COVID-19 Guidance for Researchers

Updated 5/6/2022

The Office of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School no longer requests notification of research activity for faculty, staff, and students, except in cases where the research involves travel to countries with a US State Department Travel Advisory Level of 3. Moreover, no Level 4 travel is allowed by UMS. All travelers are still required to abide by UMS travel guidelines.

Steps to request an exemption for research travel to State Dept Level 3 countries:

  1. Submit a Travel Exception Request via UMS Risk Management
  2. After you have received approval from UMS Risk Management, submit the Research Travel Exception Request Form for approval from the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School.
Additionally, travelers are still required to coordinate with the Office of Research Compliance, UMS Safety Management and UMS Risk Management, as applicable, to ensure appropriate travel and fieldwork procedures are followed and any necessary approvals are in place prior to international travel. This includes:
  • Working with UMS Safety Management to develop and implement a Fieldwork Safety Plan (Please see: Fieldwork Safety Training Guide [requires @maine.edu account to view])
  • Working with UMS Risk Management to ensure the appropriate insurance coverage is in place
  • Working with export compliance staff in the Office of Research Compliance to determine if any export licenses, or documented use of an exception, is required for the export (even temporary) of University equipment, computers, or supplies
Any questions on these guidelines or procedures can be directed to Tammy Crosby (tammy.crosby@maine.edu).

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 Health Advisory webpage and the UMaine COVID-19 webpage.

Field Research

Field research 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 webpage and comply with guidance provided by UMS Safety Management.
  2. Field research must comply with contemporaneous UMS travel guidelines. Individuals proposing to travel for fieldwork should consult current UMS COVID guidance for travelers as it is subject to change.

Human Subjects Research

Updated 5/6/2022

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 has transitioned to Research Activity Category ‘Lower Level (Mid-Late Phase 3)’ for Human Subjects Research (HSR).

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.
  • The Office of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School no longer requests notification of research activity for faculty, staff, and students, except in cases where the research involves travel to countries with a US State Department Travel Advisory Level of 3. Moreover, no Level 4 travel is allowed by UMS.
  • Key safety requirements (must be addressed in the safety plan):
    • Masks are optional at the discretion of the Principal Investigator but must be communicated to the participants before the in person interaction
    • 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 let participants know that any student, faculty, staff or visitor who tests positive, has symptoms, or has been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 should fill out the self-reporting form.
  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.

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.