Hunter College Schools
The full Research Restart Guide is available from Elizabeth Cohn, RN, PhD, Associate Provost for Research.
This document and the attachments represent the work of the Taskforce at Hunter College charged with restarting scientific laboratories. It does not apply to Human Subject Research, which shall be addressed in subsequent stages of the plan.
The research restart guide includes:
Hunter College convened a task force to establish high-level guidelines and resources to inform the process of resuming research activities at Hunter in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic shut down.
The task force sought not to duplicate campus efforts, but rather to focus on:
The goal of this document is to ensure a safe and streamlined re-opening of research activities, while mitigating infections and assuring Hunter College comports with City, State, and Federal Guidelines.
Hunter College will follow the overall guidance of New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and CUNY.
We will resume research activities as public health conditions and campus resources permit. A phased and gradual re-opening is planned. We endeavor to:
NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo has provided a dashboard for regional reopening. Reopening has been designed to be consistent with all applicable government requirements.
We have referred to this guidance and the CDC decision tree for reopening to assist in decision-making.
Hunter College shall follow the following activities in restarting research on campus:
For Off-Campus Research, researchers shall:
Stage 1 (Essential Maintenance and Planning/Preparation)
All on-site research is paused, except for essential, approved research (e.g. COVID-19 related) utilizing a limited number of personnel for facilities maintenance.
Hunter College has planned and prepared for reopening research activities that must be conducted on site, focusing on high-priority research and scholarship activities. Hunter Administration has worked with the Office of Research to establish clear research priorities and approval processes. Hunter College worked with researchers to identify space, equipment, and personnel needs to develop health and safety protocols, and to establish communication and health monitoring plans.
Prior to expanding research access, Hunter College has developed and disseminated clear guidelines to researchers about any requirements for COVID-19 education and training. We have provided a one-stop shop for filing an individual plan for laboratory and research restart, and a recorded PowerPoint presentation that covers the required COVID educational information. Hunter College Human Resources has established multiple pathways for research staff to report unsafe working conditions, by email and anonymous calling through hotline and a college-appointed ombudsperson.
Stage 2 (Gradual Ramp Up of Time Sensitive Research Activities; up to 50% capacity)
Includes ongoing research/maintenance and begins the expansion of on-site access to college-approved high-priority research with limited personnel (depending upon the college and department/unit). Recommended high-priority research includes (in order of priority):
Stage 3 (Up to 85% capacity)
Stage 4 (Up to 100% capacity)
TBD with guidance from State, City, and CUNY.
Human Subjects Research
Research interactions with human subjects should be limited to minimize risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19, and conducted in accordance with State and approved College guidance. Researchers should follow college HRPP guidelines and IRB-approved protocol, and in general direct interaction with human participants should be minimized. Study participants should neither be required nor coerced into participating in person, and no undue influence should be presented to encourage participants to travel to Hunter Colleges. Ethical principles of research and federal regulations for the protection of human research participants require an acceptable risk/benefit ratio for in-person contact associated with research. The prospect of direct benefit to the participant is determined by justification provided by the PI. PIs should ensure their justification is in the interest of public health.
Studies which offer direct therapeutic benefit to participants or studies which may not be stopped without causing harm to participants, may continue, on a case-by-case basis. Any modifications to already-approved IRB study protocols must receive IRB approval prior to their implementation.
Studies which do not offer direct therapeutic benefit to participants should be conducted remotely, unless they are in a priority area for ramping up, as determined by the College. Any modifications to already-approved IRB study protocols must receive IRB approval prior to their implementation.
PIs should notify Alicia Caldwell, the HRPP Coordinator at (firstname.lastname@example.org) and sponsor of any changes in research procedures and submit all HRPP/IRB modifications via Ideate. For PIs submitting new protocols, data collection methods should be for remote data collection, except when campus approval for on-site research is granted. Depending upon the planning and preparation Stage for the college, PIs may seek IRB approval for in-person research if it has not already been approved.
Personal Health Information (PHI)
Researchers who collect and store protected health information (PHI) should develop procedures that protect the confidentiality of PHI when it is transferred, received, handled, shared, or stored using remote data collection platforms or solutions per the Acceptable Use of University Data in the Cloud Policy. Both WebEx and Microsoft Teams can be used for real-time videoconferencing, if sessions are not recorded, and are freely available for CUNY affiliates. WebEx is available CUNY-wide until August 31, 2020. Zoom offers a healthcare HIPAA-compliant plan that is not licensed by CUNY.
