Universities Address Research Continuity After Coronavirus-Caused Closures
In the popular show “Lost” from a few years ago, one of the themes revolved around a person in the hatch who was required to press a button at a certain time to reset the countdown timer to 108 minutes. This process had to be repeated over and over again every 108 minutes. Failure to do so would cause dire consequences.
With the current global concern over coronavirus expanding exponentially on a daily basis, colleges and universities are facing a somewhat similar situation. Many institutions of higher education are closing their campuses for the foreseeable future to prevent the spread of infection, resorting to online courses. However, research laboratories at these universities have ongoing experiments of all kinds, which often require daily upkeep to maintain the consistency and validity of the research. What will happen to this research if no one is around to, as in the case above, reset the countdown timer?
Some universities have attempted to provide as much information as they can through online Frequently Asked Questions on their websites. For example, Duke University has created a “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Research-Related Updates” page located here, which “advises the research community to plan now for possible disruptions to research operations and to develop a continuity plan in the event of campus closures, or should large numbers of employees become ill or have to self-isolate.” The site discusses laboratory operations changes, and contingency plans for animal research and human subjects research. It also discusses the possibility of project extensions and potential changes to allowable costs and effort on sponsored projects.
Likewise, Harvard University also has posted a “Research Continuity Guidance for Laboratories and Research Facilities” page on its website located here. “Each lab should have a business/research continuity plan to meet its unique research activity needs and to minimize loss of research resources,” the site stresses while providing guidance to help all parties involved in the research at the university to take steps to protect laboratory personnel and the research being conducted.
Many other universities have established websites focusing on coronavirus and health, and have posted their revised travel policies in light of the disease. The Council on Governmental Relations offers links to many of the university websites here.
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