FAQ: COVID-19 Research Guidelines and Regulations

As the COVID -19 situation continues to evolve, the School of Graduate Studies and Research and the Research Institute will continue to monitor the impacts relevant to IUP research and researchers. Of highest priority is the health and safety of our faculty, staff, and students.

These FAQ are intended to provide updated, helpful guidelines to help researchers navigate updated procedures, regulations, and restrictions. For the most up-to-date information on the university's response to the COVID-19 situation, please continue to access the IUP Coronavirus Information website.

Please note that the Research Institute, the School of Graduate Studies and Research, and the Grant and Special Funds Accounting are teleworking and should be contacted via email.

Research Continuity

Can I continue my research?

IUP's campuses are open and research in campus facilities is generally permissible, provided compliance with university policy and IRB/IACUC guidelines. PIs on off-campus research projects to collect data using surveys, observations, interviews, focus groups, and other data collection methods, including research outsourced to non-IUP staff, must consult with their research site and IUP's cognizant compliance committees.

Projects may be able to move to telephone or online formats. Any changes to projects involving human research subjects must be approved by the IRB. Visit the IRB website for guidance. Any changes to animal (vertebrate) protocols must be approved by the IACUC. Email iacuc-info@iup.edu for more information.

HR guidelines have been issued regarding students as well as part-time and full-time staff. Please refer to the guidance from IUP Human Resources, which must be followed in all circumstances.

Are students allowed (but not required) to continue to work in faculty labs?

Yes, students may work in campus labs. Research, including student research, can also continue via telework, provided this is approved by the project supervisor.

Travel

Now that all travel has been canceled, what should PIs do about travel arrangements?

We are following Governor Wolf's guidelines on travel, which is to suspend university-sponsored travel (with exceptions to be approved by the president) in order to minimize the opportunity for transmission of the virus.

Requests to approve essential travel, including previously approved trips, will be considered on a case-by-case basis. For spring and summer 2021 faculty travel, please submit the Faculty Travel Petition for Mission Critical Activities form.

The purchasing departments have been provided with emergency procurement guidance and instructions for contract cancellations. Please contact our procurement staff for assistance on those matters.

Please refer to the IUP Travel Services website for the most up-to-date information.

I have a proposal where I plan to include travel. Can I still include this in the proposal?

We recommend not to plan or promise a sponsor that faculty/staff can travel within the next three to four months. If awarded and travel remains restricted, we will take the necessary precautions. If the award is pending and travel is planned within the near future (three to four months), the PI should consult the college dean and SGSR dean.

Can I book future travel and accommodation?

We recommend that faculty do not confirm or purchase transportation in the next three months. For travel beyond three months, faculty are asked to only book travels that are refundable, changeable, and reasonably priced.

If booking, faculty are asked to only book travel that is refundable and changeable. Review the current Travel Office guidelines, and note the guidance to purchase "Cancel for Any Reason" travel insurance for all travel at this time.

Communications with awarding agencies/sponsors should be coordinated with the IUP Research Institute and the School of Graduate Studies and Research.

How do I handle any financial impact CVOID-19 may have on my sponsored research award? Do I need to document the financial impact?

As process may vary by sponsor or award type, all PIs should reach out to the RI post award staff who will coordinate with RI Fiscal and/or Grants Accounting to determine what costs are allowable or unallowable on the grant (i.e., travel change fees, conference cancellations, labor, consulting fees, etc.), what costs will be covered elsewhere, and what steps need to be taken to maximize grant funding. IUP budget/expense questions should be directed to Grants Accounting.

If the above referenced changes result in the need for contractual modifications (i.e., no cost extension, request for additional funding, re-budgeting of grant expenses, etc.) on your grant, the RI post-award team will work with you and SGSR on these requests/changes. Most sponsors are allowing flexibility (e.g., see recent OMB guidance), so please continue to contact the RI staff as you find areas where you need to make adjustments in your project. We will assist in making requests to the funding agencies on your behalf.

Develop and retain documentation relating to the cancellation or other costs charged to a grant in accordance with record retention requirements. Develop and retain documentation relating to research delays caused by COVID-19.
Please refer the the IUP Human Resources website for hiring/payroll questions.

I have an upcoming proposal that I'm looking to submit. How will I submit if staff are teleworking?

