At this time, undergraduate students are not permitted to be involved in research activities that require in-person work, require them to be on-campus, or in the field. The return of undergraduates to research programs is dependent on the University’s overall plan for resuming other on-campus undergraduate activities. As a phased process, we want to ensure that labs can safely resume activities before undergrads are engaged.

Are there any special restrictions or considerations for resuming research involving human subjects?

Guidelines and requirements for human subjects research are under development and will be posted once they are finalized. Until these are finalized, human subjects research other than therapeutic clinical trials or studies that can be done remotely remain on hold.

What has happened to the Pilot/Limited Research Activity submission and Critical Research Infrastructure submission processes?

At this time, we have discontinued the Pilot/Limited Research Activity and CRI processes and moving solely to resuming research activities. All labs, research areas, and research programs should submit a Resuming Research Activity form and COVID-19 Safety Plan.

I have an approved COVID-19 Safety Plan for Pilot/Limited Research Activity. Do I need to submit another one?

The COVID-19 Safety Plans that have been approved for Pilot/Limited Research Activity will be reviewed and you will receive an email notification if it is approved for reopening or if it requires additional information/modification.

I submitted a COVID-19 Safety Plan for Pilot/Limited Research Activity, but I haven’t received approval yet. Do I need to submit another one

A COVID-19 Safety Plan that has been submitted for Pilot/Limited Research Activity but hasn’t been approved yet will be reviewed as a submission for reopening. You will receive an email notification if it is approved for reopening or if it requires additional information/modification.

I already submitted a COVID-19 Safety Plan in anticipation of reopening, but it hasn’t been approved. Do I need to submit another one?

A COVID-19 Safety Plan that has already been submitted but hasn’t been approved yet will be reviewed as a submission for reopening. You will receive an email notification if it is approved for reopening or if it requires additional information/modification.

Animal Research

Are UConn and UConn Health IACUC offices operating as usual?

  • The IACUCs are functional and operating.
  • The IACUCS have processes in place to remotely make exempt determinations, review expedited submissions, and convene the IACUC to review submissions.
  • The IACUC offices are following University guidance and procedures for working remotely. This is not expected to affect the review process.
  • Email should be used as the primary means of communication rather than phone.

What should be communicated to the IACUC?

Researchers should submit amendments and other required reporting to the IACUC as is usually required. The IACUC will be exercising flexibility where possible to address these.

Many investigators significantly reduced their animal numbers. How will the IACUC address the number of approved animals to address this

The IACUC is aware of this issue and will develop guidance to address animal counts.

Human Subjects Research

Are UConn and UConn Health IRB Offices operating as usual?

• The IRB offices are functional and operating.
• The IRB offices have processes in place to remotely make exempt determinations, review expedited submissions, and convene the IRB to review submissions.
• The IRB offices are following University guidance and procedures for working remotely. This is not expected to affect the review process.
• Email should be used as the primary means of communication rather than phone.

Are there suggestions about alternatives to in-person interactions or interventions with research participants?

• Consider using phone, video call (e.g. WebEx or Microsoft Teams), or email.
• In those situations where in-person interactions are necessary due to the therapeutic nature or safety and welfare of participants, evaluate whether interventions or interactions can be delayed or reduced in number and/or in frequency.
• Align in-person interventions or interactions to coincide with clinical care.
• Researchers should remember that such changes must be submitted to the IRB and approved before they are implemented, except when necessary to eliminate apparent immediate hazards to the participant, in which case they may be implemented and promptly reported to the IRB.

What steps should be taken if direct interaction with participants is needed?

  • Where possible, participants should be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure history prior to the study visit. Participants with symptoms of illness or an exposure history should have study visits postponed where possible.
  • Participants who present for a study visit should be rescreened for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure history. Participants with symptoms of illness or an exposure history should have the study visit postponed where possible.
  • Study visits, including screening subjects at the time of the visit, should be conducted in accordance with CDC and University guidelines, including following all recommended hygiene procedures and the immediate isolation of anyone presenting with symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

For changes related to COVID-19, what should be submitted to the IRB?

If a Principal Investigator determines that a change to the implementation of the protocol is necessary, a request for modification is to be submitted to the IRB. For example, if the PI determines that all subject interviews will be conducted by phone vs. in person, a request for modification should be submitted to the IRB. As with any modification, the change should be clearly described to the IRB. For example, changes that will only occur for a limited time should be described accordingly (e.g. “while the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, subject interviews will be conducted by phone whenever possible”). When possible, approval for such changes is to be received prior to the change being implemented. However, if a change in protocol is required to eliminate apparent immediate hazards to subjects, the PI may implement that change and report it to the IRB within five business days.

How should Protocol Deviations, Non-Compliance and Unanticipated Problems Related to COVID-19 be Reported to the IRB?

Protocol deviations within the control of the research team are to be reported to the IRB within five business days. Non-compliance that is not within the control of the research team and that does not pose risks to subjects is to be reported to the IRB at the time of continuation or study closure, whichever comes first. For example, if a subject declines to come to a study visit due to general concerns about COVID-19, and missing that visit will not place the subject at risk, this would be tracked by the study team and reported to the IRB at study continuation or closure. Likewise, if the institution makes a policy decision that prevents the study team from fully implementing the approved protocol, the deviations would be tracked and reported at study continuation or closure, provided the subjects were not put at risk. For example, if the institution limited access to only those studies providing or needing clinical care, subjects would not be able to come on site for interview/survey procedures. It is anticipated that the tracking of protocol deviations will be the most prevalent course of action during the COVID-19 pandemic.