Data Use Agreements
For studies of data access and analysis covered by data use agreements (DUA), PIs may need to request modification if a different platform is required beyond that covered by the DUA. They should contact the Agreements Point Person at the college. If the DUA involves human subjects and the protocol requires modification, the IRB modification should be submitted via Ideate.
For animal care, essential personnel who are needed to maintain on-site facilities should be identified and trained to ensure coverage.
For tissue and other non-IACUC materials such as insects, plants, and sea animals, additional orders should be minimal except on a case-by-case basis. PIs should be prepared to scale back research, especially during Stages 1, 2, and 3, and may have to decide which materials to maintain (e.g., freeze) and which to abandon. PIs who work with such materials will contact Christina Van Pala, Hunter College EHS Officer to design a contingency plan appropriate to the materials in question.
Researchers should follow CUNY travel guidance on the CUNY Coronavirus portal, as well as avoid international travel per the U.S. State Department. For guidance on reimbursement from federally-funded travel – see appropriate links or contact your Program Director.
CUNY researchers have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with a wide array of technological solutions. Researchers can continue to pursue potential commercial applications (both COVID and non-COVID inventions) during this time by filing invention disclosures, seeking intellectual property protection, establishing contact with companies, writing SBIR proposals, and other related work that can be conducted remotely. Researchers can contact CUNY’s Technology Commercialization Office.
Critical and essential research on the campuses requires support for faculty developing and submitting proposals, and for their ongoing management of sponsored programs. Financial management of sponsored program support services have been provided remotely without disruption since New York State PAUSE went into effect. Investigators are asked to:
To ensure safe and streamlined research activities on campus, Hunter College requires principal investigators to submit all research plans to the newly formed Research Restart Committee for pre-approval.
The Approval Process
Basic Science and Wet Labs
The campus approval process will be as follows for basic science and wet labs will be as follows: The investigator will submit the one-stop electronic form PI Individual Laboratory Restart Plan, which guides them through the Reopening New York Higher Education Research Guidelines, CUNY and Hunter specific guidance and the mandatory trainings. The forms will be submitted electronically to the Vice Provost for Research, and reviewed by Elizabeth Cohn, PhD, Vice Provost for Research and two of the five investigators from the Research Restart Committee. Final approval will be given by Hunter EHS.
The Committee Consists of the following funded and senior investigators who will work in pairs to review the proposed plans:
Within 10 days the plan will then either be approved or returned for revisions. After that time, within one week of receiving the revisions, the plan will either be approved, or the investigator will meet with Dr. Cohn to make a plan that conforms to all safety standard and local, regional and federal guidance.
Studio and Art Space at 205 Hudson
Individual Studio and Art Space at 205 Hudson can be accessed using the following process:
The occupant of 205 Hudson should begin the restart process by completing this form: Art Studios Restart Plan. Each applicant is required to provide a physical distancing plan, scheduling plan, and cleaning and disinfection plan. Supplies for disinfection are provide by Hunter Facilities. Upon completion of their application, students meet with the Operations Manager to review the plans and sign their safe occupancy forms. All approved plans are registered with Hunter EHS
Forms will be approved and after the approval the occupant can make an individual appointment to review materials and procedures for a safe re-entry including completing the health app each visit.
Off-Campus Human Subject Research
Investigators who have research that takes place off campus can use the following process: Complete this form and rout it to Elizabeth Cohn, Associate Provost for Research Off-Campus Human Subjects Research Application . The investigator and team will be required to follow the Guidelines for Hunter or the host institution, whichever is stricter. Hunter personnel will be responsible for completing the health app each time they wish to visit the facility. Health Plans of the hosting facility should be submitted with the request and Elizabeth Cohn in the Provost’s Office will keep a record of host facilities plans for reference. Hunter faculty will be responsible for following all protocols and procedures of the host facility. If the Hunter plan is more conservative on issues like face coverings or distancing, we will follow the Hunter Guidance.
Off-Campus Animal Research including Large Animals
Investigators who have research that takes place off campus with animals can be accessed using the following process: The investigator should complete begin by completing this form which is routed to Elizabeth Cohn, Associate Provost for Research Off-Campus Large Animal Research Application . The investigator and team will be required to follow the Guidelines for Hunter or the host institution, whichever is stricter. Hunter personnel will be responsible for completing the health app each time they wish to visit the facility. Health Plans of the hosting facility should be submitted with the request and Dr. Elizabeth Cohn in the Provost’s Office will keep a record of host facilities plans for reference. Hunter faculty will be responsible for following all protocols and procedures of the host facility. If the Hunter plan is more conservative i.e. In face coverings or distancing, we will follow the Hunter Guidance. Dr. Cohn will review and approve these forms with the chair of the respective departments.
