Aug. 10, 2020 – Update on Research Ramp-up/Phase II+ Announcement
As you know from the Return to Campus Update on Aug. 3, the university has moved into Phase II+ of its Return to Campus Plan. Likewise, research will move into Phase II+ as part of our 4-Phase Research Ramp-up Plan starting Friday, Aug. 14. The goal of Phase II+ is to provide additional opportunities for our research community to undertake projects that couldn’t be performed otherwise while reaffirming our commitment to protect the Vanderbilt community from COVID-19 as much as possible.
First of all, I want to recognize the Ad-hoc Research Ramp-up Working Group and our partners in the Division of Administration for their continuous engagement and leadership in designing and implementing each step in research ramp-up. Thank you, all! I also want to recognize all of our researchers and scholars for staying extremely productive despite COVID-19 challenges, including leading our return to campus since we began research ramp-up in May.
To facilitate the continued productivity of our researchers in Phase II+, we’ve significantly improved RedCAP automation, including enhanced data rollover and editing capabilities. Rather than filling out an entirely new form, lead researchers who have already taken part in research ramp-up will be able to simply add in any Phase II+ changes to their previously submitted Phase II forms. As always, if no changes are needed or desired, lead researchers will not have to submit any new forms and can simply continue with their previously approved plans.
Between 8 a.m. tomorrow, Aug. 11, and the launch of our Phase II+ forms on Friday, Aug. 14, we are temporarily pausing acceptance of new or revised Phase II intake forms or exception requests in RedCAP. During this window, email or web links to Phase II intake forms will not work. If you are in the middle of completing a Phase II intake form, rest assured that all the data you’ve entered has been saved and will be transferred over in its entirety to a new Phase II+ intake form that you will be able to access on Aug. 14. The review process for submitted Phase II forms that have not yet been approved will pause in this same timeframe and continue next week.
Research activities that are enabled through the intake form in Phase II+ include undergraduate involvement in on-site research activities and hosting visiting researchers from outside the Vanderbilt research community on campus. “Visiting researchers” are defined as research collaborators who do not have a formal affiliation with Vanderbilt University and therefore have no VUnet ID; are not visiting campus as part of an interview for a faculty or postdoctoral position at Vanderbilt; and yet do participate in research activities that are subject to the VU research ramp-up review and approval process. All visitors, including visiting researchers, are of course subject to the current university visitor policy, just as all visitors and Vanderbilt community members must abide by all Return to Campus policies and protocols including the university policy on gatherings.
In Phase II+, lead researchers are able to request permission to travel locally within the Metro Nashville area or domestically beyond Metro Nashville within the continental U.S. for the purpose of performing research activities, including those involving research participants (i.e., human subjects). With authorization from the relevant dean, requests will be reviewed carefully to see if the risks to our researchers and study participants can be mitigated to the point that an exception can be justifiably considered. Additionally, all previously approved exception plans from Phase II will pre-populate into a Phase II+ exception form in RedCAP so that lead researchers are spared the tedium of re-entering data.
Other aspects of Phase II+ remain the same or nearly the same as current operations. For example, we continue to support on-campus research activities with research participants (i.e., human subjects) through the standard intake form process exactly as we did in Phase II. Importantly, like all phases of research ramp-up, occupancy in research spaces is limited based on the COVID-19 Related Safety Guidelines for Research Ramp-up. While Phase II-approved plans allow activities to occur at no more than 50 percent of the limited occupancy of research spaces after implementing COVID-19 safety measures including 6 feet physical distancing, many of you have indicated that you have been able to maintain up to 100 percent of your research productivity by working in shifts. We strongly encourage lead researchers to continue using such creative approaches to limit research area occupancy to approved Phase II levels of no more than 50 percent occupancy under COVID-19 conditions for your continued safety and productivity. If requested and approved, in certain cases during Phase II+ research space occupancy may be allowed to increase to no more than 70 percent when necessary provided that the COVID-19 Related Safety Guidelines for Research Ramp-up are stringently followed, including maintaining at least 6 feet physical distancing.
While the safety measures we have taken in research spaces have been extremely effective, it’s imperative to continue to maintain our vigilance. In the event of a positive COVID-19 case in a research space, which we hope will continue to remain rare, please follow the Guidance for Managing Confirmed Positive Cases of COVID-19 in Research Spaces.
As we look ahead to the new academic year and to new insights and discoveries through research and scholarship, let’s lead with our values to keep our community as safe as possible. Our progress depends on continuity—we need to remain equally committed to advancing our research and upholding COVID-19 safety.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out.
Vice Provost for Research
Professor of Computer Science & Computer Engineering