Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates: uc.edu/publichealth
Coronavirus Impacts - Minimizing Research: research.uc.edu/coronavirus-impacts-minimizing-research
Coronavirus Impacts – Return to on-campus Research: https://research.uc.edu/coronavirus-impacts-return-to-on-campus-research

Coronavirus Impacts – Return to on-campus Research

Information about returning to on-campus research

 
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Coronavirus Impacts - Research Return

 

Information on Coronavirus Impacts - Minimizing Research

 

13 May 2020 

Dear UC Research Community:

The University of Cincinnati will embark on a phased approach of bringing personnel back to campus. As noted previously, the first phase will involve our research enterprise. The Office of Research has now posted guidance to help our researchers begin planning for this return, which will commence on June 1st

Today (5/13) at 4 pm, I will review this information and address questions relating to the Return of Research to campus. The details on that WebEx event have been sent separately.

Please note: any and all on-campus activities need to be limited to those you deem necessary for the continuance of your research programs. Remote work should remain the norm. You should await further instructions from your college regarding the process and required documentation necessary to return to on-campus research in June.

I appreciate your patience and understanding as we work towards this next phase. As we are still in a Public Health emergency, I urge each of you to continue to put the health and safety of your research team and the public at the forefront of any planning and preparations for resuming on-campus activities. This phase will require all of us engaged in research, scholarship and creative activities to work and plan collaboratively across our units and the institution.

Take care,

Pat
Vice President for Research 

View the VPR's Research Continuity Discussion (recorded 5/13/2020) here.

Principles and Process for Research Return to Campus

The University of Cincinnati may now focus on the principles and processes required to return to on-campus research activities. This guidance has been prepared to assist our research community with accomplishing this task. This guidance is not authorizing a return to research as usual…significant restrictions remain in place to support the health and safety of all involved.


Principles for Research Return

The following principles must be followed in allowing on-campus research:
(5/20/2020 - updated mandatory actions for all on-campus research activities)

 

  • All research activities that can be completed remotely (e.g. data analysis, report generation, lab meetings) must continue to be performed in a remote work environment. 
  • Any and all on-campus research activities should follow the cognizant Public Health Authority directives.  
  • Employees who meet the CDC’s definition for those who are at higher risk for severe illness  (see https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-at-higher-risk.html) may request reasonable accommodations by contacting the Human Resources Department.   
  • Student, staff and faculty safety, health and well-being are the most important considerations when allowing any on-campus research activities. To achieve this principle, the following actions will be mandatory for all allowable activities:
    1. Before returning to campus for the first time, all employees must successfully complete a brief online information session administered by University Health Services to ensure awareness of CDC and ODH guidelines. The tutorial can be found here
    2. Before coming to campus each day, all employees must complete a self-administered wellness check based on CDC and ODH guidelines. The wellness check can be found here. All employees who have symptoms that may relate to COVID-19 should contact University Health Services immediately at COVIDWatch@uc.edu.
    3. All employees must wear facial coverings on campus, except while eating or alone in a private space. For more information on facial coverings, including exemptions to this requirement, click here.
    4. All employees must adhere to social-distancing requirements detailed here.
    5. All areas must clean and sanitize their workplace settings throughout the day. These efforts will supplement cleaning and sanitizing activities that will occur after hours by our facilities staff. Click here for specific directions.
    6. All employees must continue to abide by restrictions on travel detailed here.
    7. All employees who meet the CDC’s definition of individuals at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 may continue to work remotely. CDC information on risk factors is available here. Please contact Human Resources to submit a request to work remotely due to being at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
    8. For more information on mental health resources, please click here.
    9. For more information on maintaining a safe work environment as well as wellness and support resources, please click here.Before returning to campus for the first time, all supervisors and lab leaders must complete a health safety assessment of their workplace setting. Find more information, including deadlines for completion, here.
  • To accommodate these safety principles, laboratory directors, faculty mentors and principal investigators must develop a plan to promote safety.  Plan templates will be provided  by your college to assist in addressing these safety principles.  Each plan will require you to:
    1. Develop a process to record daily personnel activity and entry/exit from research space;
    2. Establish a laboratory space cleaning/disinfecting schedule;
    3. Develop a plan to maintain spatial and temporal distancing of personnel (e.g. consider shift scheduling/cohorting to minimize personnel density);
    4. Coordinate research involving shared spaces to maintain distancing requirements.
  • Research locations and dimensions for planning purposes can be found at https://space.uc.edu/. 
  • Research directors/faculty mentors/PIs should assume that additional Stay at Home orders can be authorized at any time to combat future outbreaks of the virus. Now is not the time to be starting new long-term research projects. 

