Information for faculty and researchers

Information for faculty and researchers

(March 26, 2020) Research administration guidance for sponsored projects

(March 17, 2020) Updated guidance for researchers in laboratories.

(March 16, 2020) Information on research due to shelter-in-place orders.

A message from Stacey F. Bent, Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs, and Kathryn Moler, Vice Provost and Dean of Research: appointments of visiting scholars are restricted until at least June 1, 2020.

Find Stanford guidelines for those who have tested positive or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive on the Prevention and well-being page.

Find an FAQ on enhanced cleaning and preventative hygiene on the Prevention and well-being page.

On this page

FAQ for PIs regarding lab-level continuity plans

How should the information we submit for our continuity plan be used?

The names of only key people who will perform tasks related to high priority essential functions that you submit to your building manager or local area contact (e.g., DFA) will be used to quickly activate your continuity plan if curtailment is enacted.

The process of thinking through the essential functions, staff, key tasks and equipment should be useful to reasonably anticipate how an escalating situation may impact your lab’s operations. You can then use this process to identify mitigation actions to offset the possible scenario that only few people may be available to maintain essential functions.

Your department chair and other leadership staff may use the continuity plans in aggregate to make resourcing decisions in the event that CDC or other health guidance requires us to curtail research activities at a higher level of pandemic response.

Is it mandatory to submit a continuity plan?

Yes. If we do not receive a plan from your group, we will not be able to communicate appropriately with your key personnel.

Why does the Research Operations Continuity Considerations stipulate a 45- to 60-day window for planning?

We suggest this timeframe so that your continuity plan can account for possible impacts on supply chains and vendors. Although we do not expect research activities to be strongly curtailed for this extended period, it’s prudent to be prepared for challenges that may arise before and after plans are activated.

Is help available?

Yes. Your school contacts and others can assist.

How will we know when to fully activate our continuity plan?

You will be notified by the Dean of Research or designee.

What’s required of lab staff now?

  • Continue to follow the guidance to minimize the risk of illness.
  • Maintain a contact list with emails and phone numbers for all lab staff and important support staff, vendors, and suppliers. Circulate this list and consider keeping paper copies.
  • Be prepared to implement a shutdown checklist for your lab.
  • Comply with SU policies for travel and remote working.
  • Refer frequently to the healthalerts.stanford.edu website.

What are some good things to do now, before plans are activated?

  • Identify key personnel and ensure they know what to do.
  • Complete and submit your plans.
  • Maintain a reasonable level of back-up stocks and supplies for essential lab functions.
  • Keep equipment in good working order.
  • Ensure remote access to files and data.
  • Practice remote working arrangements as practical.

FAQ for lab researchers

Reducing risk of transmission while conducting your research

Can human subjects and external research study personnel still come to campus?

Stanford has established guidance whereby human subjects and external research study personnel comply with the CDC guidance for self-isolation and self-quarantine. This means that certain prospective visitors are not permitted to visit Stanford facilities to participate in research activities, including people who:

  • Have been diagnosed with COVID-19 (tested positive)
  • Exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, vomiting, diarrhea)
  • Have recently returned from travel to locations with CDC travel restrictions
  • May have had close contact with known cases
  • Believe they may have been exposed to COVID-19 virus

Any non-essential visits should be postponed whenever possible. Non-essential research activities should be deferred if possible. New studies that have not yet started, especially those having a large population of human subjects, should also be deferred if possible.

Study teams may implement exceptions to allow for clinical trials treatments of patients with serious illnesses. Study teams may implement exceptions to allow, for example, clinical trials treatments of patients with serious illnesses, or other essential studies. Study teams should also evaluate and implement additional mitigation measures for work with immunocompromised study participants, older adults, and patients.

In an effort to minimize exposure during the COVID-19 outbreak, study teams should contact all study participants, study monitors, and other external research study personnel prior to appointments to ensure their suitability for in-person visits.

Please ask your visitors the day prior to their scheduled appointment to confirm that they are not in, nor are candidates for, self-isolation or self-quarantine.  If they are ill/symptomatic, please postpone their involvement in your study.

Visits to the hospital should be limited to essential personnel only.

