Reseach and Innovation - COVID-19 FAQ

Updated on May 29, 2020. 

Please note that the FAQ below will be updated as new information becomes available.

 

Guidance on Stay at Home Order

To the extent possible, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi researchers are encouraged to engage in activities that can be performed remotely (e.g., writing, data analysis, etc.); essential laboratory operations are permissible, provided they can be performed while meeting all governing regulations and the CDC recommendations on COVID-19 including the "6-foot" requirement for social distancing. Paid student workers may continue to carry out important support functions necessary for continuing laboratory operations. Any individual who is in a high-risk category should not come to campus.

1. Research Compliance

Export Control

Institutional Animal Use and Care Committee (IACUC)

1.1 Is the TAMU-CC IACUC operating as usual? 

TAMU-CC IACUC is fully functional.  The iacuc@tamucc.edu email will continue to be monitored for incoming submissions with the same or greater frequency as typically provided. All IACUC staff are able to work remotely.

Anticipated Differences to Standard Operations

All IACUC staff will be accessible through Cisco Jabber to be able to be reached by phone. All phone messages will continue to be monitored with the same or greater frequency as typically provided. If an alternate number is needed, such as a cell phone, to reach you, please include in the phone message. 

1.2 What about full board meetings? 

Our normal standard operating procedures allow for remote meetings for the TAMU-CC IACUC. TAMU-CC IACUC meetings will continue to meet via WebEx as scheduled. 

1.3 Is the IACUC continuing to conduct inspections? 

Yes, TAMU-CC IACUC is currently continuing to conduct inspections. The next semi-annual inspection is not due until August 2020. 

Federal regulations allow for remote inspections via video. TAMU-CC IACUC inspection will implement these procedures to fulfill our required semi-annual inspection if necessary.

1.4 What other steps will assist in minimizing interruptions to research? 

Principal Investigators should consider developing concrete and actionable plans for: 

  • Ensuring familiarity with emergency procedures for the care of live animals.
  • Communicating among study staff, including handing off responsibilities from staff who are ill.
  • Ensuring study files are available for remote access to study data. 

1.5 Can COVID-19 directly infect or impact research animals and/or present an exposure risk to personnel working with them? 

Concerns of transmission to or from animals have not been indicated. “Multiple international and domestic health organizations have indicated that pets and other domestic animals are not considered at risk for contracting or spreading COVID-19.” -- Source: American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) 

Incoming information regarding risks related to research animals will be monitored and communicated as needed. 

1.6 Can I still conduct animal research? 

The novel coronavirus situation and public health authority recommendations are evolving rapidly.

TAMU-CC IACUC does not have specific recommendations or requirements about postponing or cancelling research activities. 

Animal facilities must be maintained at a level to ensure animal welfare.  This includes continued veterinary medical care; assessment of animal health and wellbeing; provision of food, water and clean cages; and maintenance of appropriate environmental conditions. 

Researchers should:

  • Follow the latest recommendations form the Texas Department of Health.
  • Follow any guidelines or instructions from the specific facility or location where participant interaction will occur.
  • Follow university guidelines in response to COVID-19. 

When evaluating consider: 

  • Staffing resources available to maintain animal welfare.
    • Staff who feel ill are recommended to stay home.
    • Staff backups to maintain animal care if primary individuals become ill or quarantined.
    • Consider whether animal care staff can be divided and work in teams to ensure continuity of animal care.
  • Other viable alternatives to an in-person meeting, if possible. 

1.7 For animal care staffing issues, will IACUC implement methods to facilitate reviews for personnel requests? 

Yes. Personnel change request will be fast tracked to assist in addressing staff resource needs. To facilitate this process, please include in the email subject line COVID-19 amendment so we can assist you to accommodate your needs. 

1.8 I would like to temporarily suspend my animal study. What do I do? 

You may decide to voluntarily halt or delay research procedures because of COVID-related public health recommendations, facility requirements, study team availability, or other considerations. These temporary suspensions do not need to be reported to the IACUC. 

Please check with Office of Sponsored Research Administration on the need to communicate any suspension to sponsors. 

Resources:

OLAW webinar “Pandemic Contingency Planning and Its Impact on Animal Care”

Information regarding the webinar on March 19, 2020 is available here.

