FAQs for Researchers

If you have research questions, please discuss them with your supervisor or contact ORED at 662-325-3570.

Based on current assessments of the COVID-19 threat, ORED offers the following answers to frequently asked questions, broken down by area.

Research Continuity

Proposal Development and Submission

Compliance

Lab Safety

Animals

Sponsors and Agencies


What is the impact of the Shelter-in-Place Order?

Consistent with the Governor’s Shelter-in-Place order only research activities deemed critical are to be allowed to continue in a university lab or facility between 5:00 PM Friday April 3 through 8:00 AM Monday April 20.  Only the approved personnel responsible for critical research activities should be allowed in research labs or in university facilities needed to complete the work during this period of time. As mandated by the Governor, all other personnel must work from home or other isolated off-campus and isolated location during this period.

What is the definition of critical research?

The definition of critical research activities includes the following. Other research not mentioned may be approved by the Vice President for Research and Economic Development or the Vice President for the Division of Agriculture, Forestry, and Vet Medicine.

  • Research that must be maintained for the health and safety of human subjects. 
  • Research for which discontinuation would generate data and sample loss that would be effectively irreplaceable.  
  • Maintenance of critical equipment and a safe standby mode of laboratories and facilities.  
  • Maintenance of animal populations and/or ensuring the ethical care and conduct of research with animal subjects.  
  • Maintenance and care of plant populations that are hard to recreate and represent years of research.  
  • Maintenance of research deemed critical or essential by the sponsor according to contract requirements.
  • Researchers working on experiments that have a small window for completion such as those related to agriculture during spring planting.
  • COVID-19 research with a timeline relevant to the current pandemic.  

What is the procedure for determining which research activities are critical?

During the two-week shelter-in-place period, PIs must seek approval to continue their work as CRITICAL. PIs should submit responses to the following questions to their Associate Dean for Research.   The ADR will then forward requests for approval to the appropriate Vice President. 

  1. What are the reasons that your research is critical?
  2. What steps are you taking to perform the majority of research remotely?
    [All meetings are online, technology for remote work has been provided, staff are rotating, etc.]
  3. How will you ensure social-distancing measures for essential personnel who will need to work on-site in a facility or lab?
    [e.g., Signs are posted to remind about CDC safety guidelines, equipment arranged to provide for distancing, etc.]
  4. For research activities deemed critical, describe the on-site activities that will be critical to maintain your lab capabilities. What support (if any) from university personnel will still be required to achieve this?

    Consider when discontinuation would generate significant data, sample, or animal life loss; where equipment would not operate safely or might be damaged. 
    Please indicate the researchers (names, emails and brief responsibilities) required for critical capabilities. Identify supervisors. Do not list all members of your lab, only those who will be asked to work to maintain critical operations/activities.

My research is not deemed critical. What steps do I need to be taking now regarding research operations?

  • Continue research as you are able from your home or off-campus, isolated location.
  • Document any impact on your research including additional costs as a result of COVID 19, impact on your scope of work and timeline, etc.
  • Host meetings virtually using the university’s WebEx platform
  • Stay in contact with sponsors.
  • Establish lines of communication with staff working remotely or spending less time on campus. Err on the side of overcommunication. 
  • Identify alternative activities for yourself and/or your research team. These can include activities that advance your research that which may be allowable charges for funded research. See some recommendations and ideas. 

Who can be in my lab?

Research facilities should be limited to essential personnel who are conducting approved critical research activities ONLY until the end of the shelter-in-place period.

Even with reduced staff density, all labs must implement social distancing and other best practices and develop individualized work plans that minimize close contact and maintain clean air and surfaces. Until more is known, care should be taken in rotating personnel in and out of labs, particularly in light of recent research on COVID-19 survival in air and on surfaces.

Can I travel for research?

See https://www.msstate.edu/coronavirus for the most recent information on travel restrictions.

What if there is an impact on my scope of work or expenditures?

It is likely current working conditions (i.e. reduced personnel, charging same amount of effort but reduced productivity, etc.) impact your ability to accomplish your current scope of work. Some steps you should be taking include:

  • Document the specific nature of the impact on your work including deliverables, timeline, budget and additional costs.  In the event that supplemental funding and other modifications become available, the more detail you have about the impact on your project, the better off you will be.
  • Maintain contact with program managers and follow all of the steps provided in any guidance from sponsors.
  • Monitor guidance from sponsors including the Office of Management and Budget and your particular sponsor.  SPA, OSP, and ORED are receiving guidance from some sponsors related to impacts on research and maintaining a list of publicly available resource pages. This information is being constantly updated. 
  • PIs with funding from private sponsors should contact them directly for guidance.
  • Maintain communication with Sponsored Programs Accounting to discuss any sponsor guidance and options for possible modification to your project.
  • Be proactive with requests for no-cost extensions—the sooner you are prepared to request, the better. Get ahead of the masses.

Will faculty and researchers continue to have access to information resources provided through the MSU Libraries?

The MSU Libraries will continue to provide access to its online collections in order to provide faculty and researchers with the information resources they need. This includes providing document delivery and interlibrary loan services as well as “Ask A Librarian” services where library faculty are available for consultations via telephone and the online chat service. Visit for more information on the Library services continuity plan.

What if I have a new invention or questions about intellectual property?

Office of Technology Management staff are working remotely and available by phone or email, and they look forward to hearing about your work.

Can I still submit grant proposals through the Office of Sponsored Projects?

Yes, the Office of Sponsored Projects remains fully operational. Please continue to use the OSP portal for communication regarding proposals in development and in preparation for submission. For general questions, call 662-325-7404 or email osp@msstate.edu. OSP staff may be working remotely but will respond to emails and voicemail as usual. As always, faculty should work closely with grants and contracts administrators in their respective units in the preparation of proposals.

Is the OSP Development Office open?

The OSP Development Office is open and will continue to work with PIs. Assistance with projects already in development will be the top priority. Assistance for new projects and requests for funding consultations will be accepted as capacity allows. Please contact development@osp.msstate.edu with any questions.

Will research compliance committees (IRB, IACUC, IBC) still meet to review protocols?

Yes.  The committees will meet virtually to review protocols.  The submission and review process will continue; however, adjustments may be necessary with Office of Research Compliance staff and committee members working remotely. Please be patient if turnaround times increase during this time.

Should my human subjects research be halted?

Research that involves in-person interactions with participants with no prospect of direct therapeutic benefit must be paused or rewritten to eliminate the face-to-face contact.  If a change is needed to limit participant interaction (e.g., online/remote communication, telephone contact, remote monitoring, remote data collection, etc.), an amendment must be approved by the IRB prior to implementing the change. If you would like to simply pause your research and this will not change any procedures, there is no need for an amendment. For exempt studies, if the change to online or remote interactions with participants does not change the risk, then no amendment is needed.

I must shut my lab down during the shelter-in-place order. Are there any special steps I should take?

Yes. Ensure all experiments are brought to a conclusion; e.g., no reactions, digestions, etc. are left unattended. Ensure all chemical containers are sealed and stored properly. Close the valves on all compressed gas cylinders unless the cylinder is used to supply gas to an inert environmental chamber; e.g., glove box. In such a case, someone must be assigned to routinely check on the cylinder and chamber. Close the sash on all chemical fume hoods in your lab. Environmental Health & Safety suggests you, or someone you designate, check on your lab periodically. Please consider other actions unique to your lab that you may need to take. Contact EH&S at 662-325-0026 if you need assistance.

If my research continues to generate hazardous and/or radiological waste, will pickup service for waste continue?

Yes. Waste pickup service will continue. Waste pickup tickets can continue to be submitted via www.ehs.msstate.edu or by calling 325-0026. Please note EH&S will be operating with limited staff therefore response time may be hampered.

Are any Environmental Health and Safety services suspended as a result of MSU COVID-19 operational conditions?

Yes. The following EH&S services will be suspended until MSU returns to normal operation: facility safety reviews and laboratory safety reviews.

Will film badge (dosimetry) services continue during MSU COVID-19 operational conditions?

Yes. If you continue research  requiring you to wear a film badge, continue to do so. Quarterly film badges will be picked up and replaced on schedule as normal.

If I continue work utilizing radioactive materials in my lab, should I continue to take weekly smears or wipes?

Yes. EH&S will continue to pick up weekly smears or wipes every Monday. Please note that if you do not do any work with radioactive materials the previous week, smears or wipes are not required.

What plans does MSU have to care for animals?

The Laboratory Animal Resources and Care (LARAC) office husbandry and veterinary staff are considered essential employees, and daily animal care will continue. The unit will continue to supply food, water, and clean housing, as well as daily oversight of animal health and well-being, including adequate veterinary medical care. The attending veterinarian and veterinary staff will be available for any animal health concerns.

Where can I find guidance from federal agencies and other sponsors about proposals and awards?

Federal agencies are providing updates on their websites regarding changes to proposals and awards. Because the COVID-19 response is rapidly changing, make sure you are viewing the most recent update from the agency. ORED has created and will continue to update a list of resources and information from sponsors and agencies.