COVID-19 Guidance for Research Students and Postdocs

Published March 14, 2020

 

Arizona Research Community,

The health, safety, and well-being of our community is our top priority, including that of our graduate students, undergraduate students, and postdoctoral researchers. We recognize these colleagues’ valuable work on research projects all across our campus, and also acknowledge that they are not prohibited from being on-campus during the University’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Finding a balance between sustaining our research operations and protecting the well-being of our campus and community is thus our primary aim. To this end, we are committing to:

  • Sustaining our research operations to the greatest extent possible under the circumstances;
  • Ensuring that student outcomes are optimized for the current conditions;
  • Maintaining the highest possible health and safety outcomes for our people and our research labs and facilities;
  • Minimizing the chance that any individual’s livelihood will be harmed whether or not they are able to continue with their previously assigned work tasks.

We are being particularly mindful of the challenges facing the following groups:

  • Undergraduates who are both RAs and employed on research projects, and who are:
    • On campus due to housing constraints (e.g., international students) and who want to sustain their research efforts;
    • Wanting to sustain their research efforts remotely.
  • Graduate Students (Masters and PhD) who are:
    • On campus and wanting to sustain their research efforts;
    • Presently away from campus but wanting to return to sustain their research efforts;
    • Wanting to sustain their research efforts remotely.
  • Postdoctoral Research Associates, both employees and trainees, who want to sustain their research efforts, either on-campus or remotely.

We ask that students and postdocs work jointly with their work supervisors to develop an effective mitigation plan that minimizes their own risk as well as risk their colleagues

Your Associate Dean for Research (ADR) will be a primary means for aggregating and communicating research challenges that may cross colleges and require university-level guidance and resolution, and can act as a resource for faculty in this effort. Your college may have unique and specific restrictions related to facilities and programs such as studios settings, materials labs, or group intensive environments. Please contact your college ADR for additional information.

To clarify the University’s preferred response by all faculty, staff, and students:

  • Non-essential in-person activity in laboratories is discouraged and we strongly encourage that all possible non-essential research work be migrated to online / work-from-home modes;
  • The implementation of robust social distancing measures among personnel in your research spaces—for example, by mixing remote work, onsite work, staggering schedules, and by holding meetings by teleconference—should be developed immediately.

The University is committed that employees not experience financial hardship if they are quarantined, unable to work remotely, or prefer to not come to campus to reduce risk. We expect, based on discussions to date, that University employees, including student workers who do not / cannot return to campus, will continue to be paid. We do not want any employee to feel pressured to keep working in order to be able to support themselves and their families. 

We realize that these guidelines and directives may make continuing to do or support research activities challenging, which is why we are strongly recommending that campus researchers at all levels work collaboratively with supervisors and campus leaders to develop clear, concise, comprehensible, and achievable plans for research projects going forward under the present conditions. These plans should be shared with relevant supervisors and unit heads/chairs/directors, and be submitted to the RII database via Lori Schultz, lschultz@arizona.edu).

We will review all submitted plans for consistency, safety, and compliance with University policies. These plans should, at a minimum, include:

  • How and how often research project members will communicate with each other;
  • How and how often research project members will communicate with their supervisors;
  • What technologies researcher project members will need to work remotely;
  • How research project members will plan out future research activities in order to either extend or accommodate research milestones that range from thesis deadlines to mandatory sponsor reports to experiments that must be completed inside of specific timeframes, and so on.

As questions arise associated with extending or accommodating milestones, use the following resources to help think through your plan:

  • Review the original statement of work, including what you agreed to do originally. Begin your plan here, then describe how this will, or may need to, change.
  • For questions and concerns related to theses and dissertations, please consider them directly with your students, being sure to collaborate with them on any notifications to their committees.
  • Contact the Human Subjects Protection Program and/or Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee for questions about possible modifications to your protocols.
  • Contact Sponsored Projects & Contracting Services on questions about your grants, including possible extensions, and the requirements for keeping your Grants/Contracts/Program Officials notified.
  • Regularly visit the RII COVID-19 site for updates and guidance at https://research.arizona.edu/covid19.

Ongoing support for any potential outgoing proposals through Research Development Services and Sponsored Projects & Contracting Services is available, as is support for Human Subjects and Animal Research Protocols through the Human Subjects Protection Program and Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee.  Our research administration, development, and compliance professionals are committed to maintaining and supporting your work. 

Finally, many federal sponsors have yet to issue guidance about what are allowable charges during this national emergency period. For this reason, there remain many questions about, for instance, grant cost allowability. RII is monitoring and talking with all agencies, and we will work with you and/or your teams to deliver clarity as soon as we can. This guidance will include all funding sources, as we must be consistent in how we treat these costs. 

More details are to come. In the meantime, please send your questions to Lori Schultz (lschultz@arizona.edu) and she will endeavor to find an answer herself or connect you with someone who can.