Impacts of COVID-19 on Research Activities

Last Updated September 4, 2020

GW is closely monitoring and responding to the impacts of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). This is a rapidly evolving situation that may affect researchers and their projects. The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) will continue to evaluate university and sponsor guidance and will provide updates to GW researchers as appropriate.

OVPR encourages all investigators and research staff to:

Research Activities

In an effort to promote social distancing, the university has required that all employees whose jobs can be performed remotely must telework. OVPR strongly encourages investigators to find ways to limit on-campus research to critical activities, performed by as few designated on-site personnel as possible. Critical activities include any that are absolutely necessary to preserve vital research assets and maintain laboratory viability.
 

A Phased Approach to Reopening

As we look forward, school and university leadership has been planning for a phased return to on-campus research activity. This approach prioritizes the safety of the GW community and our neighbors in the DMV region, and is in keeping with the latest public health and district and state guidelines.

Phase 1 of ramping-up research activities on campus began Monday, June 8, 2020.

 

Office of Sponsored Projects Staff

The Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP) is fully operational. As per university guidelines on social distancing and teleworking, all OSP staff are working remotely. Please contact OSP personnel with any questions.

COVID-19-related Guidance from Sponsors

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued two important memos to federal agencies:

  • Memo M-20-11 directed federal agencies to implement flexibilities for COVID-related activities. (Expiration Date 7/6/20) The flexibilities can be approved by agencies on a case by case basis.
  • Memo M-20-17 directed  agencies to provide additional flexibility to recipients affected by the loss of operational capacity and increased costs due to the COVID-19 crisis. (Expired on 6/16/20) - Only two flexibilities remaining, which are included in memo M-20-26.
  • Memo M-20-20 allows federal awarding agencies to repurpose their federal assistance awards (in whole or part) to support the COVID-19 response, as consistent with applicable laws. (Expired on 6/16/20). 
  • Memo M-20-21 directs agencies to leverage and continue to employ existing financial transparency and accountability mechanisms wherever possible in the implementation of supplemental funding provided in response to COVID-19. (4/10/20)
  • Memo M-20-22 provides guiding principles to help agencies determine the appropriate role of section 3610 of the Corona virus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in supporting the needs of their contractors and subcontractors, both small and large. (4/17/20)
  • Memo M-20-26 provides an extension, with additional restrictions, to “Allowability of salaries and other project activities” [item 6 in M-20-17] through September 30, 2020 and “Extension of Single Audit submission” [item 13 in M-20-17] through December 31, 2020. (6/18/20)

Specific guidance from federal funding agencies is provided in the tabs below.

Highlights

  • Allowability of Salaries and Other Project Activities (2 CFR § 200.403, 2 CFR § 200.404, 2 CFR § 200.405)

    Recipients are authorized to continue to charge salaries and benefits to active NSF awards consistent with the recipients' policy of paying salaries (under unexpected or extraordinary circumstances) from all funding sources, Federal and non-Federal. NSF continues to authorize recipients to charge other costs to NSF awards necessary to resume activities supported by the award, consistent with applicable Federal cost principles and the benefit to the project. Recipients must not assume that supplemental funding will be available should the charging of such costs or other fees result in a shortage of funds to eventually carry out the original goals of the project.

    NSF may also evaluate the recipient’s ability to resume the project activity in the future and the appropriateness of future funding, as done under normal circumstances based on subsequent annual project reports and other communications with the recipient. Under this flexibility, payroll costs paid with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans or any other Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act programs must not be also charged to current NSF awards as it would result in the Federal government paying for the same expenditures twice. Recipients are reminded of their responsibility to maintain appropriate records and cost documentation; as required by 2 CFR § 200.302 - Financial management and 2 CFR § 200.333 - Retention requirement of records, to substantiate the charging of any salaries and other project activities costs related to interruption of operations or services.

    Due to the limited funding resources under each NSF award necessary to achieve its specific project, as specified in M-20-26, recipients must exhaust other available funding sources to sustain its workforce and implement necessary steps to save overall operational costs (such as rent renegotiations) during this pandemic period in order to preserve NSF funds for the ramp-up effort. Recipients must retain documentation of their efforts to exhaust other funding sources and reduce overall operational costs.

    This flexibility is time limited and will expire on September 30, 2020.

  • NSF also has automatically extended the closeout period for awards that ended between November 30, 2019 and April 30, 2020 to 180 days.

