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A Message from the Vice President for Research

Dear Colleagues:

The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly changing, and New Orleans has one of the highest infection rates in the country. The mayor and the governor have each issued orders that require the closing of all non-essential businesses, and that all essential businesses limit on-site work to those carrying out critical functions. Universities are defined as essential, and our educational and research missions are critical, but that does not mean we can ignore this moment. The leadership of Tulane University has been taking deliberate and dramatic steps to curtail the spread of this virus over the past month. We must continue to take serious measures to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, decrease the likelihood of widespread COVID-19 infections, reduce the likelihood of a surge that overwhelms our healthcare system, and keep our Tulane community and the New Orleans region safe.

Some research work is absolutely critical and must continue onsite. This includes:

  1. COVID-19 research;
  2. Maintenance of critical reagents (cell lines, animals) and critical equipment (freezers, N2 tanks, computer clusters, other equipment);
  3. Research for which a pause would create irreparable harm to the work (e.g., using an irreplaceable sample);
  4. Any research that is defined as critical by your school's Dean or Associate Dean for Research.

However, even for such research, only essential personnel should be on campus or in the lab. All others should remain at home. And strict social distancing must be practiced at all times. If you are engaged in this work and you are uncomfortable coming to campus, please speak to your supervisor who may be able to assign appropriate work that can be done remotely or make other accommodations. And supervisors should be developing productive activities that can be done remotely.

If your research does not satisfy any of the above criteria, you may continue it if you can do so safely while practicing strict social distancing. However, if your research is not critical you should not come to campus if: your research can be continued from home; you can pause your research without harm and there is productive work that can be done remotely; or if you are uncomfortable coming to campus for any reason.

As you all know, performing experiments is only one of the many activities involved in doing research. Indeed, this crisis is a unique opportunity to develop all activities that can be carried out at home in order to stay engaged in the research mission, such as:

  • Reading papers;
  • Doing a literature search;
  • Developing experimental plans;
  • Analyzing data;
  • Writing manuscripts;
  • Writing grants.

Please note: You can continue to pay laboratory personnel who are remaining at home if you are doing so in ways that are consistent with the university practices for other staff. In addition, both NIH and NSF have offered greater flexibility for extensions and supplements to compensate for lost time. At this link, you will find a description of the flexibility that NIH and NSF are currently allowing with grant funds in terms of both reallocating funds and extensions, and the possibility of requesting a supplement from the NIH if the research cannot be completed with the current budget because of costs related to COVID-19. We have also added an FAQs section to our COVID-19 website (see below) to address your most common concerns, and the Office of Research can help you explore the possibility of extensions for funds from other granting agencies and foundations.

Note also that all Tulane Office of Research units remain fully operational to support you:

We expect this to continue even if the university further suspends on-site operations for purposes of decreasing COVID-19 transmission.

COVID-19 Research Website:
As requested by several investigators, the Office of Research staff has worked overtime to pull together a webpage that consolidates all information about research at the time of COVID-19: https://research.tulane.edu/covid. This includes also guidance for clinical and human subjects research. We will post all updates on this website at least daily. Please, help us improve this website by providing your advice and additional information to Ms. Gail Louis.

The Tulane Office of Research thanks you all for your continuing work in a very difficult situation, which you are carrying on with remarkable grace and grit. We are very proud of your efforts and will try to do our very best to support your research in any possible way.

With warmest regards,

Giovanni Piedimonte, MD, FAAP, FCCP
Vice President for Research and Institutional Official
Professor of Pediatrics, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology