COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus): Frequently Asked Questions Relating to Research

From the Offices of the Executive Vice President for Research

Updated March 27, 2020; 3:14 pm

Columbia University continues to closely follow the COVID-19 outbreak. These FAQs contain information about COVID-19 as it relates to the conduct of research, research operations, and sponsored projects. This webpage will continue to be updated frequently as new information is received. The FAQs are included in the following major categories that can be accessed by clicking the links below.

All COVID-19 research-related questions can be sent to COVID19_research@columbia.edu.


Researchers Conducting COVID-19 Research - updated 3/27/2020

Conducting work relating to COVID-19 requires approval from senior leadership of the University and may require multiple offices to review and negotiate the terms of the sponsored award and to assist you in obtaining required institutional approvals (e.g., IRB, IBC, etc.). You should immediately contact your assigned SPA Project Officer, who will then provide you information on next steps.

Federal opportunities:

NIH: Funding Opportunities Specific to COVID-19

  • ​​RFA-AI-20-028: Partnerships for Countermeasures against Select Pathogens (R01 Clinical Trials Not Allowed)  - application due date June 29, 2020

All other NIH Funding Opportunities are posted on their dedicated COVID-19 website:

NSF - RAPID Research on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

See https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/coronavirus/ for the Dear Colleague Letters and FAQs on this opportunity.

Department of Energy (DOE)

DOE Dear Colleague Letter -- Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) - Asking for input on COVID-19 rapid research response involving DOE user facilities and infrastructure.

Foundations:

American Heart Association (AHA) Rapid Response Grant COVID-19 and Its Cardiovascular Impact - Applications for funding are due by Monday, April 6, 2020 at 5 p.m. Central Time

Pivot (a funding opportunity database):

Pivot is a funding opportunity database. To view COVID-19 funding opportunities or receive emails alerts of new opportunities, click on these instructions where you will be able to:

Easily download highlighted COVID-19 opportunities, including global sponsors, from Pivot (updated weekly):

Researchers interested in conducting research with emerging pathogens such as SARS CoV2, should  contact the Biological Safety staff in EH&S at biosafety@columbia.edu for guidance and assistance. For more information, see https://research.columbia.edu/content/biological-safety.

If you are planning to receive and/or send any material (plasma, virus, etc.) containing, constituting, or directly relating to coronavirus research, please contact SPA for assistance. All requests should be directed to Mr. Whitney Meeks at wdm2115@cumc.columbia.edu, indicating 'COVID-19 for coronavirus' in the subject line.

  • When receiving material: The organization/collaborator providing material to Columbia usually provides a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA). Please request a template from the provider organization/collaborator and forward it to SPA for legal review. In the event the provider prefers to use a MTA template from Columbia, SPA can generate the document.
  • When sending material: SPA will prepare and send a draft MTA to the organization /collaborator for review.

SPA may need to consult with Columbia Technology Ventures (CTV), the Office of Research Compliance and Training (ORCT), and/or Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) as necessary, depending on the type of material and nature of the research. SPA will advise you if anything else is needed before the MTA may be signed (e.g., IRB or other institutional approval).

Based on recent FDA guidance concerning research in the COVID-19 context, the IRB is prepared to consider remote electronic consent using a secure portal for trials related to COVID-19.

Yes.

  • When convened review is required, the goal is to conduct the review within 1-2 days. Reviews that do not require a convened meeting will be processed immediately.
  • To facilitate this timeline:
    • Notify the HRPO as early in the process as possible that you will be submitting a protocol so current guidance re consent and contact can be provided.
    • When available and during preparation of the Rascal application, send draft documents so preliminary review can begin.
    • Include a Word version of the consent form when submitting the protocol, so the IRB can make suggested changes directly, and provide back for PI approval.

Immediate Research Ramp-down - added 3/16/2020

On March 15th, 2020, University leadership issued memos announcing the urgent ramp-down of research activities. See  3/15/2020: COVID-19 and Urgent Research Tasks and 3/15/2020: Message from Dean Goldman regarding ramp-down of CUIMC research. The ramp-down must be completed by Thursday, March 19, 2020. We will be posting more FAQs later today related to the ramp-down.

The term essential research applies both to research on COVID-19 and its downstream effects and to laboratory work that must be done in support of ongoing clinical trials. Further, “essential” means either that the research is critical to the health of the public or that valuable resources, such as cell lines, animal lines, instrumentation requiring regular attention, etc., that cannot be shut down are kept going at a basal level.

