COVID-19: Info for Research

Research Continuity Plan

The Office of Research and Economic Development, the Office of Research Integrity, and the Office of Sponsored Programs will continue normal business operations. However, these offices have begun to plan for the possibility of a more significant disruption. Laboratories and research facilities have also begun to plan for this possibility.

Access to Research Labs and Facilities

Executive Vice President and Provost Chris Heavey has directed that “Research labs will remain open at the discretion of the lab manager/director.” Important considerations for lab manager/directors in making decisions include:

  • Availability of laboratory workforce
  • Identification of any procedures and processes that require regular personnel attention (e.g., cell culture maintenance, animal studies)
  • Prioritization of critical laboratory activities
  • Identification of any research experiments that can be ramped down, curtailed or delayed
  • The ability to ensure that high-risk materials (radioactive, biohazards, chemicals) can be secured

Important Announcements

Sponsored Programs

Agency updates are included for NIH and NSF.

Principal investigators who anticipate delays in submitting project deliverables or required reports should communicate directly with their program officer and OSP.

IRB Approved Projects

  • Should an investigator need to change research plans in order to eliminate immediate hazards to research subjects, these changes can be reported to ORI Human Subjects within 5 business days. Eliminating immediate hazards may include actions to reduce potential exposure to COVID-19 such as (1) decreasing the number of protocol-mandated in-person study visits or moving to remote study/teleconferencing study visits; or (2) delaying study visits to outside the study defined schedule to ensure participants are not traveling unnecessarily, among other options.
  • If your project received an expedited or full board approval:
    • Given these unique circumstances, the IRB will accept IRBNet submitted amendments to document these changes after implementation. The notification of the change in research plans may also be a memo, letter, or other document that explains the changes being made and provides enough information for the IRB to assess the risks resulting from the changes. Any documentation submitted will proceed with IRB review as per the usual process.
  • If your project received an Exempt determination:
    • Under this circumstance you are not required to submit a formal amendment to document a change from in-person to virtual participant interactions or delaying/altering study visits to outside the defined schedule. Instead, please save a copy of this notification along with a brief overview of your protocol changes for your own records. The IRB may ask for your documentation with future renewals or amendments. If changes fall outside of the parameters outlined here, submit an amendment through IRBNet as described above.

Additionally, we are asking researchers for input regarding research needs in the event of a UNLV closure. To help with our planning we are asking researchers to provide the following information. Active PIs will be contacted via email to provide the information.

COVID-19 FAQs for Research and Other Scholarly Activities through Sponsored Programs at UNLV

Updated April 15, 2020

Graduate Students and PIs can find alternative research duties while they are unable to perform on-site research. Working on research remotely is encouraged if possible. Data analysis, manuscript preparation, and thesis/disertation writing are possible activities during lab closures. Finally, online professional development activities are available for Graduate Students and Postdocs if interested.

Updated March 26, 2020

As a result of the rapidly changing situation with respect to COVID-19, there are a few changes within the Division of Research and Economic Development:

  • As of now, all research administration functions in the Division are now centralized at SEB, with reduced business hours.
  • Until further notice all Institutional Review Board (IRB) and Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) staff members are working remotely.

Below are the answers to questions regarding research and other scholarly activities we have been fielding in these unprecedented times:

What can I do now that we are working remotely or we are unable to submit grant applications due to the COVID-19 outbreak?

If applying to the National Science Foundation (NSF), requests for an extension are being reviewed by the NSF on a case by case basis.  Please discuss the situation with your assigned Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) Research Administrator.  It is recommended that you discuss the situation with the cognizant Program Officer prior to submitting a request for a proposal deadline extension.

If applying to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) the NIH has advised the research community that applications should be submitted as soon as possible after the deadline.  All applications must include a letter of explanation that provides enough detail about the delay in submission in order for NIH staff to evaluate the circumstance.  The NIH has indicated that advance permission to submit a proposal after the due date is not required.

May I continue my research?

Research buildings such as the HRC and the SEB, as well as the animal facility, will continue to be open with Marlok access. Research labs are open at the discretion of PI. If a PI chooses to close a lab, please note that administrative leave will apply to all employees, as per President Meana’s March 17th update: Employees whose work cannot be performed remotely and who are at-risk will be placed on paid administrative leave until further notice. The same applies to employees who do not feel safe coming to campus, who cannot do so because of caretaking responsibilities, or whose roles have been temporarily suspended due to current business operations.

This includes student workers, graduate students, and LOA employees who are paid on sponsored programs.

For those who are unable to work as a result of, or related to, the effects of COVID-19, UNLV’s policy as per federal guidelines, allows for personnel costs to continue to be paid through the grant:

If a recipient organization’s policy allows for the charging of salaries and benefits during periods when no work is performed due to the effect of COVID-19, regardless of the funding source, including Federal and non-Federal, then such charges to grant awards will be allowable (OMB 2 CFR 200).

