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Message from the VP for Research and Partnerships - Research Guidance

March 19, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Following Interim President Harroz’s memo to the OU community, I wanted to provide you with an update on research and creative activity operations and facilities. We are committed to continuing our research and creative activity mission while making sure we take steps to keep members of our community safe. The health and safety of our community is paramount.

As indicated in the memo, the five-day Norman campus closure that started on March 15 comes to a close Friday, March 20. The memo also indicates that all in-person events with greater than 10 attendees on all three campuses are suspended until at least May 11. Therefore, and to remain consistent with the memo,

  • Faculty, students, and staff are allowed to return to their research laboratories, creative activity locations, and other related facilities (research labs, for short) starting Saturday, March 21. Unless otherwise specified by a particular building administrator, buildings will be unlocked Monday, March 23. Over the weekend, buildings will be locked based on normal weekend schedules with access via keycard available to those who normally have it.

  • We ask principal investigators, whether engaged in creative activity, or experimental, theoretical or computational STEM research (research, for short) to encourage their teams to make use of telecommuting as much as possible.
    • Whenever possible, please shift your activities to those that can be done remotely such as data analysis, writing papers, literature reviews, proposal writing, etc.
  • We recognize that within the research environment telecommuting is not always feasible, and we ask that those going back into their research labs please follow all of the guidelines encouraged by the CDC and OU calling for best hygiene and social distancing practices at this time.

    In particular:
    • Research team group meetings can take place, but should never exceed 10 in-person attendees, at least through May 11. We encourage you to hold these important group meetings via Zoom or other videoconferencing platforms whenever possible. If holding the meeting in person, please ensure that the attendee limit is not exceeded and that social distancing happens amongst the participants.
    • Please ensure that people working within research laboratories (for example, in chemistry or biology benches) are able to maintain at least six feet of distance. If not possible, we ask that the principal investigator institute work shifts to ensure that such social distancing can be maintained.
    • As much as possible, please minimize the number of people present in a research lab at any given time, while ensuring the safety and health of your research operations.
  • All research laboratory external services will continue as per usual practice.

The Office of Research Services will continue to support faculty in the pursuit of research grants and funding. However, as telecommuting is at present strongly encouraged, some services may see slight delays. Please be reassured that Andrea Deaton and her team are fully committed to supporting the faculty in their research endeavors throughout this difficult period and will do everything in their power to minimize disruption in the provision of pre-award research support services.

My office, working together with the Center for Faculty Excellence, continues to monitor all issues related to federal agency funding. We are in direct, daily contact with our federal affairs liaisons in Washington, D.C. and we will share relevant information regarding federal opportunities for research related to COVID-19 and other topics as it becomes available. A current summary of federal opportunities, including a link related to COVID-19 funding opportunities provided to us by Lewis-Burke and Associates, can be found here. Other updates with guidance from federal agencies related to coronavirus can be found here. I am also working closely with Jim Tomasek, Vice President for Research at the OU Health Sciences Center to identify opportunities for collaboration on this important topic between Norman and HSC faculty.

At this time, I also believe it is prudent to ask principal investigators to have preparations in place should the situation with coronavirus require the university once more to limit access to the Norman campus to all but essential personnel. We strongly recommend that, with the exception of COVID-19 related experiments, new experimental work that cannot be safely shutdown on short notice not be started at this time. Melany Dickens-Ray in my office can assist with such planning.

In a powerful editorial this week in Science magazine, Editor-in-Chief Holden Thorp suggested ways to reduce other stressors on scientists doing critical work. He called for us to come together with compassion and responsibility for one another. The team in the Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships (OVPRP) is 100% committed and stands ready to support all research and creative activity operations on campus. Please let us know how we might be able to assist you most effectively in your research endeavors during this difficult and trying time.


Tomás Díaz de la Rubia
Vice President for Research and Partnerships University of Oklahoma