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COVID-19 Research-Related Frequently Asked Questions

Updated July 6, 2021

FAQs will be updated when new information becomes available in the following categories:

Is there a mechanism in place to identify my lab is working on COVID-19 research or is planning to start COVID-19 research activities?

Please contact the Office of Research at ovcr@ku.edu to disclose this work.

To aid in global response to the pandemic, may I share COVID-19 research data or preprints before submitting to journals for consideration?

In many cases, yes. Wellcome Trust is promoting an open data policy for COVID-19 research results to ensure that the World Health Organization has rapid access to emerging findings that could aid the global response. More than 125 scientific journals, societies, publishers, research councils and universities have signed the Wellcome Trust Statement on Data Sharing in Public Health Emergencies in support of this endeavor. With respect to signatories on the statement, authors can rest assured that sharing data or preprints ahead of submission will not pre-empt publication in those journals. Check to see if your journal or publisher of interest is a signatory.

How do I treat time-sensitive data collection for peer-reviewed manuscripts that have a limited timeline to address reviewers' criticisms?

It will be important to contact the journal, as it is anticipated that most journals will provide some flexibility on the deadlines that they've previously set due to the current global health crisis.

If I receive a notice from my sponsor requesting information about the impact of COVID-19 on my work, what should I do? 

If you receive any communication from your sponsor regarding the impact of COVID-19 and the Office of Research is not already copied, please forward those notices to Alicia Reed and work with Post-Award on any sponsor response. The Office of Research will assist you in communicating the impact to the sponsor. 

My research has been disrupted due to reduction in research operations. How can I communicate this to my sponsor?

Please contact the Office of Research for help. Post-Award grant management staff are available to assist you with communications to your sponsor regarding disruptions in work, and to request actions. We want to be involved with communications to your sponsor. If you already have an award, please contact Post-Award at pas@kuedu.

How will deliveries be handled for buildings that have not yet reopened?

KU Procurement is continuing to work to meet the needs of campus. Details about select vendors that can accommodate home deliveries can be found on the KU Procurement website. Please contact your building manager for details about building-specific delivery plans for items that support essential research in buildings that have not yet reopened. If you don’t know who manages your building, contact Craig Alexander, senior director of financial services and interim chief procurement officer.

Is the Office of Research operating as usual?  

The Office of Research is currently working remotely and expects to provide normal service levels.  

PIs should continue to request assistance for proposal preparation and review as early as possible; Pre-Award support is expected to continue as normal. Given the increased reliance on remote working and electronic communications, increased time should be provided for proposal review and submission to avoid delays related to slow systems or outages. Contact Pre-Award or your research center to initiate proposal preparation or to ask sponsor-specific questions.  

For project-specific communications and questions for sponsors, please contact Post-Award.  

Please see Financial Impacts sections for financial contacts. 

What if I am unable to submit my grant on time due to COVID-19?  

Most federal agencies, including NIH and NSF, do not grant prior approval for late submissions; however, there are existing policies that address extenuating circumstances. If you find yourself unable to submit your grant on time due to COVID-19, please contact Pre-Award or your research center to discuss your situation. 

For additional COVID-19-related guidance on proposals and awards from specific sponsors, please refer to this summary of agency guidance and your sponsors’ websites. 

I am advising fellows (or other stipend recipients). What can I do to support them?

It is advisable, at this time, for fellows to keep track of the grant-related activities they are engaging in as well as their time invested. Consider preparing a guide for fellows or other stipend recipients with the intended learning opportunities and other grant-related experiences. If these procedures have been modified in light of COVID-19, include a listing of these modifications. Schedule regular meetings using remote technology (e.g., Zoom) to provide input and monitor progress. Please note that if training or fellowship plans are changing, this should be reported to the sponsor. Please contact pas@ku.edu for assistance in communicating this change in planned program.

My sponsored project end date is near, but I still have funds available to expend. What can I do to spend these funds?

Current project purchasing should only be done to support project activities, including personal protective equipment necessary to safely perform project activities. If your sponsored project work has been disrupted by the reduction in research operations, you need to work with Post-Award to alert your sponsor of the need for a carryforward or a no-cost extension (NCE) to complete the work and expend the funds. Please note that an NCE is not an appropriate request if you do not have work left to complete. Many sponsors are allowing flexibilities for NCE, carryforward and closeout procedures. See agency guidance and contact pas@ku.edu for assistance in communicating with your sponsor.

Where can I find sponsor guidance on COVID-19? 

Please refer to the following guidance for current information regarding COVID-19, including sponsor guidance. Some sponsors have not yet posted guidance. This page will continue to be updated, but please also check your sponsors’ websites for new information. 

