Internal Communications

Informational Session/Q&A on Research at UConn During & After the Pandemic

SAVE THE DATE: The Office of the Vice President for Research will join President Thomas Katsouleas in hosting a virtual informational session for UConn & UConn Health researchers on Monday, April 20 from 11:00am to 12:30pm. The purpose of the session is to update the UConn research community on critical information related to research on campus during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as answer questions from UConn faculty and staff. A number of questions have already been submitted via the University Senate. If you would like to pose a question regarding our research activities or share a comment, please send it to ovpr@uconn.edu before Monday, April 20.

While the world is still in the midst of the ongoing crisis, there are a great many unknowns when it comes to research and our other operations, but participants will endeavor to answer every question they are able to and discuss what is known with respect to research as of April 20.

A communication with a web address on how to watch and participate in the town hall will be sent later this week.

OVPR Internal Funding Announcement

Dear Colleagues,

I hope this message finds you well, as we have all been facing many challenges related to the COVID-19 epidemic over the last several weeks. While our focus has been on rapidly shifting to new methods for teaching and conducting research, the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) is pleased to announce that decisions for several of our internal funding programs have been finalized. These programs support a variety of high impact research, scholarship, and artistic pursuits across UConn and UConn Health’s departments. The OVPR is thrilled to support these diverse projects, which will lead to additional extramural funding and increase the reputation of UConn amongst peers. Funding for the following recipients will be made available now for projects that can be conducted remotely, and will be on hold for other recipients until the University resumes normal operations after the COVID-19 pandemic. Decisions regarding other internal funding programs including the Research Excellence Program (REP) and Scholarship and Collaboration in Humanities and Arts Research (SCHARP) are expected to be announced in May.

 

Please join me in congratulating winners for the following funding programs and visit the OVPR’s Internal Funding website to learn more about these programs:

Convergence Awards for Research in Interdisciplinary Centers (CARIC)

CARIC is an initiative of the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) that provides support of up to $150,000 for the development of collaborative interdisciplinary teams to bid for major (>$5M) federally funded initiatives, such as research centers. CARIC provides funding for planning, outreach to strategic partners, and proof-of-concept research activities that will prepare the team to bid competitively for these prestigious federal awards.

Puxian Gao, Material Science and Engineering
Mapping Catalytic Energy Transformations: Convergence of Nanoarray Catalysis, In Situ Microscopy, and Data Science

Jeffrey Hoch, Molecular Biology and Biophysics
Biomolecular Digital Commons

Cato Laurencin, Connecticut Convergence Institute
Convergence Center for Regenerative Engineering- A Science and Technology Center

Mark Urban, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
241: Reintegrating Biology & Harnessing the Data Revolution to Predict and Prevent Global Ecosystem Change

 

Microbiome Seed Fund Recipients
Through this program, the OVPR is able to provide up to $50,000 to UConn faculty to support innovative and collaborative research projects that will lead to new proposals for extramural funding in microbiome research.

Jonathan Klassen, Molecular and Cell Biology
Metal-Binding Antimicrobial Peptide Mediation of a Fungus-Growing Ant Symbiosis

Co-PIs: Alfredo Angeles-Boza

Mark Peczuh, Chemistry
Characterizing the Role of Siderophores in the Euprymna Scolopes – Vibrio Fischeri Symbiosis
Co-PIs: Spencer Nyholm

J Evan Ward, Marine Sciences
The Effect of a Common Anthropogenic Pollutant on the Microbiome of an Ecologically and Commercially Important Bivalve
Co-PIs: Penny Vlahos, Lisa Nigro

Wing Ki Mok, Molecular Biology and Biophysics
Friend or Foe? Impact of Chronic Infection Microbiome Constituents on Persistence of Staphylococcus Aureus toward Antifolate Antibiotics
Co-PIs: Dennis Wright, Maria Rocha Granados, Debjani Si

 

Spring 2020 Scholarship Facilitation Fund Program

Through this program, the OVPR is able to provide up to $2,000 to UConn faculty across all disciplines, on a competitive basis, to foster, support, and enhance research, scholarship, and creative endeavors. (Please visit the site for the full list of recipients.)

