I am writing to provide an update on the ways that our office is working to fulfill the university’s research, engagement and innovation missions while keeping faculty, staff and students safe during these unprecedented times. Below are some specific steps we are taking to support your research and scholarship, engage with partners and constituents in New Hampshire, and maintain critical infrastructure while we seek to respond to the rapidly expanding challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Office of Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) is working with deans and directors to identify and approve faculty and staff requesting access for essential research activities. As I wrote in my last letter to the community, faculty and staff must first seek approval from their deans or directors; once access is approved at that level OEHS will contact the faculty member to review plans for personnel safety and to assess whether access is appropriate. Safety plans must be in place before accessing the lab, facility or other research space.
Sponsored Programs Administration is working diligently to support research, including proposal submissions and post-award activities. We realize that there may be some challenges as a result of recent changes in university financial operations, but we are here to assist with grant purchasing and hiring. SPA maintains updated federal agency guidance on charging costs to sponsored projects during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. Please refer to the guidance pertaining to grants or contracts provided by your specific funding agency to determine what is allowed for your project. The federal Office of Management & Budget will be reassessing their guidance to federal agencies within 90 days of March 19.
Principal investigators should document research personnel efforts and other project costs during the ramp-down of research activities. If you need a tool for documenting/tracking, we strongly encourage you to use this Excel template. Please customize the spreadsheet for each of your projects and maintain the information going forward as it will be useful if supplemental funding is made available by a sponsor.
The Research & Large Center Development office continues to support ongoing and new proposal and research development, and will soon launch a multidisciplinary initiative to support your interests in conducting research related to COVID-19. The office is closely monitoring new funding opportunities and maintaining a summary. With passage of the CARES Act, we expect that this list will continue to expand over the next few weeks, so please check back regularly. Additionally, we are hoping to collect information on UNH researchers’ efforts and interests related to COVID-19 in order to identify resources to support activities, connect individuals with complementary interests and access resources to advance your activities and impact. If your research, outreach, or scholarship activities are, our could be, related to COVID-19, please contact Maria Emanuel.
You may have seen the news about the University Instrumentation Center leading a university-wide initiative to 3D print medical face shields. I have asked UIC director Shawn Banker to lead a university-wide COVID-19 Response Task Force to field and respond to requests like these from the wider community for UNH assistance; please contact him if you receive such a request. In addition, the UIC team can support your research with remote access to instrumentation, online and virtual training, establishing and providing remote monitoring and alerting services for equipment and experiments and collaborating with researchers on publication and proposals.
Throughout the ongoing pandemic, Cooperative Extension’s support to citizens, communities and businesses has been intense. Specialists are helping the agricultural community through daily email briefings, live online forums and a webpage answering farmers’ most pressing questions. Extension developed an online food access map, showing over 160 locations where the public can receive aid. Extension’s K12 education teams published online STEM activities, like a Makers video challenge and backyard nature investigation, that meet Next Generation Science Standards and help educators and parents provide education to homebound youth. UNH employees are also supported by Extension with resources about online teaching, remote meeting design and using Zoom.
UNHInnovation continues to work with faculty to protect and commercialize research results and connect with industry. Most research-related businesses remain functional during this disruption and are interested in hearing about new ideas. We are already enrolling for the fall’s NSF I-Corps program to help faculty and graduate students work on promising startup opportunities. Faculty are encouraged to submit new disclosures and contact the licensing team with new data and conclusions to support existing ideas in the pipeline. Lastly, Marc Sedam will be leading an alumni webinar open to all next Monday with an open discussion on the challenges and opportunities of leadership during a crisis.
This letter, and other COVID-19 research, innovation and engagement communications and resources for the UNH community are on a page that is updated regularly. University-wide coronavirus communications are here. We are looking at creative ways to host a conversation with the entire research community. For those who are attending multiple remote meetings and need to show your Wildcat pride, check out this gallery of UNH-themed Zoom virtual backgrounds to download.
I want to close by thanking all of you for your perseverance, flexibility, and creativity as we navigate these uncharted waters together. As always, I am grateful for your hard work, and wish you and your loved ones’ safety and good health.
Marian McCord, Ph.D.
Senior Vice Provost for Research,
Economic Engagement and Outreach