Potential Activities for Research Staff during the Assignment to Remote Work

Icon of a calendar checkedMany faculty and staff have expressed concern over the identification of productive remote work during the ramp-down of research labs, clinical studies, and the displacement of employees from campus. 

We have bolded categories of potential project-specific activities that may be completed and allow the effort to continue to be charged to the project grant as active engagement on the sponsored project. Those not in bold categories are activities that actively engage the employee but may need effort adjustments to reflect department activity assignments. In general, if the work would be completed in furtherance of the aims of the project, it is allowed to be charged to the sponsored project. If the activity is too generalized to be beneficial on a specific project, it should be charged to the department accounts. Please work with your department on accurate effort reflection in the HR systems and questions may be directed to msgrants@umich.edu for help determining. 

If activities are delegated to staff, it is assumed that there is an additional level of review of the work completed or final submission by the faculty in order to be compliant with any regulatory mandates.

Research/Project Team Continuity

  • Continue to hold standard/weekly lab & individual meetings (Zoom, Phone as appropriate)
  • Have the lab members draft their own productivity plans for each week, reviewed by PI
  • Work on producing reviews and papers related to the ongoing research, both writing and reviewing those of others in the research team
  • Review calendars of upcoming lab meetings to assure invitees are current and work on developing project-based agendas for upcoming meetings

Project Maintenance or Reporting

  • Update all documentation related to lab activities
  • Design next-step experiments, including researching various methods
  • Develop timelines and steps for re-initiation of projects post- "ramp down"
  • Clear progress reports that are overdue or beginning work on upcoming progress reports
  • Perform any lagging data entry
  • Resolve outstanding data queries from data managers, sponsors, monitors
  • Perform congruence reviews of the project description, terms, and conditions of research agreements (grants, contracts, MTAs, DUAs) and approvals (IRB, IACUC, IBC, Rad/Bio/Laser Safety, COI, etc.) to confirm that research is conducted as described and agreed/approved, working with PI to resolve the discrepancy with the relevant oversight unit.
  • Audit the project: check a sample of study/project records for completeness and adherence to any existing SOPs
  • Archive documentation for projects/studies that have closed
  • Reviewing compliance protocols for accurate information (e.g., current personnel)
  • Write/edit/read manuscripts for publication
  • Write abstracts for upcoming meetings
  • Analyze data sets and generate figures
  • Set time to discuss the finance records with your Research Administrator

Clinical Projects

  • Complete outstanding chart reviews
  • Address any outstanding findings from monitoring visits
  • Update (or create!) your regulatory binder if electronic
  • Review/update/create your project Quality Management Plan
  • Read consents, protocols (IIT), and other essential documents for needed editing
  • Review ClinicalTrials.gov registrations and update, or create upcoming, as needed
  • Research what is required to transition the Informed Consent Process to an online process
  • Register your study on UMHealthResearch.org
  • Work on patient/subject marketing & advertising material creation & editing of flyers, pamphlets, brochures, etc.
  • Consult with MICHR on participant engagement services (for example, Paid, targeted social media advertising created & launched by MICHR’s team or other 1:1 consultation with MICHR)

Other ideas that may not be project-specific and may require movement of effort to department accounts:

Lab Upkeep:

  • Organize lab databases
  • Update protocols and organize into a single system
  • Update inventories (mice, supplies, etc.), as able
  • Organize current files on server space
  • Delete old files from personal and shared files
  • Write Standard Operating Procedures for the lab. In general, any protocol/procedure that you currently oversee could become an SOP.  
    • Some examples:
      • On- and off-boarding of students and staff into and out of the lab
      • Data flow within the lab (what gets saved where and by whom)
      • Protocols/materials/procedures that need to be done at regular intervals in the lab/on the research team (i.e., checking expiration dates, confirming accuracy of scales, etc)
  • Create Data Dictionaries
  • Create engagement plans for future student research involvement, including listing relevant seminars and training modules
  • Testing contact relationship management software (CRM)

Working ahead:

  • Search for funding opportunities that are not the “usual” choices for submission
  • Tools like U-M Research Funding and Grants Guide, Research Commons, as well as general internet searches may be helpful
  • Write new proposals/ abstracts for future funding
  • Perform literature searches for review articles
  • Identify needed Data Use or Material Transfer Agreements and set groundwork
  • Identifying new/upcoming human or animal protocol work and initiate baseline information
  • Explore new scientific questions and work on experimental design
  • Create a library of reference text addressing methods sections of future papers for documentation
  • Draft any materials you need for new studies (e.g., surveys, recruitment scripts, data code books, etc.)

Research-related activities:

  • Conduct literature reviews of existing evidence and/or benchmarking that may be generally helpful
  • Write manuscripts with students
  • Hold weekly journal clubs to review historical literature
  • Learn how to create videos regarding your lab’s work for communication to the public
  • Research creation of a Teach Out with information for the Center for Academic Advancement
  • Offer to have your lab create a video for the journal’s website for a journal that has accepted your paper
  • Identify new collaborators for projects using Michigan Experts

Updating your Information and research compliance profiles:

  • Review M-Inform to verify your annual outside interest disclosure for FY20 is submitted or review all disclosures in your inbox
  • Update your PEERRS / CITI modules, or complete those that are optional but not mandatory
  • Review Cornerstone Learning and update any mandatories that are due


Additional Ideas:

Learning to talk about your research

  • Explore the training and resources offered through U-M Public Engagement and Impact to learn about and participate in opportunities to develop a more meaningful connection with the public.  
  • Write lay summaries for the research being conducted in your research group that could be used by development/fundraising
  • Consider updating (or creating) a lab website
  • Consider whether there is value to developing the lab’s social media presence within the U-M guidelines here
  • Develop infographics or tip sheets about faculty research findings. Websites such as Canva and Piktochart can help you create something that is visually appealing.


  • Familiarize yourself with resources across campus that can support your research related to services, policies, training (for example, MICHR’s Research Resources Toolkit)

Open Science

  • Review open science policies for funders for the lab; if at the end of the project, data will need to be shared on an open science platform, including OSF
  • Learn more about Open Michigan
  • Learn about Deep Blue Data


  • Explore LinkedIn Learning, an on-demand learning solution
  • Take an online course in skills that are necessary for your job (i.e., learn rudimentary “R," learn to use Redcap more efficiently, Khan Academy options)
  • Complete online tutorials on IT platforms that are necessary for your job (i.e., manipulating data in excel, reference formatting software)


General Updates

  • Update your CV, BioSketch, or online profile
  • Create/update your signature boxes in Outlook
  • Clean up your contact list in Outlook, adding pictures to Contact Cards to associate names and faces


Thank you to the Associate Charis for Research for contributing to this list!


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A list of Grant Services & Analysis staff is available in the Personnel Directory.