 

START Preliminary Proof-of-Concept Q1-3

Through this program, the OVPR is able to provide up to $10,000 to Central Connecticut State University, Southern Connecticut State University, University of Bridgeport, and UConn faculty to foster and bolster the initial validation of innovative early stage technologies that have possible commercial potential. The program is designed to bring these promising technologies to a stage that may be more attractive for additional later stage translational funding support. (Please visit the site for the full list of recipients.)

Cheers,

Radenka

Office of the Vice President for Research – COVID-19 Update

Dear Colleagues,

I hope that this message finds you well, safely at home with family and seeing friends and loved ones virtually. The last several weeks have been challenging, disruptive, and anxiety inducing, but I have been so encouraged by seeing the UConn community band together to support our students, faculty, staff, and citizens of our state. We have all had to adjust to this new normal, while ensuring that the safety and health of our research workforce, students, faculty, staff, and animals remain our highest priority. While the timeline for resuming research remains unclear due to the ever-changing COVID-19 situation, our office is working closely with University leadership to ensure a process is in place to transition back to normal research operations and we will be providing regular updates to the University community. We also encourage you to check for updates on the OVPR’s COVID-19 Resource page where you will find additional information, guidance, and FAQs related to research. For general guidance and updates, visit the Coronavirus information pages for UConn and UConn Health.

Office of Management and Budget, OMB M-20-17 Memorandum Issued March 19, 2020

Earlier this week at the Council of Deans meeting, I shared that the OVPR has been working with other university offices to fully take advantage of flexibilities provided by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to federal agencies in their memorandum OMB M-20-17 Administrative Relief for Applicants of Federal Financial Assistance Directly impacted by COVID 19 due to Loss of Operation. The OMB memorandum authorizes agencies to take certain actions to provide flexibility for recipients directly impacted by COVID-19. Over the weeks following the issuance of the memo, I am pleased to share that most federal agencies have adopted the flexibilities provided for by the OMB for grants. These flexibilities include applicant deadlines, no-cost extensions, allowability of salaries and other project costs, and certain waivers of prior approvals and extension of close-outs. You may find individual sponsor updates on the OVPR website and guidance is also provided in the OVPR FAQs. Of course, you may always reach out to staff in Sponsored Program Services with any questions and we recommend you also sign up for alerts directly from the sponsors from whom you have funding.

According to the memo, the exceptions are time-limited and will be reassessed by OMB within 90 days of the memo. We do not have an estimate of when to expect a “return to normal,” hence we do not know when federal agencies will end the flexibilities adopted under the OMB memo. Although, we think they will listen to the research community and try to understand whether the circumstances still warrant exceptions.

Critical Research Infrastructure Inventory

To ensure the long-term viability of many research programs during the shutdown, the OVPR quickly assembled a cross-campus team to assess critical research infrastructure, as submitted by faculty. Critical research infrastructure includes unique reagents, unique cell lines, equipment, liquid nitrogen stocks, COVID-19 targeted research, and certain long-term experiments. This was a complex and very time-sensitive endeavor, which is still ongoing as needs evolve. The OVPR would like to express our sincere thanks to the review committee members who met virtually several times a day to evaluate these requests in order to ensure proper maintenance of the research infrastructure and the safety of research teams. Please join me in thanking them.

  • Lisa Park-Boush, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Affairs, Professor and Department Head
  • Rajesh Lalla, School of Dental Medicine, Associate Dean for Research, Professor
  • Leslie Shor, School of Engineering, Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Education, Associate Professor
  • Anthony Vella, School of Medicine, Senior Associate Dean for Research Planning and Development, Professor and Chair
  • Kumar Venkitanarayanan, College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, Professor

If you still need to submit critical research infrastructure inventory for review or amend an approved form, complete the Critical Research Infrastructure Inventory form.

Animal Care at UConn and UConn Health

UConn’s dedication to exemplary animal care services has never wavered, even during these challenging times. Animal care staff at both Storrs and UConn Health in Farmington had extensive plans in place well ahead of this crisis, allowing them to continue to support researchers as they ramped down their projects. The operations of Animal Care Services at Storrs and the Center for Comparative Medicine at UConn Health are running as normal, as activity has ceased in most cases and slowed in certain exceptional cases. All staff are healthy and continuing to maintain animal care. All animal orders and transfers have been halted. Any ongoing research should have submitted a Critical Research Infrastructure form for both lab and animal work that needs to continue. At this time, food and bedding have not been impacted and there is a sufficient reserve of supplies to continue at this level for several months. The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC) continue to run as normal, with staff working from home. Semi-annual inspections scheduled for April in Storrs were granted a six-month extension. These inspections will be rescheduled as soon as possible after the shutdown.

Human Subjects Research and Environment Health and Safety

The IRBs, Biosafety Committees, and Radiation Safety Committees continue to run as normal, with staff working from home.

Guidance on Proposals Submission

Due to increased proposal submissions and a desire to provide strong service in support of proposal submissions, sponsored project proposals (including the final budget and application, science in draft) must be submitted well in advance of the deadline and in accordance with Sponsored Program Services’ (SPS) five-day minimum processing policy. Additionally, the final application, ready for submission, must be submitted the day before the deadline. With staff working remotely and the challenges this may present, SPS cannot promise that proposals received less than 48 hours before the deadline or final applications received on the day of the deadline will be reviewed and submitted on time. See OVPR FAQ on Proposal submissions for more information.

Guidance on Salary & Stipends charged to Sponsored Programs

Following guidance from Human Resources on 2020-04-03 FAQs related to salaries and stipends on research grants and contracts were released. Sponsored Projects Salary and Stipend FAQs address questions for Principal Investigators (PIs) and full- and part-time salaried employees paid on sponsored projects, including postdoctoral research associates and graduate assistants. Visit the HR COVID-19 sites for UConn Information and UConn Health Information.

Donating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from Research Grants & Contracts

We want to make sure UConn researchers know that residual supplies purchased from a grant or contract that has ended may be donated to UConn Health. In addition, the NIH is allowing recipients to donate PPE and other lab supplies in support of efforts related to COVID-19. Recipients may re-budget grant funds to repurchase supplies at a later date. As of this writing, the NSF just released their guidance for donation (see NSF April 10 implementing guidance). We anticipate that other federal sponsors will follow the NIH. Sponsor Guidance will be updated on the COVID-19 Sponsor Issued Guidance website.  Note that in the case of NSF, prior sponsor approval is required.

For information on how to make a donation, please see the “Personal Protective Equipment FAQs.”

 

COVID-19 Research

UConn Research Tackling COVID-19

As mentioned before, it has been incredibly heartening to see how swiftly UConn’s researchers have taken action to help tackle this global crisis. There has been regular coverage in UConn Today and the media about UConn research collaborations to quickly produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), new research grants focused on COVID-19, and scholarship that addresses the impact of this pandemic on education, the economy, and society. I encourage you to visit UConn Today to read about the many new projects, publications, and partnerships that are already yielding encouraging results.

 

COVID-19 Funding Opportunities

The OVPR has created a webpage to share external and internal funding opportunities related to COVID-19 research. You can also contact research@uconn.edu to request that additional opportunities be added to the site and shared with the UConn research community.

Supplemental Federal Support for Sponsored Programs

The OVPR recognizes that each month of the shutdown represents significant lost productivity toward research objectives and milestones. As such, the OVPR is working in close collaboration with UConn’s Office of Governmental Relations, the Connecticut Congressional Delegation, and other APLU universities to request that supplemental federal funding be made available to federal agencies to provide to grantees at institutions of higher education to address the unprecedented disruption to research caused by the COVID-19 crisis. This is an ongoing process, and updates will be provided as they become available.

In Closing

The President and the OVPR will hold an informational session specific to research. The date and time of this informational session will be forthcoming. We have received a number of questions from faculty, administrators and the Faculty Senate and plan to address all of them and point to guidance as applicable. The session will be divided into two parts: the first will offer an update from the OVPR on all the available information that we have at this time, with an understanding that there remain many unknowns. This update will be followed by a Q&A period.

As always, my team and I thank you for your continued support and dedication to UConn and UConn Health. We will continue to keep you updated as the situation evolves. If you have any questions, please visit the OVPR COVID-19 Resource page, the Coronavirus information pages for UConn and UConn Health, or email ovpr@uconn.edu.

