Information for faculty and researchers

For information about remote work and other HR-related policies, visit the Information for Employees page.

Learning continuity

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  • Information for faculty on fall course requirements and testing, tracing, and tracking (June 29, 2020)

    Dear Faculty,

    As a follow up to last week’s message reaffirming our commitment to everyone’s safety and well-being, we continue to make strategic progress in implementing plans and procedures to prepare for the return of students, faculty, researchers, and staff to our campuses. As key partners in this endeavor, we want to keep you apprised of information you need to prepare for your interactions with students and the entire University community.

    This is a complex process with multiple strands that must be coordinated and executed in a precise timeline to ensure we are ready for a safe and successful fall semester. Please note that the new Fall 2020 calendar is now available online.

    1. Required course syllabi updates: As stated in last week’s message, everyone will be required to wear face coverings at all times on all campuses. Faculty should further include policies requiring face coverings and appropriate physical distancing while in class in their course syllabi; reinforcing this requirement and the right of a faculty member to restrict a student from participating in class should be clearly stated in the syllabus.

      Additionally, course syllabi should include language prohibiting class recordings. Below is sample language that also must appear in a syllabus. We are expecting that all courses will be captured for asynchronous access.

      Students are expressly prohibited from recording any part of this course. Meetings of this course might be recorded by the University. Any recordings will be available to students registered for this class as they are intended to supplement the classroom experience. Students are expected to follow appropriate University policies and maintain the security of passwords used to access recorded lectures. Recordings may not be reproduced, shared with those not in the class, or uploaded to other online environments. If the instructor or a University of Miami office plans any other uses for the recordings, beyond this class, students identifiable in the recordings will be notified to request consent prior to such use.

    2. The Office of Faculty Affairs recently announced the opportunity for faculty to request special COVID-19 accommodations; faculty who may require special COVID-19 related accommodations can fill out the form here by July 6.

    Testing, Tracing, and Tracking

    The Three T’s—Testing, Tracing, and Tracking—are fundamental to maintaining the health and well-being of our on-campus community. We are fortunate to count on the medical leadership of Dr. Stephen Nimer, director of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the public health expertise provided by Vice Provost for Research Erin Kobetz, who serve as chair and co-chair, respectively, of the Testing and Tracing Reopening Committee, which is comprised of diverse faculty and staff from across the University and UHealth.

    The steps outlined below are part of a robust plan that reflects evidence-based public health guidelines. They are designed to be sufficiently flexible to allow for the integration of new information and technologies, especially given how quickly our understanding of COVID-19 is evolving.
     

    • Symptom monitoring tool: We have tested a symptom monitoring tool to track the health and well-being of our University community. It is currently being prepared for institution-wide roll out. This tool (and the associated data) is an important part of our strategy to mitigate disease risk. Faculty, staff, and students will be required to use this screening tool regularly during the semester.
    • COVID-19 hotline: We are currently putting in place appropriate resources and staffing for our University hotline for faculty, staff, and students who have concerns about COVID-19 and/or need testing.
    • Testing sites: We are identifying and building out new testing sites across the University for symptomatic individuals. The locations are being prepared and will be announced shortly.
    • Voluntary random testing: Starting next month, we will initiate voluntary testing of randomly selected University faculty, staff, and students to monitor the prevalence of infection. This will help us to identify and respond quickly and decisively to any observed uptick in disease in certain areas of campus, groups, etc. If you are selected for testing, as a public health matter, you are strongly encouraged to participate.
    • U-TRACE 2.0: Our U-TRACE team continues to conduct comprehensive contact tracing for all COVID-19 positive faculty, staff, and students. The online application that will enhance the team’s reach and efficiency will be completed in the next week.
    • Tracking: Protocols to assess the prevalence of COVID-19 in the wastewater for all three campuses have been developed and will be implemented shortly. Similar to random testing, this information will help us map and respond to any potential community spread.

    There is a fourth “T” that underlies and strengthens the entire framework and that is “Teamwork.” This is where each of us does our part to support these efforts to protect our community. We invite you to attend tomorrow’s virtual town hall at 3 p.m. for faculty and staff to discuss plans for the fall semester.

    We continue to update the University’s COVID-19 response website at coronavirus.miami.edu—we welcome your suggestions on information to include on the site.

    Jeffrey L. Duerk, Ph.D.
    Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost

    Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., MPH
    Vice Provost for Research

    Guillermo (Willy) Prado, Ph.D.
    Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs

  • Submitting requests for COVID-19 related teaching accommodations (June 25, 2020)

    Dear Faculty,

    The past several months have tested each of us both individually and collectively as a University. We want to thank you for facing the challenges of COVID-19 with patience and determination as we plan for a safe reopening in the fall semester. Everything we have learned through this process is being considered and deployed to ensure your safety and well-being, and we are confident that we will be successful. ’Canes are resourceful and resilient.

    As we work toward a “better normal,” many aspects of our daily lives on campus will be different. Everyone—including faculty, staff, and students—is required to wear face coverings on campus. Students are required to do this at all times in the classroom and when physical distancing cannot be guaranteed. We will also have access to many more hand sanitizing stations across our campuses, along with face shields for faculty, plexiglass barriers, other forms of personal protective equipment (PPE), and increased sanitization of facilities and common areas.

    What has not, and will not, change is our commitment to our educational mission and our pledge to provide our students with the best possible educational experience. This is our professional responsibility to our students and the future of the U.

    It is our intention that courses will be in-person and on campus beginning August 17. All classroom spaces are designed to ensure physical distancing is met and face coverings and other PPE will be available to minimize risk of contracting the virus. Recent studies have shown that proper use of face coverings, distance/air dilution, and hand sanitization each incrementally reduce the risk of spread, with face coverings the most effective preventative measure by far.

    We recognize that some faculty may require special COVID-19 related teaching accommodations and/or modifications to further ensure their safety and well-being for the fall semester. We ask that faculty requesting special consideration please complete the accommodations/modifications request form available here by Monday, July 6, to ensure a timely review by the Office of Faculty Affairs, as well as to allow University, college/school, and departmental leadership the opportunity to consider accommodations/modifications that may be granted via this process.