Essential functions include the maintenance of equipment, laboratory resources, critical animal resources, and cell lines.

Essential personnel should be limited in general to 2-4 individuals (exceptions may be requested, depending, for example, on the size of the group). This does not mean that small groups can continue business as usual. If the work is not essential, it may not be done.  Information concerning essential personnel should be provided to your Chair/Director as part of your ramp down plans.

No. To the contrary, all researchers should continue to work on research projects remotely to the full extent possible.

You must always enter a CU building with appropriate ID; however, the institution is not currently on lock-down. At this time, you may still enter the buildings on campus. To ensure we maintain effective social distancing, and protect the welfare of all, personnel who are able to work remotely, should do so.

The research ramp down is currently expected to last 6 to 8 weeks.  However, since the current situation is dynamic, the duration of the ramp down will be assessed regularly.

Although many freezer units have remote alarms, some do not. If an alarm sounds, security will attempt to contact the person listed on the freezer.  If a freezer is located were its alarm cannot be heard, security may fail to respond.

Core facilities will be ramping down research activities, unless a core is actively providing services related to COVID-19 research, in support of clinical trials, or other “essential” research as defined within these FAQ’s.

The University shuttle will remain operational at this time. Only individuals deemed essential and/or conducting essential research should be traveling between campuses.

In order to minimize the potential exposure of COVID-19 to laboratory personnel, it is not recommended that clinicians travel between laboratory space and patient care areas.

All construction other than emergency repairs, will cease as part of our effort to restrict access to our facilities.

Due to the public health risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, at this time, absolutely no visitors, guests, or family members are allowed on-site.

ESSENTIAL/NON-ESSENTIAL PERSONNEL IN CASE OF A CAMPUS EMERGENCY https://policylibrary.columbia.edu/guidelines-establishing-essentialnonessential-personnel-case-campus-emergency

Functional areas that are considered essential include:

  • Office of Communications and Public Affairs
  • Public Safety
  • All Facilities Services
  • Columbia Health
  • CUIT (web, email, telephone, data networks and computer operations)
  • Treasury/Controller (core emergency team)
  • Procurement (emergency purchasing and processing)
  • Environmental Health and Safety
  • Institute of Comparative Medicine (ICM)
  • Government and Community Affairs
  • Senior-level Central Administrative Officers as required

Please be mindful that operations of the offices and services above may be modified, as needed. Please check with departments or offices for specific information.

We do not know at this time. We will continue to keep you informed of any changes regarding institutional restrictions, and the approaches being taken by funding agencies.

Yes, IACUC protocol review will continue as usual until further notice.  Contact Dr. MJ Shepherd at ms4387@columbia.edu with any questions or concerns.

Human Subjects Research and Ramp-down - added new FAQ 3/23/2020

On-going trials with direct potential benefit to participants may continue for enrolled subjects. Non-trial research done wholly in the hospital or other clinical settings, that was previously allowed to continue because it did not involve participants coming to additional visits, are now halted.

Principal investigators are asked to voluntarily suspend their trials if they can do so safely and if the suspension will not jeopardize the scientific integrity of the trial. Consultation with the IRB and CTO is strongly advised. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic places increased stress on the hospital, access for research personnel will be progressively restricted.

No, with the exception of trials directly related to COVID-19, subject to the approval of the Executive Vice President for Health Sciences.

No. New enrollment in all clinical trials must cease.

Yes, the Research Pharmacy and the Infusion Suite will remain open.

Clinical laboratories in NYP and the Department of Pathology will continue to operate. Research laboratories that process specimens or perform assays or tests for ongoing clinical trials may be considered essential. To continue such activities, an exception should be requested to the IRB including the IRB protocol number and project title, the critical importance of the laboratory activity to the protocol, and the number of tests or specimens predicted per week.

Yes. The IRB and the sponsor should be informed and the fact that a visit is done in this way should be noted in the study documentation.  A modification to your protocol does not need to be submitted until the time of your next renewal.