An unanticipated problem is any unforeseen occurrence that involves risk to the subject or others, and that is related to or is possibly related to either a research intervention or interaction, or the conduct of the study in general. If a protocol is not able to be implemented and that inability places the subject at risk (e.g. subjects prevented from coming to institution to receive clinical research intervention and the lack of intervention puts the subject at risk), the PI should report this to the IRB. This may be a single missed visit; or it may become a concern after a certain number of visits are missed.

In summary, it is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator to oversee the implementation of the research protocol within the framework of existing IRB policies and procedures.

Do the restrictions on in-person human subjects research due to COVID-19 apply to work conducted outside of Connecticut, including work at international sites?(Updated 3/27/2020)

Yes. All in-person research activity is put on hold unless there is therapeutic intent in a treatment trial.

Internal Funding Programs/Research Development

Are OVPR Research Development staff available to answers questions not addressed here?

Yes, OVPR Research Development staff are working remotely and are happy to answer your questions about internal funding, grantwriting support, and other research development related issues. You can reach Matt Mroz at Matthew.Mroz@uconn.edu or research@uconn.edu. Matt is available to schedule a call or video meeting if needed. Faculty who have received awards and are working on account setup can bring questions to Matt or OVPR Research Finance (researchfinance@uconn.edu).

Will upcoming OVPR internal funding programs run as expected?

Yes, at this time all programs listed on the OVPR's Internal Funding page are expected to run as scheduled, although changes to offerings and exact timelines are possible. Any changes in timeline will be noted on the program pages. Please watch for announcements through the Daily Digest/UConn Health Lifeline regarding the opening of these programs.

I submitted an application for an OVPR internal funding program before the shutdown. Are these programs impacted by COVID-19? When will I hear back?

All active OVPR internal funding programs will continue through this time of remote operations. As the review processes for these programs are conducted online through our Quest Portal system, reviewers will be able to continue their work. Given recent disruptions, we ask that applicants be prepared for some delays in the processing and notification of results. Current completion estimates can be found on the OVPR's Internal Funding page.

Can I continue to use my active OVPR internal funding award during the shutdown?

OVPR internal award projects are covered by the guidelines announced in the Research Shutdown Notice on March 23, 2020. Internal award projects may only continue if work can be done remotely. Faculty who have special circumstances, as described in the notice, should fill out the Critical Research Infrastructure Inventory.

Will internal funding opportunities still be available for projects that can be conducted without face-to-face contact?

Yes, internal funding programs will continue as planned, including the REP. Internally funded projects will follow the same guidance and requirements as externally funded projects. Projects for which work can be conducted remotely can begin immediately. The start date for projects that cannot be done remotely will be determined by the status of the research ramp up process.

I’m concerned I won’t complete work on my acrive OVPR award before it expires because of the shutdown. Will my award be extended?

While there are no plans to provide a blanket extension of all currently active OVPR awards, we are sensitive to the impact that COVID-19 has had on many research projects. All award holders who need an extension due to the current situation will be accommodated. Faculty can request no-cost extensions for their internal funding awards using the IFP Project Change Request webform.

Are there internal/external funding opportunities for COVID-19 related research?

At this time, the OVPR encourages faculty to seek external funding if they have time-sensitive research projects that respond to the current crisis. There are a number of mechanisms that focusing on COVID-19 that have been released in recent days and weeks, and these mechanisms offer the best opportunity to receive funding on the scale and timeline needed to effectively move projects forward. A curated list can be found on the OVPR website.

AAUP/OVPR Faculty Travel Funding

Are OVPR staff available to answer questions about the AAUP/OVPR Faculty Travel Award Program during the shutdown?

Yes, OVPR staff involved with this program are working remotely and are happy to answer your questions. You can reach Maryann Markowski or Matt Mroz at research@uconn.edu. They are also available to schedule a call or video meeting if needed. 

Whom should I contact to discuss my specific travel funding situation?

You can reach Maryann Markowski or Matt Mroz at research@uconn.edu. They are also available to schedule a call or video meeting if needed. 

 

Some or all of my travel costs could not be refunded/credited for a trip canceled due to COVID-19. Will I be reimbursed?

Yes, the University has indicated that faculty will be able to receive reimbursements for lost travel expenditures as if travel had occurred. The process for requesting reimbursement for non-refundable/no-credit expenditures is in development and will be communicated to faculty as soon as it is in place. 

After cancelling a trip due to COVID-19, I received a company credit for future travel. How does that impact my reimbursements?

Faculty can receive reimbursement for original travel expenditures (less any refunds) after the credits are used for business travel. Faculty can apply for an advance on this future reimbursement if needed. The process for requesting reimbursement or advances for costs related to credits is in development and will be communicated to faculty as soon as it is in place.

 

What if I do not use the credit received for a canceled trip for business travel?

If you do not use the credit for business travel, then the original cost cannot be reimbursed by UConn, because UConn does not pay for personal travel. 

What happens to awarded funds that won’t be used due to COVID-19 (no travel arrangements have yet been made, or all were refunded)?

Since in this scenario there are no expenditures to be reimbursed, the OVPR will return unused awards to the general funding pools. If travel restrictions are not lifted before the end of FY20, unused AAUP travel funds will roll over into FY21. Awards cannot be retained for future use or transferred to other trips. If travel restrictions are lifted prior to the end of FY20, you will be able to submit a request for funding for new trips (provided you have room within your $2,000 annual allotment).  

 

Can I transfer funds that I won’t use due to COVID-19 to a past or future trip (no travel arrangements had yet been made, or all were refunded)?

No, the standard guidelines prohibiting the awarding of funds after travel has commenced, and the transfer of awards to other trips, still apply.  