    Please do not hesitate to contact the Office of Faculty Affairs (facultyaffairs.cg@miami.edu) if you have any questions.

    We thank you for your commitment to our students’ success. We look forward to a safe and successful academic year.

    With much gratitude and appreciation,

    Jeffrey L. Duerk, Ph.D.
    Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost

    Guillermo (Willy) Prado, Ph.D.
    Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs

  • Using Blackboard: Helpful tips for faculty

    Please review these helpful tips for using Blackboard, developed specifically for faculty.

  • Copyright guidance

    As we move to teaching online during this extraordinary time, all instructional personnel must consider copyright issues raised by making certain materials available digitally. Please review the general copyright guidance from the Office of the Provost.

  • Supporting students with disabilities in online learning

    Our current situation is unprecedented, and it is with your support that we will be able to ensure academic continuity for our students. Below is information to assist in this regard.

    Accommodation Request Process

    Under the ADA, the University must make reasonable attempts to ensure online/remote/distance learning courses are accessible to individuals with disabilities. The process for requesting accommodations remains the same: 

    • Students have the responsibility to self-disclose and request accommodations through the Office of Disability Services.

    • Each student with approved accommodations must present the Professor Memo to faculty with fair notice prior to needing or using the accommodation.

     

    Types of Accommodations

    Below are some common accommodations along with recommendations to meet accommodation requests in an online/remote/distance learning environment.

    Testing Accommodations

    1.  Extended Time on exams - This accommodation will continue to apply for any timed assessments administered virtually. This does not apply to papers, projects, or longer take home exams.  Any exam hosted in Blackboard allows the time limit to be adjusted per student to allow for different stop times. 
     
    Instructions on extending exam time in Blackboard:
    • Go to Test Options
    • Go down to Test Availability
    • Add Users by clicking to download all students on the class roster
    • Select the students with extended time
    • Adjust the amount of minutes in the box next to their name.
     
    2.  Distraction Reduced testing location - It is up to the student to identify a location that minimizes distractions before starting an exam.
     
    3.  Use of computer - Online/remote/distance learning courses inherently use the computer and further coordination by the professor is not necessary.
     
    4.  Assistive Technology - This accommodation allows for the use of specialized equipment to augment a student’s hands or control of the mouse. Students with these accommodations were already using specialized equipment through the Office of Disabilities and will have access to this same equipment by using their own computer or equipment.  This is a very small group of students and in most cases, will not require faculty to make any adjustments to their course. 

     

    Other Accommodations

    1.  Screen Magnification - Blackboard is compatible with most vision assistive technology software used by individuals with a vision impairment. Examples include using screen reader software or screen magnification software.  Faculty with students who have been granted screen magnification assistive technology should be in touch with the Office of Disability Services as soon as possible.   
     
    2.  Video Captioning - This provides a written transcript of any lectures or videos for students with hearing impairments. UMIT has enabled this feature at the University level for Zoom videos.  For students with hearing impairments, the Office of Disabilities is coordinating captioning via a remote captioning transcription vendor and will continue these services.  Any faculty receiving a request for captioning of their course content should direct students to the Office of Disability Services as soon as possible.     
     
    3.  Communication disorders - Students who struggle with written communication may have difficulty expressing questions or ideas through writing. The virtual teaching environment can rely heavily on strong writing skills.  To help these students, faculty can offer a variety of communication methods that include email, phone calls, or video chats.  Offering these options will make sure students with written communication deficits are not at a disadvantage in the online learning environment. 

     

    Other Suggestions

    Professors can do the following to make online content accessible to all students:

    1.  Closed caption or a text transcription for video content, audio files, or course lectures.
     
    2.  A written transcription and general description for photos and graphics displayed in course material.
     
    3.  A standard file format for all documents posted within a course.
     
    4.  A list of compatible file formats for documents accessed by link or uploaded by instructor.
     
    5.  PowerPoint presentations and graphics in standard colors, fonts, and high/low contrast colors for the visually impaired.

     

    Communication About Accommodations

    Engaging in a conversation about a disability can be challenging via email.  A few things can make this easier for students:

    • Include a statement in your syllabus that students must follow the same process of notifying you 7 days prior to an exam if they intend on using their accommodations for any online tests/quizzes.
    • The policy should be advertised and posted in the course management system, Blackboard.
    • Instructors teaching online/remote/distance courses should communicate with students via phone to discuss more personal matters related to a disability.

     

    Unique Circumstances

    There may be specific accessibility issues that are not defined by the ADA because they are unique to an individual’s condition. Faculty should direct these students to the Office of Disabilities where our team will review the request and determine reasonable accommodations on a case-by-case basis.

    If you or your students have any questions or concerns related to accommodations please email disabilityservices@miami.edu.  Our team is here to provide support for students and faculty.

  • Learning continuity tools and resources

    The Academic Continuity Guide provides options for faculty to teach and support students in times of disruption, and aims to complement administrative and departmental guidelines.

Research continuity

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  • Office of Research Administration COVID-19 announcements (Ongoing updates)

    The Office of Research Administration is sharing regular updates from federal and other regulatory agencies. Visit the office's COVID-19 announcements page.

  • Message on ramping up research notice

    Dear Colleagues,

     

    As a follow up to the May 21 message on ramping up non-critical research and scholarly activities on campuses, we want to remind everyone that Phase I requires that a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) be submitted no later than June 1, 2020. The current SOP is designed for use in faculty/unit planning and provides easy-to-implement guidelines for the first phase of ramp-up. It can be accessed here.

    The document must be reviewed and approved by your Research Dean and/or Dean, and the Vice Provost for Research prior to being able to re-initiate non-critical on-campus work. The SOPs submitted to vpr@miami.edu will be distributed to each Research Dean/Dean based on a faculty member’s primary academic appointment. Below are Frequently Asked Questions about “Ramping Up Research/Scholarship Guidelines.”

    FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

    1. Is the SOP final and does it have an expiration date?

    The SOP is a living document and will likely need to be revised to accommodate changes to institutional guidelines regarding COVID-19 risk mitigation. These guidelines are fluid, given rapidly evolving knowledge about COVID-19 and the local risk of disease transmission. Updates to the SOP will be communicated to the University community as needed. 