Other Guidance 

I need to resume some fieldwork that is essential for my research. What is the process?

KU has lifted restrictions on business-related travel, along with the requirement to file documentation of approved exceptions with the Office of Research. Nevertheless, travelers should continue to consider the risks and benefits of travel, noting especially that quarantine measures may disrupt travel plans and lead to costs that cannot be charged to sponsored projects.

When planning KU-related travel, please submit a Concur Travel Request form or email your SSC to create one on your behalf before making travel arrangements. One of the most important reasons for this form — particularly for international travel — is to allow the university to quickly provide help in case of a travel emergency. The travel request form should be submitted 14 days in advance of domestic travel outside of Kansas and 30 days in advance of international travel. In the event travel is required with short notice, a Concur Travel request form needs to be submitted prior to any travel commencing. 

We encourage faculty and staff to book KU-related travel through the Concur Travel online system or Corporate Travel Planners (ku@ctp-travel.com| 877-630-1232).

If approved travel results in the traveler unexpectedly being quarantined at the travel destination location, the approving department is responsible for any additional lodging and travel expenses above and beyond the original cost estimate. Please note additional lodging and travel expenses due to being quarantined are not an allowed expense on sponsored project funds and alternative funds will need to be used. 

Visit the Booking KU Business Travel website for additional information and help with planning and booking KU-related travel.

What human subjects research is currently being approved? 

  • Human subjects research that does not involve face-to-face interaction with participants is being approved by regular submission in eCompliance. Researchers are encouraged to modify research plans to use remote methods of interaction whenever feasible. Modifications to an existing protocol must be approved through HRPP.
  • Certain human subjects research that involves face-to-face engagement with participants, where risk of virus transmission and virus vulnerability of subjects is low-to-moderate and risks can be mitigated, may be approved. Follow guidelines for submitting. See also Guidance for NIH-funded Clinical Trials and Human Subjects Studies Affected by COVID-19.  
  • Ensure continuity of data security if you are engaging in remote work. Changes in your data security plan may need to be updated in a modification to your HRPP protocol. See below for additional information about accessing sensitive data remotely. 

If a student or a researcher needs to access a data set from home to keep working on a project, how do we address privacy requirements, if the data set contains sensitive or private information?  

If the researcher does not have secure access to the data set (e.g., remote access via VPN), then the data set should not be accessed, or analysis of risk should be considered. Researchers should work with their IT departments to explore whether a secure remote access option is viable for their project and appropriate for the type of data. 

All data access and handling should be based on a set data management plan developed specifically for the research taking place and based on data security best practices.

What do I need to think about when shifting in-person activities to virtual or remote methods?

First, research teams are encouraged to pull together and review their currently approved procedures. Think about items such as data security and timeline shifts that you might need to make in your data analytic plans. Contemplate how remote methods of interacting with participants and handling data can be incorporated into your study and how your processes will need to change. Review every aspect of your study, including the recruitment process, the consent process, interactions with participants, the collection of data, transfer to secure storage and data analysis.

Audio or video meetings: Think through how you will maintain privacy and confidentiality in audio or video “spaces” versus meeting with participants in a closed room, where it is obvious that others are not present and accidental interloping is more easily controlled. You might develop a script to confirm to participants who is present on the researcher’s side, to ask if there are others present on the participant’s side, and in group meetings with participants, advise attendees to disconnect or “step out” of the conference if non-participants enter their local space.

If a session will be recorded, be sure to announce that in your introduction and as you start and stop the recording. Remember that this may be a new technique for the attendees as well as the researchers. Take time to communicate your respect for your participants’ privacy and concern for their comfort with the medium.

Data security: Consider the security conditions of staff working remotely, data transfer and storage protocols, and appropriate security provisions for working with data from remote locations. A  Amend your security plan and obtain approval as necessary. Revisions or additions to consent and recruitment materials and your described procedures may also need to be approved through HRPP.

My changes to remote methods will be very simple. Is it necessary to submit a modification to my approved study?

Yes. You need to submit a modification in eCompliance and receive approval prior to implementing changes to accommodate restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.

If I have only a small number of participants in rural Kansas counties, would it be safe for me to meet them individually at different times, keeping social distancing?

HRPP is considering applications for reactivating face-to-face subject interaction if risk of transmission can be sufficiently mitigated, taking into account a number of contextual variables (e.g., positive rates, percentage of the population vaccinated). All submissions for face-to-face human research, whether paused due to the pandemic or a new proposal, must submit an RNI in addition to a modification or a new study.

If I'm working with participants outside of Kansas located in states where requirements for masks and social distancing are not in place, is it appropriate to continue to meet with them if social distancing procedures are in place?