Can I hold on to funds for a conference that was postponed if a new date has been selected and I plan to attend (no travel arrangements had yet been made, or all were refunded)?

While travel awards cannot be retained for future use or transferred to other trips, you are encouraged to submit a new request and also email Maryann.Markowski@uconn.edu to bring your circumstances to her attention. Given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the OVPR will – as always – make every effort to fund your new request. 

 

How do I proceed with receiving reimbursement for travel granted exemption by the Office of the Provost?

If you received an exception to travel, please forward it to research@uconn.edu. Proceed with your travel reimbursement as you normally would. Your department staff submitting the paperwork on your behalf must include a copy of the approved exception along with all other documentation. Department staff should NOT use special COVID-19 coding, because this is being treated as a regular travel occurrence. 

Is a virtual conference registration eligible for support under this program?

Yes, particularly from the AAUP pool which covers all professional-development related items, and also from the OVPR pool (if you are presenting). 

 

How will the AAUP/OVPR Faculty Travel Funding Program be impacted in FY21 if travel doesn’t resume in FY20?

The opening of the Request Window for FY21 travel may be delayed until it is clear when travel restrictions will be lifted. Once travel restrictions are lifted, awards will be made following the standard AAUP/OVPR Faculty Travel Funding Program Guidelines. Each faculty member will be eligible to request up to $2,000, per standard practice. If there are unused FY20 AAUP funds, they will be rolled into the FY21 general funding pools, as occurs each year. Thus, the benefit impact of the program can cover more individuals. 

Whom should I contact with general travel questions?

UConn’s Travel Services is a great resource for all questions related to booking travel and travel reimbursement policy. For COVID-19-related travel questions, please see the UConn’s COVID-19 Updates website.

 

Field Research

When can field research resume?

Resuming field research will be part of the phased ramp up process and consistent with the requirements of the location of the field site, state and federal guidance, and any travel restrictions.

Proposal Submission

Are UConn and UConn Health SPS Offices operating as usual?

The SPS Offices are following University guidance and procedures for working remotely. While steps have been taken to minimize the operational impact of moving to a predominantly remote staffing model, there will be some inefficiencies in this shift which may result in some processes moving more slowly than usual. Email should be used as the primary means of communication rather than phone.

Will my proposal still be submitted to the sponsor? (4/8/20)

Due to increased proposal submissions occurring during this period, sponsored project proposals (including the final budget and draft application) must be submitted well in advance of the deadline and in accordance with SPS’s 5 day minimum processing policy. Additionally, the final application, ready for submission, must be submitted the day before the deadline. With staff working remotely and the challenges this may present, the SPS Proposal Team cannot promise that proposals received less than 48 hours before the deadline or final applications on the day of the deadline will be reviewed and submitted on time.

Timeline:

  • 5 days but no later than 48 hours before the deadline: The final and complete proposal (narrative documents including abstract, project description and references cited may be in draft) including all internal forms must be provided to the SPS Proposal Team no later than 48 hours prior to the deadline (e.g., a proposal due Wednesday at 5pm must be submitted to SPS Proposal Team by 5pm on Monday).
  • 24 hours before the deadline: Final science must be uploaded or submitted to SPS Proposal Team 24 hours prior to the deadline (e.g., proposal due Wednesday at 5pm, final science must be submitted to SPS Proposal Team by 5pm on Tuesday).
  • Proposals submitted after this time will not be prioritized over other proposals in process and may not be submitted on time.

If you are supported by Faculty Services Pre-award see FAQ “What are the submission deadlines for proposals prepared by Faculty Services and sent to SPS Proposal team for submission to the sponsor?”

Will my proposal still be submitted to the federal government on time if the federal agency to which I intend to apply is closed? (3/23/20)

At present, all federal agencies are accepting proposal submissions as usual. In the event that a federal agency closes, we expect the agency will continue to accept proposals; however, the proposals will most likely remain in a queue (e.g., within the Grants.gov system), pending resumption of agency operations.

If I have a proposal due and I am unable to prepare it or UConn is unable to submit the proposal to meet the deadline, will the awarding agency still accept my application? (3/24/20)

Some federal agencies have provided guidance regarding COVID-19 and proposal deadlines:

Department of Energy (DOE) 

In a memo dated March 13, 2020, the DOE Office of Science stated in a notice related to COVID-19 that: “If the lead principal investigator (PI) or the applicant institution are subject to a quarantine or a closure, deadlines for submitting pre-applications, letters of intent, or applications may be extended by no more than fourteen (14) days from the applicable due date. Please contact the Program Manager identified in the FOA or DOE Laboratory Announcement under which the pre-application, letter of intent, or application is being submitted prior to the applicable due date.”

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

In accordance with NOT-OD-20-083, NIH will consider accepting applications that are submitted late due to impacts of COVID-19 on a case by case basis. Per their guidance, “ When delays occur because the applicant or recipient organization is officially closed due to a natural disaster or other emergency or because designated PD/PI(s) or other key staff is/are quarantined or involuntarily unable to come to their work locations, the NIH will consider accepting applications late, on a case-by-case basis, under the following circumstances: Recipients must submit applications or reports as soon as possible after reopening or end-of-quarantine, not to exceed the number of days the institution was officially closed or the key staff including but not limited to the PD/PI was quarantined. Recipients must submit a cover letter with the application, with enough detail about the delay so that NIH staff can make a determination whether circumstances justify accepting the application late. Recipients need not request advance permission to submit late due to a disaster/emergency-related delay.