The study team should first assess whether a visit can be conducted in an alternative method (e.g., phone contact, virtual visit, alternative location for assessment, including local labs or imaging centers).  If an alternative method is not possible, and the study participant must be seen on-site, the study team should adhere to the following guidance:

  • Participants should be called prior to their scheduled visit and screened on the phone for new onset (in last 7 days) of symptoms of possible COVID-19 (fever >=100.4, cough, shortness of breath, and/or sore throat) that cannot be attributed to an underlying or previously recognized condition. If any symptoms are present, advise the participant not to come in and to contact their provider/health facility; the visit should be rescheduled, if possible. If the screen is negative, and participant wishes to proceed with a visit, they are invited to come to the research site.
  • When a participant arrives at the research site, the research staff should re-ask the screening questions (ideally outside or away from other participants in the waiting area). If the screen is positive, the participant should be advised to contact their provider/health facility, and reminded about contact and droplet precautions. If negative, they can be allowed into the research site. Staff screening a research participant in person should keep at least six feet apart.
  • Study visits should be staggered so there is no congregation of participants at the research site and to maintain 6 feet of separation between participants.
  • Participants should be advised that if they experience a new onset of symptoms described above, they need to contact their provider/health care facility and call the research team to inform them.

Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) Ramp-down Questions

Researchers are reminded that EH&S is considered an essential function of the University. At this time EH&S Services (WASTE MANAGEMENT, EMERGENCY RESPONSE, TRAINING, ETC.) and functions will continue, with necessary adjustments to frequency or depth of service as needed.

The Research Continuity Planner is a useful guide or tool.  It can be used to help build an organized list of the activities that take place in your lab.  After carefully thinking through the daily operations of your lab, use the tool to assign a "Criticality" ranking (High-Medium-Low) to each.  From there, identify and assign key personnel (primary and back-up) who can be assigned to manage the highly critical tasks either via an orderly shutdown process, or a maintenance plan.  Addition columns provide space for recording important information on the supplies, vendors and other associated details related to the task.

Once complete, fill in the "Lab Phone List" tab in the workbook and use the information to share the plan with your personnel.

As part of the “Ramp Down,” it is anticipated there will be a surge in production of RMW as research laboratories clear out their incubators. Containers of liquid should not be put directly into a red bag. For example, decant or aspirate all liquid from tissue culture flasks. Treat with bleach and dispose in to the sink.  The exception is plastic tubes that contain less than 50 ml of liquid. These can be tightly capped and put directly into red bags. Glass vacutainer tubes can be put directly into a sharps container. Please use your normal procedures for disposing of RMW. If you take your red bags to a designated container (dumpster) on the floor, continue to do so. If this designated dumpster in full in your area, do not leave the bags on the floor or on top of the dumpster. Find another dumpster with capacity. If you need to take a red bag to another floor use the freight elevator. Cardboard biohazard boxes may be deployed in areas where the dumpsters are full. Place your red bags into boxes if the  dumpster is full. Conserve and consolidate resources. Please work with your colleagues to ensure sharps containers are near to full when you put them out in the hallway. The lid should be closed when they are put out.

All requests for chemical disposal should be submitted, as usual, via https://research.columbia.edu/hazardous-materials-and-sustainability. Laboratories are encouraged to plan for the disposal of chemicals and chemical waste, with immediate priority to those which may become unstable (e.g., peroxide-forming, reactive, pressure build-up, etc.), malodorous, that have or will exceed their shelf/useful life or that are full/almost full. EH&S plans to have staff available all week to service these requests. Please type URGENT in the COMMENTS/SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS section of the online form for items that meet the above characteristics. If your waste request is NOT urgent, please still submit the request, as EH&S will add it to our service schedule.  If your waste disposal request is not serviced by Thursday evening, March 19, 2020, please stage the waste inside your lab in a safe place and highly visible area, as close to the entry door as possible (e.g., inside the fume hood, on a lab bench, inside a secondary containment tray(s) on the floor, etc.). Print and place a sign with the chemicals for disposal that reads EH&S - DISPOSE OF THESE CHEMICALS, so EH&S knows which chemicals to remove.  If there are any specific lab access restrictions (e.g., door code, special key, etc.), please include the information in your waste request in the COMMENTS/SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS section and note the access code or instructions on who to contact in your lab/department to help coordinate access with EH&S. Please note that it is NOT necessary that every chemical or chemical waste container in your laboratory be disposed of during the ramp down. Please contact labsafety@columbia.edu with any questions.