Sincerely,

Radenka

Radenka Maric, PhD

Vice President for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

UConn/UConn Health

COVID-19: NSF RAPID Program Opportunities

Dear Colleagues,

While we all face turmoil caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to make sure that all faculty are aware of unique funding opportunities through the National Science Foundation with the specific aim of helping address COVID-19. Specifically NSF’s RAPID funding mechanism allows for a drastically reduced submission/award timeline to address this urgent need. Please see the Dear Colleague letter below from NSF Director, Dr. France A. Córdova for more information and consider applying through this mechanism if you are conducting applicable research.

Thank you, as always, for your continued support of UConn and our research community.

Sincerely,
Radenka

NSF 20-052

Dear Colleague Letter on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

March 4, 2020

Dear Colleague,

In light of the emergence and spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the United States and abroad, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is accepting proposals to conduct non-medical, non-clinical-care research that can be used immediately to explore how to model and understand the spread of COVID-19, to inform and educate about the science of virus transmission and prevention, and to encourage the development of processes and actions to address this global challenge.

NSF encourages the research community to respond to this challenge through existing funding opportunities. In addition, we invite researchers to use the Rapid Response Research (RAPID) funding mechanism, which allows NSF to receive and review proposals having a severe urgency with regard to availability of or access to data, facilities or specialized equipment as well as quick-response research on natural or anthropogenic disasters and similar unanticipated events. Requests for RAPID proposals may be for up to $200K and up to one year in duration. Well-justified proposals that exceed these limits may be entertained. All questions should be directed either to a program officer managing an NSF program with which the research would be aligned or to rapid-covid19@nsf.gov.

Complete guidance on submitting a RAPID proposal may be found in Chapter II.E.1 of the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide.

We ask that all investigators and organizations maintain awareness of the dynamic nature of this event through regular monitoring of official communications from the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization.

NSF has also provided Frequently Asked Questions that address questions associated with NSF proposal submission and award management relevant to research proposals relating to COVID-19 as well as possible impacts of COVID-19 on activities under existing awards and on participation in NSF’s merit review panels; that website will be updated as appropriate.

Sincerely,

Dr. France A. Córdova
Director

Research Shut Down Notice March 23, 2020

With Governor Lamont’s order for all non-essential businesses to suspend operations, the president, provost and vice president for research have determined that all on-campus research activities on ALL CAMPUSES – UConn, regional and UConn Health – must stop and labs must
close by 8 p.m. on Monday March 23.

In addition to faculty, this includes research being conducted by undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars. The only exceptions to this are human subjects clinical trials, research where continued in-person interaction or intervention is needed for the safety and welfare of enrolled subjects, research that is directly connected to addressing the COVID-19 crisis, and research that can be conducted remotely by faculty, staff, and/or students without in-person intervention or interaction with research subjects.

We understand the enormous impact this decision will have on faculty and students. But as we deal with the challenges of a global pandemic as well as the uncertainty of its impact on all aspects of the University and surrounding communities, we must make difficult decisions guided
by the principles of health and safety.

  • Faculty and research staff should follow the Laboratory Ramp-Down Checklist: Procedures for Safely Vacating a Laboratory (updated March 22, 2020) to close down their research and labs.
  • Research related to COVID-19 can continue, but faculty must submit a Critical Research Infrastructure Inventory form indicating they need to begin or continue this work and describe the work (see last question on the form).
  • Faculty with animals must contact the attending veterinarian for their campus regarding steps to immediately reduce animal numbers and number of cages. Breeding must be reduced to the minimum possible; no increases in cage counts will be permitted and plans should be in place for reductions of cage counts in the future. Labs using aquatic, avian, or other species that are housed outside the vivarium must contact the attending veterinarian regarding how animal care and husbandry operations will be maintained.
  • Any faculty with critical research infrastructure, such as unique reagents, unique cell lines, equipment, liquid nitrogen stocks, and certain long-term experiments should complete the Critical Research Infrastructure Inventory form (updated March 22, 2020). These will be reviewed and the faculty
    member will then be advised on how to proceed based on their individual situation.
  • Any researcher or faculty member who is unable to halt their research by Monday’s deadline or who has a unique situation that needs to be considered should email ovpr@uconn.edu with a description of the situation or need and their recommendation for how it can best be met or addressed. The email should include a phone number(s) where the faculty member can be reached.
  • Any student or employee who feels they have been asked unreasonably to continue on campus research beyond Monday’s deadline should contact the dean of their school or college and the OVPR without fear of retaliation.