 

Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC)

1.9 Is the TAMU-CC IBC operating as usual?

The TAMU-CC IBC is fully functional and operating at our standard capacity. The ibc@tamucc.edu email will continue to be monitored for submissions with the same or greater frequency as typically provided. All IBC staff are able to work remotely.

Anticipated Differences to Standard Operations

All IBC staff will be accessible through Cisco Jabber to be able to be reached by phone. All phone messages will continue to be monitored with the same or greater frequency as typically provided. If an alternate number is needed, such as a cell phone, to reach you, please include in the phone message.

1.10 What about full board meetings?

Our normal standard operating procedures allow for remote meetings for the TAMU-CC IBC. TAMU-CC IBC meetings will continue to meet via WebEx as scheduled.

1.11 Can I still conduct research? 

The novel coronavirus situation and public health authority recommendations are evolving rapidly.

TAMU-CC IBC does not have specific recommendations or requirements about postponing or cancelling research activities.

Researchers should:

  • Follow the latest recommendations form the Texas Department of Health.
  • Follow any guidelines or instructions from the specific facility or location where participant interaction will occur.
  • Follow university guidelines in response to COVID-19. 

1.12 Will the IBC implement methods to facilitate reviews for personnel requests?

Yes. Personnel change request will be fast tracked to assist in addressing staff resource needs. To facilitate this process, please include in the email subject line COVID-19 amendment so we can assist you to accommodate your needs.

1.13 I would like to temporarily suspend my research activities. What do I do?

You may decide to voluntarily halt or delay research procedures because of COVID-related public health recommendations, facility requirements, study team availability, or other considerations. Temporary suspensions do not need to be reported to the IBC.

 

Institutional Review Board (IRB) 

1.14 Is the TAMU-CC IRB operating as usual?

The TAMU-CC IRB is fully functional and operating at our standard capacity. The irb@tamucc.edu email will continue to be monitored for submissions with the same or greater frequency as typically provided. All IRB staff are able to work remotely.

Anticipated Differences to Standard Operations

All IRB staff will be accessible through Cisco Jabber to be able to be reached by phone. All phone messages will continue to be monitored with the same or greater frequency as typically provided. If an alternate number is needed, such as a cell phone, to reach you, please include in the phone message.

1.15 What about full board meetings?

Our normal standard operating procedures allow for remote meetings for the TAMU-CC IRB.  TAMU-CC IRB meetings will continue to meet via WebEx as scheduled.

1.16 What other steps will assist in minimizing interruptions to research? 

Principal Investigators should consider developing concrete and actionable plans for:

  • Identifying research priorities in the event University employees are not able to come to work.
  • Continuing or halting data collection.
  • Principal Investigators should also have a plan for communicating among study staff, including handing off responsibilities from staff who are ill.
  • Principal Investigators should consider arranging to share study files to a secure cloud-based storage and ensure that research staff have secure remote access to manage data in the event the university is closed.

1.17 Can I still interact with my research participants? 

TAMU-CC IRB recognizes the novel coronavirus situation and public health authority recommendations are evolving rapidly.

Researchers should:

  • Follow the latest recommendations form the Texas Department of Health.
  • Follow any guidelines or instructions from the specific facility or location where participant interaction will occur.
  • Follow university guidelines in response to COVID-19. 

Most research activities that involve face-to-face interaction with subjects must stop. IRB permission is not needed to either continue or pause study activities.

When evaluating research interactions with subjects consider other viable alternatives to an in-person meeting, if possible. For example, interviews can be conducted by phone, video conferencing, or email.

1.18 Who decides what procedures to halt or modify?

Currently, the determination of whether a research visit is “essential to the health and/or well-being” of a participant is determined by the principal investigator of the research study, the participant, and the participant’s care provider (when applicable), and should be informed by current public health guidance regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.

1.19 I would like to temporarily suspend my study recruitment. What do I do?

The PI may decide to voluntarily halt or delay recruitment because of COVID-related public health recommendations, facility requirements, study team availability, etc. Temporary suspensions do not need to be reported to the IRB.

1.20 When do I need to submit an amendment?

An amendment is required before implementing a change when the study is:

  • Not exempt and
  • The protocol specifies that the study visits will occur in person or specifies a visit schedule, location that requires modification, or other detailed procedure that needs to be changed.

1.21 When do I NOT need to submit an amendment?

An amendment is NOT required when the study is:

  • Exempt;
  • The study does not specify whether the visit would be in person or remote or gives specifics about the visit schedule or location; or
  • Study staff is implementing a COVID-19 screening procedure before in-person contact is conducted.