National Science Foundation (NSF) 

Researchers or sponsored projects office staff from organizations that have been affected and are unable to meet stated NSF deadlines should contact the cognizant NSF program office to discuss the issue. NSF will consider extensions to the submission deadline on a case-by-case basis with the understanding that it may be particularly difficult for individuals impacted to contact NSF. See NSF PAPPG’s Special Exceptions to NSF's Deadline Date Policy for additional information on procedures for submitting such requests. NSF has extended several proposal deadlines, see NSF coronavirus Information webpage for latest information about proposal deadlines and extensions.

United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

USDA NIFA has extended a number of deadlines. See the USDA NIFA website for the latest information. Additionally, “NIFA’s policies for accepting late applications are available at https://nifa.usda.gov/resource/late-application-consideration. If your application is delayed for a valid extenuating circumstance, please let the program contact listed in the Request for Application (RFA) know about the potential delay and submit all the required documentation after your application has been submitted to us. NIFA will consider your request at that time based on the information provided.”

Department of Defense (DOD)

DOD released FAQs which state “DOD recommends that program offices provide flexibility with upcoming proposal deadlines to the extent allowable by funding authorities and by the need to have enough time for merit review of submitted proposals. Please contact the program officer and grants manager for the funding opportunity in question to seek an application deadline extension. Proposers are encouraged to monitor grants.gov to see if an extension has been posted.”

What are the submission deadlines for proposals prepared by Faculty Services and sent to SPS Proposal team for submission to the sponsor?

Faculty Services Pre-Award staff are telecommuting and will work remotely to prepare the proposal and submit to the SPS Proposal Team for final review and submission. Because all staff are telecommuting application materials must be submitted to Faculty Services well in advance of the deadline to facilitate a successful proposal submission.  The following deadlines have been established.

 

Timeline:

  • 1 week before deadline:  PIs who are supported by Faculty Services must provide final and complete proposal documents (narrative documents including abstract, project description and references cited may be in draft) to Faculty Services one week prior to the deadline (e.g., documents for a proposal due on Friday must be sent the Friday before the deadline).
  • 48 hours before submission deadline:  The final science must be submitted to Faculty Services 48 hours prior to the deadline so Faculty Services can meet deadlines to the SPS. Proposal Team (see FAQ, “Will my proposal be submitted to the sponsor?”).
  • Proposals received outside these timeframes will not be prioritized ahead of other proposals in progress and may not be submitted on time.

Post-Award

What is the General Guidance for Sponsored Project Management during the COVID-19 Research Shutdown?

Project Management: COVID-19 may impact performance of sponsored projects, e.g., cancelled travel, temporary loss of personnel, delays in acquiring equipment and supplies, and interruption of other essential services. It is important to remain in communication with your sponsor regarding any delays or other challenges you experience:

Federal grants and cooperative agreements: UConn and UCH are required to request prior approval from Federal award agencies whenever there is a change in the scope of work or key personnel. We also must request prior approval whenever the PI will be disengaged from the project for more than three months and/or experience a 25 percent reduction in time devoted to the project (2 CFR 200.308(c)). Some grants may be subject to more stringent prior approval requirements.

Federal contracts and other sponsored agreements: Please consult your specific terms and conditions to determine when prior approvals are required. Many Federal and industry-sponsored contracts are subject to strict deliverable due dates. Even if your sponsor is sympathetic with the delay, it is generally necessary to modify the contract to reflect the revised deliverable schedule.

Subawards and subcontracts: Please monitor all subrecipients to ensure they making adequate progress. If a subrecipient is unable to perform and/or meet deadlines, it may impact your performance as well. Please communicate with your sponsor regarding any such challenges.

Reimbursement for cancelled travel:  Many sponsors are allowing for cancelled travel costs to be directly charged to awards.  See federal and guidance at COVID-19 Sponsor Issued Guidance.  

Are UConn and UConn Health SPS Offices operating as usual?

The SPS Offices are following University guidance and procedures for working remotely. While steps have been taken to minimize the operational impact of moving to a predominantly remote staffing model, there will be some inefficiencies in this shift which may result in some processes moving more slowly than usual. Email should be used as the primary means of communication rather than phone.

What happens if federal employees 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 or occurs. Contact SPS if you experience this issue prior to agency guidance being released.

What is the guidance for Principal Investigators on HR-salary and stipends during the COVID-19 shutdown?

See the section below HR for Principal Investigators - Salary & Stipends

What if I need to request a No-Cost Extension or make other notifications to the Sponsor because of COVID-19?

You should continue to follow normal processes to work with SPS to submit prior approval requests to the sponsor. SPS is continuing all operations remotely.  

 

If a post-doc on an active NIH grant must return home to a foreign country and work remotely due to COVID-19, must this be reported to NIH as a foreign component?

(from NIH FAQ) Yes, this would qualify as a foreign component as per the NIH Grants Policy Statement Section 1.2- Definition of Terms, which defines a foreign component as “the performance of any significant scientific element or segment of a project outside of the United States, either by the recipient or by a researcher employed by a foreign organization, whether or not grant funds are expended.”

 

Is my grant automatically eligible for a no-cost extension?

Federal sponsors have adopted administrative relief granted from the Office of Management and Budget for grants.  Specific guidance by sponsor is available on the OVPR COVID –19 website. In general OMB provided for agencies to extend awards which were active as of March 31, 2020 and scheduled to expire prior or up to December 31, 2020 to grant an automatic not cost extension upon request of for a period of up to twelve (12) months. Supplements are not addressed in the OMB guidance. Sponsor guidance has so far stated that supplemental funds are not guaranteed.

Specific guidance by sponsor is available on the OVPR COVID-19 resource page.

Is the University working to loosen requirements, such as effort reporting?

