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Last updated March 26, 2020

Produced by the Office for the Vice-Provost of Research

How can I conserve my lab’s PPE stock?

While disposable PPE should not be reused, labs should evaluate whether activities can be planned so that the number of entries into a lab is reduced, thereby reducing the amount of disposable PPE that is needed.

Additionally, use reusable respirators. Disposable respirators, such as N95 respirator masks, may be in short supply. Before your supply runs out, consider purchasing PAPRs, which are battery-powered, reusable respirators.

Finally, secure your stocks of PPE. Make sure the PPE is in a locked cabinet or room that is accessible only to personnel who need it.

How can I ensure my lab has sufficient stock of PPE?

Keep track of your supplies and plan ahead. Do not wait until you are nearly out of PPE to re-order. If your order cannot be filled or if shipments are delayed, be prepared to stop working until PPE can be obtained.

Can I substitute face masks with respirators?

No. Remember that face masks are not respirators. You cannot substitute an N95 respirator mask with a face mask. If you need respiratory protection, you need a respirator.

What if my lab is running low on face masks?

Face shields may be an adequate substitute for a face mask in certain situations. Both provide protection from droplets, depending on the procedure. Please be sure to assess whether a face shield is adequate for a given procedure.

What else can I do to keep my lab personnel safe?

Remember that disinfection and hand hygiene are an important part of biosafety and infection control. Be sure that you have plenty of disinfectant, hand soap, and hand sanitizer (if used) in stock, since these supplies may become impacted.

Do I still have access to the support normally offered by the OVPR?

Yes. There is no change to the services provided by the OVPR, including but not limited to review and submission of proposals, negotiation and acceptance of awards, and non-fiscal post-award duties such as requesting prior agency approval for expenses on awards; proposal development and grantsmanship support; regulatory committee reviews; and invention disclosures and patent filings.

Are federal agencies providing extensions to grant application deadlines because of impact of COVID-19?

Per the existing guidance, extensions to grant application deadlines are only available if the university closes or is unable to submit proposals. As this is not currently the case, we must adhere to all grant application deadlines. There may be instances when an extension to a deadline may be available to an individual PI. Please discuss your individual circumstances with your Pre-Award point of contact in the OVPR or with the research administrator at your school/center.

Has there been any guidance from federal agencies regarding interruptions to research due to COVID-19?

Not all agencies posted guidance yet. Here is what is currently available: https://viceprovost.tufts.edu/covid-19-information/federal-guidance/.

The OVPR will notify the research community of additional guidance where available. Currently federal agencies advise to rely on institutional guidance.

I am interested in meeting with a member of OVPR staff. Is this possible?

OVPR staff will continue to meet with faculty, staff, students and postdocs either via WebEx or Zoom. Please feel free to reach out to schedule a virtual meeting.

I signed up for a Page One workshop or an NSF CAREER Prep workshop. Will these still take place?

The K-award focused Page One workshop will be rescheduled. The NSF CAREER Prep workshop focused on the education plan will likewise be rescheduled. In the meantime, the OVPR will work to provide interested researchers with resources related to best practices in education plans for the CAREER award, and staff will be available to answer questions and point to additional resources. Please contact researchdevelopment@tufts.edu for more information.

Will the deadline be extended for Tufts Springboard applications?

Yes. The deadline has been extended to April 30, 2020. Please send questions to springboard@tufts.edu

Will the deadline be extended for Tufts Initiative on Substance Use and Addiction applications?

Yes. The deadline has been extended to April 30, 2020. Please send questions to SubstanceUseInitiative@tufts.edu

Will the university refund cancellation fees for sponsored travel?

Non-refundable costs associated with grant-related travel, as well as non-refundable registration fees for conferences, symposiums or seminars that has been cancelled due to COVID-19 may be charged to the sponsored award if they would have otherwise been allowable. Please reach out to your research administrator who will coordinate with your school / center leadership and the OVPR.

Am I still able to submit a grant application via RAS?

Yes. RAS is available for grant application submissions.

Will my protocol or registration be reviewed?

Yes. Our regulatory committees will continue to meet (via an online format) and review protocols and registrations.

Are research-related events postponed?

Yes. In keeping with the university guidance on external visitors and the need for social distancing, all research-related events sponsored by the university, including those supported by the RSSP Priority Area Research & Scholarship Groups are postponed. This includes the Balance Between Nature and Nurture in Mental Health Disorders Symposium.

I need to complete a research training to meet a regulatory requirement. Is the OVPR providing its standard classroom-based trainings?

