Syracuse University Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Researchers

**UPDATED** June 3, 2020

The latest University-wide guidance for students, faculty, and staff is available on the University’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) website.

For the latest guidance on the research guidance for the university’s phased re-opening see the Return to Campus Research Guidance web page.

The disclosure process that facilitated research activities before Phase 1 of Return to Campus has now closed. Please speak to your Department Chair and Associate Dean of Research if you have needs to return to campus before you receive notification from your college that you have been approved to return.  

Note that all in-person data collection activities for non-essential human subjects research are still paused until further notice. From a regulatory perspective, this is considered a temporary pause in data collection involving human subjects.

Letter from Interim Vice Chancellor and Provost Liu and Interim VPR Raina March 22, 2020

As national and state-wide mandates increase to control the spread of COVID-19, University recommendations and requirements are also changing. New guidance specifically in relation to the conduct of research at Syracuse University is provided below, organized by major topic. These sections will be updated as additional guidance is provided.

Animal Research

Lab Animal Resources (LAR) will be working on-site to conduct daily animal husbandry. A full emergency plan is in place to ensure all animals are cared for and in accordance with social distancing procedures. Please contact LAR with questions.

Biosafety

Based on the type of research proposed, additional oversight and approval from the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) may be needed before the research can begin. The IBC has specific guidelines for COVID-19 related research as follows:

  1. COVID-19 research involving live COVID-19 virus should not be considered at Syracuse University. The University does not have a Biosafety Level 3 (BSL 3) facility or BSL 3 comparable laboratory.
  2. COVID-19 research involving inactivated or attenuated COVID-19 virus will be considered at Syracuse University. This includes research collaborations where the virus is inactivated or attenuated at another Institution and transferred to Syracuse University for use. Proposed protocols will need to be reviewed for consideration and approved by the IBC. The research will be classified as Biosafety Level 2 (BSL2) and must adhere to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and University guidelines for BSL2 research.
  3. COVID-19 research involving recombinant, non-infectious viral components will be considered at Syracuse University. Proposed protocols will need to be reviewed for consideration and approved by the IBC. The research will be classified as BSL1, or BSL2 if human cell/tissue culture is involved, and must adhere to the CDC and University guidelines for BSL1 research or BSL2 research if applicable.

Faculty must complete an Institutional Biosafety Committee Protocol Application Form and provide lab specific operating procedures to the University Biosafety Officer at ehss@syr.edu
IBC review and approval of proposed protocols requires approximately six weeks.

The University Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) developed guidance to assist Faculty with planning and preparation for COVID-19 related research. The guidance aligns with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Interim Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines for Handling and Processing Specimens Associated with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Please refer to the University Biohazardous Laboratory Design Criteria to determine if your proposed lab space has the minimum required features and equipment.

All laboratory personnel must complete EHSS’ Initial Lab Safety Training prior to working in a laboratory. Lab personnel must also complete EHSS’ Biosafety Training if they will be working in a Biosafety Level 2 laboratory.

For more information on registering and attending trainings, please visit EHSS’ Lab Safety Training webpage.

Building Access

As the majority of the University’s workforce has transitioned to remote operations, access to most University buildings has been limited. Many academic and administrative buildings have transitioned to swipe card access (SU I.D.) only. Please carry your SU I.D. card if you are coming to campus to access your office or lab.

Human Subject Research

Given the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic and our shared goal to reduce the risk of infection within our community, the Office of Research together with the Office of Research Integrity and Protections and the Institutional Review Board have determined that, for human subjects research deemed non-essential, data collection activities involving face-to-face interaction with participants must pause until further notice; this includes social, behavioral and educational research, as well as biomedical research. This is in keeping with the need to minimize personal contact. From a regulatory perspective, this is considered a temporary pause in human participant research activities for those studies impacted.

If a research activity involving face-to-face interaction with participants provides a significant health benefit, and is considered an essential research activity, then the activity may continue. However, such studies must be approved for continuation by the Department Chair, Associate Dean for Research, and Vice President of Research through the disclosure of essential research activities form, available on the Office of Research web page.

For non-essential human subjects research, data collection activities for any biomedical or social, behavioral and educational study that involves in-person, face-to-face interactions with participants – including faculty, staff, students and community participants – must be paused. Research studies that limit participant interactions to online or remote communication, telephone contact, remote monitoring, remote data collection or secondary data analysis may continue.

For more guidance on pausing your study, go to Considerations for Human Participant Protections Related to COVID-19.

Research Management

For currently active projects, researchers are required to discontinue campus-based research activities and when possible move all non-essential lab research to home/online modalities. Researchers must postpone the start of any new data collection activities that cannot be carried out remotely until further notice.