The certification language that researchers sign will be changed to acknowledge that effort during the period may include periods of little or no work, but that payroll charges continue to be allowable under sponsor guidance. The University is working with peers, associations, and UConn’s Office of Governmental Relations to advocate and take advantage of administrative flexibilities available under federal guidelines.

Can I be reimbursed for costs my lab incurred during the pause on my NIH-funded human subjects research?

NIH issued a notice on March 16, 2020 stating that if unanticipated costs related to clinical trials or human subjects research are identified due to impacts of COVID-19, and unobligated balances are not available to rebudget, recipients may request administrative supplements from NIH.  


 

Will the hiring and spending freezes apply to external grant funded projects?

Freezes will not apply to charges and hiring that are fully grant funded.

Can I use my sponsored funds towards research related to COVID-19?

Any significant change to the scope of work or specific aims requires prior approval by the sponsor. Submit this request to SPS who will submit to the sponsor on your behalf. No change to the scope can occur until explicitly approved by the sponsor. 



 

What is the guidance on sponsored project travel?

See the section below Travel & Cancellation Costs.

Project Progress Issues

How do we address slowdowns or gaps in activities caused by COVID-19 that result in timeline violation?

COVID-19 is an extraordinary circumstance. Faculty and researchers should reach out to their program officer to keep them informed about delays to the project. It is anticipated that agencies and sponsors will generally recognize the unique circumstance and will be flexible if they can, including granting no-cost extension if needed. Note that this applies to grant awards; contracts requiring deliverables by a certain date may need to invoke their Force Majeure clause. If you are experiencing this issue on a contract, contact Sponsored Program Services for assistance.

Will agencies consider longer no-cost time extensions if needed to finish a project after disruption?

Researchers should document the actual impact of COVID-19 on the progress of their grants to provide substantiation for any future no-cost time extension request. Under these unprecedented circumstances it is believed that most sponsors will approve no cost extensions related to the impacts of COVID-19. However many sponsors have not yet released guidance on this matter so it remains unknown at this point.

What items can be purchased and delivered to an individual’s home?

Orders and purchases for items needed to support ongoing research activities being done remotely can be delivered to the individual’s home. Masks and PPE can also be purchased and delivered to an individual’s home in anticipation of resuming on-campus activities. The Procurement website provides additional guidance.

As a recipient of an NIH grant, what information should be included in RPPRs due in the next 90 days related to COVID-19?

(from NIH FAQs) Recipients should document COVID-19 effects and state that research outcomes are not available at this time. Recipients should outline when they believe they will be able to include details related to the disruptions to the research efforts.

(from NIH FAQs) NIH understands the potential effects of COVID-19 on the progress of NIH supported research. Recipients must contact the funding IC to alert them of any effects on the NIH funded research. NIH is committed to working with its applicants and recipients during this public health emergency. In addition, NIH recognizes that there may be delays in submission of RPPRs and other reports. See NOT-OD-20-086 for details on late submission.

Please see Guidance on the Preparation of NIH Research Performance Progress Report (RPPRs) and COVID-19 Impacts for assistance from UConn SPS to submit RPPRs.

 

Purchase of COVID-19 Related Goods and Services

Research studies with a lab component already purchased gloves. Who would pay for other supplies (masks, wipes, etc.), if needed? (3/23/20)

Supplies needed to perform the aims of the grant that would have been charged regardless of COVID-19 may be charged to a grant or contract.   Supplies needed for cleaning or for general protection related to COVID-19 cannot typically be charged to the award.

How do we handle personal home/cell phone when calling human subjects/research study participants in a remote working situation? (3/23/20)

Cell phones used solely for the purposes of the grant may be a defensible charge to the grant in these circumstances, particularly for studies involving large numbers of subjects. The PI/department should, however, request prior written approval of the funding agency for this cost. Requests for prior approval should be submitted to Sponsored Program Services. Program Officer approval by itself is not sufficient to constitute approval. If approved, the PI/department authorizing the charges would need to oversee the purchases and use of the phones to ensure that they were used exclusively for the project; if used for multiple projects, cost allocations must reflect relative usage. Documentation should be retained in the department’s grant file. See the Wireless Communication Device and Plan Stipend Policy for additional information.

Can I charge unexpected costs that may arise to the grant? (e.g., additional labor charges for time spent calling study participants) (3/23/20)

Labor charges that provide a direct programmatic benefit to the sponsored award are allowable. The effort and associated labor charges in this example are generally an allowable cost.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

For those who have donated their PPE supplies, and given current restrictions on placing new PPE orders for non-essential work, how will PIs be able to OBTAIN the PPE required for ramping up?

The University will follow CDC and state guidelines regarding individual use of PPE. The OVPR will work with Procurement to identify sources for PPEs in the event of shortages.

HR for Research Staff – Salary and Stipends

GUIDANCE:

Per recent communications from the University and HR, all full- and part-time salaried employees paid on regular payrolls at UConn and UConn Health, including employees paid in whole or part on sponsored projects, will continue to be paid until May 20, 2020 regardless of whether or not they are able to continue working. This date may be extended based on developments over the next few weeks. For further information, please refer to published HR guidance for timecard coding under various COVID-19 scenarios. If work on the sponsored projects is able to continue, there is no change to time reporting.

The following FAQs address questions for full- and/or part-time salaried employees paid on sponsored projects.

Is the guidance different for staff who are fully or partially funded from grants that continue to have funds available during this shut down period?

No.

Is the guidance different for postdoctoral research associates who are fully or partially funded from sponsored projects that continue to have funds available during the shut down period?

No.

