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UMass Lowell scales back Fall 2020 plan to minimize students, employees on campus. View the plan 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: July 7, 2020.

OVERVIEW

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

UMass Lowell is resuming research activities on a staged basis following the recommendations of the UMass Lowell Fall / Summer 2020 Planning Committee on Research and Scholarship Support. This committee has developed a re-entry plan for campus research that adheres to university, state and federal guidelines for minimizing the spread of COVID-19. Please review the plan carefully for complete details about the staged approach and the protocols and requirements for health and safety.

The university is currently in Stage 3 which means that campus access is restricted, but limited access will be permitted with advance approval and in compliance with requirements issued by the committee and university for safety and other matters.

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.

How do I request on-campus access for Stage 3?

In order to request on-campus access for Stage 3, please follow the steps below:

  1. Please carefully review the complete Campus Research and Scholarship Re-entry Plan.
  2. Complete the one-hour interactive training provided by The New England Consortium (TNEC).
  3. Faculty are strongly encouraged to coordinate the use of shared spaces prior to requesting access. Uploading a scheduled of shared use along with your request may help expedite review and approval.
  4. Visit the InfoReady portal to submit your application. Please download the form-fillable “Application Form” on the website on the right-hand side. Complete the form and submit through InfoReady.

If you have any questions, please email: ResScholSupport@uml.edu.

How do I register for the required training provided by The New England Consortium (TNEC) in order to apply for Stage 3 access?

Please visit the TNEC website in order to register for an upcoming training prior to applying for Stage 3 access.

How are you evaluating applications?

The Evaluation Committee will evaluate the urgency and critical nature of the request based on the impact to ongoing research and scholarship. The Committee will not evaluate the intellectual merits of the requests. Stage 3 is designed to democratize access with researchers demonstrating urgency, efficiency, and prioritization within research programs for space and resources.

Please refer to the Campus Research and Scholarship Re-entry Plan for the evaluation rubric.

Approved Research

How do I get the masks and cleaning supplies once I am approved to return to my lab space?

Disposable masks and cleaning kits will be delivered to the researcher (to the primary location they requested access for) upon access approval. If the need for additional face covering or supplies arises, researchers should email: ResScholSupport@uml.edu.

Supplies may become limited as additional access is granted across the university, and the lab will eventually be responsible for replenishing supplies (once there is a clear centralized procurement process available for these items).

How can I access the cleaning log sheet?

Please download the Laboratory Cleaning and Disinfecting log sheet (pdf) and print it out. Please print out and make available in your research or scholarship space.

How are you evaluating the effectiveness of the plan?

Faculty / Lead Investigators are responsible for assuring that safety guidelines are adhered to in their labs and common areas. Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) will conduct inspections to assess compliance with guidelines. Non-compliance will be tracked and reassessed. Depending on the non-compliance, penalties will range from losing access for the day and re-taking the COVID-19 safety training to suspension of access for several weeks. Repeat non-compliance could result in long-term suspension of access, at the discretion of the Access Approval Committee.

For full details regarding how the Evaluation Committee will collect, analyze, and review the following performance indicators, please refer to the Campus Research and Scholarship Re-entry Plan.

How can I report any noncompliance?

Compliance with all guidelines and maintaining a safe working environment is a shared responsibility. If you witness noncompliance of guidelines, please contact EHS by phone at: 978-934-2618 or email: EHS@uml.edu. Your report will remain anonymous.

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

The Committee and IRB are currently evaluating safety protocols for face-to-face/in-person research and will release approved guidance soon. This guidance will include considerations for verbal pre-screening of subjects for COVID-19 symptoms and contact, use of PPE for subjects, and limiting on-campus access for people at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Until face-to-face/in-person research guidance is released, research and scholarship that involves face-to-face interaction with human participants is not permitted on campus.

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. The National Institutes of Health's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare 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, IACUC@uml.edu.