Most of the routine classroom-based trainings facilitated by the OVPR for educational or regulatory purposes have been moved to an online format. As of now, the following instructor-led trainings that cannot be made available in on-line format will be postponed:

  • PARTs (March 2020 Series)
  • Responsible Conduct of Research Courses (Spring 2020 Series)

With the suspension of on-campus research activities and face-to-face human subject research activities, is it acceptable to go into my laboratory for a short time to gather my files and close down my ongoing work?

Yes. Please, however, refrain from coming into the laboratory if you are not feeling well. A coordinated schedule will help ensure appropriate social distancing protocols.

I am a postdoctoral school on a J-1 visa. Will there be a change to my visa status?

No. For postdoctoral scholars on J-1 visas, the International Center (internationalcenter@tufts.edu, https://icenter.tufts.edu) has indicated that no change to visa status will take place since work hours and duties will not be curtailed.

I am a postdoctoral scholar. Will I continue to be paid if I am working from home?

Yes. At this time all staff working at home will continue to be paid consistent with applicable policies, procedures, and performance requirements. If you need to take time away from your work while you are working from home because you are ill, use your sick time. If you need to take away from your work while working from home to care for a child who is home due to a school or day care closure, or to care for a dependent, use your family sick time.

If you do not have any sick time available, or any other paid time off to continue your pay status, please discuss your situation with your supervisor or your human resources business partner.  The university will advance sick time for up to 20 days so you may stay home during a COVID-19 illness, during an illness resulting from COVID-19, or to care for a dependent during this time.

What are activities that I can do while working from home?

  • Writing grant proposals
  • Reviewing articles
  • Writing thesis chapters
  • Conducting analyses
  • Compiling data and/or synthesizing important research
  • Complete additional online trainings and certifications

What is considered essential research activities?

  • Essential care for animals or plants;
  • Maintenance of equipment that cannot be shut down or maintained remotely, such as liquid N2 tanks and shared computational networks or servers; and
  • Responding to a laboratory or freezer emergency.

Are there any exceptions to the suspension of on-campus research activities and face-to-face human subject research activities?

Other than essential research activities, there are a very limited number of exceptions to the suspension of on-campus research activities. These include:

  • Clinical and human subject research studies where:
    • the research holds the potential for direct benefit to the subject (e.g., investigational drug, devices or surgical procedure) and the interaction is required to deliver that potential direct benefit;
    • there is collection of safety data (based on clinical judgment of the importance of the visit to detect potential adverse events);
    • the PI determines that an in-person visit is vital to the subject’s safety and/or well-being,
    • there is Emergency Use / Compassionate Use / Human Use Devices (HUDs); and/or
    • the research has direct relevance to the current COVID-19 pandemic and the research cannot be conducted at another time (must be approved by the dean).
  • Clinical veterinary research studies where:
    • the research holds the potential for direct benefit to the subject (e.g., investigational drug, devices or surgical procedure) and the interaction is required to deliver that potential direct benefit;
    • there is collection of safety data (based on clinical judgment of the importance of the visit to detect potential adverse events);
    • the PI determines that an in-person visit is vital to the subject’s safety and/or well-being; and/or
    • the research has direct relevance to the current COVID-19 pandemic and research cannot be conducted at another time (must be approved by the dean).
    • NOTE: The above listed scenarios are only permitted provided that the owner or client is not required to be within the clinic building and there is no face-to-face contact. Also, new patients that present to the clinics for essential or emergency care may be enrolled in on-going trials, but no new clinical trials may be initiated.

Exception requests must be approved by the respective school-based research dean and/or dean/center director and subsequently by, the Research Continuity Committee.

What face-to-face human subjects research activities are suspended?

In keeping with the need to minimize social contact, almost all human subjects research activities involving face-to-face interactions must stop until further notice.

The only exceptions are for clinical and human subject research studies where:

  • the research holds the potential for direct benefit to the subject (e.g., investigational drug, devices or surgical procedure) and the interaction is required to deliver that potential direct benefit;
  • there is collection of safety data (based on clinical judgment of the importance of the visit to detect potential adverse events);
  • the PI determines that an in-person visit is vital to the subject’s safety and/or well-being,
  • there is an Emergency Use / Compassionate Use / Humanitarian Use Devices (HUDs) of investigational drugs or devices;
  • and/or the research has direct relevance to the current COVID-19 pandemic and the research cannot be conducted at another time (must be approved first by your research dean and or dean/center director, the Research Continuity Committee and the relevant regulatory committees).

Do I have to suspend human subjects research activities if they are not face-to-face?

Research activities that do not involve face-to-face interactions with human research subjects and can occur remotely may continue.

For studies that do not currently include remote/virtual participation or that need to expand remote/virtual activities, you may submit modifications to include this flexibility where appropriate.

