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Office of the Vice President for Research

COVID-19 Research Guidelines

As part of USM’s response to COVID-19, research guidelines are provided below. The University is monitoring the situation closely and reserves the right to alter these guidelines as necessary. You are encouraged to check the University's official COVID-19 website regularly in order to keep up to date with the latest information.

Letter from the Vice President

To: USM Research Community
From: Gordon Cannon, VPR
Date: March 18, 2020

Subject: USM Research COVID-19 Guidance

Dear Colleagues,

I am sure you all are staying up to date regarding university communications relating to COVID-19.  As of Tuesday, March 17th, USM is reporting an Orange response status, which has resulted in the University converting institutional functions to remote formats wherever possible and limited operations and access at all locations.   I would like to address research activities specifically as it relates to our current response status.  

General Comments

Under the circumstances, academic instruction is being moved to alternative methods of delivery. In contrast to instruction, the majority of research and scholarly activity at the university is performed by small groups of students, faculty, and staff.  We understand that research and scholarly activity differs across disciplines and even projects within disciplines.  We encourage you and your students and staff to develop a plan to work remotely.

Supervisors should begin the process of communicating specific work arrangements with individual employees according to the University’s work assignment guidelines.  The goal is to notify employees of all alternative work arrangements by the end of the day on Wednesday, March 18, but individual unit factors may influence this timeline.    If any member of your team develops any of the symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (fever, cough, breathing difficulties), they should immediately contact their physician and follow the CDC Guidelines. Below is guidance on specific topics typically of concern to our research community.

Travel

Currently, USM has prohibited all University-sponsored international and domestic travel (regardless of mode of transportation) to reduce USM’s contribution to the potential spread of infection to Mississippi. Travel between USM sites is exempt from this suspension. We encourage finding alternate means of conducting business. We realize the impacts may include cancelled trips, the window of time that research can be done, and for some researchers, the contractual obligation to complete projects involving domestic travel. To mitigate the above, an exception may be granted by a dean, vice president or the provost. However, the traveler must understand that given the rapidly changing situation there is a chance that USM’s self-isolation requirement for 14 days upon return to campus with CDC Level 2 travel health restrictions may be expanded to additional states, and that there may be air or governmental restrictions on return that are beyond USM’s ability to control.  

If you have travel expenses related to your sponsored project, you should still follow all university policies and procedures for cancelled travel. Refunds must be credited to the sponsored project if that project provided the source of funds. Cancellation costs may be charged to the sponsored project with full documentation. If the sponsor later disallows the cost, which is possible, the cost will have to be moved to another source of funds. If you receive credit for future travel rather than a refund, the cost for travel must be moved to another source of funding. If you later use the credit on travel for the same or a different sponsored project, the cost may be transferred to the project with full documentation. Direct questions to your ORA accountant. 

Faculty and staff as well as students should consider their own health status and other reports before making plans for personal domestic travel, recognizing that the status of COVID-19 infection in the United States continues to change. The possibility of a 14-day self-isolation requirement also exists for domestic travel, given the rapidly changing circumstances. We request anyone who is planning personal travel to register with the University.

Students: https://forms.usm.edu/provost/view.php?id=169740 

On-campus events and meetings

According to USM guidance, all university-sponsored events (including research events) are canceled until further notice. Smaller meetings should be kept to an absolute minimum, and we suggest converting these meetings to video conferences or calls where possible. 

Guidance from Sponsors

The Office of Research Administration is monitoring information coming from sponsors. Many are providing flexibility with deadlines, deliverables, and reports. I encourage you to be in touch with your ORA Contracts and Grants Coordinator or Administrator and with your agency program officer to discuss any possible delays. Again, we encourage you to maintain progress as best as possible but understand schedules may need to be adjusted. ORA COVID-19 FAQs

Graduate Research Assistants

We encourage GAs to continue their planned activities to keep projects and thesis work on track. Due to the University’s orange response status, we encourage supervisors to formulate a plan with their graduate students to continue their research remotely.  There are several options for working and collaborating remotely through free video conferencing software as well as team software platforms, provided through the University’s Microsoft Office 365 license.  Consistent with guidance from some federal agencies, PIs should continue to pay stipends and salaries for their research assistants regardless of working conditions. Please consult your supervisor and HR's COVID-19 Employment FAQs for more information. 

Field Work

For research projects requiring field work or similar off-campus activity, we advise trying to postpone that work until travel advisories are lifted. If that is not possible, please refer to the travel guidance from the Office of the Provost.

Concerns and Questions

If you have specific concerns or questions, or if you are concerned COVID-19 will have a significant impact on your sponsored program, please first contact your supervisor and your ORA administrator. If further guidance is required, feel free to address questions to:

General policy questions or concerns
Federal agency, proposal, and awards questions
Animal or human research questions

Sam%20Bruton, Director for Research Integrity

As you are aware, this is a rapidly developing situation and we are closely examining the impact it will have on our current research endeavors. Our priority is focused on the safety of our students, faculty, and staff.  We will issue additional communications as necessary.

Federal Resources

Federal Links regarding Research Community and COVID 19: Guidance for Awardee organizations, researchers and reviewers of proposals.

NIH:
General Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - Proposal Submission and Award Management Related to COVID-19
NIH Late Application Policy Due to Public Health Emergency for United States for 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

NIAID: 
Coronaviruses: Information for Researchers
Multi-Pronged Response to the COVID-2019 Outbreak

NSF:
NSF Guidance for Research Community
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) for National Science Foundation (NSF) Proposers and Awardees
Statement on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Includes impact on NSF’s acceptance and review of proposals, impact on award oversight, impact on meetings funded via a grant from NSF, etc.

Department of Energy: 
Non-Department-Funded Work (e.g., Strategic Partnership Project activities); guidance to National Laboratories, NNSA Plants, and other Contractors

DHS: 
Letter to DHS Contractors Regarding COVID-19

NASA: 
Coronavirus Information: Message to NASA Contractors - Assistant Administrator for Procurement Message on Coronavirus

CLICK HERE to read Vice President for Research Cannon's memo with guidance on research endeavors, in consideration of COVID-19, dated March 18, 2020.

Contact Us

Office of the Vice President for Research
Aubrey K. Lucas Administration Building, Room 202
118 College Drive, #5116
Hattiesburg, MS 39406

Hattiesburg Campus

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Email
gordon.cannonFREEMississippi

Phone
601.266.5116