    1. If I share space with multiple faculty members/PIs, do we each need to submit a SOP? Can we submit one that we all sign off on?

    If you work in a shared laboratory/studio/workspace, you may submit a single SOP for the group, detailing how you will coordinate with each other to ensure that the requirements for physical distancing and population density are met, including any shift work necessary.

    1. Are offices included in the SOP?

    Personal office space does not count towards the square footage for open laboratory/studio/workspace to avoid potentially over-estimating the number of team members who can work simultaneously. However, the limit of one person for every 200 ft2 does apply to offices and must be considered when using this space to carry out non-critical research/scholarship-related tasks that cannot be performed remotely.

    1. Does this SOP apply to work being done at Jackson, the VA, or other offsite locations?

    SOP guidelines apply to all critical and non-critical research/scholarship being conducted by University faculty/staff, regardless of the site for implementation. The only exception would be for faculty whose salary is primarily paid for by these other entities and who may have to take on certain tasks sooner than the SOP allows, given that it is part of their job function. The SOP can always be shared with research partners so that they may consider adopting the guidelines themselves.

    1. Where do I get PPE and disinfectants?

    Laboratories should reach out to their normal suppliers for PPE and reagents before returning to the laboratory.  If the materials are not available through the typical procedures, laboratories across all campuses can utilize the supply chain for assistance at https://umiami.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0SzxGefUHu9eylD.

    Limited supplies of face coverings and EPA-approved disinfectants can be requested through the online form. On the medical campus, protective face coverings (1/day) are available at the security desks for buildings.

    1. Can I charge my grant for PPE?

    Grants typically cover supplies like gloves, surgical masks, alcohol, etc., required to fulfill study aims.

    If you need these supplies to safely conduct your work, you should be able to purchase them using grant funding. However, always check with Research Administration to ensure that this expense is allowable for a given funding agency.

    Further, the UHealth Supply Chain is centralizing PPE in an effort to simplify the ordering process and ensure all employees, researchers, medical students, and patients have the required PPE. You should try your normal supply distributor first. If your normal distributor is out of stock, orders can be placed using the following link: https://umiami.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0SzxGefUHu9eylD. See instructions below:

    • Supplies are limited. There is a maximum quantity for each item on the list below. Please only order what you need for one week. 
    • Orders can be submitted once a week for the required PPE. Orders will be fulfilled once weekly. 
    • This form does not have a built-in approval flow. Therefore, orders must be placed by the Cost Center Manager or, if the task is delegated, an email from the cost center manager must be forwarded to lennarsupplies@med.miami.edu when the order is submitted.
    • Use the departmental PG/cost center numbers. The COVID account number should not be used.
    • Delivery will occur within two business days or the department will be notified of any delays if supply is not currently available. 
    • Departments will be charged the average price the University paid for the products over the past eight weeks. 
    • Contact lennarsupplies@med.miami.edu if you have any questions. 
    1. What other measures will be taken to ensure the safety of our buildings?

    Currently, the best evidence-based practices for reducing the risk of COVID-19 include: maintaining physical distance (> six feet); consistently and appropriately wearing protective face coverings, even while practicing physical distancing; placing greater emphasis on personal and environmental hygiene; and avoiding coming to work when sick, even if symptoms seem inconsistent with those reported for COVID-19 infection. The University’s custodial provider will clean and sanitize high touch point areas nightly following CDC guidelines and using EPA approved products. For any specific requests related to cleaning in your spaces, please contact Facilities and Operations:

    Gables / RSMAS: Submit a service request via http://fo.fop.miami.edu/service-request.html or for any urgent matters please contact Facilities Work Control at (305) 284-8282

    Medical: Submit a service request via https://uhealth-isd.webtma.net/fac/request_fac.html or by calling Facilities Work Control at (305) 243-6375

    1. Who do I contact if the sanitizing stations in my building are empty?

    Please submit a service request via the online form:

    Gables/RSMAS: http://fo.fop.miami.edu/service-request.html;

    Medical: https://uhealth-isd.webtma.net/fac/request_fac.html 

    1. Do I need to fill out a SOP if I only do field-based research?

    Yes. SOPs are required for all faculty who plan to resume some level of non-critical research, even if it primarily occurs in off-campus settings. Most of the SOP fields can be left blank; faculty can add a text box (or longer addendum) to indicate how they will successfully achieve the SOP guidance for field research.

    1. Who do I contact to with concerns or to report observed violations to the SOP guidelines?

    Faculty or staff with concerns and/or observations about SOP non-compliance should feel comfortable contacting Erin Kobetz, the Vice Provost for Research, via email at ekobetz@med.miami.edu or by phone at (305) 243-6185. If you prefer to make an anonymous report—via the web or by telephone—please contact the University Hotline here or at 877-415-4357. Anyone who is non-compliant with SOP guidelines will have their on-campus privileges temporarily suspended.

  • Ramping up research and scholarly activity after the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic (May 21, 2020)

    Over the past few weeks, we have developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to guide faculty, staff, and trainees through key considerations for ramping up research and scholarly activities at the University of Miami. The primary purpose of this SOP is to model a gradual return to on-campus research and creative endeavors while accounting for the continued threat of COVID-19 to our operations.

    Our first priority must remain public health. A rush to re-populate our studios, laboratories, and other work spaces may lead to new COVID-19 infections with significant implications for the health and well-being of our University and broader South Florida communities. Therefore, we will resume “non-critical” research and scholarly activity in phases that align with the re-opening of other parts of the University and reflect guidance from federal, state, and local government and/or public health authorities.

    The SOP is organized around four key principles: 1) Low population density in our buildings and on our campuses; 2) Physical distancing; 3) Personal safety; and 4) Environmental hygiene. These principles reflect known, evidence-based approaches for reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection. Together with increased access to testing for University employees with COVID-19 symptoms and ongoing contact tracing, these principles, if adhered to completely and consistently, can keep us as safe and healthy as possible during this uncertain time. However, please note, ramping-up of research and scholarly activity is always reversible. Even with full University-wide compliance to SOP guidelines, we must be prepared to return to a lower level of work at any point, given the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    We understand that during this ramp-up some employees may feel unsure or uncomfortable returning to on-site work. Employees with these or other concerns should consult with their Human Resources partners; graduate students should contact Dean Willy Prado (Office of Graduate Studies). Undergraduate (non-medical student) researchers will not be allowed in any laboratories/studies/workspaces during this time (i.e., while residence halls are not operating).
     