Plans for Return of Human Subject Research to Campus
We anticipate Human Subject research will not return to campus until September 2020 at the earliest, however we believe that careful and thoughtful planning can create a smooth, safe and seamless process safe for faculty, staff, and research participants. There are two categories of faculty who work with human subjects who may wish to return to campus (1) investigators who work with Human Subjects and have equipment in their office that cannot be moved and need to be present in the building to use it, such as specialized video equipment used to observe human subjects and (2) investigators who will invite Human Subject Participants back to campus. Both types of investigators will complete this form: Human Subjects Research Application The form will be reviewed by Dr. Cohn, the Associate Provost for Research and the Chair of the Faculty Members Department (a complete list of Department Chairs can be found here: Hunter Academic Departments. After satisfactory review of the form and completion of the mandated guidance documents on Blackboard, the faculty member is approved to return to their office or begin planning for the return of human subject research.
Plans for a research “pause” or for the necessity of a repeat of the ramp down will be entered into the PI planning form by the investigator and will follow guidelines that promote the safety of the investigators and their staff and the integrity of the research. Researchers should be prepared to make changes on short notice, depending upon requirements dictated by health and safety directives. Researchers have been advised not to start new, long-term projects or any projects that cannot be stopped on short notice during Stages 1-3.
Reopening research requires a focus on people (researchers, students, facilities staff, and subjects), places (laboratory and related facilities, public spaces, and the environment), and animals (including those caring for animals and the animal facilities). Campuses should focus on the management of Human Subjects (IRB), Animal Care (IACUC), and Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) and Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S).
All research engagement, whether funded or not, requires compliance with federal regulations, guidelines, and University policies.
Ensure that all required licenses, approvals, and training are up to date.
Review regulatory compliance and accreditation standards to ensure staff are up to date on all professional/occupational requirements and that facilities meet all appropriate standards.
Review and follow research protocols and governing documents or approvals from oversight committees including IRB and IACUC.
Review and follow sponsor requirements and contractual obligations. Ensure that all prospective changes to research are:
Consider how physical distancing and other protective measures will impact research and protocols and ensure that any changes are reviewed and approved as outlined above.
To meet physical distancing guidelines, PIs should coordinate with their research teams to establish work shifts that recognize the needs of individual projects and personal circumstances.
Hunter College has modified the use and/or restricted the number of workstations (e.g. lab benches) so that individuals are at least six feet apart in all directions (e.g. side-to-side and when facing one another) and are not sharing workstations without cleaning and disinfection between use. When distancing is not feasible between workstations, Primary Investigators must provide and require the use of face coverings or physical barriers (e.g. plastic shielding walls, in lieu of face coverings in areas where they would not affect air flow, heating, cooling, or ventilation). If used, physical barriers should be put in place in accordance its OSHA standards. Physical barrier options may include strip curtains, cubicles, plexiglass or similar materials, or other impermeable dividers or partitions. Hunter College restricts the use of small spaces (e.g. elevators, staff rooms) by more than one individual at a time, unless all individuals in such space are wearing acceptable face coverings. However, even with face coverings in use, occupancy must never exceed 50% of the maximum capacity of the space or vehicle, unless it is designed for use by a single occupant. Employees should increase ventilation with outdoor air to the greatest extent possible (e.g. opening windows and doors), while maintaining safety protocols. Hunter College has taken additional measures to prevent congregation in elevator waiting areas and limit density in elevators, such as enabling the use of stairs.
Hunter College and Principal Investigators have marked six feet distance circles around workstations and other common stationary work areas. If in reconfiguration of the offices, a workstation did not receive its circle, please contact your supervisor.
Hunter College has restricted training teams to 2 people wearing PPE with physical distancing, where possible.
Sanitizing work surfaces is the responsibility of all personnel. Provide soap and/or hand sanitizer near sinks and in other prominent locations within the labs, where possible. All personnel must routinely wash hands.
PI’s who share a lab suite should coordinate schedules to ensure equal and staggered access to those spaces.
Gatherings are prohibited under all circumstances in common areas. When passing through or waiting during incubation/testing, conversations must be physically distanced and limited to not more than 2 people. Hunter College has limited on-site interactions (e.g. restricting access to break rooms, staggering schedules) and movements (e.g. their employees should remain near their workstations as much as possible).