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School of Engineering

OVPR Research Continuity Update

March 19, 2020

Dear Members of the Tufts University Research Community,

As a follow-up to my communication on March 13th, I am writing to thank you for the efforts you have made to ramp down research and switch your focus to work that you can do remotely.  With other major cities in the U.S. implementing shelter-in-place orders, we must shift our focus to more long-term planning in order to ensure research continuity during the coming weeks and months. Careful planning now will also guarantee our ability to restart research safely and with a minimum of loss. 

All on-campus research activities should be suspended effective immediately and no later than March 20th at 5PM.

Over the next few days, working with school-based research deans, deans and center directors, we will be restricting on-campus research activities to those deemed critical to maintaining research capabilities. Critical research activities are those that are absolutely necessary to maintain facilities or irreplaceable research assets, such as:

  • Essential care for animals or plants;
  • Maintenance of equipment that cannot be shut down or maintained remotely, such as liquid N2 tanks and shared computational networks or servers; and
  • Responding to a laboratory or freezer emergency.

All other on-campus research activities must cease, and no new experiments should be started unless they can be done remotely. Animal orders, imports and exports will be stopped. Critical animals/cages or those requiring treatment should be labeled, and consideration should be given to reducing cage census. Cell culture work must stop and cell lines must be frozen. Biological samples, chemicals and other hazardous materials must be properly stored. A checklist is being prepared to aid researchers with the process of suspending on-campus research activities. The checklist will be posted on the OVPR website once available.

There will be a very limited number of exceptions to the suspension of on-campus research activities, including:

  • Clinical and human subject research studies where:
    • the research holds the potential for direct benefit to the subject (e.g., investigational drug, devices or surgical procedure) and the interaction is required to deliver that potential direct benefit;
    • there is collection of safety data (based on clinical judgment of the importance of the visit to detect potential adverse events);
    • the PI determines that an in-person visit is vital to the subject’s safety and/or well-being,
    • there is Emergency Use / Compassionate Use / Human Use Devices (HUDs); and/or
    • the research has direct relevance to the current COVID-19 pandemic and the research cannot be conducted at another time (must be approved by the dean).
  • Clinical veterinary research studies where:
    • the research holds the potential for direct benefit to the subject (e.g., investigational drug, devices or surgical procedure) and the interaction is required to deliver that potential direct benefit;
    • there is collection of safety data (based on clinical judgment of the importance of the visit to detect potential adverse events);
    • the PI determines that an in-person visit is vital to the subject’s safety and/or well-being; and/or
    • the research has direct relevance to the current COVID-19 pandemic and research cannot be conducted at another time (must be approved by the dean).
    • NOTE: The above listed scenarios are only permitted provided that the owner or client is not required to be within the clinic building and there is no face-to-face contact. Also, new patients that present to the clinics for essential or emergency care may be enrolled in on-going trials, but no new clinical trials may be initiated.

Exception requests must be approved by the respective school-based research dean and/or dean/center director and subsequently by, the Research Continuity Committee. The committee has been tasked by the University to provide guidance to the community and serve as a governing body on issues of research continuity and is composed of members of the OVPR and other areas in the University.

For funded research activities, granting agencies are starting to issue guidance on charging or not charging expenses to a sponsored award when activities are suspended or performed remotely due to the effects of COVID-19. The guidance is evolving and fluid so there may be changes. We will follow-up with more information on this topic next week.

Our goal is to work closely with your schools to minimize the impact on your professional

advancement and the advancement of our students and staff. We urge you to focus your research on work that can be done remotely, off campus and without human contact. We need to be creative and respond to the collective need to reduce the community spread of COVID-19 and preserve needed resources in order to protect the health and safety of our faculty, staff and students. 

We will be hosting a town hall meeting via Zoom on March 20th at noon to answer questions and address concerns: https://tufts.zoom.us/j/658007454 or 1-646-558-8656, Access Code: 658007454. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me or ovpr@tufts.edu should you have any immediate questions or concerns.

Thank you for your patience as we manage the rapidly evolving circumstances related to COVID-19. These are truly unprecedented times.

Warm Regards,

Caroline Attardo Genco, PhD
Vice Provost for Research
Office of the Vice Provost for Research | Tufts University