The staff of the IUP Research Institute and the School of Graduate Studies and Research are working remotely and are available by email or cell phone. If you do not know which team member to contact, please contact Tracy Eisenhower at tracye@iup.edu.

You should still begin your new proposal in Kuali, and the system will automatically generate an email alert to the pre-award specialists. The web-based review and approval systems remain operational, and our five-working-day rule still applies. To allow for unforeseen delays or challenges, we strongly recommend contacting your pre-award specialist as soon as you identify a grant opportunity. Your pre-award specialist will help you determine an appropriate timeline based on specifics of your Request for Proposal and agency guidelines.

Have proposal submission deadlines been changed?

Please check the sponsor's website frequently if you are planning on submitting a proposal for sponsor proposal deadlines. Internal deadlines for proposal development, review, and submission have not changed.

Should I cancel or postpone a major event that I'm coordinating?

If your event was planned as a face-to-face event but can be conducted online, confirm with the event sponsor that an online option is desired before proceeding with the transition. If the event is not sponsored by an external entity, please conduct the event via a virtual format.

Active Grant Awards/Activities

Do the restrictions apply to externally funded projects?

Yes, if you are a PI, Co-PI, or IUP employee working on a grant or any research activities, the COVID-19 restrictions and requirements may impact your research activity. You must comply with any state or federal restrictions, including stay-at-home orders (if any are in effect).

I'm concerned about my project; how should I approach my funding agency?

We understand that this will likely cause delays and challenges in completing research projects, and we are here to assist you in identifying solutions and/or communicating with your funding agency. If you encounter challenges, please reach out to Ute Lowery (ulowery@iup.edu) or Janis Nichols (jnichols@iup.edu) for assistance. We will also so document this in the project file.

What if my project is an essential activity or warrants an exception?

If your grant-funded research has officially been deemed an essential activity/work to provide life-sustaining business and government services in Pennsylvania, please submit documentation to your dean so that a request for an exception may be considered (though not guaranteed). Please include Hilliary Creely, Tracy Eisenhower, Ute Lowery, and Janis Nichols in this communication so we can document any exception granted and assist you with your project accordingly. Please also be sure to complete the petition for mission critical activities form.

I have a sub-awardee, Professional Service Agreement, or other partnership that is vital to my project. Should I provide them with any information?

Please work with the RI Post-Award team, and keep in contact with the sub-recipients on your projects and keep them apprised of any changes that you are anticipating in your research. Please keep in mind that IUP/IUPRI policies and procedures, as well as the Prime Sponsors COVID-19 guidance, flow down to the subawards. The IUP Research Institute, in conjunction with the School of Graduate Studies and Research, can provide a letter that can be sent to your partners should you want to provide them with information about our status.

How are funding sponsors responding to the pandemic?

PIs and research administration staff should feel assured that sponsors of our research have been responsive to the changing conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, NSF, NIH, and NEH continue to update their communications and guidance for researchers that allow for flexibility in award management functions and continue to accept applications to programs. PIs should work with the pre-award team at the Research Institute to proactively consider specific changes to their projects.

IRB and IACUC Guidelines

My project was approved by the IRB, or I am applying for IRB approval. What do I need to think about?

Any IRB-approved studies that are currently recruiting and/or interacting with subjects in a face-to-face mode (e.g., face-to-face interviews; subjects being asked to come to a lab/room on campus) are paused until further notice.

Approved studies that are currently recruiting or engaging participants in a non-face-to-face mode (e.g., Qualtrics survey, Skype/Zoom/phone interviews) and can be done from home are allowed to continue at this time.

If your approved study includes face-to-face interaction, we encourage you to switch your mode of interaction to a non-face-to-face option. You must submit a change request for IRB review via IRBManager. Please note that this change may require updates to your informed consent and other recruitment materials, and these updated materials must be included in your change request.

Please see the IUP IRB website for more information.

The IRB Office is open (remotely) and continuing business as usual. All inquiries should be directed to irb-research@iup.edu. All site approvals/any other documents should be submitted via IRBManager and not mailed to SGSR.

My project was approved by IACUC, or I am applying for IACUC approval. What do I need to think about?

The IACUC will continue its normal function as much as is possible during this period of adjustment. The IACUC asks investigators to

  • remember that the switch to hybrid or online-only instruction does not release faculty from their other responsibilities, including supervision and maintenance of their research animals.