Storage and security requirements are unchanged during ramp-down.  As usual, radioactive materials must be secured when not in use or otherwise left unattended.  These materials must be properly stored in a locked container, cabinet, freezer or refrigerator, room or other secure location to prevent unauthorized access or removal.  All containers of radioactive material must be properly labeled with a “Caution: Radioactive Material” label.  Please contact rso-ehrs@columbia.edu for questions or support.

All requests for disposal should be submitted, as usual, via LION (https://labcliq.com/columbia_lion.cfm).  If waste material may become unstable or malodorous if not picked up immediately, please type URGENT in the “Comments” section of the waste pickup form and provide additional information.  For waste requests that are NOT urgent, please still submit the request, so EH&S can ensure we add it to our service schedule.  If your waste disposal request is not serviced by Thursday evening, please stage your waste inside your lab in a highly visible area, as close to the entry door as possible (e.g., inside the fume hood, on a lab bench, inside a secondary containment tray(s) on the floor, etc.), but in a safe place.  Print and place a sign with the waste for disposal that reads EH&S - DISPOSE OF THESE CONTAINERS, so EH&S knows which containers to remove.  If there are any specific lab access restrictions (e.g., door code, special key, etc.), please include the information in your waste request in the COMMENTS/SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS section and note the access code or instructions on who to contact in your lab/department to help coordinate access with EH&S.  It is NOT necessary that every chemical or radioactive waste container in your laboratory be disposed of during the ramp down. Contact rso-ehrs@columbia.edu with any questions.

Facilities Support of Research - added 3/18/2020

Note that the policies and procedures reflected in the below FAQs are current, however they may be impacted/change/be updated as needed based on the impact of COVID-19.

Morningside and Manhattanville: 

Call the Facilities Services Center at 212-854-2222 for any facilities-related issue. The Service Center will continue to staff 24/7 however, custodial staff or specialized trade staff numbers may be reduced.  Staff will available to cover essential functions.

CUIMC: 

To report any urgent facilities-related issues, please call 212-305-HELP (4357), option 3. Please submit all non-urgent requests via the online work order system.

Morningside and Manhattanville:

Yes, building access will be limited. Building access will be managed by Public Safety. Only those persons authorized for card reader access for off hours and weekends will be allowed. CUIDs will be needed at all times.  Please verify your ID card access with your supervisor and with Public Safety if you have any questions.

CUIMC: Updated: Monday, March 23 (12:00 p.m.)

Rapidly changing circumstances related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic require us to take additional measures around Columbia University Irving Medical Center to slow the spread of the virus while maintaining basic operations to support the medical center. Please see below for important campus operations updates. https://www.cumc.columbia.edu/facilities-management/about-us/cuimc-campus-status

  • Only CUIMC essential personnel and approved members of the research community identified as essential are allowed to access CUIMC buildings; Columbia University IDs will be needed at all times. Please verify your ID card access with your supervisor and email COVID19_research@columbia.edu if you are a member of the research community and have any questions.
  • Access to the William Black Building entrance (650 W. 168th St.) is restricted to CUIMC employees only; all CUIMC employees must present their ID to enter through the Black Building--no exceptions.

CUIMC, Morningside and Manhattanville: 

Facilities will continue to monitor all critical HVAC equipment. Facilities will respond to emergency and urgent situations, with all requests prioritized based on criticality for health, life, safety first.

CUIMC, Morningside and Manhattanville:

All emergency power and life safety systems will operate as they do now.

CUIMC, Morningside and Manhattanville:

All major utilities will continue to operate. Facilities has contingency plans in place in the event of staffing shortages.

Morningside and Manhattanville: 

Cleaning protocols in all public spaces has been enhanced as part of the effort to reduce transmission of COVID-19. These measures will continue in the immediate term. As campus activities are reduced, however, this schedule may be adjusted. Facilities will support urgent, critical cleaning on an as-needed basis.

Waste removal protocols:  no changes at this time.

Medical waste removal protocols:  no changes at this time.

CUIMC:

Facilities Management has increased the frequency of high-touch cleaning and disinfecting in all public areas in both academic and residential buildings. These measures will continue until further notice.

Waste removal protocols: no changes at this time.

Medical waste removal protocols: no changes at this time.