Preparing for Research Return 

  • Laboratory directors, faculty mentors and principal investigators can begin preparing for the return of on-campus research activities. Suggestions to ensure appropriate and successful on-campus activities include:
    1. Identify crucial contingencies that must be accomplished first before broader research can be conducted (e.g., restarting/recalibration of equipment, restarting cell cultures, gradual expansion of animal colonies, availability of core facilities). Begin planning research return based on these contingencies.
    2. Prioritize on-campus research to those most crucial experiments/studies/data gathering that can maximize off-campus data review/evaluation and/or proposal/paper preparation/submission while minimizing research time and need to be on-campus.
    3. Identify needed supplies, reagents and the like that should be procured and available before on-campus research can resume.
    4. Discuss with trainees and staff current research status and develop plans for progress under limited on-campus access and that may be impacted by limited availability of core facilities/collaborators/supplies, by social distancing requirements, illness/quarantine within the research location or building, or a new ‘stay at home’ order. Create clear plans of action during the research return that are agreed upon by all parties.

 

Phased Approach to Research Return 

  • Research return plans may include allowances to begin preparing on-campus research laboratories or facilities prior to June 1st. Those allowances would be for preparations that are essential for a resumption of research. Examples include, but are not limited to: cell culturing, expanding animal colonies, instrument calibration, etc.  
    • Documentation must be provided that describes the personnel to be involved, the location, the frequency and duration (e.g., weekly for 2 hours), and the health, safety & wellness plans and processes.  
  • Research activities during the month of June will be limited as follows:
    1. Weeks of June 1st and June 8th: Personnel restrictions –generally no more than 25% of the total research team present in a single research location at the same time.
    2. Weeks of June 15th and June 22nd: Personnel restrictions –generally no more than 50% of the total research team present in a single research location at the same time.
    3. The limitations above must always adhere to social distancing guidelines.
    4. Contiguous research spaces are considered as a single research location
  • These research personnel restrictions will be re-evaluated in late June/early July. Researchers should assume limitations and plans in place for week of June 22nd will be continued indefinitely. As the campus status changes, researchers will be informed. 

 

College Documentation and Approval Process

The Office of Research has created a template to be used by each college to document the research plans and standard operating procedures for safety, scheduling and access, along with a multi-week plan for research activity prioritization under limited access conditions. Only the Dean or their designee may modify the template to accommodate college-specific needs. Under no circumstances should the information relating to Research Location Health and Safety Plans and Personal Protection Plans be deleted or otherwise not provided for review. 

Each Dean or their designee will identify the appropriate approval chain for these research plans. College-wide summaries of approved plans must be provided to the Vice President for Research via email no later than May 28th for activities planned to begin the week of June 1st.  A summary form to be completed by each college will be provided by the Office of the Vice President for Research. 

In addition, each department or unit area that will be having researchers return must identify a point of contact and establish a process whereby mail, package and cleaning supplies delivery can be accommodated. Each Dean or their designee is responsible for communicating this unit-level information to Joe Harrell in Facility Services. 

Any approved requests for on-campus access ahead of the June 1st research return date must be submitted to Heather Geers for final review and approval by the Vice President for Research. 


 Additional Information and Resources

 


Faculty and Principal Investigators (PIs) should always keep the safety and well-being of their trainees and research staff as their top priority.  


All documents also available on our researchhow2 page.

 

Key Office of Research Contact Info

Sponsored Programs Grants - ospaward@uc.edu
Sponsored Programs Accounting - uc-spastaff@uc.edu
Animal Care - lams@uc.edu
Human Subjects - irb@uc.edu
Compliance & Safety Concerns - integrity@uc.edu
 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)  

 

View the Questions & Answers from the Research Town Hall:  Research Continuity from 5/13/2020 here.

 

 

Critical Research Designation

Those individuals identified as conducting critical research and previously granted access are already accounted for by the Office of Research and Public Safety – no changes are required for those individuals through May 31st. Effective June 1st, the critical research designation is no longer in effect. Any researchers from that point forward must be identified and covered by approved Health, Safety & Scheduling plans.

COVID-19 Symptoms/Infection
Effort Reporting/Grant Support

Current Federal guidance allows PIs to maintain effort support; however, it does not require it. Each PI must decide the most appropriate way to manage their grant resources and budget. If a decision is made to reduce effort on a project, please communicate this with your department (or, for interdisciplinary projects, the home department of the individual) so they are aware of any effort reduction. If a PI decides to reduce effort on a project to preserve the budget for a later date when work can resume, they may do so at any time. We do recommend that you communicate this clearly with all parties involved, and that you consider inquiring about possible supplemental funding from your sponsor. Each project should be handled in the way that best ensures project completion.

