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On campus research has been suspended since March, leaving researchers to find remote alternatives to their typical work.

May 23, 2020

Research Among First On-Campus Operations to Reactivate After Committee Releases Findings

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The Committee on Research Operations Reactivation released the set of procedures on Friday that principal investigators can utilize to begin the process of resuming on-campus work.

In March, Cornell hastily shut down the majority of its on-campus functions in an effort to mitigate health risks to students, faculty and the campus community. On March 18, Cornell suspended nonessential research, forcing researchers to scramble to collect last minute data before transitioning to remote work.

Research will now be one of the first of on-campus activities to resume, but reactivating it will take place in phases, prioritizing activities that require equipment, chemicals, plants and animals, or other materials that are on campus.

President Martha E. pollack announced the establishment of the Research Operations Reactivation committee on April 22 to “determine the best path forward.” The committee was charged with investigating questions like when on campus research should resume, how labs can operate safely and what measures should be taken to accommodate public health recommendations, among others. Also, the committee had to make recommendations to Pollack no later than May 15.

“The committee should develop a plan for a phased campus re-activation, using metrics that are consistent with federal and state recommendations, and also appropriate for our campus setting,” according to the Faculty Senate’s website.

Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Joanne DeStefano and Chief Compliance Officer Christine Stallman chaired the committee. Other members include faculty from across the University, like College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Kathryn Boor, Vice Provost of Research Emmanuel Giannelis and Dean of the Graduate School Barbara Knuth.

Lab managers are encouraged to develop plans for reactivating research that maximize the use of on-campus resources, but minimize the time spent in labs. Instead of granting general access to a lab facility, these lab managers’ proposals must lay out which members of their staff will be working, what rooms they can work in and when they can be in the lab.

Over time, the University expects on-campus work to increase incrementally, and eventually reach its maximum capacity.

Since the reactivation of research will be in phases, undergraduate research may be on hold for the foreseeable future.

“Undergraduate researchers should only very rarely be involved in the early phases of on-campus research reactivation,” read the document released by the Committee on Research Operations Reactivation.

Undergraduate students should only be included in the initial phases of reactivation if they are in the Ithaca area and possess unique skills that the lab needs to conduct research, according to the report. New undergraduate research projects will resume in the later stages of reactivation.

When operating on-campus facilities, researchers must adhere to safety protocols such as social distancing, using appropriate personal protective equipment and properly disinfecting facilities.

Many labs have shifted their focus to maintain some level of productivity during quarantine through writing and publishing data, or analyzing data that has already been collected.

Facility managers, departmental planning committees, department chairs, deans and finally, the Giannelis will review and revise all plans. The facility managers must ensure that each wing, floor and building does not exceed total occupancy, according to the report. Department chairs and facility directors can also rescind approval for reactivation if labs do not adhere to safety guidelines.

The committee encourages any work that can be completed remotely should continue to be remote, but research that uses scientific equipment on campus, chemical reagents and any plants or animals can begin the process of reactivation.

While there is no set date for on campus research to reactivate, principal investigators can begin submitting plans utilizing the template found in the Committee on Research Operations Reactivation’s document.