Office of Research

COVID-19: Research Operations at University of Georgia

Updated on October 21, 2020, at 3:56 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.

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. Phase 1 of a three-phased ramp up of research activities commenced June 15, 2020.

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.

UGA is currently in Phase 3 reopening, which includes full restoration of onsite research consistent with current social distancing and other requirements. 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 the phased reopening. 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.

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. 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.

No, RRPs will not be required for single-occupancy use of faculty offices. This applies only if offices will be used solely by the faculty member for research and scholarship, not for interactive research or research-related meetings, in which case an approved RRP is still required.

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.

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

The UGA Preventative Measures Advisory Board has produced guidelines specifically about ensuring proper hygiene for microscopes, which may be followed for any instrument that includes eye-pieces. After making sure the instrument is turned off, PMAB recommends applying disinfecting solution (at least 70% isopropyl or ethyl alcohol only) to lens paper—do NOT apply directly to the instrument—and wiping down its components, paying particular attention to common touch points such as eye-pieces, focus knobs or stage controllers.

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 onsite operations resume, each project should be assessed to determine if additional time may be needed to complete the scope of work. If an extension is needed, we can exercise or request extensions approximately 120 days prior to the existing end date.

Researchers should document the actual impact of COVID-19 on the progress of their grants within sponsor-required progress reports. This will substantiate the need for any extensions exercised or requested. Additionally, this information can serve as the basis for any supplemental funding requests needed as a result of COVID-19. No-cost time extensions covered under expanded authorities will still be available for federal awards.

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.

Please see Question 7 above. 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

Travel should only be considered if essential to the research program. Research-related travel must be part of an approved Research Resumption Plan under the Office of Research guidelines. In the comments section of your Travel Authorization, include the RRP approval date and approver name.

The VRS Questionnaire opened on July 1, 2020, to allow units to begin submitting questionnaires for future visits. These guidelines apply both to domestic and international visitors. Questionnaires that are submitted with visit start dates earlier than August 20, 2020, will be returned. If the university reverts to earlier phases of reopening and/or the VRS program is once again suspendedUGAIDs assigned to incoming VRSs are subject to deactivation. Please see the Visiting Researcher/Scholar website for details.

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 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 a safe and appropriate plan for their projects.

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 Greg Trevor at 706-542-8090 or gregory.trevor@uga.edu.