George Mason University

Research Continuity Guidelines

Mason continues to closely monitor the COVID-19 outbreak and will provide updates as warranted.  

Effective March 21, 2020 research activities conducted in Mason labs and facilities, including leased facilities were suspended.  Additionally, all research activities conducted at off-site locations outside of researcher’s homes, including clinical settings and field sites, were suspended.

Exceptions to this suspension are restricted ONLY to “critical” activities, including animal husbandry, research related to COVID-19, and maintenance associated with essential equipment and materials.

If you have critical research that requires access to Mason campuses, field sites or other specialized facilities, you MUST:

  • Submit an electronic request to your associate dean or director for research providing the information in this form. Requests for “critical” research-related activities designation will be reviewed by a committee convened online by the vice president for research. You must receive approval to proceed before starting work on any research related activity.
  • Identify personnel able to safely perform essential activities. Identify an individual or individuals who can provide direction if you become ill. Ensure that you have access to contact information for your entire research team and all team members know that they should notify you if they become ill. 
  • Coordinate with colleagues who have similar research activities to identify ways to ensure coverage of critical activities.
  • Maintain a sufficient inventory of critical supplies that may be impacted by global shipping delays and/or required for essential activities during a university shutdown. Assess supply chain/vendor delivery of regular consumables, such as liquid nitrogen, that cannot be bulk purchased and stored ahead of time.
  • Consider installing remote control monitoring devices for critical equipment (e.g., -80C freezers, liquid nitrogen storage dewars, incubators).  If you have samples that are shipped to central repositories on a regular basis, consider shipping sooner to insure deliverables are accomplished. Prepare equipment if there is routine upkeep required. Consider any necessary steps to extend the time between required maintenance tasks. If certain equipment is not actively in use, consider implementing the shut-down process now.

Sponsored Programs and Related Information

Sponsored Programs related information:

  • The Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) will provide regular support to the Mason research community although most OSP staff will be working remotely. Any updates or changes will be communicated through our listservs and posted to the OSP website.
  • OSP maintains a contact list. 
  • To ensure smooth communications, please use email to send documents electronically. Financial transaction approvals can be provided through electronic signatures and/or email.
  • OSP is monitoring updates from federal sponsors regarding proposals, awards, and cost allowability associated with any disruptions to sponsored projects resulting from COVID-19.

o If you have any questions or concerns about the overall strategy described in the research continuity guidance, please send them to the Associate Dean for Research or Director of Research Administration in your College or School. They will coordinate with OSP.

o For project-specific communications and questions for sponsors, contact your Research Administration Manager.

o Principle Investigators (PIs) should continue to request assistance for proposal submissions as early as possible. Support for proposal submissions are expected to continue as normal. Given the increased reliance on remote working and electronic communications, increased time should be provided for proposal review and submission to avoid delays related to slow systems or outages.

o Fiscal Services has provided a guidance memo (PDF) regarding reimbursement for nonrefundable travel costs as a result of conference cancellations or other travel restrictions. For specific questions about charging travel costs to a sponsored award, contact OSP.

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

o For a cost to be allowable, it will require consistent treatment across all funding sources. Federal agencies are working on a unified message on a number of proposal- and award-related issues pertaining to COVID-19. Some agency-specific guidance is currently available:

Frequently Asked Questions

I perform laboratory based research. Will I still have access to my laboratory if the university closes?

Effective March 21, 2020 research in Mason labs and facilities will be restricted ONLY to critical activities, including animal husbandry, research related to COVID-19, and maintenance associated with essential equipment and materials. See the critical research activities section of this website. You must coordinate such activity with your Dean’s office.

Effective March 21, may I visit my lab to pick up materials such as lab notebooks and computers I need for my research?

Yes, but visits must be infrequent/intermittent, in response to an unanticipated need, and you must use social distancing practices.

Which materials can I take from my lab or office for remote work?

You may take laboratory notebooks, computers, and other storage devices home. Laboratory animals, equipment, specimens, chemicals, tools and other supplies should not be taken home.

Your research continuity plan should include the location of computers, lab notebooks, and similar items, including those of others members of your research team.

Will my laboratory animals be cared for while I am working remotely?

ORIA husbandry staff will continue to provide routine care (food, water, sanitation, health checks) for the animals under their care.

I wish to conduct research with COVID-19, what should I do?

Contact Mason’s Biosafety Officer, Adam Fleming, at aflemin4@gmu.edu or (703) 993-4788. He will guide you in understanding the safety protocols and committee reviews that might be necessary prior to initiating work. At the present time, COVID-19 is not subject to heightened export controls that would restrict the involvement of foreign researchers in such work. Research with COVID-19 is considered a critical research activity.

I wish to suspend my research study, which involves human subjects. Are there actions I must take if I wish to notify the research subjects or others about this suspension in activity?

You do not need to notify your research subjects. The IRB does not require a modification for a temporary pause in research activity. Please see guidance in the sponsored programs section of these FAQs in relation to notifying your sponsor.

Will research compliance committees (IRB, IACUC, IBC, COI) continue to provide reviews?

All research compliance committees are planned to meet as scheduled using virtual meetings. Staff office hours will be conducted electronically, and guidance for scheduling remote office consultations will be posted on the RDIA website.

Can we continue to charge employee salaries to sponsored projects if they begin working remotely?

If employees will be engaged in the project and are able to continue work remotely they can charge salary proportional to the work performed to the project. We anticipate further guidance from federal sponsors regarding these issues and will provide updates as more information becomes available.

Can you charge sponsored project related travel cancelled due to COVID-19 to a sponsored award?

Treatment of these types of expenses may vary by sponsor. If you have specific questions please contact OSP to review sponsor policies related to allowable costs and documentation requirements. If further federal guidance is issued it will be shared with the Mason research community.

Can I conduct research alone?

Yes, in limited circumstances for critical research activities that can be done safely alone. However, you must have a written plan that includes a point of contact that you will communicate with when you start the research and finish the research and at regular intervals for longer shifts.