For now, the shut-down of labs will be in effect until April 22, 2020. We will assess and monitor the status as events change daily. However, you should plan for a remote-work research operation and lab closure that could last for several weeks or months.

COVID-19 Research Ramp Down

Dear Colleagues, 

We appreciate the thoughtful comments and concerns raised in response to our communication on March 13, 2020, which provided guidance on developing research continuity plans. We understand that additional guidance is needed and our office is preparing a more detailed FAQ, which should be available on March 18, 2020.   

The status and impact of COVID-19 is rapidly evolving and it is imperative that researchers at UConn and UConn Health take action to reduce COVID-19 exposure and spread. In accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the University is expected to maintain social distancing by reducing the density of people working in our research laboratories, facilities, and programs. Researchers will begin immediately to ramp down research activities, including laboratory, animal, and non-therapeutic human subjects research. Where possible, research activities that can be accomplished remotely can continue. In developing your plans to ramp down research, it is also currently anticipated that critical activities, such as maintaining animals, unique reagents, and essential equipment and materials, can continue until further notice; however, researchers should develop plans to support and continue critical activities with minimum staffing and in accordance with CDC guidelines for COVID-19 prevention. Additional guidance regarding clinical trials, non-therapeutic human subjects research, and animal research will be available in the forthcoming FAQ. 

As we work to reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19, we must ensure that undergraduates and graduate students working in research facilities and laboratories are able to exercise personal agency regarding their health and well-being. Their supervisors are expected to make appropriate accommodations without engaging in undue influence, coercion, or retaliation. Research staff should work with their supervisors to support individual agency within the requirements to sustain critical operations. Unless notified otherwise, researchers should follow existing sponsor guidelines for allowable and unallowable charges on grants. Our office is actively engaged with sponsor agencies and regulatory bodies and will post updates on the University’s COVID-19 page related to Research.  

We understand the difficulties this minimal on-campus activity will pose to research projects and initiatives; however, we must prioritize the safety, health, and well-being of our community and work in concert with public health officials to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  

Sincerely,

Dr. Radenka Maric
Vice President for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
UConn/UConn Health

Important NIH teleconference on Covid-19 Monday, March 16, 2020

Dear UConn Community,

Research!America is hosting a conference call on Monday, March 16th from 1:30 to 2:30 PM with NIH Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak. Dr. Tabak will discuss NIH’s efforts to ensure research institutions and scientists are accorded the flexibility needed as they confront COVID-19-related research disruptions. No need to RSVP for the call (call number below). To dial in:

What: Teleconference with Dr. Larry Tabak
When: 1:30-2:30 p.m. ET, Monday, March 16, 2020
Call-In: 866-876-6756 (toll-free) or 704-288-1165 (U.S.)
Passcode: 737857

The following are additional updates and guidance from the NIH and NSF

o   Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about COVID-19 for the National Science Foundation

o   NSF website for the research community with detailed guidance on the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

o   Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about COVID-19 for the National Institutes of Health

o   Flexibilities Available to Applicants and Recipients of Federal Financial Assistance Affected by COVID-19

Cheers,
Radenka

Attention- UConn Health Human Subjects Research Community:

The UConn Health Institutional Review Board (IRB) would like to remind Principal Investigators (PI) and study personnel of existing IRB policies and procedures that are in place and that may be relevant given the potential impact of COVID-19 on research. Because every research protocol is different, the IRB is not issuing a single standard. Principal Investigators are responsible for the oversight of their research, for knowing the nature of their research, and for determining what action, if any, is needed for ensuring appropriate policies and procedures are followed. The following policies may be of particular relevance during this time. Principal Investigators and study personnel should review these policies and determine which actions, if any, are appropriate.