You do not need to modify the risk section to include any potential exposure to COVID-19, as this is considered a risk of everyday life, not a risk for research procedures.

The IRB staff and IRB are prioritizing these amendments. To facilitate this process, please include in the email subject line COVID-19 amendment.

1.22 How do subjects need to be notified of visit cancellation or visit changes?

When a study visit needs to be cancelled or changed to a phone call or on-line encounter, the subject should be told the reason and that they will be contacted again when the visit can be rescheduled. These messages to subjects do not require IRB approval.

1.23 What about effects on study enrollment goals?

COVID-19 issues may result in not able to meet the study’s set participant enrollment goals. Please describe these issues in the study’s Continuing Review application when due. The IRB will be mindful of the circumstances when conducting its review.

 

Dive Safety 

1.24 Can I still dive on an active dive plan?   

Dive Operations is accepting dive plans and has implemented guidelines for diving during the COVID spread:

  • Limit individuals at the dive site to 10 or less.
  • Wear PPE when possible, disinfect/wash hands frequently.
  • Remain at least 6 feet apart when possible.
  • Ensure that local municipal, county, and state guidelines are adhered to.
  • Do not share dive gear, dive checks will be visual only.
  • Any personnel who has been infected with COVID must undergo specific medical evaluations before returning to diving.
  • All individuals must sign attestments forms that they are not symptomatic.
  • All university guidelines must be adhered to, including completion of an interaction log when performing university functions in the presence of other individuals.
  • All dive gear must be disinfected before and after each dive day.

If you have questions about diving, contact Dive Safety Officer by phone (361-825-3086) or via email at dive@tamucc.edu

1.25 Dive Operations Training Update 

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 we are cancelling or delaying in-person dive training courses through July, 2020. Online training courses will be offered as needed including emergency care training, dive program orientation sessions, and cylinder handling courses. Online course announcements will be e-mailed to all divers when scheduled. 

Resources:

Please use the revised dive plan below until further notice, click the link below to access and download:

TAMU-CC Dive Plan with COVID Guidelines

 Please use the revised dive log with the attached Interaction Log, click the link below to access and download:

TAMU-CC Dive Log with Interaction Log

Please see the attached press release from DAN which contains guidance for disinfecting dive gear: 

DAN Encourages Divers and Dive Operators to Disinfect Gear Properly 

See relevant links and updated information from the American Academy of Underwater Sciences: AAUS COVID-19 Resources

2. Sponsored Research Administration

2.1. Will the Office of Sponsored Research Administration (OSRA) and Sponsored Research Services (SRS) be available for proposal submissions and research administration business?

Yes, OSRA and SRS will be available to provide services and will be working remotely. Expect OSRA to be able to submit proposals, negotiate and accept awards, and issue subcontracts/subawards. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published a memo providing “Administrative Relief for Recipients and Applicants of Federal Financial Assistance Directly Impacted by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/M-20-11.pdf.

2.2. Where can I find agency specific guidance?

National Institutes of Health (NIH):

 National Science Foundation (NSF)

Council on Government Relations (COGR)

2.3. Allowability of costs during this time:

2.3.a. Are travel costs, which have been cancelled due to COVID-19, allowable on a sponsored project?

Currently, the A&M System has halted all University travel outside the United States through May 1, 2020. Domestic travel is restricted to mission-critical trips. Additional decisions about travel beyond May 1st, may be forthcoming. Federal regulations explicitly direct us to follow our institutional policies, and because TAMU-CC is expected to have consistent treatment across all fund sources, it is likely that sponsors will allow reasonable cancellation costs as direct charges to grants and contracts in this set of circumstances. OSRA will refer to the Agency specific guidelines when determining the allowability of these charges on a Sponsored project. 

OSRA recommends the following guidelines for travel disrupted by COVID-19:

        1. Travel costs associated with cancellations may be charged to grants (if not specifically disallowed by the sponsor) along with any refunds received from vendors for the cancellations. To be allowable, it is assumed that the traveler has requested and been denied a refund, and that documentation of such a request is retained in the department. PIs should keep track of such transactions to allow for corrections in the event that funding agencies issue guidance that is in contradiction to this practice.
        2. Travel costs from vendors that do not provide refunds but offer options such as airline vouchers, hotel credits, or other promises of future service may not be charged to any grant. The associated costs must post to a discretionary account and may only be transferred to a sponsored account once the future benefit has been explicitly rebooked for use on the related project. 

