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Research in the COVID-19 Era

The following is a transcript of the "Research in the COVID-19 Era" presentation held on Wednesday May 13, 2020:

What we will do today:

  • How today will work
  • Current state of research at WVU
  • COVID-19 research
  • How we responded to stay-at-home orders
  • Planning for return
  • Guiding principles moving ahead

How today will work

  • Hear from Fred King, Vice President of Research
  • Question-and-answer session with Fred; unanswered questions will be addressed in a follow-up FAQ.

Meeting the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19

We are facing a unique challenge that requires attention to public health as our priority while maintaining WVU’s missions. In our teaching, service and research, the University community has exhibited leadership in immediate reaction and longer-term planning. The faculty and staff have done amazing work as we have transitioned to primarily remote operations on a short timescale. Our Research enterprise continues to remain strong with our July-April 2020 sponsored awards coming in at $14 million over 2019, an increase of 10%.

WVU researchers have shifted focus when possible to address the challenges presented by COVID-19 — just a few examples follow:

  • Collaborations between the Statler College and Health Sciences Center (HSC) have produced PPE (personal protective equipment) for healthcare workers and supplies needed for testing.
  • Davis College, College of Creative Arts and HSC have worked on mask design and production
  • Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) researchers developed an integrated AI approach to monitor healthcare workers and potentially identify pre-symptomatic individuals
  • Eberly College faculty have secured NSF RAPID grants focused on societal impacts in rural areas and on democracy in general.
  • HSC researchers are exploring treatments to mitigate the impact of the virus.

Phase I: March 13 to date

  • March 13: Research Office units were directed to move to remote operations the following week in response to the emerging threat.
  • March 23: Research Office units began complete remote operation.
  • Process implemented for hibernation of on-campus research.
  • Essential research support and COVID-19-related research continued with appropriate public health safety measures.
  • Guidance regarding grant-supported personnel provided, noting ability to continue funding for remote grant-related activity.
  • Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) and Compliance support of research remain steady, with some uptick in grant submissions.
  • Research section of WVU coronavirus information web page established to communicate information to the research community.
  • Coronavirus Research Office email account implemented to address questions from the research community
  • Participation in weekly APLU Council on Research strategy and planning calls to identify and adopt best practices from peers.

Phase II: Planning for return

  • University reopening research team led by Sheena Murphy.
  • HSC planning led by Laura Gibson in coordination with Sheena.
  • Field and human subjects research planning by Melanie Page.
  • Research Office consultation with deans and associate deans for research:
    • Draft guidelines provided by reopening research team.
    • Request for college and department-level plans
  • VPR discussion with faculty advisory group on research impacts

Phase II: Guiding principles

  • We must minimize personnel density on site
  • Public Health will dictate when and how we return
  • Focus is on restarting on-campus research beginning May 18.
  • Not business as usual. A return to normal remains in the future.
  • Supervisors and researchers must pledge to abide by guidelines.
  • On-campus work will be conducted with recommended PPE and social distancing rules strictly obeyed, 200 square feet per person.
  • Research not requiring on-campus facilities should continue to be conducted remotely.
  • Off-campus/remote work must continue to be preferred to on campus.
  • Be prepared for rapid de-escalation in activities.
  • Meetings must be conducted remotely.
  • High-risk individuals remain off site.
  • Operating hours of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Lab buddy system in place.

Work to be prioritized in this phase includes research:

  • That cannot be conducted remotely under any circumstance.
  • That is nearing the end of date of sponsor support.
  • That has near-term deliverables for a sponsor.
  • That would delay a student’s graduation.
  • That would delay a postdoc’s transition.
  • That is needed for grant submission.
  • That is needed for grant renewal.
  • That is needed for a manuscript.

Thank you!

The leadership of the University thanks each of you for your hard work and dedication to our University. Your continued patience and prioritization of the safety of our community is appreciated.

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