Is the guidance different for Graduate Research Assistants fully or partially funded from sponsored projects who cannot work due to a lack of work?

No.

Is the guidance different for special payroll employees who are fully or partially funded from sponsored projects that continue to have funds available during the shutdown period?

Special payroll employees who are able to continue working on a sponsored project will be paid in accordance with their employment agreement. Special payroll employees who are unable to continue working on the sponsored project will be notified by their manager of their separation of employment.

I am paid from a grant that ends July 1, but I am unable to complete the work expected because my lab has shut down. What do I do?

Discuss options for telecommuting with your supervisor and/or principal investigator(s) of projects on which you are working. If you are unable to telecommute, you should follow the HR guidance for coding paid time or accrued time usage for employees who are time reporters. If you are a UConn time reporter, please refer to the HR FAQs on the UConn website. If you are a UConn Health time reporter, please refer to HR guidance on the UConn Health website.

What should full- or part-time salaried employees do if they are unable to work on a grant/contract due to the halting of lab/field work because of COVID 19?

Discuss options for telecommuting with your supervisor and/or principal investigator(s) of projects on which you are working. If you are unable to telecommute, you should follow the HR guidance for coding paid time or accrued time usage for employees who are time reporters. If you are a UConn time reporter, please refer to the HR FAQs on the UConn website. If you are a UConn Health time reporter, please refer to HR guidance on the UConn Health website.

I am working on a grant that ends June 1. What happens if the grant is not renewed or other funding is not found for my position?

If grant funds to continue your position end, your supervisor or PI is obligated to give you notice in accordance with your union contract. Please refer to your union contract for further guidance.

Can my PI terminate my position even though the sponsored project on which I’m working is not ending?

If full- or part-time salaried research positions on a sponsored project were planned to end or the funding for the project ends and the employee was paid from regular payroll, research positions may be cut back. Except as otherwise noted here and until April 30, 2020 (or as extended by the University), no full- or part-time salaried positions paid from regular payroll should be cut back or terminated because of the University’s COVID-19 response unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as a sponsor withdrawing support. Contact HR if you have extenuating circumstances.

May I continue to work during this shutdown if I am able?

Individuals who are still able to work on sponsored projects should do so with the approval of their PI. This work may vary from what was originally planned (e.g., working on a manuscript as opposed to running experiments) as long as the work has a direct benefit to the sponsored project.

What happens if I have to self isolate or self-quarantine?

Pay and use of leave for full- and part-time employees on sponsored projects (regardless of percentage of funding from the grant) is the same as for other employees (including whether or not accrued time needs to be taken or if the University is providing some other form of paid leave). See the HR guidance and FAQs on UConn’s Coronavirus website or email hr@uconn.edu if you are at Storrs or a regional campus. If you are employed by UConn Health, see the HR guidance at the UConn Health Coronavirus website.

HR for Principal Investigators – Salary & Stipends

Per recent communications from the University and HR, all full- and part-time salaried employees paid on regular payrolls at UConn and UConn Health, including employees paid in whole or part on sponsored projects, will continue to be paid until May 20, 2020 regardless of whether or not they are able to continue working. This date may be extended based on developments over the next few weeks. For further information, please refer to published HR guidance for timecard coding under various COVID-19 scenarios. If work on the sponsored projects is able to continue, there is no change to time reporting.

The following FAQs address questions for Principal Investigators (PIs) who supervise full- and/or part-time salaried employees paid on sponsored projects, including postdoctoral research associates and graduate assistants.

What is the general guidance for charging salaries and stipends to grants and contracts?

  • If an employee is working remotely and contributing to the project, then salary can be charged to the project.
  • If an employee cannot contribute to their current project but can contribute to another sponsored project or school activity, the salary must be moved to that funding source.
  • If an employee cannot perform job functions on a sponsored project due to illness, HR policies and procedures apply.
  • If an employee is temporarily unable to work on a sponsored project because of campus research closures (for a period not to extend beyond April 30, 2020 unless that date is extended by the University), their salary can still be charged in accordance with their previously established allocation when the sponsor(s) allows for these charges. See below for additional guidance. Sponsor approval may also be required if the Principal Investigator or other key personnel must disengage from the project for more than three months and/or reduce their total effort by 25% or more.

Is the guidance different for lab staff who are partially or fully funded from grants that continue to have funds available during this shut down period?

No.

    Is the guidance different for postdoctoral research associates who are partially or fully funded from grants that continue to have funds available during this shut down period?

    No.

      Is the guidance different for Graduate Research Assistants who are partially or fully funded from grants that continue to have funds available during this shut down period?

      No.

        Is the guidance different for special payroll employees who are partially or fully funded from grants that continue to have funds available during this shut down period?

        Special payroll employees who are able to continue working on a grant should be paid in accordance with their employment agreement. If they are unable to continue working on the grant, they should be provided with a notice of separation of employment.

          I have a grant that ends July 1, and my lab is unable to complete the work expected because of the shut down. What do I do?

          Telecommuting should be pursued as a first course of action. If the work cannot be completed remotely to meet an end date, then you should contact your Program Officer to discuss next steps which may include requesting a no cost extension or modifying the scope of work. Requests for a no cost extension or change in scope must be submitted through Sponsored Program Services to the sponsor.

            What do I do for full/part-time lab staff who are unable to work on a grant/contract because of the halting of lab/field work due to COVID 19?

            If your lab staff are unable to telecommute, you should follow the HR guidance for coding paid time or accrued time usage for employees who are time reporters. If your staff are UConn time reporters, please refer to the HR FAQs on the UConn website. If your staff are UConn Health time reporters, please refer to HR guidance on the UConn Health website.