Morningside: 

Mudd Building loading dock is managed by the SEAS.
If you have questions, please contact:

CEPSR loading dock is managed by the Department of Biology.
If you have questions, please contact:

The GROVE - there are no changes to procedures for deliveries at this time.  Normal working hours are Monday to Friday, 6:00 AM to 11:45 pm. Saturday 6 AM to 6 pm. Sunday closed. 

Manhattanville:

No changes at this time. The loading dock will be open daily from 6 AM to 6pm.

CUIMC:

There are no changes to loading dock operations at this time. For a complete listing of loading dock hours of operation, visit the CUIMC Facilities Management and Campus Services website.

Pause of Select Human Subjects Research - updated 3/13/2020

The following FAQs pertain to the human subjects research pause addressed in the memos issued to IRB protocol principal investigators on March 6, 2020 (CUIMC) and March 11, 2020 (Morningside) by the IRB.

Given the current COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, and the real or perceived risk of exposure, the risk/benefit ratio for research participation must be reassessed for each protocol. Ethical principles of research and federal regulations for the protection of human research participants require an acceptable risk/benefit ratio.

Studies for which there is little to no prospect of direct benefit to participants 

Study procedures involving in-person contact with participants at a location in the greater New York (NY) area or participant travel for research purposes within the greater NY area must be paused, effective immediately or as soon as can be implemented. Procedures such as telephone contact or monitoring or remote data collection if part of such studies may continue. 

Studies for which there is direct benefit to participants 

These studies may continue. To the extent possible, study activities that can be done remotely by telephone or electronically should be done in this way.

Yes. Sponsored Projects Administration (SPA) will be issuing an initial institutional notification to NIH and other sponsors. After the IRB makes specific protocol determinations, they will be providing SPA with information concerning those protocols that will require a pause and follow-up communications will be sent by SPA for all impacted grants. SPA will notify each PI prior to issuing a follow-up notification to a sponsor.   All communication to external sponsors must be issued from SPA. For questions concerning your NIH- and other government or foundation sponsored studies, please contact your SPA Project Officer; for your industry-sponsored studies, please contact the CTO at ctosubmission@columbia.edu.

All study-related activities that are not affected by a pause can continue to be charged as normal.  Additionally, there should not be a significant disengagement of the PI or other senior key personnel from affected projects.  Current prior approval requirements remain in effect.  See other cost-related FAQs and contact your SPA Project Officer for questions.

Yes. If your study is impacted, your SPA Project Officer will provide you with guidance on how and where this should be included in your progress report (i.e., in Section F.2 of a NIH RPPR). about what information should be included.

Most federal sponsors, including NIH, allow for a one-time no cost extension for 12 months at the end of the project. Please discuss your specific project with your SPA Project Officer, who will provide guidance on the options available to you.

Yes. The FDA will need to be notified. Contact Helen Kim and the IND/IDE Assistance Program (indhelp@cumc.columbia.edu) for specific guidance and information on the notification process.

If the study needs to be paused, the sponsor will need to be notified. Contact the Clinical Trials Office at ctosubmission@columbia.edu for the notification process.

No, for purposes of the pause, it is assumed that trials with investigational treatments, including drugs and devices, provide the potential for benefit and should continue.

The IRB has sent specific instructions on how a PI should respond to it.  Such response should indicate the study, or components of the study, that should remain open and provide a short statement of the risks and benefits in light of the COVID-19 epidemic.  The IRB will review each response and make a determination.

Yes.

Rationale: There is no increased risk to subjects relating to COVID-19.

Yes.

Rationale: There is no increased risk to subjects relating to COVID-19.

No. 

Rationale: While the real or potential risk to participants of traveling to a research site, and aggregation at the site, are absent from home visits, there may still be real or apparent risk.

No. It is not necessary to submit a modification.

Indicate what you think is the ethical basis for pausing or continuing the study in your response to the IRB.  If you state that as the PI, you believe that there is no increased potential or perceived risk from COVID-19, you may continue the study pending IRB review.

The wording and language may need to be specific to each study. The guidance is as follows:

Due to the potential or perceived risks of COVID-19, Columbia University has paused human subjects research studies involving direct subject contact that provide little or no potential benefit to subjects. These studies will be able to maintain telephone contact and remote data collection activities during this pause and may resume when the risk of COVID-19 has passed.

This should be decided on a study-by-study basis.

Rationale: The risk/benefit ratio for subjects may have changed from the time at which the protocol was reviewed and approved.

