(The following message was sent to research faculty on Saturday, March 14, 2020)
While the University of Michigan has not officially reduced laboratory-based operations, we underscore the fact that we support our faculty, staff, and learners, who manage/work in our research laboratories, in practicing an abundance of caution during these uncertain times. We would like you to seriously consider working with your laboratory members to minimize the amount of time that people are in the laboratories. For example, we suggest that you limit the number of people in the laboratory at one time, and consider postponing elective activities or experiments that are not time-sensitive.
There are a number of concerns that our research, faculty, learners and staff are presently dealing with, including the use of public transportation to get to work, as many of these individuals do not have parking passes, providing care for children no longer in school, and individuals and/or their family member(s) who may have underlying conditions that would put them at higher risk. Please consider developing protocols that would potentially have people work in shifts or on alternate days to accomplish the work that must be done. A suggestion is to allow individuals in the lab to arrange personal interactions such that they can maintain a comfortable 6-foot distance from each other. If they have to be in the lab at the same time, perhaps they can separate themselves in some way and keep total laboratory time to a minimum. We trust that you, as seasoned researchers, will know what will work best for your own laboratory. As for upcoming Ph.D. defenses, please consider limiting in person public attendance at these events and instead offer them via Bluejeans. Furthermore, we would like you all to support office staff to largely work from home on a rotating schedule, using established guidelines.
We realize that messaging around the expectations for students, learners, and employees can be challenging to interpret for those with blended roles. As a university, we place a particularly high value on our learners and the learning environment. Although much of what they do may at times be referred to as ‘work,’ it is really learning in the work environment. We realize how disruptive this is to your operations, but we are also convinced that we need to set an example and limit exposures to each other, as we try to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the potential burden to our colleagues and to our academic medical center. The news from our Italian colleagues is sobering and social distancing appears to be a best practice to limit the spread of the virus. While our research is critically important, our people are more so.
Thanks in advance for doing all you can to allow your laboratory staff, post-docs, faculty and students to work from home as much as possible, while ensuring mission critical work still can still get accomplished. Perhaps the silver lining will be an abundance of papers and grants that can be written during this time.
Please let us know if we can help with specific situations. We want to embrace these current challenges with COVID-19 as an opportunity to bring our community together around shared value and common purpose as we care for each other.
Steven L. Kunkel, Ph.D.
Executive Vice Dean for Research, U-M Medical School
Chief Scientific Officer, Michigan Medicine
Peter A. Ward Distinguished University Professor
Endowed Professor of Pathology Research
Carol R. Bradford, M.D., M.S., FACS
Executive Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, U-M Medical School
Chief Academic Officer, Michigan Medicine
Professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery