COVID-19: Research Operations at University of Georgia

Updated on March 24, 2020, at 5:00 p.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.

Research Operations, Safety & Facilities

Per the March 17 ArchNews announcement, all non-essential on-site routine research was instructed to cease by 5 p.m. Friday, March 20.  Principal Investigators (PIs) were encouraged to consider ways to keep research personnel engaged and working on non-essential research in a remote fashion. 

Only essential research activities are currently permitted to continue on UGA campuses.  Essential activities include ensuring the viability of living organisms, maintaining unique reagents and essential equipment, and human research which offers direct therapeutic benefit to participants. Investigators should immediately develop plans to ramp down their on-site non-essential research and communicate these plans to everyone on their research teams. 

On-site Research on COVID-19 may be exempted.  PIs should request permission to conduct on-site essential research activities through their chains of command and to Vice President David Lee at dclee@uga.edu.

Principal Investigators are encouraged to reach out to their local grants administrators or Sponsored Projects Administration with grant-related questions. SPA will continue to provide information from USG, UGA and funding agencies during COVID-19 related work disruptions. SPA will continue to submit proposals prior to agency deadlines and will conduct other business, but some delays should be anticipated.

Principal Investigators (PIs) should immediately identify research experiments that are at a critical phase, meaning that abandoning them would cause a major or irreversible loss in project momentum (e.g., work involving critical cell lines and animals). Experiments already in progress that require additional time before suspending research operations may be completed.

On-site Research on COVID-19 may be exempted.  PIs should request permission to conduct on-site essential research activities through their chains of command and to Vice President David Lee at dclee@uga.edu.

University Research Animal Resources (URAR) has released guidance to help researchers determine what animal research may be essential. New experiments in ongoing projects should not be initiated. If core facilities are required for completion, please contact the core director as soon as possible to discuss needs or identify alternatives. Essential work in labs should be staggered to minimize the number of laboratory personnel who are present at any one time, while making sure that at least one person is in earshot for safety. PIs should request permission to conduct on-site essential research activities through their chains of command and to Vice President David Lee at dclee@uga.edu.

PIs and lab managers should develop Business Continuity Plans, sustainable for at least two months, that:

  • address safety issues that may arise from shutting down laboratories
  • identify minimal personnel who will perform essential maintenance activities
  • identify activities that research team members (including graduate and undergraduate students) can do remotely to aid in the progress of internally and externally funded research/sponsored activities
  • develop schedules for essential personnel that are mindful of social distancing
  • consider that university support personnel, from immediate administrative staff to Facilities Maintenance Division personnel to animal caretakers and many others, may not be readily available.

Further, researchers should not:

  • set up new studies
  • order new research animals or set up new breeding, except as minimally required to maintain breeding colonies
  • recruit new human subjects to participate in any protocol
  • order reagents with short shelf lives.

The Office of Research Integrity and Safety and the Environmental Safety Division have produced a checklist to help maintain labs in a safe condition during the ramp down. We must ensure any labs that temporarily cease operation are left in a safe condition, and that those continuing any level of operation can do so safely.

If non-essential research is conducted entirely off campus, it may be allowed to proceed. PIs should plan for a remote-work research operation that could last for an indefinite period and could possibly be longer than two months. We encourage you and your research groups to take this time to identify, assign and focus on activities that can be completed remotely.

Charges for research personnel time on grants should continue unchanged at this time. PIs are encouraged to consider ways to keep research personnel engaged and working on projects in a remote fashion: writing publications; conducting data analysis; overseeing sub-recipients; collaborating with research partners; assessing progress to date, identifying next steps, identifying which next steps can be performed remotely and performing remote next steps; etc. Please see the UGA Administrative Memo and Graduate School Guidance on payment of personnel, including students.  Additional updates can be found on our sponsor’s websites in response to COVID-19.

Researchers should contact core facility directors for details. Directors must be cognizant of safety requirements and the intent of Board of Regents and UGA directives.

Office of Research Integrity & Safety units will remain operational, though some on-campus services may be affected. Please see more detail in the questions below.

Expect some delays in on-site research support services; phone consultations will continue uninterrupted. PIs will be contacted by the Office of Research Safety to determine if scheduled laboratory inspections are conducted; these inspections will be at the discretion of the PI. Request hazardous waste disposal as usual through Chematix and ESD will work with your coordinate pickups. On-call chemical or biological incident response service will not be interrupted; the teams will remain active and ready for biological or hazardous material incidents. Dial 911 and inform Police Dispatch of the event details, and they will activate the appropriate response team. Biosafety can be reached at 706-542-5300.

Central Research Stores will continue to receive and re-deliver orders to the University community to ensure continuity of operations. Deliveries will be reduced to once per day in the afternoon. We understand that customers may require special orders and delivery times. If your department requires a special order, please contact Central Research Stores at 706-542-2411 or email at crs@uga.edu for service options.

Satellite stockrooms will remain open but with limited staffing and operating hours. Please call or email the stores prior to visiting to ensure staff are available to assist.  We will continue to provide dry ice (Monday and Thursday deliveries) and liquid nitrogen (180L or less) as long as vendors continue to provide service.

Mail & Receiving Services will follow building delivery instructions selected by your department. Please email U.S. mail delivery requests to Susan Baxter (sbaxter@uga.edu) and package/other delivery requests to Dwayne Weaver (ldweaver@uga.edu).

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

The Main Library is now closed with the following exceptions:

  • Users may continue to request print material for pickup by appointment at the Main Library
  • We are offering email delivery of scanned articles and book chapters for faculty and students
  • Students who have to be on campus and lack access to technology may use the Main Library computer lab by appointment

The Special Collections Library is closed with the following exceptions/accommodations:

  • Faculty and graduate students may use archival material in the reading room by appointment;
  • We will provide free scanning of archival material for email delivery.

The Miller Learning Center, Carnegie Library, and the Art, Music, and Education branches are closed. The Griffin campus library is closed, but Tifton’s Library remains open.

Our librarians continue their work to support research via online chat, phone, and email. We also continue support of faculty moving courses online (see: https://guides.libs.uga.edu/COVID19).

For more information, see: http://libs.uga.edu

Research Involving Animals

University Research Animal Resources has released guidance to help researchers determine what animal research may be essential, and it will continue 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.

In the event of significant URAR personnel absences, URAR will work on a case-by-case basis with principal investigators to share animal husbandry responsibilities. See question “What can I do now to ensure continuity of care for my research animals” below for more information on triggers for reduction of services.

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.

PIs should consider whether current animal studies can be judiciously ended sooner than anticipated, consistent with gathering critical data.

Orange VIP cage cards are available for marking cages of valuable animals to be prioritized in the unlikely event of shortages of resources. In the event of a significant number of absences of URAR personnel or complete university closure, the following adjustments to URAR business may be necessary:

  1. Cessation of rodent breeding
  2. Cessation of initiation of new ABSL2 experiments in rodents
  3. Cessation of animal ordering

URAR has created a chart to help researchers understand the various triggers for reductions in service and what those reductions entail.

The IACUC, through the Office of Animal Care and Use (OACU), will continue to review submissions (i.e., protocols and protocol amendments) during this time. PIs can submit and committee members can review submissions to the IACUC using Artemis. The pace of review may be affected, depending on university operational decisions regarding essential services.  

The OACU will hold the monthly IACUC meetings via teleconference or videoconference if UGA is instructed to work remotely.

Online training modules should remain accessible via PEP.

IACUC inspections are likely to be affected and will be handled on a case by case basis.

Members of the OACU will continue to provide service and assistance to researchers. Please contact the OACU for assistance (iacuc@uga.edu). Please feel free to contact Dr. Leanne Alworth at alworth@uga.edu if you have any questions or need assistance.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA): “Experts have not expressed concern about transmission to or from animals. Multiple international and domestic health organizations have indicated that pets and other domestic animals are not considered at risk for contracting or spreading COVID-19.”

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 staff are working remotely and conducting IRB meetings via Zoom. HSO has set up its own FAQ to help answer specific questions regarding continuity of human subjects research.

Research Funding Opportunities

  1. The Office of Research has provided information about federal funding for COVID-19 research allocated under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020. Additionally, there is a new page detailing COVID-19 proposal solicitations and updates on UGA’s Research Matters website.
  2. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services updated a broad agency announcement (BAA) on March 6, 2020, to focus specifically on products to diagnose, prevent or treat coronavirus infections. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) issued the BAA to solicit proposals for advanced development and licensure of COVID-19 diagnostics, vaccines or medicines, such as therapeutics or antivirals. BARDA will provide funding, as well as expertise and core services to support development projects selected through this BAA. These products include diagnostic tests (assays); vaccines; therapeutics; medications to help regulate or normalize the immune system (immunomodulators); therapeutics targeting lung repair; medicines that prevent infections either before or after exposure to the virus (pre-exposure or post-exposure prophylaxis); respiratory protective devices; and ventilators. Learn more about proposals for development of medical products for novel coronavirus.
  3. The National Institutes of Health has established a page including funding opportunities.  Learn more about these funding opportunities.
  4. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has established a page including funding opportunities. Learn more about these funding opportunities.
  5. The National Science Foundation, as of March 5, 2020, is funding 20 research projects across the agency involving COVID-19. In response to the urgency of COVID-19 and increasing inquiries from the research community, NSF issued a letter to researchers inviting additional proposals for rapid response grants related to the virus. This letter welcomes research to help understand COVID-19, inform and educate the public about virus transmission and prevention, and develop effective strategies for addressing this challenge at the local, state and national levels. Support for these efforts is made through NSF’s Rapid Response Research (RAPID) funding mechanism, which enables the agency to swiftly process and support research that addresses an urgent need. Learn more about proposals for development of medical products for novel coronavirus.

Sponsored Projects Proposal & Award Management

The Sponsored Projects Administration (SPA) remains open and functional as staff work remotely. Principal Investigators are encouraged to reach out to SPA and their local grants administrators with grant-related questions. SPA will continue to provide updates from funding agencies during COVID-19 related disruptions. SPA will continue to submit proposals prior to agency deadlines and conduct other business, but some delays should be anticipated.

Principal Investigators (PIs) should immediately identify research experiments that are at a critical phase, meaning that abandoning them would cause a major or irreversible loss in project momentum (e.g., work involving critical cell lines and animals). Experiments already in progress that require additional time before suspending research operations may be completed.  New experiments in ongoing projects should not be initiated. If core facilities are required for completion, please contact the core director as soon as possible to discuss needs or identify alternatives.

Essential work in labs should be staggered to minimize the number of laboratory personnel who are present at any one time, while making sure that at least one person is in earshot for safety. PIs should request permission to conduct on-site essential research activities through their chains of command and to Vice President David Lee at dclee@uga.edu.

On-site non-essential research should have ended by 5 pm, Friday, March 20, 2020.  PIs should work with their laboratory personnel (research faculty, students, postdocs, and staff) to perform remote work that could last for an indefinite period and could possibly be longer than two months. We encourage you and your research groups to take this time to identify, assign and focus on activities that can be completed remotely.

Charges for research personnel time on grants should continue unchanged at this time. PIs are encouraged to consider ways to keep research personnel engaged and working on projects in a remote fashion: writing publications; conducting data analysis; overseeing sub-recipients; collaborating with research partners; assessing progress to date, identifying next steps, identifying which next steps can be performed remotely and performing remote next steps; etc. See the UGA Administrative Memo and Graduate School Guidance addressing payment of personnel, including students.  We will continue to communicate updates from our sponsors in response to COVID-19.

Yes. Sponsored Projects Administration will continue to serve the research community by reviewing and submitting proposals. Faculty should anticipate disruptions and delays and do their best to avoid last-minute actions.

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.

At present, all federal agencies are accepting proposal submissions. In the event federal agencies close, agencies usually expect universities to continue submitting proposals according to established deadlines. All submitted proposals will remain in a work queue (e.g., within the Grants.gov and other federal systems) and will not be assigned/reviewed until the federal agency resumes operations.

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

Please see Question 6 above.  Agencies have extended some proposal submission deadlines.  Since SPA and DLSAs will be operational and continue working with faculty to review and submit proposals, a proposal deadline extension (beyond what the agencies may already provide) should not be needed. Faculty who anticipate submitting proposals should continue working on them and should anticipate submitting by the sponsor’s stated deadline. 

It is important to note that most sponsors do not accept late proposals. Sponsors may consider extensions on a case-by-case basis.  It may prove difficult to convince a sponsor that circumstances warrant an extension since SPA and DLSAs will continue to be operational. If you personally experience impacts from COVID-19, please look to the funding announcement and/or sponsor website for guidance on extensions. 

As an example, NIH has released a notice regarding proposal submission flexibility via NOT-OD-20-082. NIH will consider deadline extensions on a case-by-case basis and anticipates issuing additional guidance in the near future. Additionally USDA NIFA has extended some deadlines. See specific changes here.

The Office for Proposal Enhancement will be available to support faculty in developing research proposals. OPE staff will work remotely during normal business hours, and will schedule faculty meetings as needed via GoToMeeting or Zoom.

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.”

Charges for research personnel time on grants should continue unchanged at this time.  PIs are encouraged to consider ways to keep research personnel engaged and working on projects in a remote fashion.  See the UGA Administrative Memo and Graduate School Guidance of payment of personnel, including students. SPA will continue to communicate updates from our sponsors.

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.

Our federal sponsors are well aware of the situation.  They 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.

Yes. SPA staff are working remotely. They will monitor award statuses and set up projects when awards are received.

Yes. SPA staff are working remotely. The team will monitor due dates and prepare invoices and reports based upon these deadlines.

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 the project. 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 and 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. Any students, faculty or staff who have returned from international travel in the past 14 days must self-quarantine until they have been without symptoms for a period of 14 days from the date of entering/reentering the United States before returning to the University of Georgia. This requirement is issued in the best interest of the health and safety of our entire campus and surrounding community. It is necessitated by the U.S. State Department’s declaration of a Global Level 3 Health Advisory.
  3. On March 13, UGA Finance & Administration updated its guidance regarding cancellation of university travel plans. Please refer to the university’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information and Resources page for the latest information regarding university travel restrictions.
  4. 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.

Effective immediately, 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.

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

Effective immediately, the Visiting Researcher/Scholar program has been suspended for incoming visitors. In consultation with Immigration Services, we estimate the earliest start date for incoming VRS to be on or after July 1, 2020, depending on the developing Covid-19 situation and global travel restrictions. Updates will be issued from Immigration Services when sponsorship under this program is again active. Incoming visitors with a previously approved start date before July 1 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 will be able to maintain valid immigration status in the US, even if they are moved to working remotely, or assigned other related research work. The office of Immigration Services will be in communication soon with information as to how to report any changes made involving international researchers.  If any researchers will have their positions ended as a result of the halting of research at UGA, immigration services should be notified immediately, by emailing the Director, Robin Catmur-Smith, at rcatmur@uga.edu.

Research Commercialization / Technology Transfer

Yes, Innovation Gateway staff will work remotely and expect to be fully operational.

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, invention disclosures will be accepted through Innovation Gateway’s online portal. There is currently no disruption to this process.

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

Undergraduates conducting research for course credit are excused from those responsibilities during the suspension of instruction from March 16-29. Students who wish to continue their research activity should contact and work out details with their PI or lab supervisor.

Students should consult with their research manager/supervisor to ensure an appropriate plan moving forward.

The Spring 2020 CURO Symposium will be moved to online format and postponed to April 21-24. The CURO website has been updated with information both for Symposium participants and students receiving Research Assistantships. Please consult that site for the latest guidance.

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.