Yes.

Rationale: The presumption is that most PI analyses of risks and benefits will be accepted by the IRB. The IRB will review these case-by-case situations very rapidly.

This will be decided by the IRB on a trial-by-trial basis. The PI should provide a revised risk-benefit statement that explicitly takes the COVID-19 risks into account.

These should continue.

Rationale: There is no increased risk to the subjects relating to COVID-19.

Yes. 

Rationale: The same ethical issues relating to the changed risk/benefit ratio that apply to a Columbia site apply elsewhere.

For Columbia research sites in the greater New York area, this guidance applies, whether physically at a Columbia campus, at a practice site, or elsewhere.

Rationale: The same rationale applies regarding the risks relating to COVID-19.

If the study does not require the subject to travel to a research site either before enrollment or after discharge, then it may continue.

Rationale: There is no increased risk relating to COVID-19.

If a study is deemed to have potential benefit to individual subjects, the study may continue, unless there is concern that the risks from COVID-19 outweigh the potential benefits to subjects. Study-by-study guidance should be obtained from the IRB. Studies that are determined to not provide direct potential benefit to subjects must be paused. Investigators may present a risk/benefit analysis to the IRB that takes into account the prevalence of COVID-19 in the areas where the study is being conducted.

You should inform the study sponsor and/or the overall PI of the study of the modified procedures and what documentation requirements will need to be modified (e.g., changes to CRFs, etc.).

Yes, as soon as feasible. The regulations allow implementation of a change to study procedures without prospective IRB approval when it is necessary to avoid imminent hazards to subjects. The IRB of Record will need to approve resumption of study procedures.

Availability of Research Operations

Operations in all EVPR units are normal until further notice. Continue to contact your SPA Project Officer for most matters. Communications will be sent via our listservs and posted on this website if there are changes.

See Join the SPA Listservs. For questions, contact Stephanie Scott at sfs2110@cumc.columbia.edu.

Allowable Costs/Charges/Effort on Sponsored Projects - updated 3/26/2020

Both federal and private sponsors have been emphasizing flexibility and the need for institutions to prioritize personnel safety and safety of research subjects.  Some agencies have issued detailed guidance (see "Sponsor-specific and External Information" in the right-hand navigation); stay tuned for more information.

To date, there is no federal guidance relating to charges to awards for non-refundable travel, conferences, and related expenses due to the coronavirus. Please continue to follow the University Travel Expense Policy and general cost principles described in the Uniform Guidance. 

If the individual is working remotely and contributing to a sponsored project, then salary can be charged to that grant. 

The usual grants management requirements apply.  If an individual cannot contribute to their current project but can contribute to another sponsored project, the salary must be moved to that funding source.

If an individual is assigned to work remotely but cannot contribute to any university activity, the salary may currently continue to be charged to the award. This is allowable because the University’s current policy is to allow paid excused absences in this situation.  As circumstances unfold, the University will review this among other temporary policies, and communicate changes with the Columbia community.  

Please note: NIH, NSF and the Department of Defense have issued explicit guidance regarding salary charges in this situation, but we await further guidance from some sponsors.  It is possible that some charges may need to be removed, based upon future sponsor guidance.

The PI/lab must document and retain information on the staff and related compensation that is charged to any award when no contribution is made to the project.

For effort certification purposes, and as is the case for any paid leave, the effort for this time period should be treated as time worked. See Effort Reporting FAQ 19.

Yes. Pursuant to Columbia's indirect cost rate agreement with the federal government, sick leave and other paid absences that are permitted under University policy may be charged to the grant.

Trip cancellation insurance is typically unallowable on grants. However, we are monitoring any additional guidance the federal government may issue related to travel. If you need to travel in the coming months to conduct business for a sponsored project, and you want to purchase trip cancellation insurance, you may reach out to your assigned SPA Project Officer to request prior approval from the sponsor to charge this cost to the grant.

These types of expenses are considered administrative costs (indirect costs), and generally are not appropriate as a direct cost unless specifically approved by the sponsor. You may wish to talk with your supervisor about your needs in order to be set up to work from home.

