COVID-19 FAQs

FAQs for Researchers

We have provided a list of frequently asked questions and answers below. This list will be updated as we receive new information relating to COVID-19 and Wake Forest University.

For additional updates on COVID-19 and its impact on research within Wake Forest, please visit our Important Updates page. For all official messages and updates on COVID and its impact on Wake Forest University, visit the university’s COVID-19 page.

    Facilities/Support

  • Will faculty be allowed on campus with access to our labs and offices?

    The Wake Forest campus is not closed but we are in a distance-working mode where all faculty should be working remotely unless they have essential duties that need to be conducted.  Campus community members must show their WFU ID or authorized parking hangtag at the Reynolda Road and University Parkway entrances to access campus. Research facilities and laboratories on the Reynolda and Wake Downtown campuses should be in ramp-down mode as part of the institution’s COVID-19 response.

    By Wednesday, March 25, 2020, each research supervisor/ faculty lab director/ principal investigator must implement a ramp-down plan for their lab or research team, identifying essential research activities, which are those that would be excessively costly, result in significant loss of data, or pose a health or safety risk if not continued on-site by essential personnel only. Non-essential activities are to be conducted remotely by research staff or students, and might include literature reviews, experimental design, data analysis, use of digitized archives and online research collections, numerical calculations, software development, video and phone interviews, and writing.

    All classes, undergraduate and graduate, are being conducted remotely.

  • Will we still have access to the libraries and other campus resources?

    The ZSR Library is closed  but remote services and support continue. Students, faculty, and staff must use their Deacon OneCard to enter. The 24 hour access spaces (Starbucks, the 24 hour Student Room, and the Grad Student Lounge) will stay remain open 24/7 for those who need wifi access. To request materials or for more information, please see the ZSR website: https://zsr.wfu.edu/2020/zsr-building-closure/

  • Proposal submission: Will ORSP still help me to submit?

    Yes. All operations will continue as normal.

  • How would I petition for an extension of a NSF proposal deadline?

    NSF has extended the deadline dates for specific funding opportunities. A listing of these extensions is available on the Foundation’s COVID-19 webpage. Deadline dates for funding opportunities that do not appear on the list remain unchanged. Recipients who are unable to meet stated deadlines should contact the cognizant NSF Program Officer to discuss the issue. NSF will consider extensions on a case by case basis.

  • What should I do this summer if I receive a new grant during the university lockdown period?

    While nearly all research labs on the Reynolda campus have completely closed, ORSP continues to receive and set up new awards during the university lockdown. It is recommended that PIs who receive new awards carefully consider how to spend their money this summer to try and limit the burn rate while access to the labs and/or facilities is reduced or zero. The PI is best situated to know if spending needs to occur to get started on the project in a timely fashion.

    Personnel

  • Will my graduate students be allowed on campus to work in the lab?

    No (with exceptions). Graduate students who are either Teaching Assistants (TAs), Graduate Assistants (GAs) or Research Assistants (RAs) and who are not critical to essential research activities, should work remotely for the foreseeable future. Stipends will continue during this period. Examples of essential research activities include maintaining unique cell lines, maintaining instruments that can’t be easily shut down, maintaining animal populations, and maintaining research for which shutting down would be excessively costly or would result in significant loss of data.

    Faculty supervising students are required to develop a list of the essential research that will continue on campus and the steps that will be taken to minimize coronavirus exposure and spread. If a student is ill, they should remain at home and work remotely, and a back-up person will have to take up critical duties requiring a campus presence.

    Graduate students who are TAs or GAs should continue their duties and responsibilities remotely, while contacting their Faculty supervisors for any change in assignments. Grad students who are paid on external grants, i.e. externally-funded RAs, will still need to be working or else the effort report at the end of the year will cause problems. If their in-lab (on-campus) work is not deemed “essential” and so they can no longer be conducting experiments, then their research supervisors must clearly articulate (off-campus, i.e. remote) research activities that will warrant their continued support on research assistantship monies from the external funding agencies. Such activities might include literature reviews, experimental design, data analysis, use of digitized archives and other online research and data collections, numerical calculations, software development, video and phone interviews, and writing.

  • Do federal granting agencies allow PI’s to continue charging personnel time and effort, even though their lab cannot be accessed to perform the work?

    The NIH and NSF model allows PIs to continue to charge personnel costs to their sponsored projects, as long as the university continues to pay the same classifications of personnel using internal funds. Some agencies do not have the same model as NIH, e.g. the Army. The University administration understands that PI’s are very concerned about how long personnel will need to work remotely but it is not know how long this will continue. In the case of NIH and NSF, PIs needing supplemental funding should contact their relevant Program Officer.

  • Can undergraduate students work on my research project(s) over the summer?

    Yes, research is vital to the academic mission, and if the undergraduate can do the work remotely, they can be supported.

  • Can I hire new personnel to fill new or vacant positions that are paid using grant funds?

    Yes. In the short-term anyone requesting to hire needs to follow the steps outlined in HR’s email dated, Thursday, April 23, 2020 so that HR and the University leadership can track all hiring. Information about the prospective employee should be entered into the spreadsheet template; be sure to note in the comment box that the position is grant funded and send the spreadsheet to HR. Grant-funded requests do not need additional approvals so the HR team will initiate the process in Workday and the recruitment can proceed.