  • All NSF awards are eligible for one-year grantee-approved no-cost extensions and then further extensions as approved by NSF. Recipients must follow standard policies and procedures specified in the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) Chapter VI.D.3, and applicable award conditions regarding submission of grantee and NSF-approved no-cost extensions.

Given the fact that COVID-19 and associated impacts continue to evolve, investigators are strongly encouraged to monitor NSF’s website for updates.

Sponsor Links

Highlights

  • Principal investigators (PIs) should contact their Grants Management Specialist (GMS) if technical reports are going to be delayed. NIH will accept late reports but awards will be delayed until the required reports are submitted and accepted by NIH.

  • If PIs have unanticipated costs due to COVID-19 they may request an Administrative Supplement.

  • Awards not covered under Streamlined Non-Competing Award Process (SNAP) have the discretion to carry forward unobligated balances on their active grants for immediate efforts to support activities related to or impacted by COVID-19 as long as the charges are allowable costs and are within the scope of the original award.

  • NIH is allowing pre-award costs to be incurred from January 20, 2020 through the public health emergency period and prior to the date of a federal award for all applicants and recipients that have been affected by COVID-19.

  • Early Stage Investigator (ESI) status may be extended due to disruptions from COVID-19.

  • Institutions affected by COVID-19 will be allowed to submit post-submission grant application materials to revise information that was submitted in an application as long as the materials are received at least fourteen days before the start of the review meeting.

Given the fact that COVID-19 and associated impacts continue to evolve, investigators are strongly encouraged to monitor NIH’s website for updates.

Sponsor Links

Highlights

  • During COVID-19, Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is suspending the requirements for grant recipients to seek prior approval and to process Grant Adjustment Notices (GAN) in relation to the items that would normally require prior approval and/or a GAN.

  • OJP is still requiring prior approval and Grant Adjustment Notices (GANS) for any cost or project changes related to cooperative agreement awards.  Recipients should contact their OJP program managers promptly to discuss anticipated changes.

  • Most OJP awards may be eligible for one no-cost extension of up to 12 months. 

  • If the grant has previously received a no-cost extension and an additional extension will be requested due to the extenuating circumstances occurring in connection with the public health emergency, refer to the DOJ Grants Financial Guide for additional information and consult with your grant manager as needed.

  • Grantees needing additional time to complete closeout requirements (i.e., submitting final financial, performance, or other reports and deliverables required by the terms of their award) should contact their grant manager before the closeout deadline (90 days after the award end date) to request prior approval of an extension.

  • For grantees unable to meet original due dates, OJP is allowing delayed submission of up to 60 days for progress and performance measure reports due in March and April 2020. Please note that at this time, due dates for reports for the remaining fiscal year are unchanged.

  • Investigators are strongly encouraged to monitor DOJ’s website for updates.

Sponsor Links

The Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition

Centers for Disease Control

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

Department of the Air Force

Department of Defense

Department of Education

Department of Energy

Department of Health and Human Services

Department of Interior

Department of Labor

Department of State

Department of Transportation

Environmental Protection Agency

Food and Drug Administration

Health Resources and Services Administration

Institute of Museum and Library Services

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

National Endowment for the Arts

National Endowment for the Humanities

Office of Naval Research

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

United States Agency for International Development

United States Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity

United States Department of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Resources from COGR

In response to COVID-19’s impact on federal awards, the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) has developed and updated a number of resources to help navigate the evolving landscape of this public health emergency.

Proposal/Report Deadlines

Whenever possible, adhere to all previously published proposal and report deadlines. However, National Institutes of Health and other sponsors are extending some deadlines. OSP encourages proposers to double check sponsor deadlines and extensions (if applicable) to confirm the submission deadline and other details. Further guidance may be available within the sponsor-specific links provided on this page.

Impacts on Travel

The university’s recent adjustments to international travel practices may impact travel related to sponsored projects. Please review your sponsor’s guidance linked on this page for the latest updates. Investigators may direct urgent inquiries to their assigned sponsored projects administrator.

If you have upcoming travel plans, please monitor GW’s COVID-19 website for important updates.

Plan Ahead

We encourage research teams to develop procedures in the event that access must be limited or staff cannot report to work. These plans should consider:

  • designation of a communications lead that will be responsible for sharing timely updates with team members and collaborators;
  • approaches in the event that some or all personnel cannot report to work;
  • prioritizing effort that requires access to a physical location versus what can be accomplished remotely;
  • identifying tools for conducting meetings and collaborating remotely;
  • ensuring remote access to critical data and files; and
  • preserving samples.

