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Nonessential on-campus research to be suspended Tuesday to prevent further spread of COVID-19

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Tomas Diaz de la Rubia

Tomás Díaz de la Rubia on Feb. 20.

All nonessential on-campus research will be suspended effective 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, the university announced in an email Sunday night.

The email, sent by Vice President for Research and Partnerships Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, said this measure is expected to last a few weeks and is necessary to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Essential research will still continue, including research requiring care for live organisms, research related to COVID-19 and critical long-term studies that collect time-sensitive data.

“Research is essential if it must continue in order to prevent significant, long-term impacts on the viability of the research,” Díaz de la Rubia said in the email. “Something that delays a project only for the duration of restricted campus research operations is not essential.”

As researchers prepare for the shut down of their operations, Díaz de la Rubia asked all to follow CDC guidelines for hygiene and social distancing, and to schedule in shifts when possible to reduce contact, according to the email. 

Determinations on what research is essential are to be first made by department chairs, directors and center directors, vetted by deans or the appropriate VP, and then approved by Díaz de la Rubia, the email said.

Even for research that is considered essential, Díaz de la Rubia asks all principal investigators and group managers to have shutdown plans ready in case of possible shelter-in-place orders outside of the university, according to the email.

For graduate students and postdocs, Díaz de la Rubia said in the email that lab leaders should be mindful that the stress of this crisis is amplified for many of them. He said that graduate students and postdocs can under no circumstance be forced to perform research on campus.

“Many of them are living far away from their extended families and support networks and subsisting on modest stipends,” Díaz de la Rubia said in the email. “We expect that all lab leaders will continue to be flexible, compassionate, and supportive of our graduate students and postdocs during this time of unprecedented crisis.”

Most of the Office of Research Services staff will be telecommuting, Díaz de la Rubia said in the email, but will do their best to support faculty in the pursuit of research grants and funding. However, there may be delays in response times and a prioritization of services provided.

“I wanted to thank you all for your patience, dedication and commitment to excellence in research at OU in this period of unprecedented change to our daily lives,” Díaz de la Rubia said in the email. “Together, with compassion and understanding for each other, we will get through this difficult and trying time and the university and all of us will emerge stronger as a result.”

Jana Allen is a journalism junior and the Daily's enterprise reporter. She was formerly a news reporter, and held several editor positions on the news desk before transitioning to enterprise.

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