Does the suspension of face-to-face human subjects research activities apply to international research and/or research at non-Tufts locations?

Yes. All Tufts research involving face-to-face human subjects research activities must stop until further notice. This includes work performed on behalf of Tufts by enumerators or contract organizations.

Do I need to get approval from the IRB to send communication to study participants about re-scheduling visits or a voluntary suspension of study activities?

No, communications to study participants intended to inform them that you are re-scheduling visits or are voluntarily delaying study procedures does not require IRB review or approval.

Can I submit a modification to the IRB to move face-to-face human subjects research activities to remote/virtual participation?

Yes, the IRBs will be prioritizing the review of modifications to approved studies affected by the suspension of face-to-face human subjects research. To help IRB Office staff identify and prioritize those submissions, please add a comment to your modification submission containing “COVID-19 preparations” and check the option to notify the “IRB Coordinator.”

If you are submitting a modification for the first time in eIRB for an SBER IRB approved protocol, please follow the SBER IRB: eIRB Tip Sheet – Existing Studies: Submitting for the First Time in eIRB. Submit only information and documents required to transfer the study into eIRB (per the tip sheet) and changes that are COVID-19 related.

Will the IRB provide “blanket approvals” for modifications to study procedures to allow for remote/virtual participation?

No, the IRBs cannot provide blanket approvals for modifications to approved protocols, as each study is different and the changes in study procedures must be assessed based on a given study. You are welcome to come up with standard language to use in your modifications if you need to submit changes for multiple studies, but a modification will need to be submitted for each active protocol.

What should I prepare for the IRB to modify if I want to move to remote/virtual participation?

Suggested modifications to study procedures and documents:

  • Mailed or emailed study materials;
  • Online questionnaires & surveys;
  • Telephone/WebEx/Zoom participation;
  • Changes to compensation methods for studies that currently involve face-to-face payment;
  • Addition of remote consent procedures, if written consent is necessary;
  • Requests for waivers of documentation of consent (e.g., requests to use verbal consent or “click consent” in surveys)

The IRBs strongly advises researchers to use Tufts Technology Services (TTS) pre-approved resources (e.g., Qualtrics and WebEx/Zoom conferencing) in lieu of other apps or software when requesting changes to allow for remote participation; otherwise, researchers should be prepared for delays in review and approval.

Will the IRB review other submissions at this time (e.g., Continuing Reviews, Reportable New Information, New Studies, and non-COVID-19 related Modifications)?

The IRB asks researchers to submit only the following at this time:

  • Modifications to move suspended face-to-face human subjects research activities to remote/virtual participation.
  • Continuing review submissions for studies expiring within 6 weeks.
  • Reportable new information.

The IRBs will prioritize the review of modifications to studies affected by the suspension of face-to-face human subjects research activities. Please wait to submit all other applications including new studies and modifications that are not related to transitioning studies from face-to-face human subjects research activities to remote/virtual research activities.

The holds on IRB submissions will be lifted as soon as possible. The OVPR will share when holds are lifted.

Are Adobe Sign and other electronic signature methods considered valid substitutes by the IRB for written consent if I want to transition to remote/virtual consent?

No, the only valid substitutes for written consent are for the participant to physically sign the consent form, and then mail, scan/photograph and email, or fax the signed consent form to the research team.

Visit the following links for more information on requesting waivers of documentation of consent and acceptable remote consent procedures, if written consent is necessary.

I am a student whose research has been impacted by the suspension of on-campus research activities and/or face-to-face human subject research activities. What if this affects my ability to complete educational requirements?

Please contact your faculty advisor and/or academic advisor with any questions or concerns about educational requirements for your course or degree.

I need to suspend my human subjects research activities. Do I need to notify the sponsor of the study or other regulatory bodies?

Yes. If the study needs to be paused, the sponsor must be notified based on guidance in your award notice, agreement or contract. You may also be required to notify the FDA under certain circumstances, for example, if the PI is the sponsor of the IND/IDE.  Reach out to your program manager at the agency directly or contact the OVPR Pre-Award office for assistance with the formal notification.

Will the laboratory animal care programs remain open?

Yes. The laboratory animal care program on your campus will continue to provide the standard level of service and animal husbandry.

I am an essential laboratory personnel who need to continue working on essential research activities in the laboratory. What best practices should I use to reduce my risk in the laboratory. What best practices should I use to reduce my risk of infection?

  • Implement social distancing wherever possible
  • Stagger schedules to limit the number of personnel in the laboratory at any one time
  • Move standing meetings to an online format
  • Follow university guidance with regards to work-related travel and external visitors
  • Limit use of public transportation to non-peak hours or seek other modes of transportation that allow for social distancing (biking, driving or walking)