  • What are the guidelines on raises for employees paid from external grants?

    As a matter of equity, employees who are fully or partially paid by external grants to the university will not receive a raise in pay for FY 2021. This policy also aligns well with the instructions we have received from federal agencies for keeping such employees paid according to how internally paid employees are being handled at the university. Since Wake Forest is paying its employees to work from home, federal agencies allow us to continue paying externally funded employees similarly while working from home. Following this same guideline of alignment with institutional policy, pay raises will be treated similarly, and those paid from external funds will also not receive pay raises in FY 2021. However, pay raises will be allowed under exceptional circumstances, e.g. a valued team member is being recruited elsewhere. If a PI wishes to implement a pay raise, please contact Keith Bonin, Associate Provost for Research & Scholarly Inquiry.

    Events and Travel

  • Can others come to campus?

    In general, visitors should avoid coming to campus. Campus community members must show their WFU ID or authorized parking hangtag at the Reynolda Road and University Parkway entrances. Visitors will need to request entrance at the gatehouses located at those entrances. Buildings will be accessible only by card access. Please see the Visitor/Campus Access Guidelines.

  • Should I cancel my travel plans?

    Yes. Wake Forest faculty and staff are prohibited from institutional travel for non-essential purposes. Necessary travel must be approved at the Vice President/Dean level. Additionally, faculty and staff participation in job-related gatherings on and off campus (e.g. conferences and meetings) larger than 50 people is prohibited. These restrictions will remain in place through at least June 30, 2020.

    Expenses

  • How shall I handle unexpected grant-related expenses due to the virus?

    Federal agencies are starting to issue guidelines. For now, be sure to document any expenses.

  • Am I allowed to make purchases and pay salaries from my D Fund?

    Yes, but since D Funds are internal funds, and considered non-discretionary, restrictions apply:

    i) Expenditures under $500 require review by the Department Chair or Program/Center Director.

    ii) Expenditures over $500 require the pre-approval of the appropriate Reynolda Campus Cabinet Member or Dean. The Department Chair or Program/Center Director must submit the College Expense Request Form.

    iii) Any expenditure greater than $2,500 will also require Executive Vice President or Provost pre-approval.

    Summer salary paid from a D Fund would need department chair approval, and if over $500, then the Dean or Associate Provost, Keith Bonin approval. If the salary is over $2500, then the Provost or Executive Vice President would also have to approve it.

    Ongoing research projects

  • Can I continue/start a long-term experiment?

    No new experiments can be conducted unless the need to do so is confirmed by the PI and by the Department Chair. The PI/faculty member must justify the need for the new experiment in a written document to be reviewed by the Chair. In the case of disagreement, the Associate Provost for Research and Scholarly Inquiry will decide.

  • How can I video conference with participants enrolled in my research study?

    Contact Lori Gabriel and she will ask Information Systems to add you to a special Web Ex site that is HIPAA compliant, with downloads disabled and recording retention set for 120 days.

  • Can I donate PPE from my lab if it was purchased from grant funds?

    Yes as long as the grant is reimbursed for the amount of the PPE expenses. ORSP will reimburse grants for these costs, please contact Lori Gabriel if you will be making a donation of PPE from your research lab.

  • Can I conduct my IRB-approved research remotely instead of in person?

    Yes, but…you must file an application amendment to revise your methods. The IRB Staff and Board members are ready to process such amendments in a timely manner.  If you plan to return to in-person interactions after the COVID-19 crisis, draft your revised methods to allow for it.  By doing so, a second application amendment will not be necessary to reverse the first.

  • Which prior approvals are still required to be submitted to NSF during the time period for which the administrative relief flexibilities referenced in NSF’s implementation of OMB Memorandum M-20-17 apply?

    Recipients are required to obtain NSF prior approval for the following program or budget related reasons specified in 2 CFR § 200.308 (c):
    • Change in the scope or the objectives of the project;
    • Change in a Principal Investigator (PI) or co-PI specified in an NSF award;
    • The transfer of funds budgeted for participant support costs to other categories of expense;
    • Unless described in the proposal and funded in the approved NSF award, the subawarding or transferring out of any work under an NSF award; and
    • The need arises for additional NSF funding to complete the project.

    Here is a link to NSF’s explanations of the original OMB memo that serves as the guidance template for all federal granting agencies about what changes they will allow due to disruptions & changed circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a verbatim excerpt that you might find informative.

  • My grant budget includes summer salary. Can I work remotely and still receive the budgeted summer salary?

    If your approved budget includes summer salary, you may charge salary and wages proportional to the actual work performed on the project. As always, you will need to certify your effort through the current reporting system, which will consist of completing/signing an online or paper form with effort allocations for fixed time periods, e.g. semesters, that is generated in Workday by your Grants Contract Manager. Availability of funding in and of itself is not justification for payment of summer salary support. Investigators must maintain detailed work records to substantiate summer effort in the event of an audit.