COVID-19 Guidance for Researchers

Updated 7/28/2021

All research activity requires notification, versus approval, unless it involves international travel, which is currently prohibited, unless an exception is sought and granted.  

Researchers are still asked to follow all UMSState, and CDC guidelinesCurrently these guidelines require approval by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School for international travel for research, which also requires an exception from UMS Risk Management. Please note that research with human subjects has transitioned to a lower level of restriction as highlighted below.

While we still ask that you submit your research activity via the online form, which has also been simplified, for notification. The Office of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School will still review these submissions and may contact you with any questions or concerns.

Thank you for your patience during this time and we hope that these changes will make it easier to conduct your research, while doing so safely. Questions about the Research & Scholarly Activity Reporting form may be directed to Tammy Crosby (tammy.crosby@maine.edu).

As a reminder, additional COVID-19 Research Guidelines are available at the links below:

The response to COVID-19 continues to be a rapidly evolving situation even at this stage of the pandemic and this guidance is subject to change. Please continue to regularly check the UMS Information page and the UMaine Information page.

Field Research – Updated 7/28/2021

All not-previously approved research and scholarly activity requires notification to the OVPRDGS using the Research & Scholarly Activity Reporting Form.

In addition to the research and scholarly request notification you must adhere to the following:

  1. All work conducted by everyone associated with UMaine and UMM must be conducted in accordance with guidance available on the UMS Health Advisory site and comply with guidance provided by UMS Safety Management which can be found on the Safety Management website.
  2. Field research must comply with contemporaneous UMS COVID-19 travel policies. Individuals proposing to travel for fieldwork should consult current UMS COVID guidance for travelers as it is subject to change.

Human Subjects Research – Updated 7/26/2021

Researchers conducting research with human subjects are encouraged to design their studies to be conducted remotely if at all possible as this is the safest approach for our research participants, researchers and the university community. For those studies which cannot be conducted remotely, face-to-face human subjects research may be allowed it is determined that it can be conducted safely, and must at all times be in compliance with current directives and guidance available on the UMS Information page and the UMaine Information page.

To determine if your human subjects research with Face-to-Face interaction is allowed at this time, please review the table in the Human Subject Research Ramp Up Guidance (PDF). The University is in Research Activity Category ‘Lower Level (Mid-Late Phase 3)’ for HSR (initially effective May 12, 2021).

Key steps for engaging in Face-to-Face HSR include:

  • HSR studies that require modifications to an IRB approved protocol need to submit an amendment package to the UMaine IRB for review and approval.
  • Along with any application modifications, research teams will need to develop plans for safety and submit a Research & Scholarly Activity Reporting Form.
  • Key safety requirements which must be addressed in the safety plan:
    • Mandatory face covering for research team and participants
    • Increased disinfecting procedures

Additional COVID Requirements for Face-to-Face HSR in Research Activity Category ‘Lower Level’:

  1. Research team and participant screening must be completed prior to any in-person interaction. The screening information should be collected from any new or returning participants via phone, email, or other virtual method within 24 hours of the participant’s planned study-related visit or interaction and immediately before in-person interaction. The screening questions to be utilized can be found in the COVID-19 Participant Screening (Word).
  2. Research team must track activity that can be used for contact tracing in the event of a report of illness or exposure (In the study’s informed consent, ensure that you tell participants that information collected for contact tracing may need to be shared with UMaine/UMS Administration and/or Maine CDC).
  3. Supply all potential participants with the handout COVID-19 Information for Participants (PDF) which includes information about COVID-19, additional measures implemented to reduce risk of COVID-19 exposure, and their responsibilities if they choose to participate.

Please contact the IRB office at umric@maine.edu if you have any questions about this guidance or need more information.

Animal Research

In addition to requiring IACUC approval, all not-previously approved research and scholarly activity requires notice to the OVPRDGS using the Research & Scholarly Activity Reporting Form.

Before initiating an approved research & scholarly activity which involves animals, please note that permission by the applicable lab manager must be obtained prior to performing any experiments in close quarters.  Please email your request to the appropriate lab manager with copy to ORC (umric@maine.edu).  Your request should include applicable IACUC protocol number(s), a description of the experiment, and date of approval by, or notice to, the OVPRDGS.

We ask that you remain flexible as Animal Facility ramp-up is also dependent on all of the following:

  • Appropriate animal care staffing levels
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required for entry to the facility as well as any additional protocol-specific PPE (i.e. for handling hazardous agents)
  • Disinfectants required for use on surfaces within the facilities

Please contact the Office of Research Compliance for assistance (umric@maine.edu).

Be Prepared: Plan for Contingencies

If and when UMS and/or State health officials provide limiting/restrictive guidance that are out of alignment with current research activities, research efforts will drop back to lower phases as appropriate and will be ramped up when the guidance changes. Thus, researchers must maintain contingency plans and be prepared to halt all activities on short notice in case this becomes necessary. ORC’s Guidance for Research Ramp-Down (PDF) includes information to help you prepare, or update, your contingency plans.