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Research Ramp-Up Principles and Guidance

Transitioning to Phase 2 Ramp-up of On-Campus Research Activities

Email from Vice Provost for Research Padma Raghavan dated June 5, 2020:

Dear colleagues,

As I’m sure you all have seen, the university will begin transitioning into Phase 2 of the Return to Campus Plan on Monday, June 8. Thanks in large part to the responsibility and care around COVID-19 protections demonstrated by our pioneering researchers in Phase 1 of our research ramp-up and to the incredible efforts of our ad hoc phased research ramp-up working group in partnership with the Division of Administration, we have now been approved to advance into Phase 2 of the 4-Phase Research Ramp-Up Plan gradually starting next week.

Phase 2 will have several important components that will advance the work of our researchers and scholars inclusively across all disciplines. 

Most importantly, in Phase 2 research studies involving research participants will be allowed on campus based on a review-and-approvals process similar to that undertaken in Phase 1, with an intake form accessible to all. We know that many of your studies with research participants must be resumed quickly not only to advance research goals, but also to make sure life-improving interventions for participants are not further delayed. While fieldwork off campus cannot be undertaken across the board with COVID-19 still presenting serious challenges to health safety, if your study requires fieldwork within the Metro Nashville area, please consult your dean’s office to see if an exception can be justifiably considered. 

Click here to continue reading the message from Vice Provost for Research Padma Raghavan dated Friday, June 5.

Click here to reach Vice Provost Raghavan’s latest message outlining the transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of VU’s 4-Phase Research Ramp-up dated Thursday, June 11.

Click here to read Vice Provost Raghavan’s message outlining VU’s 4-Phase Research Ramp-Up dated Friday, May 8.

Click here to read Vice Provost Raghavan’s Open Dore message, Leading through Research, dated Friday, May 22.

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

  • On-site research area occupancy increases to <50%
  • Undergraduate involvement not permitted
  • 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 (e.g., field research on a case-by-case basis)
  • On-site research area occupancy at any time <50%

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

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.

In particular, the following individuals were instrumental in the development of these plans, and continue to be key in their refinement:

  • Richard Chotard, Associate General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel
  • Peter Cummings, Associate Dean for Research, Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, John R. Hall Chair in Chemical Engineering, School of Engineering
  • Andrea George, Director of VU Environmental Health and Safety, Director of Sustainability and Environmental Management Office
  • Ellen Goldring, Executive Associate Dean, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy, Patricia and Rodes Hart Chair, Peabody College of Education and Human Development
  • Jane Hirtle, Senior Research Projects Manager, Office of the Vice Provost for Research
  • Duco Jansen, Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Faculty Affairs, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Professor of Neurological Surgery, School of Engineering
  • Mariann Piano, Nancy and Hilliard Travis Professor of Nursing, Senior Associate Dean for Research, Postdoctoral Fellowship Director, School of Nursing
  • Amber Pursley, Director of Research Administration, Office of the Vice Provost for Research
  • Padma Raghavan, Vice Provost for Research, Professor of Computer Science and Computer Engineering
  • Chuck Sanders, Associate Dean for Research, Professor of Biochemistry, Professor of Medicine, School of Medicine – Basic Sciences
  • Mark Wallace, Dean of the Graduate School, Professor of Hearing and Speech Sciences, Louise B. McGavock Chair, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Professor of Psychology, Professor of Pharmacology
  • David Wright, Dean of Graduate Education and Research, Professor of Chemistry, Stevenson Chair of Chemistry, Professor of Communication of Science and Technology

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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