Coronavirus Updates

Email from Provost Ka Yee C. Lee (May 27, 2020)

From: Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost
Subject: Research Resumption

In mid-March, most on-campus research and scholarly activities were suspended as part of the local and global efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect all members of our campus community. This shift to remote work required significant sacrifice on the part of each of us and has had significant consequences for scholarship. Since that time, we have worked closely with state and local officials and others to determine when and how to resume some on-campus scholarly activity.

To that end, the University has developed the Research Resumption Working Group comprised of faculty and other leaders from across campus, led by Vice Provost for Research Karen Kim. This committee is guiding research resumption and is addressing research and scholarship in laboratories as well as settings outside of basic science laboratories (e.g., dry labs, field work, community-engaged research, offices, collaborative workspaces). The following principles guide the committee in considering the phased resumption of research activities:

  1. The health and safety of all individuals is paramount
  2. Resuming activities in phases in accordance with city and state guidelines
  3. Resuming activities in close collaboration with campus public health experts and the University of Chicago Medical Center
  4. Attending to changes in the status of the pandemic

The Research Resumption Working Group is working closely with deans and faculty on implementation plans for their respective units. The committee is also developing centralized guidance on future phases of research resumption.

All members of our scholarly community are highly valued, and we recognize that almost all research activity has been negatively impacted by the stay-at-home order. Unfortunately, initial on-campus activities must be limited. Research and scholarship that can be done remotely must continue to be done so. Only activities that require access to campus because it is the only place the work is possible will be considered for returning to campus. The academic deans will have to make difficult decisions and set priorities for phased resumption of research and, even then, time on campus will be limited to that necessary to perform research and scholarship.

Addressing the safety of our campus community is essential to resumption planning. A number of University offices including the Office of Research Safety, Office of Environmental Health and Safety, and COVID-19 Management Supply are working to ensure that on-campus research and scholarship can resume in accordance with rigorous health and safety guidelines. University employees, workplaces, and buildings must be prepared to work within these health and safety guidelines. Further, ongoing monitoring and metrics will guide future expansion or contraction of activities.

Our phased approach for resumption of on-campus activities is aligned with local and state guidelines and outlined below. The University currently is in Phase 1. If trends continue as expected, we will move to Phase 2 in mid-June.

  • Phase 0: Shut down except for maintenance of critical on-campus resources.
  • Phase 1 (current state): Illinois stay-at-home order. On-campus research and scholarship are limited to less than 10%, with expectations that the majority of work remains remote.
  • Phase 2: On-campus research and scholarship are increased to approximately 25%, with expectations that the majority of work remains remote. Plans for rapid return to Phase 1 if needed.
  • Phase 3: On-campus research and scholarship are increased to 50% with remote work recommended when possible, including all seminars, group meetings, and conference.
  • Phase 4: Adaptation of normal levels of on-campus research and scholarship providing a remote-work option.
  • Phase 5: Normal operations.

Faculty and research leaders who would like to resume work on campus in Phase 2 first will need to complete a research resumption plan. Those who are approved to return to campus by their deans will complete an online training, have keycard access, and must follow strict public health guidelines (including but not limited to masking, hand hygiene, and social distancing). In addition, there will be limited access to private offices, shared workspaces, and library holdings. Plans will take into account individuals who are members of vulnerable populations as defined by the CDC and other individuals with disabilities. Access to campus will be subject to approval by each dean based on prioritization and an approved research resumption plan. Additional information will be available at restart.uchicago.edu. Questions about this process can be directed to Vice Provost for Research Karen Kim at kekim@uchicago.edu.

The coming months bring challenge and uncertainty. While we are eager to return to campus, it is incumbent upon each of us to strictly adhere to public health guidelines during each phase of implementation to ensure successful progression to the subsequent phase. Each of you is a valued member of the University community, and we appreciate your cooperation and patience as we make difficult choices and adjustments during this challenging time.