Managing Your Research Program in the Event of Emergencies

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If you have any questions, please contact the Associate Vice President for Research, Dr. Coleen Pugh,

Public Health Precautions for the WSU research community

All personnel should stay home if they experience any symptoms of the Novel Coronavirus, including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. It is also advisable to encourage limiting contact with others such as shaking hands or sharing food. The most effective preventative measures for reducing or limiting contact include frequent, thorough hand-washing.

Preparing Your Research Program

Now is a good time to make sure that we are prepared for the impact of the Novel Coronavirus on your research. Advanced planning will allow everyone in your research team to focus on their own efforts and work together, rather than wondering how they and their team members are to proceed. Even if such plans are not needed for the current situation, they are still a good learning experience for the future.

A typical checklist:

  1. Identify emergency personnel and ensure they know what to do in the event of suspended operations
  2. Remind lab personnel of your communication plan or create one if not in place
  3. Identify priorities in case of restricted access
  4. Ensure remote access to files, data, servers, etc. and backup your data
  5. Prioritize experiments
  6. Plan for remote proposal submission
  7. Check travel restrictions (university and sponsor) before making any travel plans.

Here are a few simple scenarios in which to consider these impacts:

  • As a PI, what would the impact be to my research and sponsored programs if I had to self-isolate for two weeks? Do I have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) for my research team?
    • Do all of my research team members have home/cell/office phone numbers that are up to date on my call tree?
    • Do all of my research team members have all of the important contact information for the university? EHS, department, the other team members?
  • What would the impact be to my research and sponsored programs if more than one of my research staff or students (graduate or undergraduate) had to self-isolate for two weeks?
  • What would the impact be to my research and sponsored programs if WSU advised all faculty, staff, and graduate/undergraduate students to work remotely?
  • What would the impact be to my research and sponsored programs if WSU partially shut down operations?
  • What would the impact be to my research and sponsored programs if the event duration were two, four, or six weeks?

Here are a few ways to begin assessing the potential impact of the coronavirus on your research in any of the above scenarios:

  • Are there any studies involving participants, animals, ingredients, or experiments that would be adversely affected? If so, what plans should be put in place to allow for them to continue or allow for them to be stopped and later resumed in the least impactful way?
    • Contact IRB, IACUC or EHS for additional input.
  • What standing purchasing orders or human resource issues might be impacted?
  • Would data collection/analysis/storage be impacted – have I and my team been backing-up our data?
  • What costs would be associated with these impacts?
    • If some/all of my team were not able to be present, do they have remote access?
  • What regulatory approvals will expire soon and might be impacted if they are not renewed? Can they be renewed early?
    • Contact IRB and IACUC policies and due-dates. The plan is to have these committees continue to meet if we have ongoing experiments.
  • Are there any collaborators that need to be notified?
  • What sponsor reports or deadlines might be due during this time period?
    • Office of Research Post-Award
    • Notify your sponsor ASAP about any potential delays/impacts.
  • Would the impact of these actions warrant a for-cost or no-cost extension request for any of my sponsored projects?
    • Office of Research Post-Award
    • Notify your sponsor ASAP about any potential delays/impacts.
  • What notice might I need to give sponsors or regulators if the research is going to be paused or significantly delayed beyond a couple of weeks?
    • Office of Research Post-Award
    • Notify your sponsor ASAP about any potential delays/impacts.

Once you have considered the impact for each of these scenarios, please take appropriate steps to make sure your research program is prepared.

Additional Considerations for Animal or Human Subjects Research

  • Is the location of the study remaining open and available for participants to be present? Has the location implemented any procedures for human subjects to slow the spread of the coronavirus that will affect participation in your study or the ability of your study to proceed?
  • Does your protocol require in-person participation? Can it be modified for remote participation?
  • Does your protocol require in-person monitoring? Can it be modified for remote monitoring?
  • Should your participants be screened for coronavirus as part of your inclusion/exclusion criteria?
  • Would your data or results be affected if your participants had to self-quarantine or if they contracted coronavirus?
  • Does your protocol for animal husbandry and management require regular monitoring?
  • Are any modifications made to your protocol and approved by the IRB due to the coronavirus?

Remember, any modifications you make to your protocols as a result of preparation for the coronavirus need to be submitted to the IRB and approved before implementation.

Additional Considerations for Environmental Health and Safety

Most considerations for environmental health and safety would only come into play should critical lab staff with unique knowledge be unavailable.

  • Do you have a limited number of critical lab staff with unique knowledge? Are there others in your lab who can be cross-trained?
    • Develop your BCP so everyone knows what will be done and by whom.
  • Does your lab operate machines that use active cooling through liquid gasses, dry boxes, or inert boxes using gas blankets? What would happen if materials like liquid gasses, CO2, nitrogen, or dry ice become unavailable?
  • How frequently are you saving or freezing samples of your cell cultures?
  • Do you have long-term experiments that might benefit from more frequent preservation?
  • Do you have the requisite local knowledge to do controlled shutdowns of complex machines or devices without on-site help from the company?
  • Have you shared with EHS the locations and amounts of materials that are air, water, or otherwise unstable for observation in case of lab closure?
    • Do you have chemicals with limited shelf life that may become hazardous within 2-6 weeks?

For questions about EHS, or to report locations of unstable materials, please contact. Mike Strickland

Federal Guidance

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

National Science Foundation (NSF)

White House Office of Management and Budget

Contact Information:

Animal Vivarium –

Associate Vice President for Research, Coleen Pugh –

Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) –

Institutional Review Board (IRB) –

Institutional Animal Use and Care Committee (IACUC) –

Office of Research Post-Award –

Office of Research Pre-Award (contracts) –

Office of Research Pre-Award (proposals) –