            Many federal grant sponsors (HHS [including NIH], NSF, USAID, and DOD) are allowing salaries to be charged even when no work is able to be performed on the project. Salaries can continue to be charged until April 30, 2020 (or as extended by the University) as long as funding sources allow, funds are available, and the pay is consistent with the University’s salary payment and leave practices. Contact Sponsored Program Services if you have questions about the allowability of salary charges when no work is being completed:

              My grant ends June 1. What happens if the grant is not renewed or other funding is not found for my staff?

              If grant funds supporting your staff end, you should give your staff notice in accordance with the staff’s union contract. Please contact HR if you have questions about issuing notice.

              Can I reduce lab staff to stretch grant dollars even though my sponsored project is not ending?

              If full- or part-time salaried research positions on a sponsored project were planned to end or the funding for the project ends, research positions can be cut back. Except as otherwise noted here and until April 30, 2020 (or as extended by the University), no full- or part-time salaried positions paid from regular payroll should be cut back or terminated because of the University’s COVID-19 response unless there are extenuating circumstances (such as a sponsor withdrawing support). Contact HR if you have extenuating circumstances.

              When work is able to recommence, many federal sponsors will permit charges to projects that are necessary to resume activities supported by the award, consistent with applicable federal costing principles and provided the costs benefit the project. Supplemental funding from federal agencies is not guaranteed.

              Can I direct my staff to continue to work on a sponsored project during the shut down if that work can take place remotely?

              PIs are encouraged to direct staff who are able to work remotely to continue work on the sponsored project. This work may vary from what was originally planned (e.g., working on a manuscript as opposed to running experiments) but would be allowable as long as the work has a direct benefit to the sponsored project.

              What if my employee is on a multi-day self isolation or self quarantine period?

              Pay and use of leave practices for full- and part-time employees on sponsored projects (regardless of percentage of funding from the grant) is the same as for other employees (including whether or not accrued time needs to be taken or if the University is providing some other form of paid leave). See the HR guidance and FAQs on UConn’s Coronavirus website or email hr@uconn.edu if you are at Storrs or a regional campus. If you are employed by UConn Health, see the HR guidance at the UConn Health Coronavirus website.

              Will salary charged on federal research contracts be following the same guidance as those for grants by the same federal agency? Industry contracts?

              Contract terms and conditions often vary from grant terms and conditions made from the same federal sponsor. If you are able to continue work on a research contract, then it is business as usual. If work is not able to continue, contact Sponsored Program Services:

              Can I change the payroll allocations for my staff on sponsored awards?

              If your staff are able to work remotely, you may change payroll allocations in accordance with normal process, consistent with the effort they devote to each project. You cannot increase the percent of pay on a sponsored project if the individual is not able to work remotely.

              For PI summer salaries on grants – do we need to reduce summer effort if labs are not open?

              Whenever possible, telecommuting should be pursued. Changes to planned work need to be made in consultation with Program Officers and documented via email and kept in local files. If there is a change in scope, the request must be formally submitted through Sponsored Program Services (SPS) and approved by the sponsor.

              Travel and Travel Cancellation Costs

              Where can I find information on UConn Storrs and regional campus and UConn Health Travel Guidance?

              Does UConn’s travel suspension apply to research travel?

              The travel suspension covers all travel that would be performed as part of your regular job duties. This includes travel as part of a grant or sponsored project. If you believe that you have an individual situation where an exemption for travel should be granted in relation to your research, you should make a request via the Provost’s Office.

              Can I charge expenses for cancelled trips to a grant?

              Grants or other sponsored projects may not be charged for cancelled travel costs unless the sponsor specifically allows it.  Some sponsors have released guidance that allows for these costs to be charged due to the national coronavirus emergency.  The University is closely monitoring federal sponsor guidance for any change in requirements due to the impact of the Coronavirus. The following are some sponsors have released guidance:

              National Institutes for Health (NIH)

              NIH has released guidance allowing for these costs to be directly charged to the grant when they would have been otherwise allowable, see Flexibilities Available for Applicants and Recipients of Federal Financial Assistance Affected by COVID-19.

              National Science Foundation (NSF)

              NSF has released guidance allowing for these costs to be directly charged to the grant. Per NSF, recipients who incur costs related to the cancellation of events, travel, or other activities necessary and reasonable for the performance of the award, or the pausing and restarting of grant funded activities due to the public health emergency, are authorized or charge these costs to their award.

              Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)

              In accordance with published FAQs, abnormal or additional transportation costs due to COVID-19 disruptions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The determination of whether or not the abnormal or additional transportation costs are reasonable and reimbursable is the responsibility of your Contracting Officer, Grants Officer, or Agreements Officer. Again, please exercise reasonable caution and follow the travel guidance issued by United States federal agencies like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Department of State

              Department of Energy (DoE)

              Per a memo dated March 13, 2020, The Office of Science will not consider changes to planned travel caused by the cancellation of meeting, quarantines, closures, or other public health measures to be a change in scope of an award requiring agency prior approval.  Rebudgeting funds that does not create a change in scope does not require agency approval.

              Department of Defense (DOD)

              DOD released FAQs which state “DOD will allow nonrefundable travel expenses incurred for travel canceled due to COVID-19 to be charged to active awards in agreement with OMB Memorandum M-20-17. Grantees must follow applicable institution policy on allowable expenses for travel.”

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

              Credits and refunds booked directly through Sanditz/Concur must accrue to the sponsored project where the travel was originally charged.

              How do I handle cancellation fees, travel fees and any associated costs for cancelled conferences?