The NIH released Notice NOT-OD-20-086 on March 12, 2020 to alert the research community of administrative flexibilities that apply to NIH applicants and recipients.  The flexibilities address, pre-award costs, extension of required reporting, prior approval waivers, and expenditure of award funds (i.e., stipends, travel, conference expense). This Notice can be found at:  https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-20-086.html.  Please contact your SPA Project Officer for specific issues pertaining to your grant(s).

Research-related Travel

Watch for University travel restrictions at https://www.columbia.edu/content/coronavirus.

Proposal Deadlines

Most federal agencies, including NIH and NSF, do not grant prior approval for late submissions; however, there are existing policies that address extenuating circumstances.  Current NIH guidance can be located at NOT-OD-15-039 and 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 SPA Project Officer.

Also see:

See NIH Extramural Response to Natural Disasters and Other Emergencies: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/natural_disasters.htm

See NSF Responses to Natural Disasters: https://www.nsf.gov/naturaldisasters/

Research-related Issues

The ICM has a pandemic response as part of our overall disaster plan.  Our husbandry, veterinarian and vet tech staff are considered essential employees and will be expected to come in during a disaster.  Whenever there is a possibility that there will be a significant loss of staff or limited access to animals, the ICM identifies staff who would be willing and able to come to or stay in the facility, and work is limited to life supporting procedures only; changeouts and other husbandry procedures that are deemed non-essential to the support of life are delayed as determined by the ICM.

Yes, but all of the usual compliance requirements remain in force, e.g., IRB review, conflict of interest, etc.

Remote Work and Access to Research Data - added 3/17/2020

How you work remotely with University data depends on the type of data.  Please see the University’s Data Classification policy (https://policylibrary.columbia.edu/data-classification-policy). If your research data is Research Health Information (RHI) or Protected Health Information (PHI), please follow the guidelines concerning working remotely and COVID -19: https://cumcprod.service-now.com/kb?id=kb_article_view&sys_kb_id=29cc6f921b1784107743773bdc4bcbd9. Please also review the FAQs below.

There are two main principles to bear in mind ---researchers should (1) use measures to access information in a secure manner and (2) avoid saving or storing data on unencrypted, personal devices.

Be aware that when you work from home, you can unwittingly download data onto the C-Drive, including data such as PHI. In order to reduce the risk that might represent, researchers must use your device with updated software patches and with anti-virus software, such as Malwarebytes, regularly. The University is offering a free license of  Malwarebytes here: https://cuit.columbia.edu/malwarebytes.   The University enforces the use of VPN (Virtual Personal Network) software to make sure that all data is encrypted in transmission and that its central applications are not widely exposed to the internet. Most applications will not require VPN, but you are unsure please reach out to your IT support team to find out.

For CUIT managed devices,  you can use VPN by clicking onto the icon that looks like a little lock. It will provide a log-in window. Note that CUIT VPN services requires a CUIT Duo multifactor authentication (MFA) account and if you don't have one,  please configure Duo MFA<https://cuit.columbia.edu/mfa#/text-1839> for your UNI. For additional information, visit the MFA FAQ page<https://cuit.columbia.edu/mfa/faq>.

For personal, non-CUIT managed devices, you can download VPN access here: https://cuit.columbia.edu/remote-access-services#/cu_accordion_item-11433

University data is critical to the University and critical to our mission. There are ways to work with University data at home so long as you are adhering to our policies concerning information privacy and security, such as the Information Security Charter, Registration and Protection of Systems Policy, Registration and Protection of Endpoints Policy.

If it’s a CUIMC-IT managed laptop, it is already registered, however, you would have to validate that the device is properly configured by your department’s IT administrator. This can be done virtually. If  the desktop or laptop is not a CUIMC-IT managed device, there is no virtual solution for registering a personal device at this time. Unless your personal device is registered, you may not store PHI, RHI or PII on it.

Yes, as long as  (1) the server is a Columbia server managed by professional IT unit, such as CUIT, CUIMC IT, member group of the IT Leadership Council, or certified IT group (this is to ensure that it will meet the  requirements of the University's Registration and Protection of Systems policy), and (2) you gain access to the data by using VPN (please see FAQ above on How do I work remotely and protect research data other than RHI and PHI?).

COVID-19 Awareness Training - added 3/17/2020

A COVID-19 Awareness Training has been developed for the broader Columbia University community. The purpose of the training is to provide general information regarding COVID-19. This a training is not meant to replace any agent specific, research specific, or hospital training. For those interested in the Awareness Training, please access this link.