You should have all received the provost’s email sent earlier today describing the research continuity of operations plan. It reflects the seriousness of the COVID-19 emergency and is largely in line with what we conveyed to the department chairs and center directors over the past few days. In light of this, please act quickly per the guidance below. Of special note is the opportunity to request a waiver to be allowed to conduct research in a limited and controlled fashion in a Mason facility. Note that Deb explicitly states that the “critical” designation will be given to activities that require animal husbandry, research related to COVID-19, and maintenance associated with essential equipment and materials. All waiver requests must be submitted to me. Those requests which make a compelling case that the research should be considered critical will be forwarded for consideration by the committee that Deb Crawford will convene. We expect only a modest number of projects from across all of Mason will be approved by that committee. As much as we all would like to see onsite research continue, with only a handful of exceptions, it won’t. This is a national health emergency and the safety of our community and our nation takes precedence. Many graduate students and faculty will see their research effectively stop, be redirected, or be significantly slowed for an unknown period of time. It is very unfortunate, but there is no option.
Attached is the form that Deb sent me earlier that should be used by any PI who wishes to request a waiver. It must be completed and returned to me by 3pm tomorrow (Thursday). Apologies for the short notice, but that is the speed at which we must work now. I will consider your request and may ask for additional information in writing or over the phone. Deb said the committee will meet on Friday afternoon to consider requests. By Friday morning, I will forward her all requests that I recommend be approved by the committee.
And, as has been noted many times in the last couple of weeks, the situation is quite dynamic. The rules for conducting research may evolve as circumstances change.
Please reach out to me if you have any questions.
Dr. Art Pyster
Associate Dean for Research and Professor
Volgenau School of Engineering
George Mason University
Fellow and Founders Award Recipient
International Council on Systems Engineering
Founders Award Recipient
Systems Engineering Research Center
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Begin forwarded message:
From: Office of the Provost <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>>
Subject: Research Continuity of Operations Plan
Date: March 18, 2020 at 5:34:59 PM EDT
To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: Office of the Provost <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>>
The growing number of individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 over the last 48 hours necessitates a change in our response to this unprecedented public health challenge. To protect the health and safety of our community by reducing risk associated with social transmission of the virus, with the exception of activities designated “critical” PIs must make plans to:
* end all research activities conducted in Mason labs and facilities, including leased facilities, by Friday, March 20
* end all research activities conducted at off-site locations outside of their homes, including clinical settings and field sites, by Friday, March 20.
At this time, Mason anticipates that “critical” designation will be given to activities that require animal husbandry, research related to COVID-19, and maintenance associated with essential equipment and materials.
Faculty requesting “critical” activities designation MUST submit an electronic request to their associate deans or directors for research providing information in the attached form if they have not already done so. Requests for “critical” designation will be reviewed by a committee convened online by the vice president for research.
The university recognizes that the limits described herein may have implications for faculty tenure and promotion timelines as well as progress to degree for graduate students. Regrettably, given the gravity of the pandemic, these concerns alone are not sufficient to earn the “critical” designation. However, Mason leadership is actively working to identify and implement other flexibilities to mitigate these concerns; more information will be available shortly.
After Friday, March 20, Mason researchers and scholars should plan to spend the majority, if not all, of their research time working from home on activities that include but are not limited to: engaging in data collection through on-line means; writing manuscripts and dissertations; completing books; conducting literature reviews; designing research plans; engaging with collaborators in research discussions through on-line platforms; and performing data analysis. PIs should work with their teams to develop personalized plans that allow each individual to conduct research remotely to the fullest extent possible – special care should be given to plans developed for students planning to graduate this year. During this period, all PIs should continue charging to sponsored awards as planned. No immediate changes in support for research staff, students, and postdoctoral fellows should be made as long as these individuals can stay engaged in their research work in some capacity (e.g., consider activities like those described above). PIs should also ensure that they have contact information for students, postdocs, and research staff, and that group members are familiar with their research continuity of operations plans.
For critical activities, controlled access to Mason research labs and facilities will be available. When Mason labs and facilities are accessed, social distancing strategies should be maintained for critical work and flexible work schedules implemented, while also supporting strong lab safety practices. If any researcher - staff, graduate student or faculty member - conducting critical activities demonstrates minor symptoms of illness, including but not limited to cough or fever, the individual should stay home. Anyone in doubt about whether they could be ill are directed to NOT go to work.
We extend our heartfelt thanks to you for joining with us to keep our community as safe and healthy as possible. Additional guidance, including FAQs, is available at this website: https://www2.gmu.edu/research-continuity-guidelines. <https://www2.gmu.edu/research-continuity-guidelines.%20> If you have any questions about this guidance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your associate dean or director for research.
Vice President for Research, Innovation, and Economic Impact
S. David Wu
Provost and Executive Vice President