All non-essential campus-based research activity must pause, and essential research activities conducted in campus-based facilities scaled back to a minimum. Effective immediately, no more than 2 people from any lab should occupy the lab at one time. These individuals should be those who have not traveled outside of Syracuse area within last 14 days. Those that remain must be conducting essential research activities only.

Approval for the continuation of essential research activities must be received by the Vice President of Research from your Department Chair and Associate Dean for Research. Please submit your disclosure of essential research activities here.

Essential research activities are things, which if halted will have an irretrievably detrimental impact to a long-term research program or to the maintenance and care of high value research material. Essential research activities may also include those that respond to the current world health crisis. Some examples of these activities are:

  • A long-term ongoing research experiment which cannot be stopped without jeopardizing the entire experiment
  • Longitudinal study that is already underway that addresses an important topic relevant to human health
  • Care of animals, plants, cell lines, microbial strains, freezers containing valuable research material, major pieces of equipment, and other specific items/agents that are of high research value and are extremely difficult or very expensive to replace
  • Activity that maintains critical equipment in facilities and laboratories
  • COVID-19 related activity that has a timeline for deployment that could address the current crisis
  • Activity that has US government-mandated security and access requirements, cannot be performed remotely, and whose activity is deemed critical by the US government
  • Activities specifically requested by a US Government sponsor to continue during this time

First, practice social distancing, including laboratory-specific guidance

  • Keep at least 6 feet between people when together for prolonged periods.
  • Shift work spaces to maintain distance.
  • Stagger shifts to maintain no more than two people in the lab at any given time.
  • Work elsewhere for non-laboratory work, such as writing, planning, or data analysis.
  • Establish access connections and communication tools to ensure effective remote work.

Second, plan for contingencies:

  • Plan research activities such that essential functions can be carried out by designated lab members, who could serve as essential personnel if needed.
  • Coordinate with colleagues and consider if cross training of personnel is feasible for managing critical activities.
  • Order crucial research supplies and materials now to ensure availability if there is a disruption in supply chains.
  • Connect with your departmental leadership to learn about their plans for operations on which you depend, such as facility needs like loading docks or IT support.
  • Even in the case of essential activities, plan procedures to idle or shut down experiments and equipment, should it become necessary.
  • Document contingency plans and share the plan with lab members.

Note, per Syracuse University guidance, anyone who has traveled outside the Central New York region (defined as the counties of Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, and Oswego) should remain away from campus for 14 days, following their return to Central New York.

Syracuse University Libraries’ Research Impact Team has prepared the resource guide CV/Resume Citing: COVID-19 to help you navigate these questions.

Research Proposals and Grant Administration

As COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold, the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) has transitioned to a virtual office environment and is continuing to provide full service and staffing to maintain our normal levels of faculty and staff support.  Please contact your OSP Research Administrator by email with any request that you may have for assistance with the submission of a proposal, the setup of an award, or any other questions that you may have. See more information here.

Some are, yes, while others are not. We advise PIs to check the sponsor’s funding opportunity web page for the solicitation for their target funding opportunity on a daily basis to see whether the sponsor has adjusted the submission deadline.

Yes, funding opportunities related to COVID-19 are being updated here.

Various federal agencies have issued information updates for researchers on practical matters like late applications, salary, stipends, clinical trials, travel, and conference grants, as they relate to closures and cancellations in response to COVID-19. Guidance from several agencies is listed below. A more comprehensive listing has been compiled by the Council On Government Relations (COGR) here.

Yes, first and foremost, the faculty, staff and post-docs are Syracuse University employees and students engaged in sponsored projects are Syracuse University research assistants. As long as these individuals are paid in accordance with University Policy, and the employees have discussed their employment arrangements with their supervisor (and have registered their flexible work arrangement with Human Resources here), then charging their effort to a sponsored funding source is allowable. The federal guidance relies on the University to follow its own established policies and procedures, applying them uniformly regardless of funding source.  As the University workforce transitions to working remotely, supervisors should work with their employees to accommodate their needs as best they can so that they can continue to work in a virtual environment.

Research Travel or Conference Travel

Impacts from COVID-19 on sponsored project related travel will vary. Federal guidance on these matters is still developing, and we are providing the most current information available. The National Science Foundation (NSF) guidance and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidance have both been issued in the form of FAQs specifically addressing the COVID-19 outbreak, and how to address grant related travel interruptions or cancellations. Speaking broadly, if travel or conference hosting plans have not yet been made, we recommend temporarily postponing these events to a future date once the COVID-19 crisis has passed. If travel was a requirement of the sponsored project, your program manager should be alerted to the delay and their guidance sought in coordination with the Office of Sponsored Programs.

For the updated information on all University travel, see the University's Coronavirus Travel Guidance page.