Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Dear Colleagues:

The rapid evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic has required the University of Iowa to accelerate its response to this unprecedented challenge. Earlier today, the university issued a statement further restricting campus building access and activities.

With that in mind, and to protect the health and safety of our community, PIs must immediately prepare for all on-campus research to be ramped down to the greatest extent possible by close of business Thursday, March 19. In effect, the research enterprise must shift to a state of hibernation and significantly minimize the presence of research personnel on campus.

Here is further information and guidance for rapidly ramping down your research:

  • Do everything you can to cease or curtail your campus activities to the barest minimum levels to preserve your research.
  • Research specifically related to COVID-19 and clinical trials involving life-saving treatments will continue.  
  • Research spaces must only be accessed by personnel who perform critical procedures, processes, or equipment management that require regular personnel attention to maintain laboratory viability (e.g. liquid nitrogen tank filling, animal support, maintaining shared computational equipment, etc.). 
  • PIs must immediately limit research to only those essential experiments that are at a critical phase, meaning that abandoning them would cause a major or irreversible loss in project momentum.
  • Lab work deemed essential should be staggered so that minimal laboratory personnel are present at any one time.
  • Any large experiments requiring multiple days and/or multiple people or instruments must be postponed.
  • PIs conducting essential research in College of Medicine labs must take extra precautions when off-campus, including continuing to practice social distancing and minimizing contact with others.
  • Given the shortage of PPE, researchers must be extremely conservative using and managing their inventory. These supplies should be made available for UI Hospitals & Clinics and other priority staging areas. [The UI Purchasing Office's logistics team will arrange for the supplies to be picked up and delivered and for the lab supplies to be replaced as soon as they become available.]
  • Be aware that core facilities will be ramping down, are likely to be short-staffed, and may be closed.
  • Pre/post-docs and trainees cannot be mandated to perform research on campus. 
  • No undergraduates or external visitors are allowed in research spaces. 
  • Make sure you have access to contact information for your students, postdocs, and staff, and review contingency plans and emergency procedures within your group.
  • Because these circumstances raise a host of human resources questions, we encourage you to contact your designated HR leaders."

We understand this is disruptive to the scholarly activities of you, your students, and your research team, and we will do all we can to support your efforts during this challenging time. But you must focus on activities that can be completed remotely, such as writing papers and grant proposals, and completing data analysis. ITS will ensure remote access wherever possible, and we suggest backing up your data and ensuring your connection and data are secure.

We also urge you to do all you can to continue supporting your staff, post/pre-doctoral fellows, and all other employees who support the research enterprise. They should not feel pressure-intended or not-to work on campus or in a manner that compromises health and safety, and we are encouraging them to contact my office confidentially if such a situation arises.

In the meantime, please continue charging salaries to grants as normal. You will find more information about costs charged to sponsored projects on our research information page. Our research administration offices are prepared to offer their full support remotely to help you navigate these challenges. We're also working with research sponsors as part of our business continuity activities to ensure that we continue to operate in a compliant and appropriate manner. We are generally finding that agencies are being quite flexible in their response to this situation.

FAQs and other resources for research involving human subjects, animal subjects, costs charged to sponsored projects, and more is available on our COVID-19 Information for Researchers webpage. We've also prepared phased plans to maintain continuity of services for these research activities during this difficult time. If you haven't done so already, you must complete contingency plans for your research immediately. This morning we posted a Laboratory Ramp-Down Checklist, modeled on MIT's, that you might find useful.

We researchers and scholars can play a critical role in protecting our students, our colleagues, and our community. It's vitally important that we do all we can to protect and preserve our work, some of which has taken decades or entire careers to amass, but there is no greater imperative in this moment than to protect one another's health, wellbeing, and very lives-to do no harm.

Thank you in advance for your efforts to keep our community safe, and for the sacrifices I know you must all make to help our university-and our fellow human beings-pull through this very challenging time.

If you have questions, don't hesitate to contact me or my staff. If you have questions specific to your college, please get in touch with your associate dean for research.


Marty Scholtz 
Vice President for Research