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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.

Update May 17, 2021

Per the updated COVID-19 protocols effective Monday, May 17th, requests for on and off-campus face-to-face research activities will NOT require approval by the Vice President for the Research office before submitting an IRB request.  

Research requests will need to follow the IRB process for requesting approval, which requires researchers to address safety protocols related to COVID-19.  

Questions regarding the IRB request and approval process should be directed to the Office of Research Integrity.   

Updated August 24, 2020

As of August 17th, faculty researchers will no longer be required to request access to their laboratory spaces on campus. However, in order to resume face to face human subjects research, faculty researchers WILL need to submit a research request form to obtain approval through BOTH the VPR Office and the IRB . Researchers will be expected to provide a detailed plan to the VPR Office and IRB regarding your project(s) COVID specific safety protocols. Requests will be reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis.

Here are the steps to request approval of an ON-Campus in Person Human Subjects Data Collection:
1. Faculty submit Research Request for On and Off-Campus Research Activities (must include detailed COVID safety plan)
2. Director Review/Approval
3. Dean Review/Approval
4. VPR Review research requests on a case-by-case basis
5. VPR Office notifies Faculty and IRB of approval of research project(s)
6. VPR Office notifies IRB and Faculty once all agreements have been signed and received
7. VPR Office notifies faculty to submit
(a) Cayuse IRB Request (attach .pdf of VPR office approval email)
(b) VPR office research project (s) approval email
8. IRB Review
9. IRB notifies PI of final approval

Here are the steps to request approval of an OFF-Campus in Person Human Subjects Data Collection:

1. Faculty submit Research Request for On and Off Campus Research Activities (must include detailed COVID safety plan)
2. Director Review/Approval
3. Dean Review/Approval
4. VPR Review
5. VPR Office sends COVID Authorization & Release Agreement to all identified individuals listed in the request
6. VPR Office notifies IRB and Faculty once all agreements have been signed and received
7. VPR Office notifies faculty to submit 
(a) Cayuse IRB Request (attach .pdf of VPR office approval email)
(b) VPR office research project (s) approval email
8. IRB Review
9. IRB notifies PI of final approval

Updated August 3, 2020

Undergraduate Reserach

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced significant changes to nearly all facets of our daily lives. The normal rhythms of the academic year have been replaced by uncertainty and newness at every turn. The suspension of research activities and subsequent phased reopening of research on all USM campuses, represent an unprecedented disruption to the University’s pursuit of its research mission, in which undergraduate researchers are valued, partners. The VPR office is committed to supporting undergraduate students, faculty, and staff during this difficult and uncertain time.

As we approach the arrival of undergraduates to campus, we advise you to begin planning and preparing for the return of undergraduates in your research endeavors. We will permit undergraduates to return to research activities on Monday, August 17th to coincide with the first day of classes. Nonetheless, we expect our faculty mentors and supervisors to review the CDC Prevention Guidelines and USM Community Standards.

Over the last few months, numerous faculty submitted requests for a return to research activities and provided very through plans to ensure the safety of your researchers through rotation of personnel, social distancing, facial coverings, cleaning, and disinfecting practices. As you begin to think through the process of incorporating undergraduates in your research practices, we strongly encourage you to revisit and possibly update your plans. It is imperative that these plans be communicated to all of your researchers, especially undergraduates.

Be advised that if any of your researchers test positive for COVID-19, all individuals who had close contact exposure to that individual, would be required to quarantine for 14 days. Please refer to COVID-19 FAQs page, provided by Human Resources, for expectations of employees and supervisors in the event that someone tests positive, exhibits symptoms, or is exposed to COVID-19.

Thank you in advance for your patience as we prepare to welcome back our students this Fall. The University is providing updates on the University’s Flight Plan. If you have any additional questions or concerns regarding your research project(s) please do not hesitate to the VPR office or your respective Director.

Updated July 7, 2020

Request to Return to Research Activities

In an effort to begin the process of restarting research activities on campus, we are asking any research leaders who needs access to facilities on-campus to complete the following form. Currently there is not a date in which we will implement limited return to campus facilities. This request is not intended for research activities that can continue to be done remotely or involve human subjects. This request is only intended for research activity that requires access to campus facilities.

Request for On Campus Research

The completed form will be automatically sent to the Director of the school or unit, who will then make recommendations to the Dean and VPR office for final approval. For those requests that are granted access, all individuals will be provided an authorization and release agreement to review and sign before being allowed to return to campus. At this time, undergraduates will not be provided access to perform research on-campus. As we continue to operate under restricted access, no research personnel may be required or pressured to come to campus or engage in field-work.

Thank you in advance for your patience as we navigate through this process and begin to plan accordingly going forward. The university is providing updates on the University’s Covid-19 website. If you have any additional questions or concerns regarding your research project(s) please don’t hesitate to contact Kim%20Wingo or your respective Director.

Updated March 18, 2020

Letter from the Vice President

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.


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.


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.

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)

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

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

Letter to DHS Contractors Regarding COVID-19

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

Contact Us

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

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