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UMW Healthy Plan / Conduct Research and Creative Scholarship

Conduct Research and Creative Scholarship


The University of Montana Western (UMW) follows the research and creative scholarship protocols in place at the University of Montana (UM), where applicable. UMW does not have any animal research facilities. Research involving human subjects at UMW is under the guidance and direct control of the UM Institutional Research Board (IRB). Dr. Anneliese Ripley, Director of Research and Grants, represents UMW on the UM IRB that oversees human subjects research. She is also the primary campus contact for communicating operational research levels (0-4) relative to COVID-19. Contact Dr. Ripley if you have any questions regarding these guidelines and planning considerations ( or 406-683-7309).

The decision to move between research levels will be made in consultation with the Campus Research Officers, the Commissioner of Higher Education and the Governor of the State of Montana. The varying research levels provide guidance for actions and protocols by personnel in Montana University System labs – the same standards are established at research universities around the country. The specifics of each research level are detailed as follows.

Operation Research Levels

  • Level 0: Normal:
  • Level 1: Caution and Preparation for Modified Operations: Social distancing (i.e., 6-ft perimeter) required. Teleworking encouraged when possible. Work with supervisor and human resources for approval.

Consider slowing down and/or temporarily halting data acquisition if possible. Consider key laboratory functions or field work that must remain in working order for your research to survive a prolonged shutdown (e.g., cell lines, critical supplies, transgenic lines, equipment needing liquid nitrogen, etc.). Work with IT proactively to ensure access to data remotely.

Human subject research under Institutional Review Board oversight that requires human-to-human interaction will cease.

  • Level 2: Modified Operations: No new physical or laboratory experiments. Research proposals involving human subjects may be submitted if conducted online according to IRB

Only essential physical or laboratory experiments allowed. Essential experiments are those whose absence or cancellation would result in significant financial or data loss.

All research buildings will be locked and should only be accessed by the principal investigator and lab members designated as Continuity of Operations Personnel.

  • Level 3: Mandatory Research Shutdown: All physical and laboratory experiments stopped. Research involving human subjects may continue if conducted online. Building access only as necessary to secure spaces and supplies.
  • Level 4: Mandatory Shutdown – Only Essential Operations: No faculty or staff building access, only essential personnel will be granted access. All research buildings to be Back-up power and liquid nitrogen supply cannot be guaranteed.


Research/Lab Workspaces

The PI/lab director/faculty mentor is responsible for ensuring a working environment that reduces risk.

Do not come to campus if you feel unwell or have a temperature of 100°F or greater (no meds in past 24 hours). When working on campus, ensure social distancing (minimum of 6 ft). Wear a face mask and safety goggles or glasses at all times while working. Faculty and staff who have signed telework agreements may continue to work remotely.

All PIs or facilities managers should adopt a daily laboratory sanitation schedule which includes decontamination of shared tools, equipment and furniture (e.g., door handles, lock keypads, computer keyboards and mice, telephones, printers, cameras, microscopes and control panels). Run water in sinks and discard old ice to remove potential contaminants. If necessary, implement a personnel rotation that restricts the number of people in your lab or creative space to ensure social distancing. Rotation schedules should allow for equitable access to any shared equipment and tools.

Only people with a formal UMW affiliation (i.e., students and employees) should enter UMW research and creative spaces. Researchers wishing to resume face-to-face human research under an approved IRB protocol must receive prior clearance from UM’s IRB manager. Under Level 1 conditions, any such research will require both researcher and subject to wear personal protective equipment, including masks, gloves, safety goggles or glasses and gowns, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Please contact UMW Director of Research and Grants, Dr. Anneliese Ripley ( or 406-683-7309) before resuming human subject research.


Off-Campus Research

The UM Office of Research and Creative Scholarship provides the following guidelines, dynamically updated with changing conditions, for off-campus field studies conducted by UM/UMW researchers. At any point, field research restrictions may change. Before travel, the PI should check current restrictions and guidelines as provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, county/city and the governor’s office of Montana and any other state where the field work is conducted and the external funding agency.


Prior to Travel for Off-Campus Field Work

All relevant trainings and permissions (e.g., IACUC, first aid, trapping permits, consent from landowners, IRB, etc.) must be in place before initiating any travel to field sites.

The PI should provide appropriate safety equipment to the crew. This includes face masks appropriate to the project (ranging from simple cloth bandanas to fitted N95 masks), as determined by local and national guidelines, and the expected closeness of interaction and potential contagion within the field crew and between the field crew and others. Also, if the field crew member does not have their own thermometer, the PI should provide one for the crew member to use as part of their 12-hour personal health check while in the field.

Before departure, each person going to the field should self-assess their health and not depart for the field if they show COVID-19 symptoms. The field crew supervisor should review with the PI a written contingency plan in case someone becomes symptomatic for COVID-19.

Communicate this document to each individual and make it easily accessible.

Field crews should follow local, regional and federal guidelines for quarantines.


Conducting Field Research

Every day, each crew member must self-assess their health and fill in the “Employee 12-Hour Check-in Form,” measuring their own temperature and recording any potential symptoms of COVID-19. This form will be kept by the crew member and will provide an important record for medical treatment if the need arises.

At all times maintain spatial separation and enforce crew members wearing appropriate masks. Shared gear (e.g. binoculars, GPS units) must be disinfected before handing over to someone.


Grant Expenditures and Salaries

Per OMB M-20-17, 6, PIs for all sponsored projects may continue to charge salaries and benefits for anyone employed, including graduate students, on currently active federal awards. This concerns both charging salaries and benefits to currently active awards (under unexpected or extraordinary circumstances) and also the payment of salary when no work is being performed by employees, from all funding sources, federal and non-federal. When determining whether to continue charging salaries to active awards, PIs should be aware that supplemental funding from the sponsor, beyond what has been awarded, may not be forthcoming.


Extended Tenure Clock

University guidance for adjustment of campus evaluation of research and creative scholarship can be found in the directive from the Commissioner of Higher Education effective as of March 26, 2020, on the Extended Tenure Clock.