Dear Colleagues: As I write to you, most research and scholarship on our campus has transitioned to remote work, with a small number of on-campus projects continuing their essential research. The latter have been vetted by the Deans and Directors of their respective colleges and have put in place additional protocols to remain safe while continuing. Other on-campus projects that cannot be transitioned to remote work and have not been approved as essential by their respective Deans are temporarily suspended — and are looking forward to the opportunity to get running again as soon as possible. To assist this process, special coordination and care procedures have been put in place by PIs, the Vice President for Operations, and the Office of Research to ensure that critical research infrastructure remains viable, cared for, and safe — assets like animals, cell lines and biological assets, reagents and chemical components necessary to restart projects as soon as we get the green light. Our paramount goals, as you have seen from outgoing VP Galbraith and in related communication from the LCOM Dean’s Office, are to protect the health and safety of our University community and the community in which we work, to continue essential research and protect research assets, to help our researchers cope with the disruptions they have faced, and to maintain our research support and administrative infrastructure.

As a reminder, the University has required a stop to all face-to-face human subjects’ research that has not received approval as essential. Off-site research involving field work or travel is also suspended unless it has been designated essential, including research by graduate students and post-docs.  For those labs that have received designation as essential, any updates or changes to contingency plans and research protocols should be cleared by your respective Dean’s office and sent to the Office of Research for our records. Graduate Student and Post-Doctoral fellows supported on grant-based research should have completed an “Off-Site Work Agreement” if they are working from home, even part-time. Please note that it is the responsibility of both the PI and the GRA/Post-Doc to see that this form is filled out, approved, and kept up to date (it must be renewed every 30 days). This document has important implications for grants accounting and Federal compliance.

Before leaving the office, VP Galbraith and Director Dan Harvey completed a review of OVPR operations to determine those that are essential for continued on-campus work and safety, and those operations that could transition to remote work. Thanks to recent software system upgrades, the vast majority of the Sponsored Project Administration and Research Protections work can be carried out remotely, and we expect little disruption in these operations going forward. For those of you who might use the current hiatus to submit proposals (and note that there have been several major announcements by Federal funders to provide additional flexibility for submission dates), our office is up and running and ready to help you.

The Office of Research wants to thank all of you for your patience and understanding - this has been a difficult process. We also want to assure you that we have already begun discussing the criteria for re-starting on-campus and face-to-face research at UVM.  In the meantime, your thoughts on lessons learned are very welcome. In a few weeks you will receive from me an opportunity for feedback on what we have learned from our response to the pandemic from the perspective of research and scholarship. In the meantime, we are announcing two additional goals that supplement those listed above and that will help guide our activity at the Office of Research upon the return to ordinary operations: 1) prioritize the resumption of research and scholarship that has been most disrupted by the suspension of on-campus activity; 2) prioritize those early career researchers (late-stage graduate students, post-doctoral fellows/scholars, and pre-tenured faculty) whose career trajectory is most threatened by these interruptions. We are committed to getting these researchers, and all research affected by these events, back on track.

In closing, I want to thank outgoing VP for Research, Dr. Richard Galbraith. His service to the University, and most especially during this time of crisis, has been tremendous. Personally, Richard has helped me make this transition under difficult circumstances with characteristic generosity, patience, and understanding. Many of the things that Richard and his team started have shown their value during these difficult times, allowing the Office of Research to remain flexible and on mission throughout. These are valuable characteristics that we will work to maintain.

Kirk Dombrowski
Vice President for Research