Impact of Coronavirus on Research Operations

March 12, 2020
Robert Hull, Acting Vice President for Research

In light of the global COVID-19 outbreak ( we wanted to follow up with further guidance to ensure research continuity, especially as it relates to graduate students and the research staff.

1. Immediate Situation



As described in the university wide message from President Jackson of March 11, 2020, the university is moving to remote instruction for all classes from March 23, 2020 through the end of the spring 2020 semester.



As we transition to remote instruction, other Institute operations will continue, including research programs. In this context, President Jackson's March 10, 2020 message states that where possible, graduate students pursuing research will work remotely.  This means that Ph.D. and other graduate students should perform their research away from campus when it is possible.  This may apply, for example, to many students pursuing computational work, analyzing data, or documenting the results of their research. For students pursuing experimental work or studio research, research activities on campus can continue, but only when social distancing can be enforced. In these activities as well, research time out of the laboratory (data analysis, report or paper writing etc.) should be performed away from campus.



Research laboratories and facilities will continue to operate, but again in situations where research staff can pursue their tasks activities away from campus, they should be required to do so.



To maximize the effects of social distancing, please implement the following guidance in your laboratories and groups:



  1. Staggering work time in laboratories and offices so that a separation of 2 meters or more between occupants can generally be maintained.

  2. If protective clothing or apparatus is used in your lab or facility, please implement a plan to ensure that they cannot transmit a virus from one user to another, for example providing disposable masks and gloves, and personalized safety glasses and clothing.

  3.  Ensuring adequate disinfecting supplies and protocols for cleaning working surfaces, including keyboards and instrument controls.

  4. For "living systems" such as animals and cell lines or tissues, working with your facility manager or developing protocols in your own laboratory to ensure sustenance and preservation.

  5. All graduate students should receive a training session on hygienic protocols.


2. Contingency Plans for a Potential Campus Shut-Down



If case(s) of coronavirus are detected in the Rensselaer community; there is a community-spread case proximate to the Rensselaer campus; or cluster cases in Troy (regardless of origin), the Institute will shut down the campus, except for essential campus operations. This includes the shutdown of all laboratories and facilities, except those requiring continued baseline operations and oversight. In this case, on-campus research work will cease.



To prepare for this possibility, the following steps are required:
a)      Please designate essential personnel, where necessary to ensure safe and stable conditions of all laboratories.
b)      Each faculty researcher and research laboratory must develop a Business Continuity Plan in the event of such a shut-down.  If you have not done so already, please review your plan with your staff and research students as soon as possible.  This plan must include all necessary information to implement safe shut down or stabilization of your laboratories.
c)      Ensure that you, and all researchers in your group or center, have the necessary records for grant operations (e.g. submitting annual, final or progress reports) and/or proposal submissions.
d)      Ensure that you and your group/staff have the necessary materials to continue your research to your best ability from home (data analysis, writing of papers etc.)



While we all hope that there is as little impact as possible on the campus community, and on the continuity of our operations as a result of the coronavirus, we must be prepared to act quickly to protect people and critical facilities.  We know that there will be questions that an email of this length cannot directly address. If you have additional questions or need further information, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you for your assistance in this important matter.







Robert Hull, Acting Vice President for Research



Prabhat Hajela, Provost








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