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Update on Planning to Restart Research

Published May 1, 2020

Dear Faculty, Staff and Trainees involved in research:

Many of you are eager to restart your research projects and get back into your laboratories as the frequency of COVID-19 infections in St. Louis starts to decrease. I want to reassure you that, along with multiple other planning processes underway for reopening the campuses, a robust planning process for ramping up our research activities has been ongoing. The ramp-up will occur in phases, based on lifting of local stay at home restrictions, an assessment of the COVID-19 situation our area, and on our ability to successfully social distance in our laboratories, offices, and the many shared spaces (e.g. common equipment rooms, elevators, break rooms) that support research. Assessing our ability to safely bring more people on campus will be an important part of the decision making.

I am working with three committees to develop plans for research ramp-up. There are many similarities between research at the School of Medicine and research at the schools on the Danforth campus (primarily the McKelvey School of Engineering, the Brown School, and Arts & Sciences), but there are some significant differences as well, including differences in the diversity of disciplines and how the schools are organized, so it seemed appropriate to have separate, yet connected, committees for the two campuses.

The School of Medicine committee is primarily focused on reopening research on the Medical Campus and includes representatives from the preclinical and clinical departments as well as the OVCR and EH&S.

The Danforth committee is focused on reopening research on the Danforth campus, where research disciplines are highly diverse. This committee includes representatives from McKelvey School of Engineering, the Brown School, Arts & Sciences, the OVCR and EH&S.

We also have a human subjects research group that is developing plans for ramping up human subjects/clinical research and includes representatives from both campus, from the social, behavioral, international, translational and clinical research areas, from the IRB, and from the OVCR.

Each committee will develop a phased-approach for resuming research activities once the Stay at Home orders are lifted. Although there will be some similarities in approaches, the separate committees will allow for a strategic focus on the unique activities and considerations for each campus and types of research.

The Research Planning Committees have established aggressive timelines to develop a deliberate ramp-up plan with embedded flexibility and advanced planning that will enable quick reaction to changing situations. The plans will be based on the most current information, data and tools available as well as established Principles that will guide the Committees’ decisions.

All of us have experienced various levels of personal and professional loss and sacrifice as a result of this pandemic. We realize the burning question that is top of mind for many is when the campus will reopen and research activities can resume. Unfortunately, we do not have a planned date for when this will occur. However, when a date is determined, each campus will have a systematic plan in place to ensure the safe return to our research and education missions in a manner that protects our employees, students, trainees and the community.

We will share additional information as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience and support during this critical time.

Jennifer Lodge, PhD
Vice Chancellor for Research
Washington University