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Oklahoma State University
OSU Research

Office of the Vice President for Research

Research Continuity Guidance for OSU Researchers, Laboratories and Facilities

Please Note: This is a landing page for research specific guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic. For general university guidance, please click here.


OSU officials continue to monitor worldwide coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and COVID-19 disease related developments. Important information and updates for the entire OSU community are provided through the OSU COVID-19 page. Find useful FAQ's here.
The intent of this communication is to provide guidance to researchers for operations affected by COVID-19, especially as students and visitors return to campus. Safety is a priority as on-campus operations ramp up over the next few months. Those wishing to learn more about returning to campus safely should complete the online course:

COVID-19: Back to Campus (Fall 2020)

 

Impact on Central Research Services:

Animal Care:

  • The centralized animal care program (Animal Resources) has a disaster preparedness plan that includes pandemic preparations to ensure that their essential animal husbandry services are effectively maintained.
    • P.I.-managed facilities (e.g. ranches and departmental farms) and non-centralized facilities (e.g. Life Sciences West) care will continue to be the responsibility of the research team; see recommended actions below. As needed, researcher should consult their disaster plan and proceed accordingly. Animals should still be evaluated daily, have access to food and water, and receive veterinary care when necessary. 
    • Any questions about the facility specific disaster plan for animals should be directed to the IACUC office at 4-3592 or at iacuc@okstate.edu

Research Compliance (including Animal Care, Biosafety, Human Subjects Research, Radiation Safety, and Laser Safety):

  • Human Subjects Research - In light of COVID-19 health concerns, researchers should modify research protocols to increase social distance and protect participant health. See FAQs at https://research.okstate.edu/compliance/irb/irb-covid-19.html  Federal regulation and OSU policy allow immediate protocol changes to eliminate hazards to human subjects (see SOP RR405). For studies approved at the Expedited or Full Board level, a modification should be submitted to the IRB in a timely manner after implementation. Exempt studies do not require a modification submission for protocol changes that reduce risks to subjects.
  • Radiation Safety – Notify the Radiation Safety Officer at 405-744-7890 or at radsafe@okstate.edu if monthly lab swipes will be missed due to self-imposed quarantines or other COVID-19 related issues.
  • Protocol review and services will continue normal operations via the use of electronic compliance systems such as IRBManager. Compliance staff will be available by phone and email, even if working remotely. Routine inspections of laboratories and equipment may be delayed. As needed, Compliance Committee meetings will take place via synchronous systems such as video conference and conference call.
  • The directory for University Research Compliance personnel is available at: https://research.okstate.edu/compliance/urc-staff-contacts.html

Research Computing:

  • Computing resources (including Pete, Cowboy and Tiger) at High-Performance Computing Center (HPCC) will continue to be available.
    • Facilities are dependent on power and other IT services remaining operational.
    • Staff will continue to provide user support through email, phone and video-conferencing.

Facilities, Materials and Supplies:

  • Core facilities and other fee-for-service resources will remain functional as long as possible; however, depending upon level of impact, these units may not be fully functional.
  • Support from Facilities Management and contract service providers may be delayed.  
  • Ordering and receipt of critical supplies may be delayed.

University Research Services:

  • University Research Services remains open and staffed and will continue to route proposals, awards and other sponsored research documents through the system. 
  • We encourage the expanded use of Adobe Sign for any sponsored projects documents that do not require wet signatures.
  • As of Tuesday, March 10th there was no federal guidance on reimbursements. NSF has released an updated FAQ that said the federal agencies are still working on allowability of costs associated with COVID-19 disruptions. For non-Federal grants, we will need to approach each sponsor on a case-by-case basis unless they issue broader guidance.
  • GCFA is reviewing questions, and awaiting sponsor guidance, relating to the allowability of costs associated with any disruptions to sponsored projects stemming from the COVID-19.
  • We will continue to forward agency information to the college sponsored projects offices as it becomes available.

Visiting Research Collaborators:

Please consult this site immediately prior to hosting any research collaborators on campus to ensure you are aware of updated guidance. Until July 7, 2020, the following guidance is in force, unless and until this site is updated with new guidance.


To host a visiting scientist, the following conditions must satisfied:

  1. None of the visitors are foreign nationals, or traveling to OSU from a foreign country.
    1. If this condition is NOT satisfied, contact the VPR office as per below for individual consultation and consideration.
  2. Rescheduling/postponing the visit would have negative consequences to the research (beyond simply pushing the clock back a bit).
  3. The visit will not include any large group events (beyond the specific research collaborators).
  4. You (the host) are comfortable with the visit.
  5. All visitors are complying with any travel restrictions in place at their home institution/agency.
  6. No OSU students are “required” to interact with a visitor (although student collaborators may do so if they are comfortable).

If there are further questions or additional discussion is needed, contact Dr. Ron Van Den Bussche at ron.van_den_bussche@okstate.edu.

Graduate Research Assistants:

If you supervise one or more Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs) who are paid stipends either through an external grant or an internal source, it is important to balance their involvement in your research program with their status and responsibilities as OSU graduate students under these unusual circumstances.  In general, the following principles should be applied:

  • GRAs who are comfortable returning to an on-campus laboratory for normal research operation may be allowed to do so, provided they follow the current OSU guidelines for facility access, social distancing, and hygiene.
  • GRAs who either (a) cannot return to the on-campus laboratory because they are residing elsewhere in adherence with OSU guidance, or (b) do not feel safe to return to the on-campus laboratory during the crisis, cannot be compelled to do so.
  •  For GRAs who cannot be physically present at the on-campus laboratory, remote work to sustain the research effort should be explored and implemented where feasible.
  • GRAs should continue to receive their monthly salary through the end of their appointment period regardless of work status.  If a particular funding source creates a complication, please speak with your ADR and/or the VPR Office.