HRPP will take into consideration local transmission risk and the project safety plan when reviewing requests for face-to-face human research. Appropriate protective measures — such as masks, barriers, social distancing, ensuring appropriate ventilation, avoiding large gatherings and activities such as eating — must be employed for in-person research regardless of local regulations.

Do you have any guidance for continuing human subjects research that does not involve in-person activity?

Even if your study does not rely on face-to-face interaction, you may find your procedures and data security plans need to be modified as a result of moving your research team outside of campus.

Has the university explored a Zoom for healthcare license, which is used for telehealth and is HIPAA-compliant?

A limited number of Zoom Telehealth host licenses are available for checkout from the Office of Research by PIs who have been approved to collect certain sensitive human data via teleconferencing. Contact ovcr@ku.edu with questions. 

How should remote participant payments be handled?

Regarding participant payments that would usually be made in person, KUCR Financial Services has payment options that may be used. Contact Kevin Teel and or Karen Schaller.

What recommendations do you have for providing protective counseling measures in remote interviews, such as, for example, if my participant disclosed suicidal thoughts?

If there is a potential that a participant might disclose that they are a threat to themselves or others, then HRPP recommends that you have a list of resources readily available so that you could quickly connect a participant who is in need. A pre-made list of resources is an excellent tool to have on hand and will continue to be useful when you resume in-person interactions.

If you do not currently have such a list, attach your proposed resource list to a modification in eCompliance to have it approved.

What recommendations do you have for researchers currently working on proposals to submit to the HRPP?

We are encouraging researchers to think through two paths of opportunity so that they are prepared whether or not restrictions are lifted. Describe procedures under optimal operating conditions, including face-to-face interactions and/or access to data that is not currently possible, and have an alternate route to accommodate remote interactions with participants and study team members working remotely.

Let’s look, for example, at an intervention study where researchers are interacting with students. In addition to the researcher’s optimal procedures, she can include conditional language for remote procedures, such as, “If restrictions are in place that prevent face-to-face human subjects interactions, we plan to…” and include provisions such as obtaining assent of the child, using Zoom, with an adult present with the child. Or, if the researcher’s participants were adults, consider how she would still obtain informed consent, and document as required. Aim to protect issues of privacy and keep the process simple, transparent and respectful.

How do I ensure I have adequate data security for remote work?

Issues of data collection, storage and management are critical in the transition to remote work for all projects handling human subjects data. Consult remote.ku.edu for IT guidance about working remotely and securely, but do not stop there. The IT guidance is general and may not adequately cover working with your “Category 1” sensitive human subjects data or challenges of accessing large data stores on secure KU file storage that are not generally available off-campus.

Be sure to consult your departmental IT technicians and IT security directly for assistance in choosing appropriate secure methods and for implementation by your team to maintain that security. Your data security plan should be described in your HRPP protocol. It is a best practice to check in with team members periodically to confirm that the data security plan is being used consistently.

Multisite projects may take some planning and coordination, but appropriate data security plans can — with coordination among colleagues and associated IT personnel — ensure proper protections so that the research team can move forward with data collection. Collaboration is key as each site location may have different characteristics and local restrictions to consider.

Please note that when an external collaborator will be “engaged” with human subjects research reviewed by KU-Lawrence HRPP, an Inter-institutional Authorization Agreement or an Individual Investigator Agreement (together, “reliance agreements”) will need to be in place prior to the external members engaging in the research.

What are the guidelines for using delivery systems such as UPS pickup/dropoff to mail study devices to participants?

If the method by which you plan to deliver materials to or receive materials from participants will shift from your approved protocol, be sure to submit a modification. HRPP staff would be happy to talk to you about ways to modify your protocol.

Mail: If you find you now need to mail a survey or a measure to a participant to complete, plan how you will ensure that privacy and confidentiality are maintained and exposure of identifiable information is avoided or limited. For example, you might use coding in lieu of participant names on your forms so that data could be sent and returned in a de-identified manner.

Mail or delivery service distribution or practicing socially distanced or asynchronous drop off by study team members is generally acceptable. You might want to describe more than one method in your protocol submission to ensure flexibility.

What are the landmarks that you will be looking for to determine when current guidelines around clinical research will be relaxed or lifted? Is there discussion about the shift to resuming or ramping up previous research activities?

As we’ve seen over the past year and a half, the public health risk in the pandemic is fluid. Rates of illness rise and fall locally and new variants of the virus have arisen. The Office of Research will remain abreast of the changing conditions, watching agency guidelines and opportunities, observing state and local responses, and providing guidance as to how the evolving status quo affects KU research.