  • be especially mindful of the need to continue routine animal care and surveillance. Many of us rely upon students for animal care, and it is essential that investigators remain vigilant to ensure that all animal care is being completed according to schedule.

  • consider carefully the research activities they choose to undertake during this period of limited personnel availability and travel restrictions.

  • consult with external collaborators and/or research sites to ensure that coordination of external research remains possible.

  • don't hesitate to ask for help if neededfrom fellow investigators, the IACUC, the NSM Dean's Office, or the SGSR.

Student Research Events

Scholars Forum

In order to celebrate the hard work of our students and their research endeavors, the 2021 IUP Scholars Forum took place in an online format. This format allowed participants to upload their digital posters and presentations along with their project abstracts and share their research with the IUP community and beyond.

Additional information is available at the Scholars Forum website.

U-SOAR

The Undergraduate Summer Opportunity for Applying Research (U-SOAR) program will run this summer, and students may work online, on campus, or in the field. Students conducting non-virtual activities must obtain approval via the F2F Learning Experience Exemption Form.

The U-SOAR program continues to support undergraduate research and provide opportunities for students, including a monetary stipend, five virtual events for professional development during the summer, and a final poster session. Check out the U-SOAR website for more information.

Please review the following information, specific to graduate students who are working on their thesis/dissertation.

Are graduation deadlines changing?

No, the existing deadlines remain in effect.

We understand that unique circumstances may make it difficult for anticipated graduates to meet these deadlines, and we will handle requests for exceptions on a case-by-case basis. Such requests should be sent in consultation with your faculty thesis/dissertation advisor to the interim dean, School of Graduate Studies and Research (hcreely@iup.edu).

Can I continue my research and/or data collection?

Students in the data-collection phase of their research should follow the guidance of their faculty thesis/dissertation advisors and, where applicable, the Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects (IRB) or Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Your data collection must comply with all ethical research standards, in addition to IUP's COVID guidance.

Data collection may not include face-to-face contact with human research subjects at this time. Refer to the IRB website for more information. After consulting with your faculty advisor, email IRB-research@iup.edu (for human subjects projects) or iacuc-info@iup.edu (for animal research) with questions.

Can I defend my thesis/dissertation as scheduled?

We encourage you to continue with your original timeline, as much as possible. All defenses may be conducted via appropriate electronic distance communication platforms (Zoom, Skype, etc.).

How can I route my signature page?

Option 1

If you have already obtained ink signatures on your signature page, please scan (or high-resolution photograph) the completed page and email it to grad-research@iup.edu. The subject header should be "[NAME OF THE STUDENT] Signature Page." Please save the originals, but do not mail them.

Option 2

In lieu of paper signature pages with ink signatures, the following will be accepted:

  • Thesis/Dissertation chair will initiate an email to the entire thesis/dissertation committee using only official university email addresses (do not cc any SGSR personnel). In this email, the chair will state the following: "In lieu of ink signatures, this email is to document that we hereby approve the thesis/dissertation of [Student Name], candidate for the degree of [Doctor of/Master of PROGRAM]."

  • The chair will "sign" (please be sure signature line includes name, title, and departmentfor most faculty, this is their standard email signature line).

  • Each member of the committee will "reply all" to affirm their acceptance of the thesis/dissertation with their signature (simply your name, title, and departmentfor most faculty, this is their standard email signature line).

  • Once each member has replied in the affirmative to the email, the chair will forward the entire email approval string to grad-research@iup.edu as a single email message. The subject header should be the "[NAME OF THE STUDENT] Signature Page."

  • The signature page in the actual thesis/dissertation should be modified by the student to say "Signature on file" on the line above each committee members' name and rank, and also on the line above Dr. Randy Martin's name and title. The date that your committee approved your defense should appear on the corresponding date lines next to each of your committee members' signature lines. Leave the date line empty next to Dr. Hilliary Creely's signature line, because you will not know what date your thesis or dissertation will be approved by Dr. Creely.

How do I submit my publication agreement?

In lieu of paper publication agreements, students may download the agreement, sign it, scan/photograph it, and email the signed agreement to grad-research@iup.edu. The subject header should be “[NAME OF THE STUDENT] Publication Agreement.”