For questions or additional guidance, consult the Graduate College COVID-19 FAQs and/or e-mail one of the following:

Recommended Actions for Mitigating the Impact on Your Research:

  • Principal Investigators and research leads should develop a plan in case a significant percentage of your workforce is out sick or unable to come to work. For example, consider altering work schedules to meet the demands of the laboratory while limiting close contact with others.
  • Students, post-docs, staff and faculty involved in research projects should consider how to gain remote access to information such as literature, existing databases and research-related files and work remotely. 
  • Consider using remote work technologies such as VPN (for work at home) and video and teleconferencing as an alternative for in-person meetings (prepare multiple options for communication).  
  • Depending upon the nature of your research, you might consider prioritizing work that can only be carried out in your research facility, and collect all data and analyze remotely later.
  • Consider rescheduling experiments or activities that would be ruined or invalidated if interrupted. Staff absences, limitations of supplies, external support services, and other factors may be unpredictable and outside researchers’ direct control during these disruptions.
  • If you are carrying out a long-term experiment and it is feasible to freeze or otherwise capture samples at specific steps, you might consider doing this more often and analyze them later.
  • Identify procedures and processes that require ongoing personnel attention (e.g., cell culture, animal studies) and develop plans to protect against possible disruption.
  • If your research plans require modifications to an IRB, IACUC or IBC approved protocol, immediately contact the appropriate committee office to get the review process started for the required modifications.
  • If a communication plan for your research group is not already in place, ensure that you have accurate and updated contact information for all members so everyone receives timely information.
  • Research groups should review the building systems and equipment monitoring alerts on file with Systems Control at Facilities Management for their research space, making sure that all critical spaces and monitored equipment have correct protocols listed, verifying that appropriate staff contacts are listed for alert if systems should go into alarm, and verifying that names and contact information are correct. Plan for monitoring redundancy and continuity as needed.
  • Consider cross-training research staff or colleagues who conduct similar activities to fill in for those who may be out sick or unable to come to work.
    • Ensure that fill-in personnel have the appropriate training and tools needed to safely and competently execute assigned duties.
    • Consider documenting critical step-by-step instructions for fill-in personnel.
  • Maintain a sufficient inventory of critical supplies that may be impacted by global shipping delays.

Safety considerations:

  • Identify personnel able to safely perform essential activities and ensure that individuals performing critical tasks have been adequately trained, and understand emergency procedures.
  • Ensure all personnel know whom to contact with technical or safety questions.
  • Avoid performing high-risk procedures alone due to lack of personnel.
    • When working alone is necessary, exercise maximum caution.
    • Notify colleagues of your schedule when working alone for an extended period of time.
  • Ensure that hazardous materials (radioactive, biohazards, chemicals) are secured.

Preventive measures:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer may be temporarily unavailable due to supply chain demands.
  • Remind team members to stay home if they are experiencing symptoms including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. Decontamination of your workspace may be appropriate if an active member of your team is exposed, develops symptoms, or is diagnosed with COVID-19. If you are experiencing symptoms, follow OSU guidance for contacting appropriate medical professionals.
  • Routine environmental cleaning is recommended at this time. Laboratories and other groups should regularly disinfect commonly touched areas (e.g., doorknobs, sink handles, freezer doors, fume hood sashes, telephones) with effective disinfectants.

For Those Ramping Up Their Research:

It is imperative that as we return to normal research activities, we protect the health and safety of our researchers and students while increasing our research activity in a fashion in accordance with university and governmental guidance.  As Colleges and Departments are planning their return to “normal” activities, the specifics will vary greatly with the type of research/scholarship/creative activities and the nature of facilities for research/scholarship/creative activities but it seems that there are some common guiding principles that every effort should be made to attempt to follow:

  • Follow university, local, state, and national directives regarding shelter-in-place and social distancing.
  • Protect the physical and emotional health and safety of faculty, staff, and students.
  • Prioritize maintenance, functionality, and security of infrastructure, such as shared equipment.
  • Remember that undergraduates are students first and researchers second.

General Considerations: Applicable to all Research, Scholarship, Creative Activities: 

  • Work that can be conducted remotely should continue to be conducted remotely until normal university operations resume
  • Persons who are sick or have any reason to believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 or any infectious disease, should not come to work.
  • Consider posting a sign in/sign out process so it is clear who has been in shared spaces at what time. In the event that a member of the research community tests positive for COVID-19, this will allow the university to identify those who may have been exposed.
    • Sign-in logs should be retained by the PI/facility for at least 21 days so that they can be shared with the university and Public Health Authorities, if necessary.
  • Follow CDC guidelines for appropriate density restrictions, social distancing, protecting yourself and others through frequent hand washing, etc.
  • Regularly disinfect your work area. Approved disinfectants include:          
    • 95% ethanol with a 1 minute contact time (*a flammable liquid)
    • 70% isopropanol with a 1 minute contact time (*a flammable liquid)
    • 2 – 10% bleach solution with a 1 minute contact time (*an eye and skin corrosive).

Download Research Ramp Up Planning document.

Federal Agency Quick Links:

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

National Science Foundation (NSF)

Department of Energy (DOE)

Department of Justice

US Department of Agriculture

Contacts for Questions or Concerns: