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Research Continuity Guidance During COVID-19 Pandemic

Guidelines for Researchers at Boise State University

In order to protect our community, all labs will be closing except for critical research and critical research operations. Critical research is that which, if halted, delayed or interrupted, could result in:

  • Endangerment to human subjects or pose unreasonable risk to human subjects
  • Endangerment to animal subjects or pose unreasonable risk to animal subjects
  • Loss of experiments or data and or data currently under collection that will be impossible to replicate; and/or reproduce
  • Loss of instrumentation, infrastructure, and/or an unsafe/unsecured laboratory environment or other catastrophic loss.

We ask that you complete this transition no later than March 27. Research work not requiring a lab may continue remotely. We will reevaluate this guidance by April 15, 2020 but anticipate this guidance could remain in place significantly longer.

Expectations and requirements regarding student research:

Students (undergraduate and graduate) cannot be required to participate in any activity (including research) that places them in an environment that introduces health risks that they’re unwilling to accept.

Students are permitted to participate in university-sponsored critical research activity on campus and research activity off-campus in university-designated locations (e.g., a field location) provided that:

  • The student voluntarily elects to participate (see above).
  • The activity in question is part of a significant research project: a faculty member’s project, or a master’s or doctoral project/thesis/dissertation; undergraduate-only research projects (such as 283 and 479 courses) must be pursued independently and in non-university locations.
  • Alternative methods to the in-person data gathering are not possible.
  • The activities do not introduce any additional risk to COVID-19.
  • Social distancing and hygiene can be assured.

Steps to take now to ensure continuity of critical research functions:

Follow the Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) that you have developed for your laboratory. Be sure to:

  • Identify and communicate critical research and or critical research operations (see criteria below) that need to be continued and supported during the research shut down.
  • Communicate with your chair or with your Dean regarding the critical personnel required for these functions.
  • Prepare your labs and research operations for the closure.
  • Consider laboratory chemicals, sensitive laboratory instruments and equipment, and other hazards ensuring that high-risk materials (radioactive, biohazards, chemicals) are properly secured.
  • Wind down existing non-critical research and research operations – do not initiate new research studies, particularly if data would be lost in the event of university closure.
  • Ensure that you have access to up-to-date email and telephone contact information for your critical staff.
  • Coordinate with colleagues who have similar research activities to identify ways if personnel can be minimized through collaboration.
  • Avoid performing high-risk procedures alone. If this is unavoidable, have at least one person aware of and responsible for knowing your:
    – Work location (Building name and address)
    – Contact phone number
    – Planned work activities
    – Start time and duration
    – The time you will contact this person.
  • If you don’t contact them, they need to inform Public Safety to perform a welfare check.
    – (208) 426-6911 non-emergency
    – 911 – emergency in progress

Planning Assumptions:

  • Assume that essential research infrastructure, such as power and telecommunications, will be maintained.
  • Assume that research administration units, including Research Development, Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP), and Technology Transfer will continue to provide services such as proposal preparation and submission and award management.
  • Assume that the Office of Research Compliance will maintain their critical oversight functions and support including animal facilities and care, IACUC, IBC, and IRB.
  • Assume that some of your laboratory workforce may fall ill or be required to self-isolate.
  • Be prepared to decontaminate the workspace of an ill researcher in your laboratory.
  • Be prepared for core facilities and other fee-for-service resources to become unavailable.
  • Be prepared for critical supply orders to be delayed. PIs should work with their building manager to coordinate essential deliveries.
  • Be prepared for building or laboratory access to be curtailed. The campus will notify the affected communities as soon as possible.
  • Be prepared that processing of visas by the federal government may be delayed, resulting in delayed appointments.

Guidelines to ensure that your research areas, materials, and instruments are secure:

  • Make sure doors are secured and locked to your office and research; please do not prop open any doors.
  • All high-risk materials should be stored according to their appropriate procedures.

Research-related ground travel and field practices for all researchers (faculty and students):

Develop a written plan describing how activities will be conducted that incorporate good hygiene, including personal and equipment. This guidance should reflect best practices from the CDC. The plan should include an activity log recording completion of actions. These plans should be signed off by the faculty sponsor.

      • No more than two individuals are permitted to travel in a single motor vehicle at one time, irrespective of vehicle type (e.g., passenger car vs. van).
      • Interactions at the travel destination should be restricted to the smallest number colleagues, avoiding all high occupancy spaces
      • Any researcher exposed to anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms must self-isolate for 14 days after the last day of travel.

Important Contacts:

Questions concerning biosafety should be directed to biosafety@boisestate.edu

Questions concerning studies involving animals or animal facilities, should be directed to animalcare@boisestate.edu

Questions concerning research interruptions affecting human subjects research should be directed to humansubjects@boisestate.edu

In the event of an emergency, please dial 911, or if you are conducting work in a restricted/containment area, please also follow emergency procedures specific to your research area.