    SOP Overview

    The SOP is a living document and will be revised to account for new knowledge about COVID-19 and/or strategies to further reduce disease risk. The current SOP is designed for use in faculty/unit planning, and provides easy-to-implement guidelines for the first phase of ramp-up. It can be accessed here. Using the online smart form, each faculty member can tailor the SOP to match the needs of their own program of research/scholarship. We have also created a slide deck that covers the key principles of the SOP and can be easily used by faculty to instruct their team members about the expectations for this phase of ramp-up. The slide deck can be accessed here.
     

    Phases of Ramp-Up

    As specified by the SOP, Phase I enables non-critical research and scholarly activities to resume on campus at a measured pace to keep population density low. Work that can be performed remotely should be, and any on-campus activity should be limited to that requiring key resources or equipment not otherwise accessible. Each faculty member with an independent program of study or creative endeavor should plan for a personnel density no greater than 1 person/200 sq. ft. We anticipate that this limited and incremental increase in activity in University laboratories/studios/workspaces will result in hundreds of new people on our campuses each day. This increase in the personnel density of our buildings, hallways, elevators, equipment rooms, and other shared spaces raises the possibility of new infections, underscoring the importance of adhering to the key steps outlined in the SOP. Phase I will commence no earlier than June 1, 2020. Formal notification of the actual start date will be communicated before then. A second phase of increased density will be considered at a later date, based on the local prevalence of COVID-19 infection, as well as our collective ability to achieve the SOP’s established guidelines.

    Jeffrey L. Duerk, Ph.D.
    Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost

    John L. Bixby, Ph.D.
    Vice Provost for Research

    Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., MPH
    Co-Vice Provost for Research

  • Frequently asked research questions (May 14, 2020)

    Frequently Asked Questions

    During our live research forums, as well as in the interim between then and now, the University’s Office of the Vice Provost for Research has received a number of questions related to the current pandemic and its effects on research. Below are responses to some of those asked most often.

    Awards and Grant Funding

    1. The fringe benefit costs, which we request on NIH and other grants, are used in part to cover retirement contributions. Will these rates decrease now, since the University suspended the institutional contribution to the 403b plans? Similarly, will our grants receive a discount on overhead since we are mostly working from home and not at the labs?

    It is true that one of the factors going into the annual calculation of Composite Fringe Benefits (CFB) is the University of Miami’s payment into retirement plans. There are numerous other components, of which health insurance is a major factor. CFB rates go up and down each year, but no major grant re-budgeting is required. If the rate goes down and a grant is paying less in personnel costs than anticipated, the PI would in most cases be able to move monies between categories without requesting prior approval from NIH. Our “overhead,” or Facilities and Administration rate, is negotiated with the cognizant federal agency based on real and documented costs to our research enterprise over a base year. This rate changes only when the rate is re-negotiated. 

    1. Will extensions be provided on other (non-PRA) internal awards?

    Decisions on extensions for internal awards are made by the awarding office (e.g., OVPR, CTSI). Contact the office that provided the award for their individual policy.

    Human Resources

    1. If schools remain closed, how will the University accommodate faculty/staff returning to work who have children to care for at home?

    Contact your supervisor for questions about childcare resources/accommodations.

    1. Are promotions of non-faculty research staff allowable under current HR guidelines?

     Yes. The hiring freeze does not apply to positions that are fully grant-funded.

    Human Subject Research

    1. How can I obtain informed consent and HIPAA authorization remotely?

    Updated information on obtaining consent remotely can be found here: https://www.uresearch.miami.edu/_assets/pdf/research-resources/conducting-research-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-20_04_20..pdf

    1. Do we have to change the protocol and Informed Consent Form for phone/Zoom consenting?

    If the protocol does not describe the remote consent or visit process, the investigator should submit an updated protocol (or updated local protocol) that describes the remote procedures. The updated protocol should indicate that the researchers will perform these procedures remotely only during the COVID-19 pandemic.  PIs should obtain IRB approval for the remote process before obtaining consent from new participants remotely.  When the PI must re-consent participants, and there isn’t sufficient time to obtain IRB approval before a participant must re-consent, the PI can obtain consent from existing participants remotely without prior IRB approval. However, they must report the procedure as a protocol deviation on an RNI form, and also submit a modification if they will need to obtain remote consent from other participants. 

    1. Does IRB prioritize review/approval for COVID-19 related research? Is IRB implementing any procedures to expedite or exemptions for temporary changes in clinical research practices for screening and recruitment in studies that can be continued safely during COVID-19?

    The HSRO is working as quickly as possible to complete the review of all submissions.  However, many of the submissions we are receiving now are related to COVID-19.  Investigators are submitting a large number of new studies, modifications to existing COVID-19 studies, and revisions to studies to address issues presented by social distancing.  We are prioritizing COVID-19 submissions during the pandemic; however, given the volume, investigators might experience delays. The research teams must do their part by quickly responding to requests from HSRO staff for completion of required training, biosafety submissions, and disclosures of financial interests.  The HSRO must coordinate all of these ancillary reviews, and a quick response from investigators reduces the burden on everyone. 

    Research Trainees

    1. Does the hiring freeze affect postdoctoral positions?

    Yes, unless your project is extramurally funded. Hiring of researchers, including postdocs, who are 100% funded on external grants will still be possible.

    1. I have a graduate student who works as a research assistant, and she will receive her degree this summer.  I would like to keep her employed next academic year; she is available as many institutions have postponed faculty hiring.  How can I keep her employed as an hourly Research Assistant?

    If the position is extramurally funded, the individual can be hired as a staff member or as a temporary employee.  Hiring faculty should consult their unit’s HR representative: https://www.hr.miami.edu/about-hr/contact-hr/index.html

    1. If this pandemic will severely restrict research for a number of months, will there be opportunities for graduate students to get an extra year of funding to finish their degrees?

    Students should contact their graduate program directors and/or their associate deans of graduate education for information on potential additional funding.