As far as ramping back up for human subjects research, HRPP supports researchers in building flexibility when submitting modifications. For example, you can specifically frame changes as alternative, interim procedures that may revert to original procedures once KU-imposed research restrictions are lifted. That way you are already planning for returning to face-to-face and, unless other circumstances change, will not need to submit another modification to resume in-person interactions.

What are some recommendations regarding student research trajectories, particularly for students who are just beginning to build their research program? Given continuing shelter-in-place orders, should conversations about graduate student research shift to feasibility of projects using remote-style data collection?

Students and advisors should consider planning for how their research programs could continue under evolving public health conditions. Planning for remote methods or designing face-to-face research with lower-risk activities and locations, with robust safety protocols, and building flexibility into the study procedures are encouraged.

It's a healthy time to have discussions with students about how to build a programmatic line of inquiry, including options for various methodologies that may not always involve human subjects inquiry along the way. For instance, a hybrid project with the possibility of including in-person interactions later in the project might be proposed. A systematic literature review could be undertaken. It might be that there's a new set of lessons to be learned about how to support high quality rigorous and very safe responsible inquiry, using alternative methods from face-to-face.

I am required to perform my research from home as a result of COVID-19. Would I be able to charge supplies related to telework (e.g., office furniture, laptop, printer, office supplies, etc.) to my sponsored project? 

These types of expenses are considered administrative costs (indirect costs), and generally are not appropriate as a direct cost unless specifically approved by the sponsor. It is allowable to purchase this on PI accounts (906 funds) if it is necessary to do your work. 

Please refer to the KU Cost Accounting Policy for details on allowability of administrative supplies and furniture. 

How can I charge or recover my travel or other costs? 

See information below on travel.  

Can I pay payroll costs on my sponsored projects if the personnel cannot work due to COVID-19 impacts? 

In March 2020, the Cost Accounting Policy was updated to allow salary and fringe for all employees (student, staff and faculty) to continue to be charged to a sponsored project, unless the sponsor has explicitly disallowed this charge. If this salary support was not allowable on the sponsored project, the Office of Research worked with the PI and their administrative unit(s) to determine support to sustain these vital research personnel. Starting with the pay period ending July 11, 202 (earning start date of June 28, 2020), payment for student, staff and faculty employees who are unable to work on the sponsored project is not an allowable expense. Appointment to an alternative funding source related to work available for the individual to perform or issuance of a non-reappointment to the individual may be appropriate depending on the employee’s situation. Please contact Alicia Reed with questions on project impacts or Julie Thornton about Human Resource questions on the specific situation.

This aligns with Office of Budget Management and NIH guidelines and allows consistent treatment for research personnel based on institutional policy. Case-by-case determinations will be made should these costs not be allowed as sponsored cost expenses; please contact Alicia Reed with questions on allowability.

Even if a Graduate Research Assistant cannot work on my project due to COVID-19 impacts, can their tuition still be paid on my sponsored project? 

Yes, their tuition can still be paid on the project, if it is an allowable expense on the project and the sponsor has not explicitly denied these expenses. 

Will spending deadlines for internal awards or accounts, which would usually need to be expended by the end of the fiscal year, be extended to account for inability to spend during this time of reduced operation? Will carryforward be allowed on these accounts?

If you have an award from the Office of Research, we will extend the timeline for spending those funds. For other kinds of internal funding, such as startup funds, we anticipate flexibility will be extended, but you need to discuss with the department that administers these funds to discuss an extension.

How can we track COVID-19 leave for salaried individuals?

KU Non-Federal Covered leave, provided by the university to continue paying employees unable to work due to COVID-19 impacts, ended on June 27, 2020, and will no longer be available as a leave type in the HR/Pay system.

What do I do with deposits/checks? 

Drop off checks/deposits at Youngberg Hall as instructed below: 

  • Drop box will be available at the front doors of Youngberg Hall Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m. Please do not leave deliveries if the box is not available. 
  • Include invoice number, funding and any other documentation for the deposit, business as usual (BAU). 
  • For additional questions about deposits, contact kucrcr@lists.ku.edu

Where do I send participant advance reconciliations? 

Drop off participant reconciliations to Youngberg as instructed below:

  • Drop box will be available at the front doors of Youngberg Hall Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m. Please do not leave deliveries if the box is not available. 
  • Include invoice number, funding and any other required participant documentation for the reconciliation requirements (BAU). 

What do I do if my KUCR p-cards expire? 

  • UMB Bank automatically mails new p-cards to Youngberg Hall 30 days prior to expiration.
  • KUCR p-card administrator Kevin Teel will contact the cardholder and confirm mailing address.
  • KUCR will notify cardholder when the card is mailed. 

