Phase 1 of research ramp-up underway

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Research and scholarship are foundational missions of the University of Iowa, and we are very impressed with your resiliency, determination and perseverance during the last two months as we have been away from our campus. I know many of you are understandably anxious to return to your laboratories, studios and other places on campus to resume your important work. As a researcher myself, I applaud your zeal and empathize with you over the current situation.

We are committed to the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff. As a guiding principle, we recognize the more an individual interacts with others, and the longer the interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. The university will continue to follow the latest guidance from UI medical and public health experts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Iowa Department of Public Health and, other governmental agencies.

Guiding Principles

  • Placing people first as our university is only as strong as our students, faculty, and staff;
  • Preserving and building on core values of excellence, learning, community, diversity, integrity, respect, and responsibility;
  • Delivering world-class education, research, and health care; and
  • Engaging shared governance and campus leadership.

The university’s Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT) is working to create a process for returning employees and students which includes developing and implementing new policies necessary to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread. These policies and procedures will continue to align with policy decisions made by the governor and Board of Regents, State of Iowa. The campus leadership is reviewing the set of draft guidelines in preparation for a larger roll-out and discussion in early June.

As an essential first step in our return to campus, the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) —working closely with the collegiate Associate Deans for Research and the Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT)—has begun a pilot ramp-up program for returning to campus. We are working to find out the minimum number of people each PI needs to work in his or her lab and creating density maps that will allow PIs and staff to resume work while exercising physical distancing in their buildings and spaces. We are considering the impacts of having faculty and staff travel to and from, as well as occupy, spaces that that are or will soon be shared by others. These spaces must be maintained by Facilities Management, protected by Public Safety, and supported by a wide array of services, from cleaning to the provision of research materials.

At this time, there is no campus-wide date for employees who are currently working remotely to return to campus, but the information we glean from this exercise will, I believe, prove invaluable in informing how the rest of us resume work on campus.  

Phase 1 of the Research Pilot project began yesterday, Tuesday May 26 with limited access to the research laboratories in the Carver College of Medicine (CCOM) and we are monitoring the situation closely to ensure the following criteria are met:

  • Limiting exposure to COVID 19
  • Appropriately supporting animal care and core facilities while maintaining appropriate social distancing.
  • Conducting effective research despite significant constraints

In the meantime, I urge you to complete your individual plans for returning to campus and watch for our new ramp-up website, where faculty, staff, and students can find the latest information to help guide this process (a link is coming soon). 

Phase 2 will begin with opening up non-CCOM laboratory spaces on campus, a task that will involve coordinating the reopening of numerous buildings.

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating; protecting the health and safety of everyone in the University of Iowa community is paramount. Lessening the risk to COVID-19 requires shared responsibility, and the university expects our faculty and staff to take every precaution to protect their fellow colleagues.

I ask all of you to continue being patient, to be safe, and to continue asking me and my staff questions so we can help guide you through this process. My staff and I will host another town hall at 3 p.m. Tuesday, June 2 to provide more details about the return to research operations and to get your feedback. To join Tuesday, please use this Zoom link (HawkID authentication will be required).

Sincerely,

Marty Scholtz                                                       

Vice President for Research