Internal Communications

Important Notice on Proposal Submission Policy

Revision Date: March 8, 2021 – revisions in italics

As an applicant organization, UConn/UConn Health has an institutional responsibility to verify the accuracy, validity, conformity, and eligibility of all applications submitted to a sponsor on behalf of the University. We have been exploring how to ensure the best delivery of services, meet sponsor and institutional policy requirements that were highlighted in the recent NSF audit, and to ensure that the University has sufficient time to review and certify proposals and increase the number of successful applications. To that end, we have conducted a survey of all faculty who submitted grant proposals within the last two years, listened to the research community’s comments at town halls, and solicited input from the President, Provost, deans, associate deans for research, the President’s Research Advisory Council, University Senate, and other faculty groups.

This listening process revealed that one of the main challenges for both investigators and staff is the bottleneck that occurs immediately prior to proposal submission. In recent years, nearly two-thirds of proposals submitted (with all components ready) are received by Sponsored Program Services (SPS) within one working day or less of the sponsor deadline.

Numerous proposals are being submitted just barely in time, meaning there is little time for a thorough review. Additionally, proposals that have been submitted to SPS far in advance also routinely lack a timely and thorough review because other proposals with an earlier deadline came in and “cut the line.”

To begin to remedy the proposal submission bottleneck, beginning May 5, 2021, the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) will implement the current policy on internal deadlines for the review and submission of sponsored project proposals. The process change aims to reduce last day proposal submissions and will prioritize proposals as received. Once the policy is implemented, final administrative components of a proposal must be received by SPS Pre-Award at least five full business days in advance of the submission due date (along with a draft of the scientific components). The final submission ready proposal is due to SPS no later than noon the day before the sponsor deadline.

Exceptions include short turnaround RFPs, last minute sponsor requests, or a last minute opportunity to join a proposal under submission by another institution. Also, each UConn investigator will be given one pass to use in the event they are not able to meet the internal five-day deadline. As is the current practice, SPS Pre-Award will make every effort to submit these proposals when possible. Please visit the OVPR website for additional information and FAQs regarding the internal deadline policy.

To increase faculty support related to proposal preparation, the OVPR will be taking the following additional steps:

  • The OVPR is working to address situations where investigators do not have dedicated administrative support for the preparation of a proposal; we will continue to increase staff training opportunities, extend faculty service offerings, and work to simplify the submission process.
  • The OVPR will implement a dashboard to increase transparency and provide information on the status and order of review.
  • The OVPR will provide additional research development services, such as grant editing and proofreading, proposal review, large and complex grant support, and research funding consultation. Further information regarding these services and how to request them is available on the OVPR Research Development section of this website.
  • The OVPR will continue to work with and incorporate feedback from faculty working groups.  Upon recommendation of the University Senate, the President formed a sponsored projects working group to identify impediments to the expeditious review of sponsored project proposals in advance of deadlines.  The group’s report is available on the University Senate website.

Development, review, and submission timeline:

Full Business Days Before Submission Deadline

>6 days: PI provides application components to local grants administrator (or Faculty Services)

5 days: Complete application (plus draft scientific components) and IPR submitted to SPS

5-2 days: SPS reviews proposal and provides feedback

2 days: Corrections made and all approvals in place

Noon day before deadline: Final proposal and PI authorization to submit to sponsor provided to SPS

1-0 days before deadline: Proposal submitted

SPS is responsible for ensuring that applications are compliant and that institutional and sponsor guidelines are met including administrative, management, and scientific information. Please contact Paul Hudobenko (hudobenko@uchc.edu/UConn Health) or Mark Reeves (mark.reeves@uconn.edu/Storrs and Regionals) with questions as we move to a consistent and sustainable process.

Thank you for your continued cooperation in our collaborative efforts to advance UConn’s mission through innovative research, scholarship, and creative pursuits.

NIH policy on registration/results posting of Basic Experimental Studies with Humans (BESH)

NIH’s clinical trial definition includes prospective basic science studies involving human participants. Basic Experimental Studies with Humans (BESH) use an intervention to understand fundamental aspects of a phenomena without specific application towards processes or products in mind. NIH published clinical trial case studies with examples of BESH (cases 9, 14, 40 & 41).

 

NIH funded clinical trials, including BESH, are required to register and post results in ClinicalTrials.gov. On Monday, December 7th from 3:00-4:00 pm, Rebecca Williams, Acting Director of ClinicalTrials.gov, and Elisa Golfinopoulos will present the results of the National Library of Medicine analysis of challenges and considerations for registration and results information reporting of BESH in ClinicalTrials.gov. You may send questions before or during the event to SciencePolicy@od.nih.gov with the Subject “BESH Webinar”

 

Webinar: Monday, December 7, 2020 3:00-4:00 PM https://videocast.nih.gov/watch=40141

 

For more information about ClinicalTrials.gov, including assistance with registration, please contact Research Compliance Monitor, Ellen Ciesielski at eciesielski@uchc.edu.