Policy 2011-009.1 – Institutional Review Board – Submission of Materials: In accordance with this policy, if a Principal Investigator determines that a change to the implementation of the protocol is necessary, a request for modification is to be submitted to the IRB. For example, if the PI determines that all subject interviews will be conducted by phone vs. in person, a request for modification should be submitted to the IRB. As with any modification, the change should be clearly described to the IRB. For example, changes that will only occur for a limited timeframe should be described accordingly (e.g. “while the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, subject interviews will be conducted by phone whenever possible”). When possible, approval for such changes is to be received prior to the change being implemented.  However, if a change in protocol is required to eliminate apparent immediate hazards to subjects, the PI may implement that change and report it to the IRB within five business days. In this type of situation, the change to protocol would be anticipated to be a lasting change and not particular to one subject ,which would be reported per one of the following policies.

Policy 2009-002.0 – Reporting Non-Compliance to the Institutional Review Board: In accordance with this policy, protocol deviations within the control of the research team are to be reported to the IRB within five business days. Non-compliance that is not within the control of the research team and that does not pose risks to subjects is to be reported to the IRB at the time of continuation or study closure, whichever comes first. For example, if a subject declines to come to a study visit due to general concerns about COVID-19, and missing that visit will not place the subject at risk, this would be tracked by the study team and reported to the IRB at study continuation or closure. Likewise, if the institution makes a policy decision that prevents the study team from fully implementing the approved protocol, the deviations would be tracked and reported at study continuation or closure, provided the subjects were not put at risk. For example, if the institution limited access to only those providing or needing clinical care, subjects would not be able to come on site for interview/survey procedures. It is anticipated that the tracking of protocol deviations will be the most prevalent course of action during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Policy 2009-001.0 – Reporting Unanticipated Problems to the Institutional Review Board: An unanticipated problem is any unforeseen occurrence that involves risk to the subject or others, and that is related to or is possibly related to either a research intervention or interaction, or the conduct of the study in general. If a protocol is not able to be implemented and that inability places the subject at risk (e.g. subjects prevented from coming to institution to receive clinical research intervention and the lack of intervention puts the subject at risk), the PI should report this to the IRB. This may be a single missed visit; or it may become a concern after a certain number of visits are missed.

In summary, it is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator to oversee the implementation of the research protocol within the framework of existing IRB policies and procedures. If you have any questions, you may contact one of the IRB Regulatory Specialists.

  • Steven MacKinnon for IRB numbers ending in -1 or .1  (mackinnon@uchc.edu, 860-679-8729)
  • Patricia Gneiting for IRB numbers ending in -2 or .2   (gneiting@uchc.edu, 860-679-4849)

COVID-19 Research Continuity Planning and Guidance

Dear Colleagues:

This guidance is being provided to help address questions regarding planning and preparation for potential impacts to research amid the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. UConn is actively monitoring and responding to the changing circumstances surrounding this situation, and information is posted and updated frequently on the following site: UConn Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates.

Life safety and the good health of our research workforce, students, faculty, staff, and animals remain our highest priority. Research should continue only to the extent that it can be conducted competently and safely. We encourage open communication to ensure agreement about procedures for students and staff working in labs and research facilities. Faculty should be especially mindful of the competing needs of students who may have concerns about their research progress and degree completion, as well as their personal health and well being. We ask that faculty work to find creative and flexible ways to accommodate the needs and concerns of students and staff working in their labs.

With the ongoing concern about the spread of this disease, laboratories and research facilities should begin to plan for the possibility of a significant disruption to routine operations. Each laboratory or research facility is best positioned to create a continuity plan that will meet their unique needs. While not intended to be all-inclusive, this guidance is provided to aid in the development of your plan. The following describes the current situation, but any of the below information may be modified as the situation develops and based on resources and personnel constraints in Storrs, at UConn Health, and within the OVPR.

Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) Specific Information

  • UConn and UConn Health will maintain essential infrastructure, however, this may need to be modified depending on resources and personnel availability.
  • Given that many staff may be working remotely, the primary mode of communication should be email rather than phone.
  • Assume that research administration units such as Sponsored Programs and Research Compliance will continue to provide services.
  • Assume that Animal Care Services and Environmental Health and Safety will maintain their critical functions.
  • Additional guidance will be forthcoming regarding travel bans and cancellation of activities on grant-funded projects.
  • Researchers should continue to follow sponsor requirements for grant-funded activities and use existing mechanisms to make adjustments or modifications as needed.
  • Sponsors continue to release guidance. Below are examples from the NIH and NSF. You should monitor your funding agency for additional information.

o   Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about COVID-19 for the National Science Foundation

o   NSF website for the research community with detailed guidance on the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

o   Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about COVID-19 for the National Institutes of Health

o   Flexibilities Available to Applicants and Recipients of Federal Financial Assistance Affected by COVID-19

Research Continuity Guidance for Laboratories and Research Facilities

Considerations in developing your plan:

  • A significant percentage of your workforce may be out sick or unable to come to work.
  • Access to campus buildings, offices, laboratories and other facilities access may be limited or prohibited.
  • Essential research infrastructure, such as power and telecommunications, will be maintained. However, this may need to be modified as the situation develops based on resources and personnel constraints.
  • Orders for critical supplies may be delayed.
  • Core facilities and other fee-for-service resources may not be available.
  • Essential research support functions will be maintained. However, this may need to be modified as the situation develops based on resources and personnel constraints. At some point, research support functions may need to be curtailed, delayed, or suspended.
  • Research activities should only be continued to the extent there are qualified and trained staff available to safely and competently conduct those activities.

Steps you can take now to ensure continuity of critical functions:

  • Ensure that you have access to emergency contact information for your critical staff, including cell phone numbers.
  • Review contingency plans and emergency procedures with your staff.
  • Identify procedures and processes that require regular personnel attention (e.g., cell culture maintenance, animal studies).
  • Assess and prioritize critical activities.
  • Identify any research experiments that can be ramped down, curtailed, or delayed.
  • Identify personnel needed to safely perform essential activities.
  • Ensure cross-trained staff have the appropriate training and competency to perform research activities correctly and safely.
  • Ensure you are documenting critical step-by-step instructions in your Standard Operating Procedures.
  • Coordinate with colleagues who have similar research activities to identify ways to ensure coverage of critical activities.
  • Avoid performing high-risk procedures alone. When working alone is necessary, exercise maximum caution. Have a notification and safety plan when working alone.
  • Ensure that high-risk materials (radioactive, biohazards, chemicals) are secured at all times.
  • Maintain a sufficient inventory of critical supplies that may be impacted by global shipping delays.
  • Prioritize. Depending upon the nature of your research, consider prioritizing work that can only be carried out in your research facility, and put off tasks amenable to remote work, such as data analysis. Obtaining results and data now that could be analyzed remotely in the future is a potential option that might create future flexibility.

Remote access:

  • Ensure that those involved in research projects have access to information they need to carry out work remotely (e.g., access to literature, existing datasets and research-related files, and meeting software, such as Zoom).
  • Ensure data and information are backed-up and available remotely.
  • Test and update remote work technologies such as VPN and Zoom conferencing.
  • Review the UConn policies on alternate work arrangements, like telecommuting.

Measures you can take to prevent the spread of illness among your group:

Follow CDC Guidelines on Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities

Research continuity summary:

Advance planning will allow everyone in your research group to focus on their own efforts and work together as a team, rather than wondering how they and their team members are to proceed.

Quick Checklist:

  1. Identify critical operations.
  2. Identify critical personnel and ensure they know what to do in the event of suspended operations. Establish a contingency plan for your laboratory to maintain critical functions should someone in your laboratory become ill or students are not available to perform work.
  3. Remind personnel of your communication plan or create one if not in place.
  4. Ensure remote access to files, data, servers, etc.
  5. Prioritize experiments.
  6. Follow UConn’s requirements related to non-essential travel, and check travel restrictions before making travel plans.

Sponsored Program Services (SPS)

We expect that SPS will continue to be able to submit proposals, but PIs should be mindful of deadlines and submit proposals well in advance. Typically, federal agencies are very flexible about deadlines under difficult circumstances beyond our control. However, if agencies are officially closed, proposals will most likely remain in a queue, pending resumption of agency operations – as has been the case during federal budget-related shutdowns. Additional information will be posted on the OVPR website as it becomes available.

