Industry-Sponsored Research Week

Research labs begin to reopen on a limited basis


By David Schwartz
Published: May 18th, 2020

As the world begins to reopen even as the devastating impact of COVID-19 continues to affect virtually all aspects of life across the globe, university research labs are starting to show the first signs of life. Among the universities announcing their tentative steps back to non-COVID activity last week were the University of Arkansas and the University of Michigan.

In Arkansas, Chancellor Joe Steinmetz announced that restricted research activity will be allowed as part of the initial steps allowing more employees to return as needed to campus. Details on safety and restricted activity guidelines can be found on the university’s research return overview site.

“This is a welcome step and I know many of our campus researchers are eager to move forward,” Steinmetz said. “I look forward to getting back myself, but I’m also mindful of returning people to campus only if there is a pressing need and we can foster the health and safety of everyone who does. This new plan does that, and is the first step toward creating pathways for more staff and faculty to return to campus.”

This move from essential-only to restricted research activities allows for more essential, critical and/or time sensitive research. Research plans must be approved by department or unit chairs and deans before research activity may begin, and all approved activities must minimize person-to-person interactions and adhere to distancing and face covering guidelines.

Meanwhile, University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel announced in an e-mail to the University community that lab research will begin to resume, following Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order allowing research activities with some limitations. 

“As the largest public research university in the nation, this is a significant development for our state and our university as we continue to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic,” Schlissel wrote. “We’re beginning to see how certain activities can resume in a public health-informed manner, while also understanding that work will be very different in the months ahead.”

Schlissel said all lab work that can be done remotely must continue to be done remotely. As Whitmer detailed in plans for phased reopening of other businesses, the university plans to follow a similar plan with a gradual return, beginning with some in-person lab work. The research labs will need to follow strict public health guidelines that can be found in detail published in The University Record.

“Guidelines will include such things as monitored entry into buildings, a requirement to wear a face covering and maintaining a low density of people in a lab at any one time,” Schlissel wrote. “We’ll track performance metrics for each wave, and that will determine how and when we open additional labs.” Sources: https://www.michigandaily.com/section/news-briefs/university-opens-limited-research-gives-update-opening-campus and https://news.uark.edu/articles/52972/restricted-research-activity-allowed-in-first-step-of-return-to-campus

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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