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


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

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.

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.

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.

Students


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.

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.

Until August 10th, undergraduate participation is discouraged in laboratory and field research restart, as NC State is currently focusing on ramping up and stabilizing graduate, faculty and postdoc work. Undergraduate students are encouraged to continue doing research work remotely. Currently and continuing after August 10th, undergraduate participation may be allowed only through a special research exception request.  

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

Personnel and Financial

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.   

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.

Safety

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. 

The university will not be conducting campus-wide testing, nor will we be conducting routine temperature checks. NC State will test students presenting ill in Student Health Services and students and staff followed in the contact tracing program. The university is evaluating the possibility of testing surveillance populations. For more information, see the testing and contract tracing section of the university Protecting the Pack FAQ page.

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.

Travel

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.

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

Full list of questions from the 7/21 Event