Skip to Main Content

All 2020 Spring classes online. Building access restricted. Check uml.edu/alert for more info.

Guidance for Campus Research in response to COVID-19

The following guidance is specific to research activities on campus. This page will be updated as new information is released. Please send questions by email to: VCRI@uml.edu.

Please see Corona Virus Alerts for the most up-to-date university communications and resources related to COVID-19.

Last updated: March 26, 2020.

OVERVIEW

What is the current status of research-related activities on campus?

In accordance with Governor Baker’s “stay at home” advisory, all research activities on campus are suspended with the exception of pre-approved critical equipment maintenance, animal care and COVID-19 responsive activities.

We strongly encourage researchers to focus on activities that can be done remotely at this time. This includes focusing on proposal-, manuscript- and thesis-writing, data analysis, modeling, etc.

Building access: Only personnel approved by the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation  will have access to specified locations. Faculty and staff not on the approved Critical Research Personnel list will need to call Police Dispatch at 978-934-2398 for access to retrieve essential forgotten items or to manage safety issues in the lab.

What is the current status of research support operations on campus?

Business units supporting research – Office of Research Administration, Office of Research Integrity, Research Support Services, Office of Technology Commercialization, Office of Industry Partnerships and Economic Development, New Venture Development and the Core Research Facilities – are available. Researchers may contact their usual contacts in these offices as needed or email: VCRI@uml.edu.

My sponsor is requesting an update about the status of my funded project. What can I provide them?

The Office of Research and Innovation has prepared a statement to provide to sponsors and collaborators that have requested a status update regarding research activities on campus: Statement Regarding Suspension of UMass Lowell On-campus Research in Response to COVID-19.

If your sponsor requires more information, please email: VCRI@uml.edu.

How are we managing requests from external partners and organizations for donations and/or support toward Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and faster testing?

UMass Lowell is committed to supporting partners and organizations and contributing as much as possible. In order to direct our efforts toward where we can be most effective and facilitate these requests (including any donations and fabrication of PPE, test swabs, and ventilator parts and support in sterilization, testing, etc.), please forward any requests and inquiries to EOC@uml.edu. The team will create a database for communication and coordination and will address each request.

How can I offer my expertise and/or equipment, and how are we coordinating UMass Lowell’s resources?

UMass Lowell is working with the state’s Advanced Manufacturing Emergency Response Team and will be directing people to further information as we marshal all of our capabilities to supporting this coordinated effort.  If you are interested in helping and have either expertise or equipment that may be useful, please complete this survey.

Deliveries

I am expecting an existing order to be delivered soon. Will Central Receiving be open to receive my order?

If you are expecting an order, especially one that must be refrigerated, you should alert Central Receiving that you are anticipating a delivery. New orders and packages should be held until normal operations resume.

I am expecting an existing order that contains hazardous materials (e.g., chemicals, solvents). Will Environmental Health and Safety be available to receive my order?

Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) hazardous materials receiving and delivery will remain open as long as there is active research on campus. If you are expecting an in-process order, you should alert EH&S receiving that you are anticipating a delivery. Please refrain from creating new orders, unless absolutely essential, until normal operations on campus resume.

I am expecting research-related mail to come to my campus address. Will I be able to receive it?

To ensure minimal person-to-person contact, mail deliveries to faculty and staff have been reduced to one delivery per week (Tuesdays) to selected high-priority mailboxes. Please check with your supervisor to determine if your unit has been designated as high priority. Student mail is available on a limited basis.

Will FedEx and UPS express be delivered to campus offices?

FedEx and UPS Express will be delivered directly to the campus building to which it is addressed. If no one is available to receive the package, it will be returned to the sender after two attempts to deliver.

LABS AND FACILITIES

Can I still work in the lab and use campus research facilities?

All research activities on campus are suspended with the exception of pre-approved critical facility maintenance, animal care, COVID-19 related activities. Only researchers approved by the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, and issued an ID badge confirming their status as Critical Research Personnel, will be allowed access to campus research facilities.

As an approved Critical Research Personnel, are there new safety requirements I need to follow?

Critical Research Personnel must follow these minimum safety requirements:

  • A second person monitoring their activities (via remote monitoring through a window or open video or audio line when practical);
  • No more than two people in the lab at one time, unless needed for other safety reasons;
  • Proper personal protective equipment and cleaning protocols.
What are some procedures to ensure an effective lab shutdown?

Effective lab shutdown should include the following:

  • Assess and prioritize critical laboratory activities, and identify procedures and processes that require regular personnel attention (e.g. cell culture maintenance, animal care, human subjects contacts). Identify any critical maintenance procedures and notify VCRI@uml.edu
  • Secure equipment, store materials and ensure remote access to data and software that will be used to continue your research.
  • Review emergency procedures with researchers and staff, and update signage and contact information.
  • Ensure that high-risk materials (radioactive, biohazards, chemicals) are secured and freezers are labeled with emergency contact information and secure all waste.

Contact the appropriate team for matters and questions related to:

  • the Vivarium and any satellite animal facilities – email:  IACUC@uml.edu
  • securing chemicals and hazardous materials - email: EHS@uml.edu
  • UPS and other electrical backups – Facilities Management Service Center at 978-934-2601
What should laboratory-based researchers be doing to prepare?

Research groups should make lab shutdown plans and implement these plans immediately such that all on-campus research is completed or put in hibernation by March 27. Steps to consider:

  • If a researchers receives approval to continue research activities, please remind laboratory staff and students that safety standards must continue to be followed, including the requirement that no one should be working in a lab by themselves.
  • Review emergency procedures with researchers and staff, and update signage and contact information.
  • Ensure that high-risk materials (radioactive, biohazards, chemicals) are secured and freezers are labeled with emergency contact information and secure all waste.
  • Assess and prioritize critical laboratory activities, and identify procedures and processes that require regular personnel attention (e.g. cell culture maintenance, animal care, human subjects contacts).
  • Identify personnel able to safely perform essential activities and ensure that all staff have the appropriate training. Document critical procedures with step-by-step instructions.
  • If possible, train research staff to fill in for others who may be unable to come to campus. Coordinate with colleagues to identify ways to cover critical activities.
  • Identify research activities that can be delayed or completed without compromising the research project.
  • Define shutdown processes in the event normal operations are halted.
What should I do if there is a spill or hazardous waste in a lab?

Campus police and Environmental Health and Safety will continue to operate as normal and maintain all critical functions, such as emergency and fire response, spill cleanup, hazardous waste collection, and radioactive package delivery. Critical Research Personnel should continue to follow the procedures outlined in the Accidents and Emergencies Policies and Procedures.

Are the Core Research Facilities (CRF) still open?

Core Research Facilities are currently closed. Only approved Critical Research Personnel are able to access the facilities for critical maintenance.

PROPOSAL SUBMISSION AND AWARD MANAGEMENT

Will the Office of Research Administration be able to submit my proposal to the sponsor on time?

As long as there is no disruption to ORA operations, ORA staff should be able to submit proposals on time if the researcher has complied with current campus proposal submission guidelines.

If the sponsoring agency closes, will my proposal still need to be submitted on time?

Currently, all federal agencies are accepting submissions as usual. If an agency closes, they will likely will continue to accept proposals but they will likely remain pending until the agency reopens (similar to federal budget-related shutdown procedures). In the event of natural disasters, agencies typically provide flexibility in submissions; see individual agency websites for additional guidance.

Are funding agencies extending proposal submission deadlines?

Funding agencies are updating their submission guidelines as necessary. Please refer to each funding agency’s website for most recent information regarding new deadlines and resources:

For additional information and resources regarding other institutional and agency responses to COVID-19, please refer to the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) Guidance.

Will I be able to reach ORA staff?

As long as there is no disruption to ORA operations, staff will respond to emails and monitor phone calls as normal, even if they are teleworking. Please see this site for up-to-date contact information.

Should I contact ORA early to let them know I plan to submit a proposal?

Yes, even during normal operations, the sooner ORA knows about a proposal, the more time they have to help you prepare your submission.

Will ORA-related workshops and professional development activities be cancelled?