 

 

 

 

New FDA Guidance for Civil Money Penalties for ClinicalTrials.gov Non-Compliance

On August 12, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final guidance document titled “Civil Money Penalties relating to the Clinical Trials.gov Data Bank.” The guidance clarifies how the FDA identifies whether responsible parties have failed to submit required clinical trial registrations or results to ClinicalTrials.gov, or knowingly submitted false or misleading information, and details the applicable fines, including “$10,000 for each day that the violation continues” and potential civil or criminal penalties. Applicable clinical trials include interventional studies evaluating at least one drug, biological, or device product regulated by the FDA.

For more information about ClinicalTrials.gov, including assistance with registration, please contact Research Compliance Monitor, Ellen Ciesielski at eciesielski@uchc.edu.

Guidance for Fall 2020 Lab, Field, and Human Subjects Research

To the UConn Research Community:

As we approach the beginning of another unprecedented time in UConn’s history, my team and I have provided guidance on several topics related to the continued resumption of research. Since May, researchers have shown that with proper procedures, adherence to guidelines, and community commitment, it was possible to return to the critically important research projects happening throughout UConn. Throughout this process, the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) has adhered to President Katsouleas’ message that in order to educate our students in a pandemic, we must all work together and to provide a safe learning environment. Students returning to UConn campuses must also commit to the “UConn Promise” to help keep the UConn community safe, including strictly abiding by rules that require a campus quarantine to start the semester, face mask usage at all times, and keeping physical distance from one another. Similar requirements of masking and distancing are mandated by the state for off-campus residents, as well as quarantines for those from most outside states. These guidelines will not only help to keep our students in the classroom, they will help to keep researchers in the lab, field, and clinic.

While most labs have already resumed activities under the current process, which requires approval from the OVPR, some faculty and students may have questions about what is required to continue or initiate new research projects in the fall. As of August 31, 2020 when the campus reopens, obtaining written approval from the OVPR for Resuming Research Activity is no longer necessary to engage in research on any of UConn’s campuses. The following guidance outlines additional aspects of conducting research at UConn for the Fall Re-Opening.

 

Guidance for Fall 2020 Lab, Field, and Human Subjects Research

  • Approval from the OVPR for “Resuming Research Activity” will no longer be required for conducting research at any UConn campus.
  • Labs and research programs must continue to develop and maintain a written COVID-19 Research Safety Plan (Lab and Field Research COVID-19 Safety Plan or Human Subjects COVID-19 Safety Plan), but submission and approval of Research Safety Plans to the OVPR will no longer be required. Departments and administrative offices are required to perform a detailed risk assessment, set site-specific prevention protocols, and to have the resulting safety plan approved by their leadership. If your department does not already have an approved COVID-19 safety plan in place, please use the Return to Campus COVID-19 Protection Plan template to prepare to return to work on campus.
  • Research personnel must continue to be trained on the plan and documentation of the training must be maintained.
  • Research personnel must continue to complete COVID-19 Research Safety Training from the Division of Environmental Health and Safety. Documentation of completion must be retained as part of Research Safety Plan documentation.
  • Research Safety Plans may be amended as necessary. If a plan is amended, all personnel must be retrained on the amended plan and training must be documented.
  • Research Safety Plans should continue to address federal and state guidelines and requirements.
  • Lab and research personnel must follow University wide and campus specific COVID-19 requirements.
  • Research Safety Plans must allow for distancing of at least six feet, with the goal of maintaining an overall personnel density of 50% or less of the pre-COVID occupancy/density. If this is not possible then the Safety Plan must justify why and specify what measures will be put in place to minimize the potential of exposure.
  • For research involving human subjects, Research Safety Plans should follow the clinical requirements of UConn Health, even if those projects take place on another UConn campus. If this is not possible, the Research Safety Plan must justify why and specify what measures will be put in place to minimize the potential of exposure.
  • Labs and research programs should maintain a process to know when personnel are working in the labs or research areas. Labs and research programs may develop their own methods to achieve this goal. Signed daily logs will no longer be required as the only acceptable method. Other acceptable methods include key card access, electronic check-ins, or use of location-based apps. Some schools and colleges may also have processes in place for monitoring building density and access.
  • Labs and research programs should continue to have and refine plans to immediately halt or ramp down research activities, if required.
  • The summer requirements/processes for undergraduates to participate in research will no longer be required. Guidance for Fall Undergraduate Research and Independent Study Courses has been issued.

 

While we reopen UConn for academic activities, we thank you for your dedication to the health and safety of your labs and the UConn community. If you have additional questions, more information can be found on the OVPR website or by emailing ovpr@uconn.edu.

 

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