The Office of Research & Sponsored Programs is still operating and regularly working with researchers and principle investigators during the COVID-19 pandemic. The following FAQ is updated on a regular basis to keep the UNF community informed of changing procedures, processes, and rules relating to the practice of research and sponsored programs at the University.
Yes, we will continue all operations as normal. However, because most staff are working remotely, communication should be initiated via email, and phone calls or video conferencing arranged as appropriate and needed.
Typically, federal agencies are flexible about deadlines under difficult circumstances beyond our control such as natural disasters or pandemic events, and many programs have pushed deadline dates out weeks or months. However, if federal agencies are officially closed, proposals will most likely remain in a queue, pending resumption of agency operations. To date, fortunately, this has not happened, and UNF continues to submit proposals and receive awards.
Technically, the campus remains open, but as outlined in a May 18th memo, "remote work will continue for UNF faculty and staff until further notice, and only essential personnel are allowed to come to campus." However, on June 15th, UNF announced "Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities Reopening Guidelines" that identify a series of stages through which RSCA can resume with approval secured via a "RSCA Reopening Approval Form." If you want information on what is allowed at this time, and how to secure approval, please contact AVPR John Kantner at email@example.com.
While domestic and international travel is prohibited, as per the guidelines provided on the Coronavirus Updates website, local travel may be requested via a Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities Approval Form, as described in the "Access to Research Spaces" FAQ above.
For current contracts or grants that require overnight stays and/or air travel, PIs should plan for postponing or canceling the budgeted travel. It may be necessary to reach out to program officers to request no-cost extensions or budget adjustments to ensure that the sponsored project can be carried out.
Note that the Institute of Oceanography (FIO) has postponed student and scientific activities. More information is available in the FIO Operational Guidelines During the Coronavirus Alert document. Also, many public lands are restricting both public and research-related access. Please contact them in advance if planning field work.
Yes, ORSP Research Integrity staff are still processing research protocols, and the IRB is still meeting according to its regular schedule via tele- and video-conferencing. Of course, protocols will be reviewed with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind. Face-to-face interviews and obviously group observation protocols should be reconsidered and conducted via telephone or virtually if possible.
CITI training can still be accessed at https://about.citiprogram.org/en/homepage/. Should you have any trouble establishing a CITI account or affiliating with UNF, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Researchers are expected to continue to follow their IRB-approved protocols. Researchers will need to use their own judgement to determine if their research activities involving face-to-face interactions should be placed on hold as a result of COVID-19. Placing a research project on hold will not be considered as a protocol deviation.
Researchers should carefully review their protocols to determine if any modifications will be necessary (e.g., alternative locations/methods for consenting subjects, collecting data, storing data). Face-to-face interviews and obviously group observation protocols should be reconsidered and/or postponed, or conducted via telephone or virtually if possible. If modification is needed to an ongoing IRB-approved research study, then the researcher must submit an amendment to the IRB and receive IRB approval before implementing the proposed modifications.
The only exception to the above requirement is if the change is designed to eliminate an apparent immediate hazard to subjects (as per 45 CFR 46.103(b)(4)). If the researchers modify the research in order to eliminate apparent immediate hazards to subjects without prior IRB approval, then they must report this change to the IRB via an amendment within 5 business days of making the change.