Continuing research safely during the spring semester

From: Simon Atkinson, Vice Chancellor for Research
Sent: Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, 9:01 a.m.
To: KU Lawrence faculty and staff; KU Lawrence postdocs

Dear Colleagues,
We made it. Those of you who place stock in major milestones like the start of a new year may have breathed a sigh of relief when we closed the door on 2020. Certainly many of our individual and collective challenges will continue as we embark on a new semester, including a significant budget shortfall that will require the university to make tough decisions. But I want to pause and thank the KU research community for all the ways you’ve adapted and endured to advance discovery, innovation and creative activity during the pandemic.
Because of your commitment to health and safety protocols, there have been no known cases of COVID-19 transmission in our on-campus research labs and classrooms. That’s due, in part, to your diligence working from home whenever possible and creating, updating and following detailed lab reactivation plans to guide your on-campus activity. Even as vaccines become more widely available in the months ahead, we must remain vigilant.
A few reminders: 

  • If you plan to be on campus before Feb. 12, you are required to participate in COVID-19 entry testing by Jan. 30. Walk-in and drive-through options are available, and registration is required.
  • Please update and resubmit your lab reactivation plan if personnel are joining or leaving your research team for the spring semester. Forms must be completed by principal investigators or faculty supervisors for research, approved by the department chair or center director, and forwarded to the Office of Research. All new lab personnel must complete appropriate training, such as COVID-19 Return to Work Safety 101.
  • Review and always follow KU’s health and safety requirements, including using the CVKey symptom checker app to conduct self-health assessments each time you enter a campus building, wearing appropriate face coverings and practicing social distancing.

In the midst of this tumultuous time, some of you shifted your expertise to focus on challenges and questions related to the pandemic itself. We announced last week that two faculty members — Folashade Agusto, assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology, and Donna Ginther, Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of Economics and director of the Institute for Policy & Social Research — received the KU COVID Research Pivot Award for adjusting their research to better understand the pandemic and to provide valuable information to the public and policymakers. The range of award nominees and their work inspired us. Collectively, they help demonstrate the potency of KU’s commitment to building healthy communities.
We will shine a light on all of their innovative and compassionate contributions — and honor the award winners — during the KU COVID Research Pivot Symposium on Feb. 16. The event is open to the entire KU community, and I hope you will register to join us.
I recognize that it has been extraordinarily difficult to balance research, teaching, grant writing, well-being, family and so much more during the pandemic. Some of those areas have suffered as you focused on what was most essential in the moment, and no two individuals’ paths have looked the same. What lessons have you learned along the way? Have you made changes to your research program that might persist beyond the pandemic? Please let us know if there are shifts or new approaches we ought to consider for the entire KU research enterprise in the future.
Simon Atkinson
Vice Chancellor for Research