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Research Ramp-Up Principles and Guidance

Guiding Principles of Ramp-up Plans

Our 4-Phase Research Ramp-Up Plans and accompanying resources were guided by our mission, goals, and values as a university, including these guiding principles:

  1. Ramp-up plans for research activities should be phased to nest within VU public safety and health plans. Our research plans intentionally coordinate with the Return to Campus plans.
  2. Research spaces are comparatively safe, and can be made even safer with COVID-19 protections. Research spaces are designed for safety, and the researchers who inhabit them uphold a culture of responsibility and care that naturally extends to encompass COVID-19 protections.
  3. Decisions to ramp up or down on-campus research activities are best based on risk mitigation metrics. Rather than basing decisions on the research activities themselves, by using distance-based metrics such as staggered schedules we can be inclusive of the full diversity of Vanderbilt research, support all forms of research equitably, and achieve high productivity with nominal occupancy rates.
  4. Decisions are best managed on a case-by-case basis by assessing risks and their mitigation protocols. To support the variety and intricacy of research methods, assessments are best made locally, beginning and ending with the reporting entity such as the school or college.  For activities involving substantial cross-college or trans-institutional components, we will provide additional coordination.
  5. Offer addition protections to graduate students and early career researchers. The lack of community-building opportunities inherent in physical distancing can add to stress.  Additional resources beyond the mentoring and career development opportunities already available can help graduate students and early career researchers balance health safety with career progression.

Research Guidance: Phases 1-4

Phase 1

  • Approval process based on proposal from mentor/PI, at no more than <33% normal occupancy in research spaces given physical distancing guidelines, and assuming all safety precautions are followed
  • Undergraduate involvement not permitted
  • All gatherings, travel, and off-campus research activities must abide by VU guidelines.
  • Suggest card access only to buildings especially for the initial 3 week period
  • Continue remote research, where possible
  • Expand on-site research beyond “critical” as colleges/schools deem appropriate (e.g., early career faculty, expanded core facilities)
  • On-site research area occupancy at any time <33% (based on normal occupancy)

Phase 2 and 2+

  • On-site research area occupancy increases to <50%; for very rare and absolutely necessary cases, researchers may request approval to increase to <70% occupancy in Phase 2+
  • Vanderbilt-only undergraduate involvement is permitted in Phase 2+
  • Visiting researchers, those not affiliated with Vanderbilt, are allowed on campus in Phase 2+
  • Lead researchers may request permission to travel locally and within the continental U.S. for research activities in Phase 2+
  • All gatherings, travel, and off-campus research activities must abide by VU guidelines; gatherings limited to 10 people
  • Continue remote research, where possible
  • Further expansion of on-site research as colleges/schools deem appropriate (e.g., field research on a case-by-case basis)

Phase 3

  • On-site research area occupancy increases to <70%
  • Undergraduates may be involved in limited capacities only
  • All gatherings, travel, and off-campus research activities must abide by VU guidelines
  • Continue remote research, where possible
  • Further expansion of on-site research as colleges/schools deem appropriate
  • On-site research area occupancy at any time <70%

Phase 4

  • On-site research area occupancy increases to include most if not all activities that cannot be performed remotely.
  • All gatherings, travel, and off-campus research activities must abide by VU guidelines
  • Continue remote research, where possible
  • Further expand on-site research as colleges/schools deem appropriate
  • On-site research area occupancy limits are removed.

Acknowledgments

These plans were prepared and continue to be refined by the Ad-Hoc Research Ramp-up Working Group.  Additionally, many collaborators and consultants contributed to the creation of these plans, including our peers at fellow AAU and SEC universities.  Our heartfelt thanks go out to our Vanderbilt University deans, the Vice Chancellor for Administration and the entire Division of Administration team, the VUMC Executive Vice President for Research, and the Interim Chancellor and Provost.

We also thank the Vanderbilt University Research Council, the Public Health Advisory Task Force, and the University Continuity Working Groups for their continued collaboration and support.

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