COVID-19: Research Operations at University of Georgia

Updated on May 29, 2020, at 11:45 a.m.

The University of Georgia Office of Research has coordinated with other campus units to develop guidance for faculty, staff and students to manage their ongoing research and scholarship activities. Please refer back to this webpage frequently for evolving guidance on your research operations.

Resumption of Onsite Research Activity

Effective March 21, 2020, UGA researchers were instructed to work remotely. Limited exceptions were made for onsite research activities deemed essential by the Vice President for Research. Now, Phase 1 of a three-phased ramp up of research activities will commence June 15, 2020, pending approval by the USG.

The UGA phased plan for re-starting research includes a Research Resumption Plan (RRP) that must be completed in advance by each research faculty member/principal investigator. You can find the Research Resumption Requirements (RRRs) and RRP template on this page. As specified in the RRRs and RRP template instructions, prior to commencing work each plan must be approved by the supervisor who has authority for space in which the faculty/PI operates; typically, this is his/her department head or center director, but depending on the context, it may be a school chair, associate dean for research, dean, or vice president. Faculty can use the two weeks prior to the start of Phase 1 to complete and submit their RRP.

During Phase 1, faculty/PIs will have discretion to prioritize their research activities but must meet the limits for on-campus research personnel in the RRRs. Phase 2, with additional personnel allowed onsite, is anticipated to begin in July. The full restoration of onsite research in Phase 3, consistent with any social distancing and other requirements still in effect, is expected to coincide with the start of fall semester. For Phases 1 and 2, and possibly Phase 3 depending on circumstances at the time, research activities that can be conducted remotely should still continue via telework.

Please consult the Research Resumption Requirements page for more detailed information.

Faculty members and other principal investigators who will conduct onsite research of any kind during Phase 1 must complete an RRP for their research team. This is intended to apply broadly, even to individuals who will work alone using only UGA office space; in such cases, completion of the RRP form will be quick and simple.

Onsite locations include all UGA facilities at any location and all third-party locations, field sites, agricultural farms and other outdoor spaces utilized for research activities.

Only research personnel covered under an RRP (even if they were not required to submit it themselves) may conduct onsite research during Phase 1. The RRP has a detailed instructions page that will answer many questions investigators may have.

Research service facilities (e.g. core facilities, animal facilities, plant growth facilities, etc.) are not required to submit an RRP but must develop their own guidelines approved by the unit to which they report.

Yes. All faculty members or principal investigators must complete an RRP and have it approved in order to move to Phase 1.

Yes. Personal offices are subject to the same density requirements during Phase I: one individual for spaces of less than 500 square feet. For larger spaces, no more than one individual (including human subjects, if applicable) per 250 square feet at any one time.

Each RRP must be approved by the individual who has authority over the space in which the PI is operating. Typically, this is the PI’s department head or center director, but it may also be an associate dean for research, dean, or vice president, depending on the unit. Faculty members/PIs should submit their RRPs to their department heads (or the department head responsible for the space in which they are working) for approval. Department heads should submit RRPs for their own research programs to their associate deans for research or to their dean, where applicable. Center and institute directors should likewise submit RRPs for their own research programs to the administrator to whom they report and/or who controls their space. Copies of approved RRP forms should be kept by the approver and the faculty member/PI whose work it covers.

Research Operations, Safety & Facilities

Unless otherwise noted below, all Office of Research offices are functioning at or close to full capacity during the phased reopening. As offices transition back to normal, on-campus operation, timelines may continue to be affected. Please allow as much time as possible for specific requests.

Core facilities are permitted to operate subject to the Research Resumption Requirements. Researchers should contact individual core facility directors for details.

Please consult the EITS business continuity page for information about critical IT services

Research Involving Animals

University Research Animal Resources has continued daily care to all animals housed on campus. This includes veterinary medical care; assessment of animal health and wellbeing; provision of food, water and clean cages; and maintenance of appropriate environmental conditions.

If you have an animal in need of immediate attention, the quickest means to get in touch with on-call veterinary faculty and staff is to locate a URAR staff member in your facility.

If you are unable to locate someone in your facility:

  • During business hours​ (Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.), call the URAR front office at 706-542-4173.
  • Outside of business hours, contact the URAR veterinarian on call at 706-542-7204.

