Guiding principles for critical research activities
Protecting the safety and well-being of our campus and the community at large remains our first priority. Thus, reducing the number of personnel entering campus buildings is crucial to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Critical research activities that may continue taking place on-site are defined below. Researchers must follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines on avoiding close contact with others, cleaning and disinfecting, using cloth face covers, etc. These guidelines are continually evolving, and researchers are urged to stay attuned to the CDC’s latest recommendations.
Access to facilities and services
- Access to all UNL research services will continue remotely, including sponsored programs, proposal development, compliance, industry relations and communications.
- Research facilities will maintain minimal staffing and only critical research should be sustained. Only designated personnel will have limited access to buildings and facilities in order to sustain critical research.
Maintaining research and creative activity
- Research that can be conducted remotely and comply with safety and social distancing requirements will be sustained. Examples include human subjects research that can occur using remote connections; data analysis; work with databases or online sources; writing manuscripts or grant applications; research planning; export-controlled research involving a determination or technology control plan that can be conducted securely via remote access.
- All new animal research unrelated to COVID-19 and in-person human subjects research are suspended. Requirements related to compliance approval have not changed (IBC, RSC, IRB, IACUC, SROC). Principal investigators should not engage in work that has not been approved by the appropriate compliance committee(s). If you need to request an exemption to start a new animal research project, please complete the request for approval form.
- The Office of Sponsored Programs is available to answer questions about the continuation of funded research projects, including those that are not federally funded. Most work and spending can continue as normal, although some projects funded by contracts with industry and foundations may require adjustments or modifications to the agreement and/or timelines. Researchers are encouraged to contact their OSP liaisons with questions.
Safety and social distancing procedures
- Follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines on proper health and safety practices. Be aware that recommendations are changing as the situation evolves.
- Investigators must use appropriate safety and social distancing practices, maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet between people. If travel to an outdoor location is required to conduct critical research, investigators must use appropriate social distancing practices during travel. More information on travel and PPE is available below.
- If travel to an outdoor location is required to conduct critical research, investigators would be expected to implement social distancing practices during travel, such as taking separate vehicles. View the full set of travel recommendations.
What are considered critical research activities?
Effective April 8, research facilities should maintain minimal staffing, and only critical research should be sustained. Employees will have until the close of business April 10 to complete their transition away from the office. Limited access to buildings and facilities will be maintained in order for critical research to continue. The following are critical research activities that, with the appropriate safety and social distancing practices, can occur.
- Activity related to COVID-19 that has a timeline for deployment that could address the crisis.
- Activity that, if temporarily discontinued, would result in years’ worth of losses in a) effort; b) data; or c) major investment.
- Activity that maintains critical samples, animal populations, plant populations or biological specimens.
- Activity that maintains critical cultures of cells or tissues from biological specimens that cannot be frozen.
- Activity already in process using specialized equipment that requires a lengthy and onerous process to shut down or restart.
- Activity that maintains critical equipment in facilities and laboratories.
- Activity that maintains liquid nitrogen levels in storage tanks or maintenance of gases in cylinders.
- Activity that, if discontinued, would pose a safety hazard or endanger the health or well-being of human participants in the study, including processing specimens.
- Seasonally dependent agricultural or environmental research.
- Export-controlled research involving a determination or technology control plan (TCP) that must be conducted physically on campus with approved designated research personnel.
- Essential research functions to meet U.S. Department of Defense rated orders.
- Research conducted in the Biological Process Development Facility.
- Research and diagnostic services conducted in the Nebraska Veterinary Diagnostic Center.
- Other critical research (not conducted remotely) after approval from relevant college and ORED administrators. Before conducting other ongoing or new research not listed above, faculty must have appropriate research compliance approvals and must submit a request for approval from the appropriate college and ORED administrators.
If you are unsure whether your research meets the above criteria, consult with your unit head (chair, head, director).
Can my research group assist with, donate, or obtain personal protective equipment?
Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is a critical need for researchers and healthcare providers alike. Examples include N95 face masks, gloves, germicidal wipes, surgical gowns, hand sanitizer, disinfectants, face shields and PAPR hoods and facepieces. To help prioritize needs, UNL is taking inventory of PPE availability on campus, as well as identifying groups and organizations that need such equipment. If you or your organization fit into either of these categories, please complete the web form to help ORED build an available inventory, as well as create a list of needs on campus and in the community. Survey participation is voluntary.
The federal government through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Memorandum (M-20-20), allows agencies to have flexibility in the donation of medical equipment purchased with federal assistance funds to hospitals, medical centers, and other local entities serving the public for COVID-19 response. We anticipate that most federal agencies will allow for such donations but will more than likely require prior approvals. Please refer to the OSP FAQ’s or contact your sponsored programs point of contact for further information.
- Voluntary personal protective equipment survey (updated 3/25/20)