Reseach and Innovation - COVID-19 FAQ

Updated on March 25, 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

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:

  • Identify 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 Dive Operations Training Update 

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 we are cancelling or delaying dive training courses through May 2020. Open water and pool proficiency dives will be cancelled until the beginning of June 2020 and the Underwater Navigator and Advanced Open Water courses will be delayed until this summer.

A full revised schedule in the weeks to come.

Date

Course

Setting

Location

Time

March 19th

Lecture: Scientific Method/Data Gathering Techniques

Classroom

DELAYED                  

TBD

March 31st

Open Water proficiency dive

Open Water

CANCELLED

NA

May 6th

Underwater Navigator: knowledge review

Classroom

DELAYED

TBD

May 8th

Underwater Navigator: open water skills

Open Water

DELAYED

TBD

May 12th

Underwater Navigator: open water skills alternate date

Open Water

DELAYED

TBD

May 13th

Pool proficiency dive

Pool

CANCELLED

NA

May 15th

Advanced open water: knowledge review

Classroom

DELAYED

TBD

May 19th

Advanced open water: shallow water dives

Open Water

DELAYED

TBD

May 21st

Advanced open water: alternate date

Open Water

DELAYED

TBD

May 27th

Advanced open water: deep water dives (Lake Travis)

Open Water

DELAYED

TBD

May 29th

Open water proficiency dive

Open Water

CANCELLED

NA

 

1.25 Is the TAMU-CC Dive Operations operating as usual? 

TAMU-CC Dive Operations is fully functional.  The dive@tamucc.edu email will continue to be monitored with the same or greater frequency as typically provided. 

1.26 What about dive control board meetings? 

TAMU-CC Dive Control Board meetings will continue to meet via WebEx as scheduled. 

1.27 Can I still dive on an active dive plan?

Due to updated travel restrictions and local shelter in place orders, current dive plans should be paused.

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

Resources:

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

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. OSRA staff will be available to provide services. They are able to work 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 Will federal sponsors be accepting late proposal submissions?

Federal agencies and other national organizations have shared guidance on mitigating the impacts to research. Sponsor-specific guidance: 

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

 National Science Foundation (NSF)

 Council on Government Relations (COGR)

 2.3 What about guidance regarding travel and expenses related to COVID-19?

As of March 17, 2020, only NIH has provided a notice (NOT-OD-20-083) with significant details (question 4). 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. has a restriction on all travel. 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. In order 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. Currently there is no federal guidance relating to charges to awards for travel, conferences and related expenses due to the COVID-19. OSRA expects that guidance will be available in the near future. 

2.4 Will federal agencies consider no-cost extensions if they are needed to finish a project disrupted by COVID-19?

If a PI foresees a delay with their project, they should include such information in the progress/annual report and discuss the need ahead of time with 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 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