The IACUC, through the Office of Animal Care and Use (OACU), continues to review submissions (i.e., protocols and protocol amendments). Members of the OACU will continue to provide service and assistance to researchers. Please contact the OACU at iacuc@uga.edu for assistance.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): “There is little to no evidence that domestic animals are easily infected with SARS-CoV-2 under natural conditions and no evidence to date that they transmit the virus to people.” In the research environment, URAR protects cats, ferrets, and hamsters from droplet transmission through the use of face masks and 10-12 air changes per hour in animal housing rooms.

URAR veterinary personnel will continue to monitor reports on risks related to research animals and communicate those with the research community.

Research Involving Human Subjects

The Human Subjects Office (HSO) and IRB Committees are operating in accordance with USG and university guidance. HSO has set up its own FAQ to help answer specific questions regarding continuity of human subjects research.

Sponsored Projects Proposal & Award Management

Awarding agencies may provide flexibility with regard to the submission of competing applications in response to specific announcements, as well as unsolicited applications. Look for specific guidance on agency websites and/or provide a point of contact for an agency program official and SPA will contact this individual.

Proposals continue to be reviewed and submitted by SPA personnel and DLSA’s according to normal business practices. Proposal review and submission timelines remain unchanged.

Please see Question 1 above. Agencies have extended some submission deadlines, however faculty should anticipate submitting proposals by the sponsor’s stated deadline.

It is important to note that most sponsors do not accept late proposals, though some may consider extensions on a case-by-case basis.

Below are links to pages created by some of UGA’s major funding agencies and other organizations about COVID-19 impacts:

The Sponsored Projects Administration team is here to assist you.  If you have any questions, please contact Jill Tincher, SPA Executive Director at jill.tincher@uga.edu or your SPA representative.

In general, your grant will likely be required to cover costs incurred during a reduction in operations — provided UGA would cover those costs on both sponsored and non-sponsored projects. This practice adheres to the federal government’s Uniform Guidance (2 CFR §200.403) requirement that costs be incurred “consistent with policies and procedures that apply uniformly to both federally-financed and other activities of the non-federal entity.”

No. These types of expenses are considered administrative costs (indirect costs), and generally are not appropriate as a direct cost unless specifically approved by the sponsor. A reduction in operations at UGA does not change this fact. If you need to work remotely, please consult with your department or school to identify whether computing resources are available.

Federal sponsors are encouraging PIs to follow institutional guidance and policy with respect to continuing projects. Once operations resume, each project should be assessed. If an extension is needed to complete the scope of work, we can exercise or request extensions at that time.

Researchers should document the actual impact of COVID-19 on the progress of their grants to provide substantiation for any future no-cost time extension request. No-cost time extensions covered under expanded authorities will still be available for federal awards. Universities should contact the sponsor as soon as they are aware of a delay.

Some awarding agencies may allow grantees to delay submission of financial, performance and other reports up to three (3) months beyond the normal due date. In those cases, grantees will continue to draw down federal funds without the timely submission of these reports. However, these reports must be submitted at the end of the postponed period.

We expect federal agencies will recognize the difficulties inherent in this situation and work with institutions to facilitate the conduct of projects. As a reminder, recipients are required to (1) inform their program officer and grants officer that prior approval is required if the need arises for additional federal funds to complete the project (200.308.(c)(1)(viii)); and (2) notify the federal agency as soon as “problems, delays, or adverse conditions which will materially

impact the ability to meet the objective of the federal award” (200.328.(d)(1)) are known. In the latter case, the notification must include a statement of the action taken or contemplated and any assistance needed to resolve the situation.

It is possible that there will not be an immediate answer on what is needed to resolve the situation; in that case, recipients should simply indicate that they will report back when more is known. These requests/communications should be submitted by Sponsored Projects Administration, so please contact your SPA Representative for assistance.

Research Travel & International Research Personnel

  1. All non-essential travel—including travel to conferences (particularly those held internationally and out-of-state), training, site visits and any non-essential activities—is suspended during this period. We encourage you and your supervisors to consider online opportunities for professional development and scholarly activity.
  2. If you were scheduled to attend a conference or grant-related travel and the trip has been cancelled as a result of COVID-10:
    • If the travel pertains to an NIH funded project, you can charge non-refundable travel expenses to your NIH grant. See NIH notice NOT-OD-20-086 providing administrative flexibility for COVID-19 affected travel.
    • If your travel pertains to a non-NIH funded project, please consult with Sponsored Projects Administration (SPA) prior to charging non-cancellable expenses to the project. SPA must ensure we comply with our sponsor’s requirements.