Continuity of Research and Laboratory Activities

The Office of Laboratory Safety (OLS) has circulated a memo to principal investigators who may need to plan for the possibility of significant disruption to lab functions. To support lab teams in this process, OLS has also developed a checklist to help investigators ramp-down research activities in a safe and efficient manner. The checklist is intended to complement the continuity plans that principal investigators have already developed.

Human Subjects Research

The Office of Human Research (OHR) strongly urges investigators to take steps to decrease the likelihood that they will put themselves, members of their study teams, or their study participants at risk of becoming infected with or transmitting the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Principal investigators (PIs) and their study teams should carefully consider their research protocols in light of the rapidly evolving environment, while being mindful of university and sponsor guidelines.

In response to GW's social distancing policy, all Office of Human Research (OHR) staff will work remotely. OHR staff are available for consultations by phone. Email [email protected] to schedule a meeting by phone.

Clinical Studies

GW Medical Faculty Associates (MFA) has released guidance for researchers with clinical studies.

Review of Research Involving COVID-19

Members of the GW research community will likely mobilize to study COVID-19. All of the standard protocol reviews apply to these studies and no new projects may commence without these approvals. However, GW’s review boards have implemented plans to speed the reviews of research protocols involving COVID-19.

  • The Institutional Biosafety Committee has released interim guidance for research involving COVID-19. The IBC will review applications within five business days. The IBC will convene by teleconference or videoconference as necessary to accommodate these submissions.
  • The Institutional Review Board is prioritizing review of these protocols by assembling a standing panel of reviewers that will convene as necessary. For new studies focusing on COVID-19, please include the term COVID in the study title, and follow the process for requesting rush review.
  • The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee will continue to conduct official business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Alternatives to face-to-face meetings such as teleconference or video conferencing will be employed in order to ensure protocol approvals are not allowed to expire and that high priority submissions are approved within a timely manner.

Data Use and Management

The current circumstances may introduce challenges in data sharing, management, and protection pursuant to data use agreements and data management plans. The Office of Research Integrity, in partnership with the Privacy Office, GW Information Technology (IT), School and College IT, and Libraries and Academic Innovation has provided guidance regarding data use and management during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Export Controls

The Office of Research Integrity has compiled guidance about the export of the virus or its genetic elements as well as the temporary export restrictions on Certain PPE products. Their export controls web page will be updated as information becomes available. View the COVID-19 and Export Controls web page.

COVID-19 Funding Opportunities

View the COVID-19 research funding page for opportunities and resources.

Intramural Funding

COVID-19 Research Fund

The COVID-19 Research Fund will support new research projects and scholarly activities in the exploration and understanding of COVID-19 through the use of GW shared facilities and resources. The funding range for this program is $5,000-$25,000. Submissions will be reviewed on a rolling basis through June 1, 2020.

Requesting No-Cost Extensions on Existing Intramural Awards

Recipients of intramural funding (e.g. the University Facilitating Fund, the Cross-Disciplinary Research Fund and the Humanities Facilitating Fund) that need to extend their projects beyond the current academic year may request a no-cost extension by visiting OVPR’s InfoReady portal and selecting “NO COST EXTENSION - OVPR Intramural Funding Only” from the list of opportunities.

Library Resources

Himmelfarb Library has created a Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 Research Guide with resources, news, and other trusted resources for health care providers and public health professionals.

COVID-19 Computing Information

To support COVID-19 related research, several external organizations are offering free access to a range of computing capabilities from small high-performance computing (HPC) server clusters to some of the very largest supercomputers in the world. The GW IT Research Technology Services (RTS) team is available to help researchers identify the appropriate resource for their project. Read GWIT’s COVID-19 Computing Information. Request assistance from RTS by emailing [email protected].

GW Nanofabrication and Imaging Center

To align with recommendations regarding COVID-19, all GW Nanofabrication and Imaging Center (GWNIC) operations will cease until further notice. Access to the facility will be limited to staff and emergency personnel only. GWNIC staff will work remotely and will be available during regular business hours. We will continue to monitor the situation and the university’s COVID-19 guidelines closely. Feel free to contact the GWNIC staff directly or email [email protected].

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Virtual Office Hours

GW Mentors-in-Residence and OIE staff will hold virtual Office Hours through the end of the semester. Schedule a consultation with a Mentor or contact OIE staff by email.

Additional Questions?

If you have additional questions, please contact your school-based research administrator who can coordinate with OVPR as necessary. General questions or concerns can be addressed to [email protected].