    1. To take advantage of the current remote work and critical research requirements, would it be possible for graduate students to take summer courses and receive the corresponding credits?

    Yes, many of the departments offer graduate courses which students can take.  Graduate students should consult with their graduate program directors.

    COVID-19 Research 

    1. Is there a UM website page where we can find information on researchers conducting COVID-19 research, as well as funding opportunities for research around COVID-19?

    You can find information on projects funded by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research here: https://news.miami.edu/stories/2020/04/fast-tracked-research-projects-aim-to-respond-quickly-to-mitigate-effects-of-covid-19.html and projects funded by the Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI)  here: http://miamictsi.org/coronavirus 

    If you are a researcher interested in joining a conversation with other researchers conducting research on COVID-19, you can join the CTSI’s COVID-19 Discussion Forum, which supports research collaboration and information sharing. The forum is open to all UM faculty, staff and students. To join the conversation go to Microsoft Teams (https://teams.microsoft.com), log in using your @miami.edu email address, and search “teams” for the COVID-19 Discussion Forum (direct link: https://bit.ly/COVID-19Forum).

  • Update on non-critical research activity (May 7, 2020)

    Dear colleagues,

    We have heard from many of you over the past week seeking clarification about when non-critical research activity can resume on campus. We fully understand and sympathize with your desire for this information. We are all navigating unprecedented uncertainty and knowing when we may be able to return to some kind of normal work provides some much needed respite from worry.

    We are currently working on a plan to ramp up research in coordination with Facilities, Environmental Health Services, and Emergency Management. The University’s Executive Leadership will review the plan,  and we will defer to their guidance regarding when the plan can be implemented. There are many factors to consider, including securing and making available sufficient quantities of masks, disinfectant, etc., as well as obtaining input across our campuses to ensure that the plan makes sense for everyone. We currently expect to provide a template by May 18 of actions that will need to be undertaken and assured before non-critical research activity can resume on campus.  This will allow you to begin working on your preparatory steps as parallel steps are undertaken centrally to ensure a coordinated response when non-critical activity is re-initiated.

    Our number one priority remains maintaining public health. A rushed attempt to re-populate our buildings and campuses may contribute to a rebound in COVID-19 infections that could negatively affect not only the well-being of our University community and the broader South Florida region, but also set back our ability to ramp up research. As many of you know, our region has not yet experienced a decline in either COVID-19 incidence or mortality, and we need to balance our desire to return to “normal” against these very real statistics. 

    We will be in touch with an update soon. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns you may have.

    Sincerely,

    John L. Bixby, Ph.D.
    Vice Provost for Research

    Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., MPH
    Co-Vice Provost for Research

  • Update on research continuity activities (April 8, 2020)

    Dear Colleagues,

    We recently updated the March 17, 2020 Guidance for on-campus research/scholarly activities. The current guidelines stipulate that all non-critical on-campus research activities should have ceased. We are reviewing these restrictions periodically. They remain in place until further notice and we will update again by April 30.

    The University continues to focus on COVID-19 and mission critical research, and researchers should follow posted guidelines, with the most recent update on SARS-COVID-19 research laboratory biosafety guidelines posted yesterday. Regular updates from federal and other regulatory agencies are available on the Office of Research Administration COVID-19 announcements page.

    We appreciate your support and understanding as the University continues to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.

    Sincerely,

    Jeffrey L. Duerk, Ph.D.
    Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost

    John L. Bixby, Ph.D.
    Professor of Pharmacology and Neurological Surgery
    Vice Provost for Research

  • SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) research laboratory biosafety guidelines (April 7, 2020)
  • Guidelines for performing critical research (March 18, 2020)

    Guidelines for performing critical research

    Updated 3/18/2020

    Acknowledgement: These guidelines are modified from those originally written by the University of Louisville.

    These guidelines are designed to help researchers adapt to the current viral pandemic while performing critical research activities.

    When people have to be in the laboratory, flexible non-overlapping shift schedules (different times of day and days of the week) should be used, when safety permits.

    Follow strict social distancing (maintain interpersonal distance of at least 6 ft.) and decontamination guidelines (listed below).

    Lab members will come to the lab for the purposes of continuing the essential lab and animal work only. Hand washing will be done each and every time a person enters or exits the lab for any reason. Only one person will be allowed in the tissue culture room at a time. No groups of individuals eating lunch together in the break room or congregating in building. No more than two individuals in the break room at a time.

    Perform non-laboratory-based work remotely (data analysis, manuscript revisions). All data can be saved and all writing done in appropriate group drives. No computer work should be done on personal computers in the lab.

    No in-person group lab meetings until further notice; all meetings should be held via phone or internet video conferencing.

    Personnel are advised to follow decontamination guidelines below:

    • Leave doors open when possible and limit the use of doorknobs.
    • Clean your phone/cellphone and do not take your cell phone with you to the restroom. Do not leave your phone on surfaces that are in common use.
    • Do not share pens/pencils. Carry a pen with you for your own use.
    • If you need to use a keyboard, other than your own, clean it (as well as the mouse), before and after you use it.
    • If you are using shared equipment clean off the knobs, handles etc.
    • Sneeze/cough into your elbow
    • Do not reuse tissues; dispose of immediately after single use and wash your hands (preferred) or use hand sanitizer.
    • Use an elbow or a knuckle on elevator or other buttons and leave the light switches on.
    • Use the automatic door openers (elbow or knuckle); do not use railings in the staircases.
    • Reduce or eliminate the use of headphones, iPod and cell phones. At home, clean your remote controls.
    • Wear disposable gloves to reduce your propensity to touch your face.
    • Do not share lab coats and do not pile used lab coats up with clean ones. Have your lab coats laundered professionally.
    • Do not put on Chap Stick or makeup outside of your home.
    • Wash your hands, even when you think you do not need to do so.