Staff, students and all research study personnel should observe social distancing, respiratory etiquette, and frequent handwashing. Stanford researchers who are people at higher risk (older adults, people with chronic, serious medical conditions) are advised to follow CDC guidance to reduce their risk of illness, and work with their managers on specific arrangements that may be needed to reduce risk.

For shared research equipment (e.g., keyboards, chin rests, table tops), please wipe down with disinfectant prior to and after subject participation.

Procedures and processes may need to be changed with little notice, due to the dynamic nature of the situation. Please continue to monitor healthalerts@stanford.edu for current information. We aim to best protect study participants and staff while continuing research as possible under conditions of the COVID-19 virus outbreak. We appreciate your understanding and flexibility.

If you have questions, please send an email to healthalerts@lists.stanford.edu where it will be routed to the appropriate person for a response.

What should labs do now to reduce the risk of spreading illness? (updated 3/13/20)

  • To reduce the risk of spreading illness, including COVID-19, colds, and flu, follow prevention and well-being guidance at healthalerts.stanford.edu. Stay home when feeling unwell, wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face, don’t share food and drinks, and clean and disinfect shared surfaces and objects that are touched frequently (e.g., door knobs, desks, phones).
  • Reduce density and allow “social distancing” of lab/research personnel.
  • Increase disinfecting of laboratory and communal spaces, including lab benches and chairs, equipment, common rooms. The University has employed enhanced cleaning, focusing on communal spaces with high traffic and high use. To assist janitorial staff, tidy up laboratory spaces now and inventory, and, as always, label dangerous reagents and sensitive instrumentation for which services staff should steer clear. Guidance on cleaning Laboratory Spaces and Adjoining Offices has been provided here.
  • Consider conducting meetings via phone or video, following the telecommute guidance provided by UIT.

What is social distancing and how does it apply to labs?

  • The goal of social distancing is to reduce virus transmission by decreasing the frequency and duration of social contact amongst healthy individuals. CDC describes it as “common-sense approaches to limiting face-to-face contact…” but it is not intended to completely eliminate all interactions.
  • For example, labs might increase spacing between researchers by consciously maintaining a 3- to 6-foot spacing between individuals, coming to the lab in shifts, allowing every other bench to be unoccupied, etc.
  • Consider limiting face-to-face contacts by conducting meetings by phone or online.

What policies apply to working remotely?

See University HR policies on telecommuting and information for faculty and researchers. As appropriate, discuss feasibility with your PI, advisor, supervisor or HR.

What kind of remote work is appropriate to do?

Remote work could focus on data analysis, manuscript writing, grant writing, literature reviews, or planning future experiments. It’s not required to conduct group meetings remotely, but groups may choose to do so or to allow remote access for individuals.

What should I do if I’m immuno-compromised or have other individual circumstances?

Researchers who are sick, immuno-compromised, or have other individual circumstances may work with their advisors, PIs, or supervisors on alternative arrangements as needed.

Research-related travel and finance

I have a conference starting soon. Should I go?

Many conferences are being cancelled and many researchers are canceling their trips. See the latest Stanford Health Alerts regarding travel, and contact travel2020@lists.stanford.edu with further questions.

I really need to travel for my research. What should I do?

Watch the University travel announcements closely for up to date information on travel restrictions, including the circumstances for requesting an exception.

How can I charge or recover my travel or other costs?

  • Stanford Travel is monitoring developments related to domestic and international university travel in the wake of the spread of COVID-19. Information about issues such as airline waivers, refundable and non-refundable tickets, visitor reimbursements, and booking future flights can be found at Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Travel Information. This document is being updated as new information becomes available. Please note that this document is only available using one’s Stanford Google account.
  • To date, there is no federal guidance relating to charges to awards for non-refundable travel, conferences, and related expenses due to COVID-19. Please continue to follow Financial Management Services guidance on specific items of cost.
  • Please contact your Department Administrator for further information.