              Federal agencies share institutional concerns about the safety of researchers. If the PI (organizer) believes it would be unsafe to hold the conference, the organizer should confer with his or her program officer and grants management specialist to decide whether to cancel the meeting, postpone the meeting, or convert the meeting to an on-line format in addition to seeking approval for cancellation fees and other associated costs. If approved by the agency, once cancelled, the non-refundable costs for the venue would be an allowable charge to the project, assuming the project was funding those costs in the first place. In general, the costs for participants should follow the funding stream intended to pay for their attendance; if the conference grant was reimbursing all or part of the participation costs for all attendees, it may be appropriate to also charge some or all of their cancellation fees. If participants were covering their own attendance costs (from sponsored or non-sponsored sources), then then the cancellation costs should follow the fund source funding their participation. Contact SPS if you plan to seek this approval for assistance.

              Tech Transfer & Venture Development

              ARE TECHNOLOGY COMMERICIALIZATION SERVICES (TCS) OFFICES OPERATING AS USUAL?

              The TCS Offices are following University guidance and procedures for working remotely. Email should be used as the primary means of communication rather than phone.

              I HAVE AN IDEA OR INVENTION RELATED TO COVID-19. WHEN SHOULD I DISCLOSE MY IDEA?

              Now!  TCS is actively accepting invention disclosures and is working to ensure timely review and assessment of inventions, including disclosures related to COVID-19. Please note that TCS welcomes receipt of all disclosures, not just those pertaining to COVID-19.

              HOW DO I DISCLOSE MY INVENTION OR SOFTWARE?

              The first step in disclosing your invention or software is completion and submission of either the Invention Disclosure Form or the Software/App Disclosure Form. After receipt, your disclosure will be assigned to the appropriate Licensing Director who will contact you for next steps. If you feel that your disclosure has relevancy/applicability to COVID-19, please be sure to make note of that during submission.

              HOW CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW TRANSLATIONAL RESEARCH TO ADDRESS THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC?

              The Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) has created a centralized portal for learning more about ongoing research efforts, clinical trials, treatments, and how to share research.

              Graduate Research

              What is being done for graduate students, especially international students whose academic and professional progress could be impacted by closures?

              Graduate students are integral to the University’s research enterprise and are critical to creating a vibrant and intellectually engaging environment. Ensuring the success of our graduate students and postdoctoral fellows remains our highest priority. The Graduate School has issued guidance on the suspension of research and the impact on degree progress.

              Is the University willing to give summer support to students who won’t be paid during the summer by their grants?

              Graduate students whose plans for the summer have been interrupted and are experiencing financial hardship should contact the Office of Financial Aid where additional resources and support are available.

              PIs need to inform departments by June 1, 2020 if they are continuing GAs in the fall. What happens if research is still halted and PIs have made offers?

              Academic departments were advised by the Graduate School and HR to delay making GA offers for the fall unless they are certain they can fund the assistantships, as the department will be obligated to honor the commitments once the offers are accepted. Academic departments are encouraged to make offers if the commitments are for teaching assistantships. For research assistantships, departments can follow similar guidance provided for summer research assistantships in making offers. For additional guidance from HR on these topics, visit the HR COVID-19 resource page.

              Undergraduate Research

              What is the guidance on undergraduate summer research programs, like REUs?

              Given the uncertainties of the next few months and summer, Investigators are encouraged to explore telecommuting/online options where possible. Students will not be able to live on campus during the summer, so Investigators should plan for other ways for students to be involved in summer research like Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU).Changes to REUs must be made in coordination with and the approval of the NSF Program Officer.

              The NSF states that no cost extensions will be granted when permissible. See NSF guidance regarding Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Sites, Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) Sites, International Research experiences for Students (IRES) Sites, and similar activities.

              Other undergraduate research programs such as the Health Research Program should follow similar guidance.

              Other FAQs

              Will UConn and UConn Health follow Governor Lamont’s closure for non-essential employees?

              Consistent with the Governor’s work-from-home Executive Order 7H, Section 1, UConn and UConn Health will continue the current telecommuting procedures and pay all full and part-time regular payroll employees until May 20, 2020.

              How will UConn accommodate the financial burden of continuing compensation costs during this period of little or no work, especially if there will not be sufficient funding left to conduct the required research?

              There are going to be many unexpected costs associated with the pandemic. The impact is going to strain resources at all levels of the University, and PIs should plan on using resources at their disposal (IDC and DCAA accounts) to the extent available. In addition, there are several initiatives at the federal level seeking supplemental funding to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on research programs. Updates will be communicated as they are available.

              Will IDC/salary savings accounts be absorbed or taxed by the University?

              President Katsouleas would like to reassure faculty that these accounts would not be taxed.

              What measures are being taken to coordinate possible teaching plans for the fall with research?

              The Executive Policy Group (EPG) is part of the University’s Emergency Management Program and consists of executive-level leadership and key divisional leads who will provide guidance to make sure decisions such as these are made in a coordinated fashion.

              How do we address privacy requirements if data sets accessed remotely because of social distancing contain sensitive or private information? (3/23/20)

              Employees who are approved to telecommute must also follow certain IT and privacy requirements. Please visit the University of Connecticut and UConn Health IT websites that have guides to telecommuting, which provides you with forms, tools and best practices for working from home.

              UConn Health Employees Required IT Security Training: All employees are required to complete a new IT Security Module in SABA, which highlights best practices while telecommuting, whether full-time or on a limited basis.  As we expect this situation with coronavirus to continue to impact our working arrangements, this training will be sent via email to, and will be required for, ALL UConn Health employees. If you have any questions about this training, please contact Carrie Gray, (860) 679-2295 cagray@uchc.edu.