  • Information regarding virtualized research software (March 18, 2020)

    Researchers have access to virtual labs for applications such as Maple, Mplus, SPSS, and Stata – see details below:

    UMIT, in partnership with the School of Communication and the Richter Library, have engaged in the creation of a virtual environment for students. Currently, four applications have been virtualized: Maple, Mplus, SPSS, and Stata. To learn more, visit: vlabs.it.miami.edu

  • Guidance for on-campus research/scholarly activities (March 17, 2020)

    COVID-19 PANDEMIC: GUIDANCE FOR ON-CAMPUS RESEARCH/SCHOLARLY ACTIVITIES

    Updated March 17, 2020

    All faculty, staff, and postdoctoral fellows of the University of Miami (UM) should begin to work remotely where possible by Friday, March 20, 2020 at the latest. Graduate student research assistants (RAs), should begin to work remotely as soon as they return from Spring Break. Please note that this is not a closure of the University, but is intended for UM faculty, staff, RAs, and postdoctoral fellows to be able to continue critical functions while minimizing the spread of the coronavirus. This communication is a follow-up to the email sent last week requesting advance planning by the research community, to accommodate this rapidly evolving situation. 

    At this time, all researchers should implement plans to move to remote work, where possible. Below we provide the latest guidance and our expectations concerning this research/scholarship hiatus.

    All research laboratories and campus facilities engaged in research/scholarly activity should ramp down ongoing on-campus work, and delay initiating anything new. Research with SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 and related activities should continue. All other critical research activities, including those involving human subjects, need to be communicated to the Dean, Vice President/Provost, or Chair/Division Chief/Center Director, in charge of the unit for review. Examples of critical activities include, but are not limited to, maintaining/freezing unique cell lines, maintaining instruments that can’t be easily shut down, maintaining animal populations, and/or other work for which stopping or delaying could cause a critical loss of animals/materials/data or pose risk to human subject well-being. No new on-campus research activities should be started until further notice. Deans, Chairs/Division Chiefs/Directors and VPs are asked to develop a list of the work in their units that they believe is critical for continuation on campus during this time period. Deans at the Coral Gables and RSMAS campuses should send these documents via email to Dr. John Bixby, Vice Provost for Research, by March 20th, 2020. Miller School Chairs/Division Chiefs/Directors should send them to Dr. Carl Schulman, Executive Dean for Research. Dr. Bixby will lead an assembled team of faculty and other research leadership to oversee the approval process for continuation of activities that are deemed critical.

    It is NOT intended that non-critical research/scholarly activities should stop; indeed, those that can be carried out remotely (planning, writing, literature review, remote data collection, data analysis, remote meetings, etc.) should continue during this time.

    All investigators, including research laboratories, should immediately implement the following plans:

    1.  RAs and postdoctoral fellows should communicate with their supervisors and/or research mentors about obtaining approval for critical research activities as defined above. Plans should include arrangements that help to ensure the safety of the individuals required for those activities to continue.

    2.  Implement approaches to maintain critical research/scholarship functions while protecting both the health of researchers and of research participants, which may include strategies for de-densifying personnel (i.e., social distancing), scheduling shift work when possible, and implementing operating procedures to mitigate spread of the virus, including, for example, frequent hand washing and routine cleaning of all work surfaces.

    3.  Firm up plans for each laboratory and/or research group to continue work under a potentially long-term (6-8 week) remote requirement. Currently, we are working with a mid-April timeline for relaxing this requirement but planning for a longer-term shutdown should be part of your preparations.

    4.  Clinical studies should follow the guidance set forth by the Human Subject Research Office; see March 17 guidance at https://coronavirus.miami.edu/.

    The research community can find additional resources and guidance from federal agencies and the University at https://coronavirus.miami.edu/.

    Questions should be addressed to Dr. Bixby at JBixby@med.miami.edu or Dr. Schulman at CSchulman@med.miami.edu.

  • Interim guidelines for human subjects-related research visits during the COVID-19 outbreak (March 17, 2020)

    Interim University of Miami Guidelines for Human Subjects-Related Research Visits During the COVID-19 Outbreak

    Background

    The University of Miami (UM) is implementing this guideline to protect research participants, researchers, and the larger South Florida community from risk of infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 as well as to ensure ongoing access to research, which may provide essential support and care to participants. This guideline will be revised as needed, based on new information, and circulated to the UM research community. It will also be available on the UM coronavirus website. Please send questions and comments on this guideline to hsro@miami.edu.

     

    Interim Guidance (Effective March 17th, 2020)

    Participants

    In-person interactions and interventions (visits) with research participants should be performed remotely, whenever possible.

    If you can obtain the data you need via the telephone, you should use the phone. If you need face-to-face time with a research subject in a clinical trial, consider asking them to register in MyChart and use the Epic telemedicine in MyChart.

    You can also use Zoom for Healthcare for face-to-face visits. Zoom is a video conferencing tool that combines an easy-to-use interface with exceptional video quality for collaboration across mobile devices, desktops, and conference rooms. There are two versions of Zoom. To access this HIPAA-compliant form of ZOOM, contact the TeleHealth team by emailing telehealth@miami.edu.

    If you will be discussing health information during these remote interactions, you should not use FaceTime, Skype, Skype for Business), Microsoft Teams, or the non-HIPAA-compliant Zoom.

    For visits that do not involve collection of health information, you can use the version of Zoom that is not HIPAA compliant. To activate your University of Miami account and download Zoom, visit zoom.miami.edu and sign in using your CaneID credentials. Once you sign in, that's it—you have activated your account. Download the Zoom Desktop at: miami.zoom.us/support/download. To learn how to download the Zoom desktop client and learn more about feature available for the University community, review the Zoom at the U Quick Start Guide.

    Nonessential Research Visits (see examples below)

    Until further notice, you should postpone visits that are not essential to a participant's health and/or well-being when you cannot perform the visit remotely. The determination of whether or not the research visit is "essential to the health and/or well-being” of the participant should be informed by the principal investigator of the study, the participant, the participant’s care provider (where appropriate), and should be informed by current public health guidance regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.

    Essential Research Visits (see examples below)

    If you cannot perform a research visit that is essential to a participant's health and/or well- being remotely, you can perform the visit in-person, with the following additional guidance:

    a)  Participants should be provided with information regarding the current COVID-19 epidemic and how best to reduce their risk of infection. You can provide this information in multiple forms suited to the type of contact, including a website link, a telephone script and an in-person If possible, you should share this before the research visit. See the following CDC COVID-19 link for reference and materials: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

     

    b)  Research staff should verbally screen all research participants via phone for fever, cough, and flu-like symptoms before the research visit, if Research staff should re-screen participants when they arrive for the in-person visit.

