COVID-19 UIS guidance on research

Dear Colleague:

The COVID 19 pandemic has broadly impacted all sectors of our society, including the research, discovery, innovation, and scholarly activities that are expected of a university such as ours. We know that our scholars are faced with continuing their research activities under disrupted circumstances, while embracing creative approaches. The following guidance for implementation of social distancing and remote work is aimed at reducing the density of the campus population and lowering the risk of exposure to those who remain engaged in research in our facilities, laboratories, and field sites.

Research and scholarly activities that can be continued remotely are strongly encouraged (some advice provided in the Appendix below). If you think that your research program qualifies as essential research (defined below), then please contact ora@uis.edu for a determination and guidance. The Research Board will review projects on a rolling basis.

WHAT IS ESSENTIAL RESEARCH?

With the requirement that effective social distancing (6 feet) can be maintained, essential research-related activities that require campus and field sites are defined as follows:

  • Work that directly relates to preventing, containing, or treating the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Work that is directly related to national security
  • Research support functions that are required by law
  • Work to maintain critical equipment, whether in stand-by mode or operational
  • Work to maintain critical biological or material samples and animal populations
  • Seasonally dependent agricultural research with critical implications for human and animal health, as well as food security
  • Laboratory or field work where discontinuation would result in loss of significant data and samples
  • Longitudinal or seasonal work where discontinuation would result in loss of significant data and samples

Experiments, projects, and studies that do not fit these categories must ramp down immediately and cease. Unit Heads should be consulted for clarifications that are discipline-specific. If further clarification is required, then chairs and deans can direct inquiries to ora@uis.edu

Guidance for supervisors and advisors of research personnel, including graduate students and undergraduate students. It is a challenging period for all of our employees and students. UIS research infrastructure on campus can be accessed for essential research with permission from your Unit Head and upon contacting the campus police. It is essential that best practices be followed by researchers who continue to work in their usual environment. This includes staying home if one is not feeling well or if a person in your home is not feeling well; adhering to social distancing (6 feet) while in research labs and/or in the field; as well as following CDC guidelines to regularly disinfect work spaces.

Some of the members of your research group are very likely to feel anxiety about coming to work for many reasons. It is critical that you have a private conversation with each of your researchers to identify those who are concerned and encourage them to stay home and work remotely. In these cases, please work as appropriate to develop alternate work activities if they are unable to access essential infrastructure for their normal scope of work.

Employees might also experience significant anxiety if they cannot access critical facilities to carry out their research project and activities. Again, this might be for many reasons, including pending thesis deadlines, critical longitudinal timelines, seasonal—dependent research, etc. It is very important that you identify each individual’s concerns and determine whether and how they may be mitigated by revising work plans and developing new timelines.

The Research Board has decided to be flexible with internal grant programs—any faculty member may request a deferment of their funds until next year by contacting Susan Ryherd, the Director of Research Administration (206-7409, ora@uis.edu).

Guidance for research personnel, including graduate and undergraduate students. It is a challenging period for researchers as they face projects that might be encumbered with significant expectations, timelines and/or deadlines, while adapting to the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. If it has been determined that your research is considered essential, and that you need access to your normal university work environment, it is critical that you follow best practices for the safety of yourselves and your co-workers. These include staying home if you are not feeling well or if a person in your home is not feeling well; adhering to social distancing (6 feet) while in research labs and/or in the field; and following CDC guidelines to regular disinfect work spaces.

It is critical to understand that if you are uncomfortable, for any reason, working in your normal work environment—whether it is in a research facility, wet lab, or in the field—that you have the right to work from home. For those whose research activities do not readily adapt to working from home, your advisor/supervisor will assist you to define alternate activities and/or assignments that can be carried out remotely. Alternate assignments will be assigned without adverse academic, employment, or financial consequences.

The Undergraduate Research Steering Committee has decided to be flexible with the USR and GSR fund programs—any student may request a deferment of their funds until next year by contacting Kim Erbe, the Program Coordinator (206-8578, ursp@uis.edu).

In the case that you cannot reach a satisfactory agreement with your supervisor, please contact the Head or Chair of your Department as a first step.

Alternative contacts would include the Associate Dean in your college, the Undergraduate Research Support Program or Cecilia Cornell, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Graduate Education (206-7230, ccorn1@uis.edu).

We know that the COVID-19 pandemic and all the circumstances surrounding it are disruptive.

Rapidly evolving information and impact coupled with real time decision-making at the local, state, national, and global levels are stressful for every person at our university.

It is an incredibly unsettling time, and more questions will undoubtedly arise. We will provide answers and details as directly, transparently, and quickly as we can.

We understand that we are asking all of you to help us face a challenge of a scale and magnitude that has rarely before been seen here at our university and are grateful for your flexibility and patience.

Sincerely,

Dennis Papini
Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost

Keenan E. Dungey
Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Institutional Effectiveness

Cecilia Cornell
Associate Vice Chancellor for Graduate Education


Appendix

Mentoring research students online

Due to the governor’s stay-at-home order, our research projects with students have been disrupted. Here are some tips for continuing to mentor research students with online tools. A few years ago, the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges obtained a Teagle Grant to develop best practices for distance-mentored undergraduate research projects. The results were published in Change: The Magazine of Higher Education 46(5), 44-51, and High-Impact Practices in Online Education: Research and Best Practices, edited by Kathryn E. Linder, Chrysanthemum Mattison Hayes, Stylus Publishing, 2018.

  • Meet regularly at scheduled times
  • Create a sense of space: video tour, continuous communication (e-mail, chat, Skype/Zoom)
  • Use Google Drive or Box to share documents to work on
  • Limit project to student ability and access

Cancelled conferences

What can you do about the cancelation of the conferences you were accepted to present at? The MLA and the APA have developed guidelines for including them on your CV.

4.28.2020