Will my project receive an automatic no-cost extension because of the COVID-19 outbreak?

No.  However, Federal granting agencies including the NSF and NIH provide UNLV with the ability to grant itself an initial no-cost extension (up to 12 months).  If your project requires a no-cost extension, please submit a request to your Office of Sponsored Programs.  Once reviewed and if approved by OSP, OSP will notify the federal sponsor of the extension.

I have a financial report and/or Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) due within the next few weeks but will be unable to submit the report on time due to the impact the COVID-19 situation has on UNLV. Do I need an extension?

For NIH awards, NIH has advised grantees that late reports will be accepted.  However, issuance of the next year’s funding increment will be delayed until the report has been submitted and accepted.  Please work with your assigned OSP Financial Research Administrator to notify the award’s Grants Management Specialist and Program Officer.

I have an active NIH award that does not allow for automatic carry-over...

I have an active NIH award that does not allow for automatic carry-over.  Is the NIH removing the prior approval requirement to carry forward unobligated balances on active grants for immediate efforts to support activities related to or affected by the COVID-19 outbreak?

Yes. UNLV NIH awards not under the Streamlined Non-competing Application Process (SNAP) may carry forward unobligated balances on active grants for immediate efforts to support activities related to or affected by COVID-19 as long as the charges are allowable costs and are within the scope of the original award.

In addition, affected recipients that have active non-SNAP grant projects may extend the final budget period of the approved project period on active grants one time for a period of up to 12 months without requesting prior approval, by notifying the Office of Sponsored Programs.

Can I continue to charge the salary and fringe benefits of lab staff personnel to my funded project even if they are unable to work due to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the University?

Charging salaries and benefits to federal grants when no work is being performed is allowable under the current circumstances.  If your staff is working from home, they should be paid as they normally are. For staff whose work cannot be performed at home, managers should consider whether they can be reassigned to duties that can be performed at home or relieve others who are working on campus. If there is no reasonable alternative, staff should simply stay home and will be paid their regular pay.  Additional guidance will be forthcoming from UNLV as this is an ever-evolving situation.

My sponsored project supports fellow and trainee stipends. Are these payments still allowable even if the individuals are unable to participate in the program due to the COVID-19 outbreak at Yale?

The NIH has advised that Institutions affected by COVID-19 may continue to provide stipend payments to fellows and trainees who may be unable to work as a result of or related to COVID-19. The PI should notify the OSP, and provide documentation demonstrating the effect of COVID-19 on their project, and how long UNLV will be affected.

I was scheduled to travel in support of my sponsored project. However, the travel has been cancelled. Are the cancellation fees or non-refundable expenses associated with cancelled travel allowable expenses on my grant?

The answer to this question is complicated.

The NIH states that non-refundable costs associated with grant-related travel that has been cancelled due to COVID-19 related complications may be charged to the NIH award if the costs would have otherwise been allowable. See NIH GPS 7.9.1  for detailed information on the allowability of travel expenses and the UNLV travel policy.

The Department of Energy states that the Office of Science will not consider changes to planned travel caused by the cancellation of meetings, quarantines, closures, or other public health measures to be a change in the scope of an award requiring agency prior approval. Rebudgeting funds that does not create a change in scope does not require agency prior approval.

Institutions must document that costs charged to a grant are non-refundable and maintain documentation, in accordance with record retention requirements, and make them available to the sponsor upon request.

Because each situation is unique, please submit all sponsored programs related travel questions to lori.ciccone@unlv.edu.

I can't get to my research site and my research will be severely impacted. Will the sponsor provide incremental funding and/or additional time so that I can successfully complete the aims of the award?

We expect Federal agencies will recognize the difficulties inherent in this situation and work with institutions to facilitate the conduct of the project. As a reminder, recipients are required to: 1) inform their program officer and grants officer if the need arises for additional federal funds to complete the project (200.308.(c)(1)(viii)) and; 2) that notification is required as soon as "problems, delays, or adverse conditions which will materially impact the ability to meet the objective of the Federal award" (200.328.(d)(1)) is known. In the latter case, the notification must include a statement of the action taken or contemplated and any assistance needed to resolve the situation. It is possible that there will not be an answer yet on what is needed to resolve the situation; in that case, recipients should simply indicate that they will report back when more is known. If you have this situation, contact OSP to find out how to report to the agency.

I have a question that isn’t addressed, what should I do?

Please contact Lori Ciccone, Executive Director, Office of Sponsored Programs at lori.ciccone@unlv.edu or 702-895-5541.

Additional Resources Important Announcements

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please feel free to contact the Division of Research staff directly via email or telephone.