External Vendors
The overall process for service personnel access is still evolving, however the general principle is that access can be granted if the service personnel abide by the same safe practices and distancing standard established and approved for the individual investigator who needs the service.  Access should be approved by the designated unit head.  If a vendor requires additional sign-off or certification from UC regarding the safety of our research environment, then these will be addressed individually through the Office of General Council until a more formal policy can be established.
Facilities

The best way to limit virus spread are the steps outlined by the CDC (distancing, facial covering, disinfection, hand washing, and staying home if you are experiencing any symptoms). As noted in the guidance, UC researchers should not be accommodating social distancing requirements by requesting physical changes to their research space. If there are specific concerns about particular spaces in a building, EH&S can evaluate; however, researchers should appreciate that large scale renovations or updates to building systems are not the most efficient approach to minimizing virus spread. 

Human Subjects Research

The IRB of record must review the study and approve resumption of work.  The site must also be made aware of IRB approval and allow work to resume. The PI needs to provide a risk benefit analysis to the IRB so that they can assess prior to resuming research.

If you are engaging in activities that require in person interaction, regardless of the location, you must provide a risk benefit analysis for IRB review prior to commencing work. Please refer to the IRB guidance.
Miscellaneous
The overall process has been led by President Pinto and the Public Health Response Team (see here). The President has assembled several different Task Forces composed of broad representation across the university to evaluate and support the recently communicated Return to Campus: Provisional Planning. As always, interested parties should provide comments, input and feedback to publichealth@uc.edu. The Office of Research has been in close communication with colleagues throughout the state and the country to share best practices and learn from others who have brought research back on campus earlier than us. 

To maintain physical distancing we have generated electronic calendars to schedule room access. Look for an email to animal users with specific instructions.

Animal orders may be impacted as LAMS will need to balance the needs of all animal users. Upon approval of your research return health and safety plan (look for guidance from your college or academic unit) you may set up breedings and/or order animals to ensure you are ready to return to work in June.  

Effective June 1, 2020 with the exception of ODH/CDC guidance for infection control, LAMS will revert to standard practices including charging for non-urgent veterinary care, weaning, activating cage cards, and reporting offspring.

Remember, lab members could get sick and/or another ‘stay at home’ order could be issued at any time. Please plan accordingly.

If you have questions please contact lams@uc.edu

Your department/unit head can tell you who has been designated as the point of contract for deliveries in your unit. While buildings are locked most orders should be delivered to Central Receiving. Include the contact name and department in an address line so that Central Receiving can deliver. You can find more information on their webpage.

Research Location Health & Safety

Researchers are reminded to keep the health and safety of their research team as their top priority at all times. Research activities that should not be conducted alone are not permitted during the time period covered by this guidance.

Your PI should provide you with a copy of the plan for your review before you return to work. Additionally, there should be a hard copy in the laboratory; its location should be indicated on the door sign.

If possible please speak with your supervisor or unit head. You can also contact Environmental Health and Safety. If that is not feasible UC has an outside vendor to provide an anonymous way to report activities that may involve illegal, unethical or inappropriate behavior in violation with UC’s policies that you may not feel comfortable reporting through normal channels. You can access the system electronically or call (800) 889-1547.

Safety is our top priority. Housekeeping is going to be focused on high touch areas (elevators, restrooms, etc.). To make that possible everyone is going to need to clean their own personal spaces (offices, cubicles, laboratories, etc.). Cleaning kits will be provided to every mail location; the kits will include instructions and directions to reorder. Your department/unit head can tell you who the custodial liaison for your unit.  Everyone will need to take their non-hazardous trash and recycling into the larger receptacles on every floor. Contact Custodial Services with questions or concerns regarding trash removal or other housekeeping-related concerns.

Research Security
Depending on the research, measures to safeguard data, intellectual property, and work product may be required. In general, if personnel can work on the project, then they should be paid from the project; however, approval from the funding agency and/or licenses may be necessary, and submission of a foreign component may be required (e.g., see NIH FAQs). Contact the COI Officer for more information.
Testing/Tracing

We have a robust interprofessional group looking at contact tracing for the University and hope to have something in place soon.

Travel
The existing limitations – in place through June 30 – only permit domestic travel by car that can be completed in a day. Research plans through June must be consistent with such limitations. As conditions in the US evolve, travel restrictions may be adjusted for July 1st onward. Please continue to monitor the current travel guidance available here.
Last updated: 05/21/2020
 

Contact

Mailing Address

Office of Research Integrity (ML 0567)
University of Cincinnati
University Hall, Suite 540
P.O. Box 2100567
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0567

Street Address

University Hall, Suite 540
51 Goodman Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0567

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General Inquiries

Phone: 513-558-5034

Fax: 513-558-4111

E-mail: integrity@ucmail.uc.edu