URGENT: COVID-19 Laboratory Research Continuity Plans

To:          UMass Amherst Faculty, Postdocs and Graduate Students; Deans, Directors and Department Chairs; Business Managers

Cc:          Chancellor K. R. Subbaswamy, Provost John J. McCarthy, Campus Leadership Council, Faculty Senate Rules Committee, Research Council, Chairs of IRB, IACUC, Chemical, Biosafety and Radiation Safety Committees, Research & Engagement Staff

I am enormously grateful to the research community for responding to the guidance provided on March 16 during this unprecedented COVID-19 emergency. Many labs on campus have transitioned some or all of their work to remote operations and arranged remaining activities to provide social distancing in laboratories on campus.

In light of today’s order by Governor Baker focused on continued operations of essential services in the Commonwealth and closing of certain workplaces, it is important to confirm and communicate plans for minimum on-site research operations and personnel requested on March 16.  We understand that the continuity and future of some research programs will require protecting critical data, materials, cell lines, animals or models, equipment, infrastructure and, in some cases, experiments.

All faculty directing research who believe that any continued on-site research is critical should provide a Laboratory Research Continuity Plan for prompt review. This approval is required in order to continue minimum on-site research activities effective at noon Tuesday, March 24 until further notice.  However, critical activities should continue past that deadline until a response to the approval request is received. Examples of critical research include activities that

  1. Constitute a safety hazard if discontinued,
  2. Result in the loss of significant existing or in-process data if discontinued,
  3. Maintain critical samples, reagents, materials, animal populations, plant cells, tissue cultures, bacteria or other living organisms, instrumentation and other infrastructure,
  4. Supports COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 research targeted at mitigating the emergency, or
  5. Could potentially harm a human subject if discontinued.

Plans will be collected by the VCRE and provided to department heads/chairs, deans, and relevant directors for review and recommendations. Plans will also be reviewed by the relevant compliance groups and staff experts to inform the institutional decision which will be made as soon as possible.  If you have any safety related questions, please contact Kristi Ohr, Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) at kohr@umass.edu.

Plans must describe the nature of the critical research, identify personnel required on-site to safely conduct the research along with their schedules, and provide a timeline for completion of the work.  More detail is provided below.

We all very much regret the further disruption and stress that these measures will cause.  But these steps are necessary to provide research continuity to the extent possible while increasing community health and safety during this unprecedented COVID-19 emergency. Thank you very much for your careful attention and action on this critical issue.   

On-Site Personnel

Each laboratory or physically nearby group of laboratories that will continue on-site operations must identify 1-2 qualified On-Site Personnel who will be responsible for the critical activities and ongoing maintenance.  Laboratories with large numbers of animals may identify up to 4 On-Site Personnel.

When identifying On-Site Personnel, consider those whose presence does not require public transportation and who are not at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19.  Also consider any equipment that might require gas or cryogen monitoring/service, e.g., deep-storage freezers, electron microscopes, mass spectrometers, and incubators.  Note that any potentially hazardous activity will require at least two trained and qualified persons be present during the activity, as required by University laboratory safety policy.

Submission of Plans

Plans should be submitted as soon as possible by completing the attached Word document and emailing to vcre@umass.edu.  You will receive confirmation via email and further communication as necessary.  Meanwhile, take any steps necessary to preserve research continuity and carry out critical activities, provided they can be done safely.  A FAQ and updates will be posted at www.umass.edu/research/covid-19-resources-guidance.

Thank you very much for your cooperation and continued attention to research issues in the evolving circumstances of this unprecedented public health emergency. And with best wishes for your health and safety.

Mike

Michael F. Malone                                                 
Vice Chancellor for Research & Engagement
University of Massachusetts Amherst
413-545-5270

vcre@umass.edu


UMass Amherst

COVID-19 Laboratory Research Continuity Plan

Request for Approval

Person submitting this form (Name, email, and cell phone number)

 

Faculty (Name, email and cell phone number)

 

Research Group/Laboratory Name

 

Department and College

 

Building and Room Number(s)

 

Alternate Contact (Name, email and cell phone number)

 

Describe the critical research activity that requires On-Site Personnel; see the criteria above.  What is the schedule (days and times) for On-Site Personnel to be on campus? Indicate if access is needed to facilities other than the laboratory listed above, e.g. Vivaria or Core Facilities.  What would be the impact if On-Site Personnel are unable to come to campus? (300-500 words).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Describe the on-site monitoring required, e.g., for safety, maintenance of equipment, temperatures, etc.  Indicate the schedule required.

 

 

 

 

Identify On-Site Personnel who would require access to the laboratory (Name, email and cell phone number).

 

 

 

Describe the steps that will ensure social distancing and regular cleaning to ensure safety of personnel.

 

 

What regular communication will take place with the On-Site Personnel?

 

 

 

Please list any special issues or concerns your department chair/head, dean, and the institution should be aware of.

 

 

 

Please submit the completed via email to vcre@umass.edu.  You will receive confirmation via email and further communication as necessary. A FAQ and updates will be posted at www.umass.edu/research/covid-19-resources-guidance.