Human Research Protection Program (HRPP/IRB)

The Human Research Protection Program (HRPP/IRB) has established processes to work and convene remotely. New submissions, amendments, continuing review, and other reportable information should be submitted as required. Human subjects research protocols do not need to be modified unless COVID- 19 exposure/symptoms are being added as a study specific exclusion criteria, or information related to COVID-19 exposure/symptoms will be collected as part of the study, or study related procedures or processes such as data collection by phone, video call, or online are being implemented. Consideration should be given to delaying interactions with study participants where possible. This could involve canceling or postponing study visits or conducting study visits remotely where possible. If interactions with study participants need to continue, follow CDC Guidelines on Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities in making determinations about research participation. Additional information will be posted on the OVPR website as it becomes available.

IACUC and Animal Care Services

The IACUC has established processes to work and convene remotely. New submissions, amendments, annual and three-year renewals, and other reportable information should be submitted as required. Additional information will be posted on the OVPR website as it become available.

Animal Care Services has established a plan to maintain animal husbandry activities. This plan includes cross training research staff to assist with husbandry activities in the event animal care staff are not available due to illness. Additional information will be posted on the OVPR website as it becomes available.

Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC)

The IBC has established processes to work and convene remotely. New submissions, amendments, renewals, and other reportable information should be submitted as required. Additional information will be posted on the OVPR website as it becomes available.

Environmental Health and Safety (EHS)

  • EHS has established procedures to maintain essential research support. However, essential research support functions may need to be modified as the situation develops based on resources and personnel constraints. At some point, research support functions may need to be curtailed, delayed or suspended. Research activities should be continued only to the extent there are qualified and trained staff available to safely and competently conduct those activities. Facility security and security of high-risk materials (radioactive, biohazards, chemicals) should be maintained. Additional information will be posted on the EHS website as it becomes available.

Center for Open Research Resources and Equipment (COR²E)

Our intention is to keep core research facilities managed by COR²E operational. That said, many of our facilities have very limited staffing (some of which include student employees) and as such, may necessitate a reduction in services or even closure. Additionally, many of our core facilities rely on equipment and services from external vendors who may also experience delays that could transfer to our internal services. Facilities may also choose to limit/stagger usage of equipment to reduce contact between facility users. Users of the facilities are encouraged to plan their experiments accordingly and visit their respective core facility homepages and/or contact facility directors for the most current information (though changes to services and schedules will also be communicated to existing facility users via email). Finally, as shared communal facilities, we will be working to keep shared equipment spaces as disinfected as possible, but we also ask for users’ help in doing so (washing hands before using shared equipment, staying home at any sign of illness, etc.) If additional updates are needed, they will be posted both here and on the COR²E website homepage.

Technology Incubation Program (TIP)

  • TIP companies should anticipate being able to continue operations in the TIP space as long as UConn and UConn Health can assure this can be done safely based on the available infrastructure support, and only to the extent TIP companies have appropriately trained staff to continue operations competently and safely.
  • TIP companies should have their own disaster/emergency and business continuity plans.
  • TIP companies should monitor the UConn COVID-19 website for current information.

 

Sincerely,

Radenka Maric
Vice President for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
University of Connecticut

NSF 2026 Idea Machine

Dear Colleagues,

In the summer of 2018, the National Science Foundation (NSF) launched an innovative competition, the NSF 2026 Idea Machine, to crowdsource big challenges and big ideas that could help tackle them. The Idea Machine aimed to set the stage for breakthrough research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and STEM education through the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026 and beyond. NSF received around 800 entries from established researchers, students, teachers, and even high school and middle school students from all across the country. Those 800 big ideas have now been narrowed down to seven finalists, which were announced last week.

As we continue to work towards fulfilling President Katsouleas’ bold vision to boost research, scholarship, and creative works at UConn, I encourage you to visit the NSF 2026 Idea Machine site and learn about the program’s goals and the recently selected finalists. This provides UConn’s research community with an opportunity to see what is next for the NSF’s long-term agenda and align our activities based on our existing and emerging strengths.

Thank you for your continued commitment to grow UConn’s profile in research, scholarship, and the arts.

Cheers,
Radenka

Dr. Radenka Maric
Vice President for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
UConn/UConn Health
Professor in Sustainable Energy
438 Whitney Road Ext., Unit 1006
Storrs, CT 06269
Storrs: 860.486.3621
UCH: 860.679.2230
research.uconn.edu