2.3.b. Is the effort of project personnel working remotely during self-isolation allowed to be charged to a grant?

In general, yes, provided the project personnel remain engaged on the project.  Current sponsor prior approval requirements regarding disengagement and effort reductions remain in effect.  This requires supervisor and PI approval to ensure allowability and programmatic support of science. 

2.3.c. I am now telecommuting instead of working on campus. Can I make purchases to outfit my home workstation?

For sponsored projects, outfitting a home workstation is generally an unallowable cost. The classification of direct cost versus indirect cost remains the same. Direct costs are clearly identified with a project’s activities and objectives. Indirect costs are not directly related to a specific sponsored project and are incurred for common or joint objectives. Indirect costs typically include office supplies or furniture and should be charged to non-sponsored funding. 

2.3.d. Will my grant have to pay for project-related costs incurred during a reduction in operations if we aren’t able to work on the project (e.g., idle staff)?          

In general, the answer is “Yes,” your grant will likely be required to cover the costs incurred during a reduction in operations -- provided TAMUCC would likewise require a non-sponsored fund to pay for the same cost in similar circumstances. Put the other way around, if the university would not allow a certain cost to be incurred on a non-sponsored fund during a reduction in operations, the university will not allow the same cost to be charged to a sponsored project. This practice adheres to the federal government’s Uniform Guidance (2 CFR §200.403) requirement that costs be incurred “consistent with policies and procedures that apply uniformly to both federally financed and other activities of the non-Federal entity, as well as the memo sent out by the OMB, OMB-M-20-17, which can be found here.” 

While TAMUCC does not have a policy in place to allow for "Idle Pay," our University does have several options for leave available when working remotely is not possible. Please review the FAQs available on HR's website for details -- http://hr.tamucc.edu/coronavirus/time_off_faq.html

2.3.e. What should I do if I have concerns about my project's budget absorbing unexpected COVID-19 related costs? 

In general, for salary costs, PIs should consider whether activities can continue remotely, such as moving data collection to telephone or web-based means and should also consider if idle staff (non-key personnel) on one project may be able to contribute to another project during this time. In those cases, sponsored projects can continue to be charged according to the contributed effort. 

If neither of those options are available, the PI could request for the idle staff member to become an essential worker and be allowed on campus, consider a possible change in scope of work, or request supplemental funding (when available).

Contact your OSRA point of contact for additional guidance.

2.4. What should I do if I anticipate significant delays or disruptions to my project?

If a PI foresees a delay with their project, they should include such information in their progress/annual report and discuss the issue with their OSRA contact and the program officer for the specific award. At this time, it is unknown how federal sponsors will address the issue of no-cost extensions. PIs should discuss the anticipated need ahead of time with the program officer of their award and document the impact of COVID-19 on their projects for possible future no-cost extension requests. 

3. Research Development and Commercialization

3.1 During the COVID-19 pandemic, can I still receive assistance in finding external funding or working to develop a competitive proposal for research funding from The Office of Research Development and Commercialization?

Yes, Research Development and Commercialization services are still available. Please email to initiate the conversation. If screen sharing is needed, WebEx or Skype can be used. Contact us at researchdevelopment@tamucc.edu.

3.2 During the COVID-19 pandemic, can I still submit new invention disclosures?

Yes, Research Development and Commercialization services are still available. Please email to initiate the conversation. If screen sharing is needed, WebEx or Skype can be used. Please send all inquiries to sharmeen.ahmed@tamucc.edu

3.3 During the COVID-19 pandemic, how do I get assistance with existing intellectual property cases?

Please continue communication with your existing contacts via email. If screen sharing is needed, WebEx or Skype can be used.

3.4 During the COVID-19 pandemic, how do I get assistance with sponsored research data request?

Please contact Sharmeen Ahmed at sharmeen.ahmed@tamucc.edu for data inquiry.

4. Other

If you have any other research related questions, please send them to:

Research Compliance: Research.Compliance@tamucc.edu

Sponsored Research Administration: Research.Office@tamucc.edu

Research Development and Commercialization: ResearchDevelopment@tamucc.edu

All other questions: Research.Innovation@tamucc.edu


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