What do I do if I need to apply for a KUCR p-card? 

Visit the KUCR p-card application website. For additional questions, email kures_card@ku.edu

What do I do for Greenphire participant debit cards? 

Business as usual. Contact Kevin Teel at kteel@ku.edu for assistance setting up your study in Greenphire. Participant debit cards will be mailed to the specified mailing address. 

Where do I send non-sponsored project contracts? 

Business as usual. KUCR countersignatures will be electronic (Adobe Sign). 

Is mail monitored in Youngberg Hall for invoices and checks? 

  • U.S. Postal Service will deliver mail to Youngberg Hall Monday through Friday, as usual. Mail will be sorted on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Invoices will be processed as normal, with checks deposited on Wednesdays and Fridays. 
  • Campus mail is temporarily suspended. Please do not send time-sensitive correspondence via campus mail until delivery resumes. 
  • Returned checks will be forwarded to a current mailing address. Staff will contact departments for additional information. 
  • FedEx and UPS packages are being delivered as usual. The Youngberg Hall facility manager is available to accept those deliveries.
  • Outgoing mail from Youngberg Hall may still be placed in the Lineage mailbox as usual but is picked up once a week on Thursday afternoon.
  • For checks marked for pickup, the requestor will be contacted and arrangements will be made for pickup on a Tuesday or Thursday afternoon.

When will outgoing mail from Youngberg Hall occur? 

Outgoing mail from Youngberg Hall will occur on Thursdays at 1:45 p.m. 

Will someone be available at the main Office of Research phone line? 

The main KU Office of Research phone line (785-864-3441) will be monitored as usual. Please see the KU Research Staff webpage for direct-line contact information. KU Research staff will be working remotely and are available to answer your questions. 

Can I have office supplies delivered to my home?

KU Procurement has provided details about the home-delivery ordering process for Staples and other suppliers.

How do I contact IT support with questions or concerns about how to access IT resources necessary for my research?

Visit the Technology Service Center (TSC) website.

  • The homepage includes a searchable table that includes every unit/department that is supported by a TSC group, along with phone numbers and email addresses.
  • Each TSC has its own page listed at the top of the page (e.g., Admin&Ops, College, Engineering, Research, etc.). These pages include the manager and team members' pictures and contact info.
  • If you're part of a non-TSC research unit, please contact your local IT support team.

What if I need IT assistance with working, teaching and learning from home?

KU IT has created a one-stop site — remote.ku.edu — for all things related to IT for remote working, teaching and learning.

  • The site includes separate sections tailored for faculty, staff and students.
  • If you're having difficulty with internet access at home, visit the Access page for information about local service providers offering special discounts and subsidies during the COVID-19 emergency.

Can the KU Anywhere VPN be expanded to access all electronic journals?

IT is working to get a virtual desktop set up on campus to connect remotely for access to certain journals. KU IT and KU Libraries continue to discuss whether a better alternative is possible. In other cases, IT is working on a case-by-case solution. Find information about accessing KU Libraries resources remotely.

My undergraduate research assistant needs to have VPN access to perform research. Can the policy for undergraduate use of VPN be expanded?

IT is allowing undergraduate VPN access. If you have any undergraduates who need VPN access, submit a request to IT support.

How is the Center for Research Computing (CRC) functioning during this situation?

Most of the work done in the CRC can be done remotely. There might be delays if any activity requires physical presence in the CRC, such as physical management of the servers and systems. However, in most cases CRC users will experience business-as-usual functionality. CRC staff are available for support remotely during this time.

How is the CRC managing bandwidth on the login nodes to the cluster, as there seems to be times when the login nodes are sluggish, likely due to higher than normal usage?

This can happen whether or not VPN is used to log in, and reflects high usage of the CRC. Likely, many researchers are working remotely on data analysis. Whether you're logging in from VPN or not, contact the CRC by email if you are experiencing sustained problems with sluggish log in.

What happens if there is a hardware problem at the CRC?

This will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the severity of the issue and what steps are needed, plans would be made to come to the CRC to fix the problem, observing social distancing.

Will new computer nodes still be available for purchase in the CRC?

Currently purchases are on hold, but if you have specific needs, please reach out to the CRC.

What can I do to help with bandwidth and connectivity issues?

IT encourages users to be connected to the VPN only while conducting activities that require it, and to disconnect the VPN connection when not using it.

Can I connect to the VPN at a time when bandwidth use is lower?

The highest traffic is between 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

What can be done to increase speed of teaching through virtual labs?

IT is aware of this issue and is working on a solution.