COVID-19 Impacts on Research at UM

Table of Contents

Research Operation Levels - UM is at Level 1 as of May 4, 2020

The University of Montana is at Research Level 1 as of May 4, 2020. The varying research levels provide guidance for actions and protocols by personnel in our labs — the same standard being established at research universities around the country. Transitions to different levels will be the decision of the President Bodnar, in consultation with the Commissioner of Higher Education and the Governor of the State of Montana.

Montana’s stay-at-home order to fight the COVID-19 pandemic was lifted on Monday, April 27th. In response, effective Monday, May 4th, all University of Montana research activities will operate under Level 1 conditions. Please email Scott Whittenburg directly if you have specific questions regarding restarting your research and creative activities.

Under Level 1 conditions, all research and creative activities may resume at UM, subject to the following restrictions:

  1. The Principal Investigator/Lab Director/Faculty Mentor is responsible for ensuring a working environment that reduces risk.
  2. DO NOT come to campus if you feel unwell or have a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or greater (no meds in past 24 hours).
  3. When working on-campus, ensure social distancing (minimum of 6 ft / 1.8m). Wear a face mask and safety goggles or glasses at all times while working in shared spaces.
  4. Faculty and staff that have signed telework agreements with UM Human Resources may continue to work remotely.
  5. All principal investigators should adopt a daily laboratory sanitation schedule which includes decontamination of shared tools, equipment, and furniture (e.g., door handles, lock keypads, computer keyboards and mice, telephones, printers, cameras, microscopes, and control panels).
  6. If necessary, implement a personnel rotation that restricts the number of people in your lab or creative space to ensure social distancing. Rotation schedules should allow for equitable access to any shared equipment and tools.
  7. Only people with a formal UM affiliation (i.e., students and employees) should enter UM research and creative spaces.
  8. Run water in sinks and discard old ice to remove potential contaminants.
  9. Researchers wishing to resume face-to-face human research under an approved IRB protocol must receive prior clearance from UM’s IRB Manager. Under Level 1 conditions, any such research will require both researcher and subject to wear personal protective equipment, including masks, gloves, safety goggles or glasses, and gowns, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Please contact IRB Manager Paula Baker before resuming human subjects research.
  10. Special guidance for field research will be distributed separately.

Note: State and local directives governing the social response to the COVID-19 pandemic are subject to change. Accordingly, be aware that UM may revert back to Level 2 operations at any time.

Salaries on Active Awards

This policy will expire on September 30, 2020.

The Office of Research and Creative Scholarship will allow Principal Investigators for all sponsored projects at UM to to charge salaries and benefits for anyone employed, including graduate students, on currently active federal awards while addressing this COVID-19 crisis. This concerns both charging salaries and benefits to currently active awards (under unexpected or extraordinary circumstances) and also the payment of salary when no work is being performed by employees; from all funding sources, Federal and non-Federal. When determining whether to continue charging salaries to active awards, Principal Investigators should be aware that supplemental funding from the sponsor, beyond what has been awarded, may not be forthcoming.

Exceptions to this policy will only apply if an individual sponsor counters with explicit guidance to the contrary. In these cases, so ordered restriction on use of funds will be honored during this crisis. This research policy applies to the current COVID-19 crisis only and will expire on September 30, 2020

When processing salaries or benefits expenses charged to currently active federal or non-federal awards where there is no effort, please use the activity code COVI19 (note that the 4th character is the capital letter I), which is being used campus-wide to capture expenses and revenue losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Please review Human Resource Services’ COVID-19 Employee Information for guidance on various forms of leave and assistance being made available during this crisis.

Essential Research

When current social distancing (six feet separation and density (one person per 120 sq. ft.)) can be maintained, essential research and support functions in campus laboratories, field research and field sites can continue. Essential research and support functions are defined in the Essential Research document.

Guidance for Off-Campus Field Research Projects

In order to ensure that faculty and students can continue to conduct field research while we are at various research levels, we have developed guidance for field research projects so this important component of our efforts at UM may continue in a safe and effective manner.  This guidance includes a reference to the Employee 12-Hour Check-In Form.

Note that the guidance for field research projects has been revised for our move to Research Level 1 (as of May 4, 2020).

COVID-19 Funding Opportunities

The final negotiated version of the third supplemental spending bill, H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was released on March 25, 2020. The CARES Act recommends funding to support research efforts at universities. UM's proposal development office will update the CARES Act Funding Opportunities web page as funding opportunities are released. Contact Katherine Swan with questions.