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Message from Mary Lidstrom, Vice Provost for Research re: COVID-19

Dear Colleagues,

First, let me thank you for the extraordinary work you are doing to support your research groups through this unprecedented time. As you have probably heard, the UW will be holding classes online for the duration of spring quarter, and you are likely wondering what that will mean for research. Even as many research universities around the country close their research facilities and buildings, I want to assure you that the UW is doing everything possible to keep our research programs open and productive, while also protecting the health and safety of our students, postdocs, faculty, and staff. 

My goal in this communication is to provide you with guidance and resources to help you in planning during this time when constraints due to COVID-19 are constantly evolving and changing how we conduct research. How we plan can minimize the negative impact we may experience. Here is how you can help.

Research Considerations

·         Make sure your research business continuity plan is up to date and share it with your group. Consider documenting critical step-by-step instructions.

  • Please encourage everyone in your research group to work at home if they can. It is a great time to analyze data, write proposals and progress reports, and get caught up on manuscripts (especially working on that review you have been wanting to write). Students may be able to write the first chapter or two of their thesis, or work on a portion of an upcoming progress report or General Exam document. I encourage you to set up journal clubs and hold them remotely, if you have not already done so.
  • Discuss plans with each member of your research team; it may be useful to have a regular remote check-in on weekly plans and progress. Remember, everyone should be able to find a way to stay productive even if they are working at home (see HR policy and advice).
  • For those who continue working at UW research facilities, remind them to NOT COME IN IF THEY ARE SICK, and encourage frequent hand-washing.
  • Maintain social distancing. If it is difficult to maintain social distance due to crowding, you will need to work out shifts and set up schedules so that the number of people working at any one time does not preclude the ability to keep social distance. Ensure that research team members are able to arrange personal interactions to maintain a comfortable six-foot distance from each other.
  • Cross-train research staff to fill in for others who may be out sick or unable to come to work.
  • Remember to be as accommodating as possible for the members of your research team; each person will have unique circumstances. Regular and frequent communication is key for your research group.
  • If you feel that the best course of action for your research group is to ramp down your research activities, you should do so. Every situation will be different. If you do begin to ramp down, please be sure to address the issues noted below in the section, “Guidance for the Possibility of a Research Facility Shutdown.”

Office of Sponsored Programs and Human Subjects Division

The Office of Research has continuity plans in place so our work can continue. OSP is able to access all UW and sponsor systems remotely to e-support proposal handling, award acceptance, issuance of subawards, handling of non-award agreements, and pre- and post-award activities. HSD and the UW IRBs are fully functional and operating remotely at our standard capacity, however, please look for further messaging from HSD regarding a temporary halt of some human subjects research. Priority will be given to inquiries, requests, applications, and modifications related to SARS-COV-2 or COVID-19 research, or their impacts on other research. We are prioritizing our workload to accommodate changes in our work environment and we are strategizing to handle the expected increase in workload (within our current constraints) due to COVID-19.

Other Research Support Offices

Please use the links listed below to access information on other research support offices. They are all open and functioning, and each has important information for research continuity.

Building Access and Security

Finally, for security, UW buildings have moved to a locked mode, similar to on weekends or holidays, so you and your research team will still have access. Your building coordinator will be working on plans for deliveries, but make sure you have a plan for communication with anyone who might not have after-hours access but has legitimate access needs (such as an undergraduate researcher or a repair person, for instance). You will need to call ahead for access to recharge facilities that are in a different building. Note that some of these facilities are curtailing hours and/or services, so it is wise to check in advance anyway.

Although there are no plans to restrict access to UW research facilities to those who currently have after-hours access, this is a rapidly evolving situation and could change. As the Governor noted yesterday, they are considering all potential options. It is prudent to plan, just in case, and some ideas are listed below. In addition, as we have seen around the nation, two-week quarantines are a real possibility. Plan ahead and challenge your research group to consider what each would do if they could not come to the UW tomorrow.

Guidance for the Possibility of a Research Facility Shutdown

  • Prepare for a significant drop in support services on which you depend. By thoughtful planning you may be able to minimize the long-term impacts on your research.
  • Make sure all data is backed up on the cloud, that all labile materials are stored appropriately, and that all instruments are shut down every night. Plan as if you may not have access tomorrow.
  • Take stock of your inventory and pre-order reagents and supplies that have long shelf lives. Consider those that have had long shipping delays in the past and order early. Make sure your critical consumables (gloves, pipette tips, growth media, etc.) are in stock.
  • Plan for keeping equipment functional and safe.
  • Repairs performed by Facilities and other service providers may be delayed. Consider scheduling those now.
  • Check on updates from UW research units like the Office of Animal Welfare and EH&S for further guidance (see links at the bottom of this email). 

Keep up the good work, wash your hands, and stay safe!

Mary Lidstrom

Vice Provost for Research

 

Posted on

Wednesday, March 18, 2020 - 19:24
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