In accordance with University guidance on workshops and seminars, some Research Support Services workshops have been cancelled. Others such as the NSF Career Workshop and the Enlightened Bites seminar on Effective Team Science will occur as scheduled but through virtual attendance.

How do I access research-related applications (such as Dimensions, PIVOT and SPIN)?

In order to log into Dimensions, you must use the VPN (Virtual Private Network) to enter your UMass Lowell credentials. For more information about connecting to the VPN, refer to the remote access webpage. Once you have connected to the VPN, you should be able to access Dimensions as normal.

Please access PIVOT and SPIN as normal. You do not need to connect to the VPN for these applications.

HUMAN SUBJECTS RESEARCH

Is the IRB Office open?

Yes. The UMass Lowell IRB (Institutional Review Board) Office is fully functional and operating as normal. As long as there is no disruption to ORI operations, the IRB will continue business as usual (but through virtual communications).

My research study involves face-to-face interactions with human subjects. Can I continue my research, and are research subjects from the community (e.g., children, their parents, other adults) currently allowed on campus?

No human subjects involved in research are permitted on campus. Those human subjects projects that have been approved to continue must immediately convert to remote procedures. These changes must be reviewed and approved by the IRB prior to implementation unless it is to eliminate immediate apparent hazards to the participants or researchers (see question below). Remote procedures include:

  • Limiting study visits to those needed for participant safety or coincident with clinical care.
  • Conducting virtual study visits via Skype, Phone, Zoom, or Qualtrics.
  • Arranging flexibilities for required laboratory tests or imaging needed for safety monitoring to occur at local laboratories or clinics
What do I need to do if I decide to temporarily suspend study activities such as enrollment, study procedures, etc.?

If the Principal Investigator decides to voluntarily suspend study activities, they should submit this as Reportable New Information to the IRB within 5 business days of the suspension.

Can I modify my study procedures in my project involving human subjects to incorporate remote alternatives?

If possible, you should plan for alternatives to in-person study visits (e.g., online questionnaires, phone surveys, etc.). However, these changes must be approved in advance by the IRB, unless they are necessary to eliminate immediate apparent hazards to participants. For additional guidance, please email: IRB@UML.edu.

What if I need to modify the study procedures immediately in order to protect researchers and/or study participants?

If it is in the best interest of researchers and participants to eliminate immediate apparent hazards, the Principal Investigator may implement changes without prior IRB approval, however, this must be reported to the IRB as Reportable New Information within 5 business days of the modification.

Should I expect delays in review of protocols by the Institutional Review Board?

As long as there is no disruption to ORI operations, we expect the IRB to continue to accept and review protocol submissions, even while faculty and ORI staff are working remotely. If necessary, IRB meetings will be held remotely.

RESEARCH INVOLVING ANIMALS

What plans are in place to ensure that the animals housed on campus will continue to receive care?

The UMass Lowell Animal Care Unit will continue to provide daily care to all animals housed in the animal care facility. This includes continued veterinary medical care; assessment of animal health and well-being; provision of food, water and clean cages; and maintenance of appropriate environmental conditions. For animals housed in satellite facilities, the primary investigators are responsible for providing the necessary care. OLAW has developed a Frequently Asked Questions regarding how to prepare during a pandemic.

Should I expect delays in Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee review of protocols?

As long as there is no disruption to ORI operations, we expect the IACUC to continue to accept and review submissions while faculty and ORI staff are working remotely. If necessary, IACUC meetings will be held remotely. For additional guidance, please email: IACUC@uml.edu.

RESEARCH-RELATED TRAVEL AND MEETINGS

Can I continue to hold research lab meetings with my staff and students?

Please refer to the university guidance pertaining to Events and Campus Activities. You are strongly encouraged to hold lab meetings virtually using tools available on campus such as Skype for Business and Zoom.

I have a grant to host a conference on campus. Will I still be able to host the meeting?

Please refer to the university guidance pertaining to Events and Campus Activities. Email any questions to: VCRI@uml.edu.

Can I travel to a research-related conference? What about travel to do field work or meet with a colleague?

Please follow the university guidance pertaining to travel.