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COVID-19 Updates: Office of Research & Creative Scholarship

Effective March 20, Office of Research & Creative Scholarship (ORCS) staff members have transitioned to working remotely while the Boston campus remains closed. Staff are reachable via email, and are available to talk over the phone for urgent requests (we continue to check voicemail messages). We can also be reached on Slack — our team members can all be contacted individually on the platform, or via the ORCS Slack channel (#orcs-qna).

Ongoing Research and Grant-Funded Activities

To protect public health, access to the Boston campus has been restricted since March 20. With respect to this change, all research that can be accomplished remotely should proceed remotely until further notification.

All on-site research activities must be approved by the Provost and a faculty member’s school dean and department chair. They will approve only what they judge to be essential research — examples include work that addresses COVID-19 or research that would, if stopped, endanger the lives of participants or the continuity of long-running and time-sensitive data collection. No external visitors will be allowed in labs and research spaces.

Delays and Disruptions to Research and Grant Activity

With classes now online and much of the campus closed, it is inevitable that progress — and project timelines — for some grant-funded activities will be delayed or disrupted by efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. Grants and sponsored awards are subject to reporting schedules and end dates, and many sponsors require that unspent funds be returned after a project’s expiration. It is thus important for ORCS to assess, on a case-by-case basis, what our options are for ensuring your grant is still available when circumstances change and routine activities begin to resume.

With this in mind, we ask that you please notify us as soon as possible if you anticipate that your project will experience significant delays or disruption due to coronavirus-related developments. We will work with you to plot a course of action. Some common ways of retaining grant funds in the event of unforeseen circumstances are no-cost extensions, or changes to a project’s scope of work. Options such as this, however, vary from sponsor to sponsor, and will depend on the terms and conditions of your specific award.

If you are the recipient of a Faculty Advancement Fund Grant (FAFG), Affiliated Faculty Professional Development Fund, (AFDF), or Mann Stearns award that expires on June 30, and you have significant funds remaining, it is critical that you also contact us at your earliest convenience. Per College accounting rules, these funds revert back to Emerson after July 1, and extensions beyond this date are not possible. ORCS recognizes some recipients’ projects may be disrupted significantly by COVID-19, and we are committed to working with you to find a solution.

Travel Related to Grant and Research Activities

Emerson announced new travel policy guidelines related to COVID-19 in early March. Related to this, we have seen some travel reservations canceled that were initially made by individuals with the expectation they would submit their receipts for reimbursement after the trip. These cancellations are often nonrefundable.

Currently, there is no federal guidance on whether canceled trips due to novel coronavirus will be permitted as federal grant expenditures. Because we don’t want to see any faculty or students stuck with this kind of burden, please use a departmental p-card, or the Workday Marketplace, to make purchases directly as often as possible. If you currently have reservations that you booked with the expectation of submitting an expense report for reimbursement, please let us know this as well.

Human Subjects Research

Effective immediately, in accordance with guidance promulgated by the National Institutes of Health, Emerson College is directing that all studies involving face-to-face interaction with participants with no direct drug or therapeutic benefit are to be postponed until further notice.

This guidance does not apply to IRB-approved study activities that do not involve direct subject contact (e.g., chart reviews, surveys, remote interviews) or research that has already transitioned in-person visits over to virtual visits (e.g. interviews, surveys, questionnaires).

Participant research visits must be performed remotely whenever possible. Researchers should consider using telephone, web conferencing, and other electronic means to conduct data collection procedures normally done in-person. These methods may be added when possible and practical for mitigating research risks to human subjects or others related to COVID-19. Any deviation from a previously approved IRB protocol must first be approved y the IRB.

The IRB has reached out to individual investigators to check on the status of their research studies, asking investigators to submit a check-in form. The College and IRB are committed to working with investigators to mitigate any disruptions wherever possible. In addition to the remote options outlined above, researchers may wish to request an extension of their protocol, or make other changes to data collection methods.

For COVID-19 guidance from major grant sponsors, visit ORCS’ COVID-19 webpage.

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