     

    Participants who screen positive will require triage according to your institution’s clinical screening and triage protocols. If you are conducting research in an area that does not have a screening and triage protocol, you should comply with the University of Miami’s protocol.

     

     

    Jackson Health Systems (requires JHS network access)

     

    Enrollment of new participants in a clinical trial or other human subject-related research should be allowed only if:
    • Participation in the trial is essential to a participant's health and/or well-being, as determined as above; or
    • The enrollment and longitudinal participant management can be conducted remotely for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak.

     

    Research Personnel

    All study personnel (faculty, research staff, post-doctoral scholars and graduate students) should receive appropriate training regarding proper research participant screening (e.g., masking protocols) and participant triage should they encounter a research participant who is at risk for COVID-19 infection during an in-person research visit screening. Please refer to your institution’s clinical screening and triage protocols.

    Until further notice, track missed, remote, and out of window study visits due to COVID- 19 as protocol deviations on a Deviation Log and report the deviations to the IRB within 30 days.

    Study Sponsors

    Principal investigators or their designees should contact study sponsors to notify them of this guideline and make appropriate arrangements. You should postpone all sponsor visits for clinical trials or other human subject-related research, whether for site qualification, site initiation, or monitoring visits, whenever feasible. You should base considerations for remote monitoring on study needs and resource availability.

     


    When is a Study Visit "Essential to the health and/or well-being" for Human Subject Research Visits During the COVID-19 outbreak.

    The following examples are provided as a guide to help principal investigators, participants, and participant care providers determine the suitability of in-person research visits. These determinations and the balance of potential benefits and harms will vary by study objectives, target patient population, and may change as the COVID-19 outbreak evolves. The following examples are not intended to be comprehensive of all study types.

    For these study designs:

    Is the specific research visit "essential to the health and/or well- being" of the participant, thus supporting in-person visits?

     

    These visit types are LIKELY "essential" (supports an in-person visit)

    These visit types may or may not be "essential"

    (Support for in-person

    visit will depend on specifics of the study)

    These visit types are LIKELY not "essential" (does not support an in-person visit)

    Randomized controlled efficacy trial (e.g., phase IIb or III) of a potential drug or device or other intervention

    • New enrollments
    • Follow-ups

     

     

    Post-approval trial (e.g., phase IV) of a therapeutic drug, device, or other

    intervention to assess tolerability and/or long-term benefit

    • Follow-ups
    • New enrollments

     

    Early phase (e.g., phase I or IIa) pharmacodynamic, safety, tolerability or

    feasibility trial a potential drug or device or other intervention

    • Follow-ups
    • New enrollments

     

    Non-randomized interventional trial of a

    drug, device, or other intervention requiring safety monitoring

    • Follow-ups
    • New enrollments

     

    Randomized controlled efficacy trials of a social behavioral intervention.

     

     

    • New enrollments
    • Follow-ups

    Non-randomized interventional trial of a drug, device, or other intervention not requiring safety monitoring

     

    • New enrollments
    • Follow-ups

     

    Comparative effectiveness studies or other study types describing the natural

    history of a disease or other clinical Outcomes

     

    • Follow-ups
    • New enrollments

    Non-interventional qualitative study

     

     

    • New enrollments
    • Follow-ups
    Non-interventional study with collection of clinical data and/or biological specimens for future research

     

     

    • New enrollments
    • Follow-ups

  • List of critical research activities (March 17, 2020)

    List of Critical Research Activities 

    Dear Colleagues:

    I am writing to request your assistance in helping university leadership understand those research activities that you would identify as “critical”, since only those activities can be carried out under the current “remote research” guidelines. In this context, critical means activities or essential experiments, that if discontinued, would generate harm to human or animal subjects, create safety issues, and/or incur significant financial loss, substantial data loss, or both.

    I am requesting information about research activities of investigators in your area involving the following:

    • human subject safety and health;
    • animal subject safety and health;
    • potential damage, safety concerns, or critical maintenance issues related to physical facilities or equipment;
    • stored samples, artifacts, data preservation;
    • any other projects with “high consequence” impacts that should be brought to our attention.

     

    For each activity designated as critical, please provide investigator name, title, department, and school, the specific on-campus activities designated as critical, a brief rationale (see below), eProst or IACUC numbers [if applicable], the name(s) of the individual or individuals who will be carrying out the activities, the building and room numbers involved, and the expected time period of the critical activities (including an end date). Your responses, as well as other relevant information, will help guide campus-wide research and business continuity planning by the Office of the Provost and the Vice Provost for Research.

    Questions may be directed to jbixby@miami.edu or cschulman@med.miami.edu.  Thank you for your prompt attention and cooperation.

     

    John L. Bixby
    Vice Provost for Research

     

    Research Activities Potentially Qualifying as “Critical” (not exhaustive)

    (in each case, articulate rationale for specifying a particular category)

    Human subject research that cannot tolerate an interruption or delay without significantly endangering the progress and results of a research program or project

    Clinical studies that are critical to patient care and cannot be interrupted, for either treatment and/or ethical reasons. These include randomized controlled trials in which access to study drug is central to a patient’s clinical care.

    Collection of biospecimens that cannot be temporarily banked for later analysis without adversely affecting quality of care

    Animal research that cannot tolerate an interruption or delay without significantly endangering the progress and results of a research program or project

    Research animals requiring specialized food, water, treatment and/or medication

    Breeding of research animals that, if interrupted, would cause a major setback to a research program (consider whether any such breeding can be scaled down)

    Any equipment or infrastructure that requires periodic maintenance, care or supervision during a closure (consider whether supply of liquid N2, helium, CO2, dry ice, etc. will be required)

    Any stored samples, artifacts, and/or data preservation that requires in-person maintenance, care or supervision during a closure

    Any research involving SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19

  • Guidance for laboratory research personnel (March 13, 2020)

    Guidance for Laboratory Research Personnel (March 13, 2020)

    This information is available in PDF format.

    We gratefully acknowledge our colleagues at Yale University and UC Berkeley, whose communications to their research communities strongly influenced our own.

