Research Continuity FAQs
These FAQs were generated as a result of the Research and Innovation Research Continuity Forum on July 21. This page will be updated as information changes. Last updated August 6, 2020.
On-Campus Work and Timeline
Why are research space guidelines so much more restrictive than other spaces on campus like classrooms?
The primary differentiators between class spaces and research spaces are the amount of time in space, and the mobility necessary to conduct work. Lab spaces are limited to no more than ten people total at any time, and a minimum of 200 square feet per space occupant is required. NC State Guidelines for Space and Occupancy
What is the research office doing to monitor the changing conditions around the virus and what would potentially trigger on-campus research to be shut down again?
The Office of Research team is working with college research leadership continually to help develop plans.
We continuously monitor the state and compliance (PPE, etc) in research spaces. Campus metrics, including the number of any infections, conformance with university, system and state policies, will determine whether or not there will be additional impacts. We will continue to monitor research-related facilities to determine if we need to have isolated reduction or shutdowns or an overall scale-back.
Larger campus decisions will be made by executive leadership and the UNC system office. We believe it is unlikely that any return to a reduced operation phase will be as abrupt and as expansive as originally mandated in March 2020. However, if there are outbreaks individual labs (and more) may need to be closed. Faculty should have developed lab-specific emergency shut-down procedures.
What changes will be made to the research restart process once on-campus teaching begins?
As NC State increases activities on-campus, our top priority is the safety of our students, faculty and staff. We anticipate research lab and workspace guidelines and processes will be in place for the remainder of 2020.
When can we anticipate some level of easing on increased IRB restrictions and what might that look like?
IRB continues to recommend conducting as much human subject research as possible remotely. Please see the IRB COVID-19 document for further details. Be aware that this document is continually being revised, so be sure to check for updates regularly. The latest update was July 17, 2020.
Will graduate students whose dissertation progress was hindered be eligible for an additional year of funding through GSSP?
Students whose research was delayed by COVID will be eligible for additional GSSP benefits. There is an established exception process that can be accessed by the program’s Director of Graduate Programs. This supplies the tuition and health insurance benefit, although there is still the need for a stipend to be eligible.
Will post-docs who were planning to move to full-time work but may have lost that opportunity be allowed to continue as postdocs longer than usual?
These relationships depend on the funding source and the availability of funds to allow an extension, so there is no singular answer. In general, given the research delays that have resulted from COVID-19, we will be more flexible with the five-year limits that are currently placed on postdocs. There is an extension process in place and it requires a mentoring plan. Contact Chris Smith, NC State’s postdoc program manager, for more details.
Is there a plan to allow undergraduate researchers (for pay or credit) back in research labs?
The Office of Research and Innovation continues to encourage undergraduate students to complete research work remotely even after August 10th. Beginning August 10, 2020 research restart submissions which involve undergraduate students may be sent through the Research Restart Phase III Process and no longer require a special research exception.
All undergraduates will have to follow all occupancy, PPE, and cleaning restrictions in place for research spaces. You can find a document with additional guidelines here.
Will the university allow undergraduate researchers (for pay or credit) in research labs now that courses are online only?
Undergraduates are still allowed to participate in research restart projects at this time. We are continuing to follow the guidance from August 6, 2020. We will continue to closely monitor the situation.
Personnel and Financial
What guidance has the university received from federal funding agencies regarding no-cost extensions for work that has been specifically been delayed by COVID? Will there be expedited processes for this?
OMB initially authorized Federal agencies to grant one-year no-cost extensions for awards ending on or before December 31, 2020. While that explicit guidance has expired, federal agencies remain understanding and responsive to COVID-19-related extension requests.
Agencies generally use existing mechanisms (sponsor web portals, letters) to receive these requests from grantees. For example:
- NSF request through Research.gov
- Department of Energy letter from sponsored programs office
A No-Cost Extension PMR remains the appropriate way to request an extension. SPARCS will use the appropriate mechanism for your sponsor. Please see NC State’s COVID-19 Research Continuity page, and particularly the link to COGR’s compiled resource page, for agency-specific guidance.
Is there an estimated date when research administrators are expected to return to campus?
We understand that positions will continue in many cases to work either remotely or in a hybrid environment. These decisions are made by individual units and are based on the needs of the research being conducted.
How do you plan to enforce research space safety guidelines?
The monitoring and implementation of research activities is distributed. Some of the oversight is done by a team from our office several times per week, some by the Associate Deans for Research who meet weekly as Organized Research Task Force, and some of the in situ oversight has been delegated to department heads and unit directors.
ADRs are working closely with Department Heads to manage this restart process. Individual researchers have several options as well — through NC State Ombuds, through their departmental and college reporting chain, and also there is an ethics hotline that can be used to report concerns. Since March, there have been only minor concerns about policy violations. The NC State research community has been exceptionally supportive. We expect the community to let us know if there are issues so they can be corrected quickly.
What is the university’s process for testing and tracking Covid-19 on campus?
NC State tracks positive cases through on-campus testing and surveillance programs, self-reported data, as well as other information reported to the university by Wake County and state health officials. For more information, see the testing and tracking page of the university’s Protecting the Pack site.
Will the university be providing cleaning supplies to wipe down shared lab workstations?
Labs and departments will need to provide these resources on an individual basis. Facilities will not clean computer equipment as part of their cleaning processes. Labs and Departments should make plans to clean computer components like keyboards and mice in common use locations (computer labs, computer kiosks, touch screens on common equipment like scanners/copiers). Individuals are responsible for cleaning their own workstations.
What is the process for travel for research?
The process takes time, so plan ahead. Travel exception requests should be submitted at least two weeks prior to the travel departure date and no sooner than two months in advance. First, you need to have an approved research restart project. You need research approved before you can apply for a travel exception. You need an approved travel exception before you can file a regular Travel Authorization.
If the project requires travel outside of the state, you request an exception through the university travel exception process. Travel exceptions are not required for in-state mileage-only travel or in-state travel with no overnight stay. (talk about that process)
If the exception is approved, you file a normal travel authorization in MyPack Portal that goes through usual approvals.
You can find guidance regarding travel restrictions and exception requests in the 3D memo Travel Exception Process and Required Approvals during COVID-19 Impacted Operations, which includes a link to the Travel Exception Form.
Will there be any restrictions on the number of people who can travel together in one car to collect field data?
While there will continue to be restrictions around the number of people allowed in a vehicle, there is an exception process. Use the following form to request exceptions: PPE and Safety Requirements Special Circumstances Request Form