Message for the SMPH Research Community

Dear Colleagues,

We trust you and your families are well.

We are very impressed with how we the SMPH research community has responded to the pandemic, and with the dedication of our faculty and staff to advancing our missions during the crisis.

This message provides updates to our March 19, 2020 message to the SMPH Research Community and subsequent correspondence (scroll to the Research section of the SMPH COVID-19 Operational Updates). If you have questions, please email them to either Senior Associate Dean Rick Moss (rlmoss@wisc.edu) or Associate Dean Jon Audhya (audhya@wisc.edu), and we will provide clarity.

1. Reminder: If you have not yet done so, submit a request for authorization of vital research activity unless it is exempt. Exemptions are addressed in the next point. Submit your request via this mechanism.

This mechanism should also be used by Principal Investigators to request authorization for laboratory staff who are responsible for basic animal care or maintenance of cell lines, equipment, and liquid nitrogen and helium stocks,.

Faculty or staff who must make occasional brief visits to their research office or workstation to pick up essential work-related materials or for distance-learning teaching activities must notify Assistant Dean for Facilities Mark Wells (mcwells@wisc.edu) in advance of the visit, indicating the date and time for each visit. Once your email is sent, you will need no further approval nor will you receive formal notice of approval. Your email will be kept as a record of your visit and is an essential element of our reports to campus concerning occupancy of SMPH buildings during the pandemic.

2. Exemption. Per the Campus Research Activities Update, the following exemption applies: All face-to-face human subjects research interactions are suspended, except for therapeutic studies involving drugs or devices, or those critical to the health and safety of patients or study participants.

3. Compliance with authorization for laboratory-based research. The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education has asked the SMPH to report on our efforts to ensure social distancing practices are being appropriately followed and to convey a clear representation of our essential research operations. As a result, we are taking the following actions:

a. Monitoring keycard usage data. We are comparing keycard usage data to approvals that have been granted, so that we can ensure that only approved personnel are accessing SMPH buildings and specific research floors. SMPH will contact PIs to clarify discrepancies, including those that relate to exempt personnel.

b. Facilities walk-throughs. A member of the Facilities team will conduct random and unannounced weekly walk-throughs of SMPH facilities to determine total building occupancy and usage.

c. Biweekly attestation requirement. We have begun a new biweekly attestation requirement for any PI who has been granted approval for essential research. Every other week, PIs will be required to attest via a Qualtrics survey that their personnel are adhering to social distancing procedures both within their group and with respect to individuals in other groups.

4. Zero-dollar appointees. On a very limited basis, zero-dollar appointees may be authorized by the Dean’s office to pursue research activities based on unique skills or experience that is essential to the success of a research project.

5. Undergraduates. Undergraduate researchers or student hourlies must not engage in laboratory-based research in SMPH laboratories during the pandemic and should instead work remotely on other aspects of the research project if feasible, such as data analysis, writing or administrative responsibilities.

6. Graduate students and postdocs. The SMPH and the Graduate School reiterate that supervisors and advisors must not pressure or compel graduate students or postdocs to report to campus during the pandemic. Graduate students or postdoctoral researchers who feel pressured to work on-site should report such incidents using program/department or school/college reporting structures first. SMPH incidents may be reported to the SMPH student mistreatment reporting system. If these mechanisms do not result in resolution, or the student is uncomfortable with those structures, graduate students should contact the Graduate School at gsacserv@grad.wisc.edu and postdoctoral researchers should contact the Office of Postdoctoral Studies at contact@postdoc.wisc.edu.

7. Violation of policies. If we identify personnel who are in violation of SMPH policies, the PI of the laboratory in question will be contacted for clarification and corrective action. Violations of any of the terms in the authorization for approved essential research, including a failure of research staff to adhere to social distancing practices, may result in revocation of approval for the PI to continue their essential research activity until campus operations return to normal.

8. PIs in other schools/colleges using SMPH facilities. PIs with primary appointments in other schools/colleges who use SMPH facilities must request authorization from the SMPH and abide by SMPH policies.

9. Restarting research activity. The OVCRGE in coordination with schools/colleges is developing a plan to restart research activity. We will provide more information as it becomes available.

Please do not hesitate to contact either of us if you have any questions regarding essential research activities. Thank you for your patience and partnership during these unprecedented times.

Sincerely,
Bob and Rick

Robert N. Golden, MD
Robert Turell Professor in Medical Leadership
Dean, UW School of Medicine and Public Health
Phone: 608-263-4910

Richard L. Moss, Ph.D.
Senior Associate Dean for Basic Research, Biotechnology and Graduate Studies
Phone: 608-265-0523