The Office of Research’s Foreign Travel program has been suspended. If you have an application for foreign travel under review, please contact ovprip@uga.edu for details.

The Visiting Researcher/Scholar program also has been suspended. Non-UGA personnel who are planning to visit UGA through the VRS program should contact vrs@uga.edu for details.

The Visiting Researcher/Scholar program has been suspended for incoming visitors. Updates will be issued from Immigration Services when sponsorship under this program is again active. Incoming visitors with a previously approved start date should contact vrs@uga.edu to establish a new start date, and also contact Immigration Services regarding the cancellation and or deferral of their visa sponsorship.

If a Faculty Sponsor has an existing VRS and wishes to extend the date of the visit past the original visit end date, please send a request for UGAID extension with explanation/justification and updated end date to vrs@uga.edu, and contact Immigration Services at immigration@uga.edu with questions about visas or other immigration concerns.

International researchers were be able to maintain valid immigration status in the United States, even if they were moved to working remotely, or assigned other related research work. If any researchers will have their positions ended as a result of the winding down of campus research activity, the Office of Immigration Services should be notified immediately by emailing the director, Robin Catmur-Smith, at rcatmur@uga.edu.

Research Commercialization / Technology Transfer

The Innovation Gateway contracts team will work to expeditiously handle agreement requests, although there may be some delays in negotiations. MTA and CDA requests will be accepted through Innovation Gateway’s MTA/CDA online portal. In addition, communication concerning material transfer requests and confidential disclosure requests should be directed to igcontracts@uga.edu.

Yes. However, to ensure good communication, requests for rush patent filing should be sent to both your Innovation Gateway licensing manager and to gateway@uga.edu. With the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation and the potential for Innovation Gateway’s external law firms having disrupted operations, it is more important than ever to provide as much lead time as possible prior to public disclosures.

Please forward these questions to your Innovation Gateway Licensing Manager and to gateway@uga.edu. We will do our best to respond in a timely fashion and to connect you with the outside patent attorney in a coordinated fashion.

If you have emailed and telephoned an Innovation Gateway team member about an urgent issue, but have not received a response, please email Derek Eberhart, associate vice president for research, at dereke@uga.edu.

You should always assume that a deadline previously described to you still applies. These deadlines are typically identified in correspondence from Innovation Gateway’s patent counsel describing the action that needs to be taken. Typically, governmental patent offices do not either close or extend deadlines, even for events that could cause broad disruptions in communication. However, the same situations that result in a reduction in Innovation Gateway operations could possibly cause such closures or extensions. As a result, Innovation Gateway and outside patent counsel continually monitor for patent office closures or changes in applicable deadlines. We will take such closures or extensions into account, but we will instruct our patent counsel to take action during this period of time to preserve all substantive rights possible.

Importantly, while there are sometimes ways for us to receive additional time to take action with respect to a pending application (e.g., under existing or emergency rules), we must assume this does not apply to the filing of new patent applications in advance of publications or new prior art. So, everyone involved should work with our patent counsel to secure timely filing of new applications during this period.

Undergraduate Student Research

Students should consult with their research manager/supervisor to ensure an appropriate plan moving forward for those projects that have been deemed essential by the Office of Research.

Graduate Student Research

All graduate students on a research assistantship must be allowed to telework to fulfill their work expectations. This work can include, but is not limited to, completing literature reviews, data analysis, drafting manuscripts, working on dissertations and theses, etc. Because the cessation of research activity is mandated by the University of Georgia, graduate students on a research assistantship must continue to be paid during the period in which they will be teleworking, regardless of the source of funding for their assistantship. Students who are close to graduating and need to complete time sensitive activities to meet Spring graduation deadlines should consult with their advisors. Safety should be the highest priority when making decisions regarding presence on campus. Consult the Graduate School FAQ for more guidance.

The Graduate School has posted an FAQ addressing graduate student concerns. Please consult that page for the latest guidance.

Communications / Media Inquiries

All media inquiries regarding coronavirus are being managed through UGA Marketing & Communications. If you receive an inquiry, please direct it to Rebecca Beeler at 706-542-7379 or rebecca.beeler@uga.edu.