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Office for Research COVID-19 Memorandum: Temporary Policy on Research Study Visits

Due to the evolving COVID-19 outbreak, the Office for Research and the Institutional Review Board Office are providing guidance related to human participant-related research visits. Effective immediately, this temporary policy is being implemented to protect research participants, researchers, and the larger Northwestern community from risk of infection from COVID-19, as well as to ensure ongoing access to research which may provide essential support to participants.

This guidance does not apply to IRB-approved study activities that do not involve direct participant contact (e.g., chart review, Qualtrics surveys, and remote interviews) or research that has transitioned in-person visits to virtual visits (e.g. interviews, surveys, questionnaires). Please refer to the Northwestern University IRB Office COVID-19 Memo for submission requirements regarding protocol deviations and changes necessary to eliminate an apparent immediate hazard.

We want to reduce exposure for study participants/patients, researchers and research/clinical personnel.  Therefore, effective immediately, until further notice, please adhere to the following requirements:

  • Participant research visits must be performed remotely (e.g., by phone or video conference) whenever possible.
  • Research visits that cannot be performed remotely and are not essential to a participant’s health, clinical care and/or well-being should be postponed.  The determination of whether a research visit is “essential to the health, clinical care and/or well-being” of a participant is determined by the principal investigator of the research study, the participant, and the participant’s care provider (when applicable), and should be informed by current public health guidance regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Enrollment of new research participants should occur only if: 1) the enrollment and participant interactions and interventions can be conducted remotely; or 2) participation in the research is essential to a participant’s health, clinical care and/or well-being as determined as above; and/or if the participant has a serious disease such as cancer.

Additionally, Northwestern University researchers should follow all institutional requirements and take the necessary precautionary measures as posted on the University’s COVID-19 website and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Milan Mrksich, PhD

Interim Vice President, Office for Research