Proposal and report deadlines

What guidance has the federal government provided regarding funding and grants? (updated 3/13/20)

  • On March 9, 2020, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) produced a memo directing Federal agencies to support research and services that are deemed necessary to carry out emergency response related to COVID-19.
  • On March 12, 2020, the NIH issued a memo stating that grant “flexibilities are applicable to NIH applicants and recipients where the entity is conducting research activities related to or affected by COFID-19. Affected entities are those that have been closed, or business activities have been hindered due to COVID19 precautionary measures and/or illness.”
  • OMB also reminded agencies of their existing flexibility to issue exceptions on a case-by-case basis, and will evaluate if these flexibilities should be extended to researchers or other recipients whose operations have been adversely impacted by the response to COVID-19. This guidance may come at a later date.
  • Contact your OSR Officer or RMG RPM regarding further guidance.

What ORA and RMG resources will be available during this period?

Operations in all ORA and RMG (for School of Medicine) units are normal until further notice. Continue to contact your OSR Officer or RMG RPM for most matters. In general, we expect that Stanford will be able to submit proposals, even if personnel are working remotely.  Our experience is that federal agencies are very flexible about deadlines under difficult circumstances beyond our control.  However, if agencies are officially closed, proposals will most likely remain in a queue, pending resumption of agency operations – as has been the case during federal budget-related shutdowns.  Information will be posted on the ORA and RMG websites, if necessary.

What if I am unable to submit my grant on time due to COVID-19? (updated 3/13/20)

Most federal agencies, including NIH and NSF, do not grant prior approval for late submissions; however, there are existing policies that address extenuating circumstances and the NIH published a memo on March 9, 2020 relating to late applications, as well as an FAQ memo. Current guidance can be found in NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-15-039 and NOT-OD-20-086 and NSF’s Special Exceptions to NSF’s Deadline Date Policy (PAPPG 19-1). We strongly encourage you to discuss your specific situation with both your agency Program Official and your OSR Officer or RMG RPM.

COVID-19 issues are negatively affecting the progress on my grant. What should I do? (updated 3/13/20)

See the NIH memos published on March 9, 2020, regarding late applications and an FAQ. The NIHFederal Office of Management and Budget also released a memo indicating that grant “flexibilities are applicable to NIH applicants and recipients where the entity is conducting research activities related to or affected by COFID-19. Affected entities are those that have been closed, or business activities have been hindered due to COVID19 precautionary measures and/or illness they will evaluate if grant flexibilities should be extended to researchers or other recipients whose operations have been adversely impacted by the response to COVID-19. This guidance may come at a later date.” For programmatic issues affecting your study, we strongly recommend you speak with your agency Program Official or other sponsor contact.  If any issues should persist, they may need to be reported in future progress reports, or you may need a No Cost Extension to complete your study. Please coordinate any such actions with your OSR Officer or RMG RPM.

Do sponsors have specific policies on disasters, emergencies, or COVID-19?

Please check the sponsor websites and the ORA and RMG websites for current information regarding sponsor guidance, including guidance related to COVID-19 specifically.

Cleaning

What sort of cleaning procedures are in place in common areas?

The University has enhanced cleaning, focusing on communal spaces with high traffic and high use.

Where can we get disinfectants, antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.? (updated 3/13/20)

  • Cold and flu viruses, as well as COVID-19, are susceptible to disinfectants that contain alcohol (recommended at least 60% for hand sanitizer) or bleach, which are commonly found in many cleaning products.
  • At this time, departments and labs should evaluate their needs and purchase any needed additional supplies from their usual supplier.
  • Guidance on cleaning Laboratory Spaces and Adjoining Offices has been provided here.

Who will clean the lab if a COVID-19 infection is discovered?

If a COVID-19 infection is discovered, the University will send special cleaning crews. To assist those crews, please tidy up laboratory spaces and inventory now, and, as always, label dangerous reagents and sensitive instrumentation that services staff should avoid.

Continuity planning

How should PIs and Research Managers plan for lab research continuity?

  • Immediately update your lab member contact lists. Share them with each lab member and with your building manager or local area contact (DFA).
  • If your lab has essential functions that must be continued in the event of a curtailment, please immediately identify the key lab members, PPE, and equipment needed to perform these functions. Provide this information to your building manager or local area contact (DFA).
  • Review Research Operations Continuity Considerations.
  • Fill in the Google form to document any essential research functions that need to be continued even in the event of a curtailment.
  • Be prepared to implement a shutdown checklist.

What research should I do now to maximize continuity in case of disruption?

  • Depending upon the nature of your research, you might consider prioritizing work that can only be carried out in your research facility; advancing work in progress to the point that it could be paused if necessary; identifying the work that has the highest future potential. Consider the relationship of projects to graduate student theses and post doc training objectives.
  • You may wish to put off work amenable to remote support, such as data analysis, planning, and writing, by stockpiling results and data now that could be analyzed remotely in the future.
  • If you are carrying out a long-term experiment and if it is feasible to freeze or store samples at specific steps, you might consider doing this more often.

How can we prepare for a shortage of crucial supplies or disruption in vendor services?

  • Assess which supplies or services are truly critical.
  • Contact vendors now regarding the potential for disruption. Identify alternative sources.
  • For supplies or services that would be needed even during research curtailment, work with your group and with your department or building manager to include this need in your continuity plan.

My work involves core facility/shared space use; what do I need to do?

  • Core facilities and service centers are operational and currently expected to remain so.
  • Contact the director or manager of the facility/shared space to coordinate regarding ongoing operations and availability.
  • Work with your group and with your facility or service center to include the possibility of disruption in your continuity plan.

Research during curtailment

Are laboratory access or support services curtailed now?

Stanford remains OPEN for research and researchers. We intend to keep research and research support services functioning as normally as possible, including labs, core facilities, and service centers.

How will the University decide whether to curtail laboratory research?

  • At this time, we do not anticipate curtailment of laboratory research. We are actively monitoring the situation on campus and in the community. Considerations include availability of campus-wide resources, levels of staffing, and other conditions on and around campus.
  • If the situation worsens, the Stanford Administration may, in consultation with public health experts and officials, decide to curtail research activities in individual buildings or communities within campus. No such action is being taken at this time or is currently foreseen; however, we want to help PIs be prepared for possible changes in the larger environment as the COVID-19 spread continues.
  • Therefore, laboratories and research facilities should plan for the possibility of a significant disruption.

Would I continue to have access to my research building?

  • Escalation in preparedness may mean buildings would be locked 24/7, so you may require a University or Stanford Medicine lD to enter your building.
  • In extreme circumstances, which are not currently foreseen, access may be restricted to critical personnel.

What can I plan to take out of my lab?

  • You may arrange with your PI or lab manager to take notebooks, data storage devices, or computers to help you work remotely.
  • Under no circumstances should researchers take materials other than laptops, data storage devices, or computers offsite (e.g., to their homes) to ensure research continuity during a curtailment.  All essential research must continue within the confines of appropriate laboratory space.
  • Under no circumstances is it appropriate to remove animals from APLAC and VSC approved housing or research spaces.

If research activities are curtailed, would we have enough notice?

  • We will continue to keep the campus community informed as circumstances develop, including communications about timing. Research curtailment is not planned at this time.
  • To prepare for the unlikely event of a curtailment, researchers should begin now to ensure enough time to prepare equipment or experiments for periods without researcher-provided maintenance, and follow the continuity planning guidance above.

Continuity of care for research animals

What must research labs do to prepare for the care of research animals in case of disruption?

  • Per the VSC, research labs must:
    • Create a plan to manage research animal experiments and ongoing care in case of lab staffing or shortage supplies;
    • Create an emergency contact list and provide to their Building Manager/DFA/Local Area Contact.
  • Per the VSC, research labs should:
    • Prioritize essential, ongoing research;
    • Consider delaying new projects or new animal subjects;
    • Reduce rodent breeding to only numbers required to maintain lines.

How will animal care proceed if access is limited?

The Department of Comparative Medicine, which oversees the Veterinary Service Center, has continuity plans in place to continue to provide routine care (food, water, sanitation, health checks) and routine veterinary care. The VSC is currently well stocked on essential items for animal care. If staffing or supply shortages do occur, VSC support may be reduced to focus on animal care. The VSC may need to stop scheduling services in support of elective or new research procedures. Further information can be found on the VSC site.

Thanks and acknowledgements to UC-Berkeley, University of Washington, and Yale for their excellent FAQs.

If you have additional questions, please send them to research_ops@lists.stanford.edu. This document will be updated by the Research Operations Continuity team as needed.

For more general information and Stanford-wide guidance, please visit healthalerts.stanford.edu.

Information from University Human Resources

For work-related FAQs related to COVID-19, see the Cardinal at Work website.