    The World Health Organization has now declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic, and Miami-Dade County has recorded its first confirmed case. We expect this outbreak to cause some degree of disruption to research activities. Research activities should continue as possible, as long as they are consistent with University guidance. Faculty and research staff should check the guidance frequently.

    Please continue to monitor coronavirus.miami.edu for the most updated information.

    Immediate Measures to Reduce Transmission of Infectious Disease

    To reduce the potential transmission of the coronavirus (or other infectious diseases-- colds flu, etc.) in the coming weeks, the university asks that all research labs take the following steps:

    • Require personnel who are feeling sick to stay homeuntil they no longer have symptoms.
    • Remind all personnel to practice recommended sanitary measures,including washing hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, avoiding touching their face, and covering coughs/sneezes with their elbows.
    • Explore and (where feasible) implement measures to reduce personnel density (“social distancing”) for lab/research staff.For example, increasing spacing between individuals where possible to >6 feet, having personnel come to the lab in shifts, allowing every other bench to be unoccupied.
    • Consider opportunities for lab personnel to work remotely -both to allow for social distancing, or in case they need to self-isolate on short notice. Have personnel test out remote setups before they are needed. The current recommended university platform is Microsoft Teams; other platforms (Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc) can be used if preferred and functional.
    • Increase routine disinfecting of laboratory and communal spaces, including lab benches and chairs, equipment, common rooms, door handles, desks, etc.
    • Consider attending university meetings via phone or videoconference. Additionally, most scientific conferences and other research community meetings are being cancelled or are permitting remote participation.
    • Consider cancelling or postponing field research trips, as they present unique risks because of shared housing, shared dining spaces, and challenges in “sending someone home” should they become ill during an extended trip.
    • Monitor and follow university guidelines regarding academic and personal travel, both internationally and domestically.

     

    Long Term Planning for “Research Continuity”

    Investigators and research managers should begin planning now, should it happen that research and campus operations need to continue with reduced or even remote staffing, if significant numbers of research staff or research support personnel become ill, or large- scale self-isolation is required. Any changes to research support unit operations will be communicated to all campuses.

    Note: In no event should researchers take materials other than laptops, data storage devices, or similar devices offsite (e.g., to their homes) as a way to promote research continuity during a curtailment. All essential research must continue within the confines of appropriate laboratory space.

    Assumptions to use for planning, should widespread COVID-19 communal transmission require campus support operations to be delivered remotely, or with reduced staffing due to illness. These are not guarantees, but are our best projections to date:

    • The safety and the good health of our research workforce and our research animals will remain our highest priority.
    • Assume that essential research infrastructure, such as power, air conditioning, and telecommunications, will be maintained.
    • Assume that research administration and support units, such as the Office of Research Administration (ORA), Office of Technology Transfer (OTT), Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR), Human Subjects Research Office (HSRO), Disclosures & Relationship Management (DRM), Research Compliance & Quality Assurance (RCQA), Office of Research Compliance Committees (IACUC, IBC, ESCRO), the Division of Veterinary Resources (DVR), and Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) will continue to provide services as required. These services may be slower and/or reduced in scope if the situation changes substantially.

     

    Nevertheless, investigators should plan for the following possibilities:

    • Be prepared for the possibility that some of your laboratory workforce to fall ill or be required to self-isolate.
    • Be prepared to decontaminate the workspace of an ill researcher in your laboratory.
    • Be prepared for core facilities and other fee-for-service resources to become slow, reduced in scope, or unavailable.
    • Be prepared for critical supply orders to be delayed. Investigators should work with their unit leadership and/or building managers to coordinate essential deliveries.
    • Be prepared for building or laboratory access to be curtailed, but not eliminated. The university will notify the affected communities as soon as Assume that essential access for equipment maintenance and critical laboratory experiments will continue. Such access will be coordinated through Building Managers. Review your list of essential personnel.
    • Be prepared that repairs performed by Facilities Services and other campus and non-campus service providers may be delayed.
    • Be prepared that processing of visas by the federal government may be delayed, resulting in delayed appointments.

     

    Steps you can take now to ensure continuity of critical functions in case of a severe outbreak:

    • Identify procedures and processes that require regular personnel attention (e.g., cell culture maintenance, animal studies).
    • Assess and prioritize critical laboratory activities. Create an accurate inventory of laboratory chemicals and sensitive laboratory instrumentation and equipment, and share this information with your building manager and EHS.
    • Identify any research experiments that can be ramped down, curtailed, or delayed.
    • Identify key personnel able to safely perform essential activities to insure the continuity of your laboratory’s research capability.
    • Ensure that you have access to up-to-date email and telephone contact information for your critical staff.
    • Cross-train research staff to substitute for others who may be out sick or unable to come to work.
      • Ensure staff have the appropriate, up-to-date training.
      • Document critical step-by-step instructions for laboratory procedures.
      • Encourage all researchers to be familiar with each other’s work if an absence would threaten the loss of experiments (such as which cells need transferring to new media, etc.)
    • Coordinate with colleagues who have similar research activities to identify ways to ensure mutual support and coverage of critical activities.
    • Review contingency plans and emergency procedures with researchers and staff.
    • Maintain a sufficient inventory of critical supplies that may be impacted by global shipping delays. Inform your building manager if your lab relies on regularly- scheduled supplies such as liquid nitrogen, dry ice or helium. Coordinate those deliveries with building management.
    • Check any remote control monitoring devices for critical equipment (e.g., -80°C freezers, liquid nitrogen storage dewars, incubators).
    • Communicate significant planned absences and/or lab closures to unit business offices and other key administrative units.

     

    Other safety considerations: 

    • Ensure that individuals performing critical tasks have been adequately trained and understand whom to contact with technical or safety questions.
    • Avoid performing high-risk procedures alone. When working alone is necessary, exercise extreme caution.
    • Ensure that research team members notify colleagues of their schedule when working alone for an extended period of time.
    • Ensure that high-risk materials (radioactive, biohazards, chemicals) are properly secured.

  • Guidance for basic and clinical research operations (March 13, 2020)

    The Miller School of Medicine research leadership is continuing to monitor and evaluate research operations with regards to the COVID-19 situation. Please find preliminary guidance for basic and clinical research operations (single sign-on required).