Lassonde Memo: Requests for Extended Access & Lab Shutdown

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The university has now moved to a required-services-only mode of operations, and as of 11:59 PM on Friday, March 20th, University buildings will be closed with limited access as needed for required services. On March 27th, all keycard access will be terminated with very few exceptions. We remain committed to supporting all of our faculty and researchers, including PDFs, PDVs, RAs and Graduate Students through this difficult time and research will continue during this pause, almost exclusively in remote/on-line formats. 

 

As a result, in order to protect the health and safety of each and every member of our community, access will be limited to those with key or keycard access to our buildings commencing on the 21st of March and all access will be terminated on the 27th of March. 

 

Please find two relevant forms & resources:

A guiding principle during this time will be to minimize the on-campus presence of our researchers to limit opportunities for the transmission of the virus to/from and on-campus. The Government of Canada has requested that all those who can stay home should stay home and a state of emergency presently exists in Ontario. As such, no researcher will be compelled to come to campus for any reason or under any circumstances.

 

1. Requests for Extended Access beyond March 27th Requests for extended access to buildings beyond March 27th for reasons of conducting research must be approved by the Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies (ADR&GS) using the form provided in the “Building Closures – Access to Offices and Research Labs” and attached to this memo by noon on Tuesday, March 24th. Note that access is anticipated to be granted only in exceptional circumstances.

 

To guide PIs in deciding whether to request Extended Access to Research Labs, a request will only be CONSIDERED if it meets ALL of the following criteria:

 

a. The project not continuing at this exact moment in time will represent an extraordinary financial loss to the PI or the University AND attempts have been made to mitigate this loss and have not succeeded b. The project has a clear and definite end date

 

c. The PI will be present on campus whenever research is ongoing to ensure health and safety for the work taking place d. The project can be conducted respecting social distancing guidelines of 2 meters between people AND all team members individually and positively consent to coming on-campus to complete the work (expect your researchers to be contacted and asked to provide this in writing) e. No research team members can have been out of the country within 14 days of coming on campus

Just because your project meets all of these criteria does not guarantee that it will be approved for extended access. Regretfully, in these extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances, the following harms are insufficient for a request to be granted for access to research labs in LSE:

  • Career interruption or delay of trainees or the PI, including a delay in completing graduate studies
  • Contract-research deliverables needed before the end of the shutdown
  • Requests from journals for new experiments upon review/commitments to collaborators at other institutions
  • Inaccessible computing resources or other remotely operated equipment due to failure of oncampus equipment.

 

Note that on-campus computing maintenance requests during the disruption are limited to rebooting machines that have gone down due to a power failure or crash. Requests for this service in CIVIL, MECH and ESSE should be coordinated with Milverton “Rob” Reynolds a part of required services and not as an extended access request. Requests for EECS should be coordinated with Ulya Yigit.    

 

If your research requires maintenance of cell lines or animals/organisms, this is being coordinated centrally and extended access requests should not be sent through LSE for these projects.

 

If some research activities do continue, we would like to emphasize that individual PIs continue to shoulder the accountability and the responsibility for their laboratories, their research teams and for keeping those working in their laboratories safe. During this time there will be few staff on-campus aside from security and there should be no expectation of in-person technical support, though virtual support will be available. Furthermore, no researcher (graduate student, PDF, PDV, RA) will be compelled to come to campus to carry out research during this period. Any decision from a member of a PI’s research staff to elect to carry out their research remotely must be respected.

 

2. Shutdown Procedures for Laboratories beginning today, March 20th On March 17th, the Office of the ADR&GS asked faculty members to carefully consider how they could safely and securely pause operations in their research laboratories on an expedited timeline. It is now time to put this consideration into practice. The York University Research Spaces Shutdown Best Practice Tool (attached to this memo) is an excellent resource to guide you in safely shutting down your laboratory.

 

For most laboratories at Lassonde, we expect that this means safely shutting down all active equipment and projects and rendering their laboratory environments safe for an extended period of time. Labs will be inspected once the shutdown operations have been completed to verify that they have been placed in a safe mode.  

 

For laboratories that do not involve work with specialized equipment, work is already done principally by computer. PIs should examine carefully whether such work can easily be done at home via existing laptop computers or by providing remote access to on-campus computing resources. 

 

Any computational resources purchased with CRP or Research funding may be relocated to a home environment. Given that the disruption is expected to be long (months) we recommend you and your research staff do this immediately.

 

Where specialized equipment or on-campus activities and analysis form an integral part of the research within a laboratory, PIs should pause these experiments and redeploy their researchers to other tasks that can be accomplished remotely. In all research groups, literature surveys and manuscript writing form a large portion of the work of researchers and the impact of the current disruption can be mitigated by advancing research on these fronts while on-campus work is paused. More examples of remote activities which would advance the goals of your research group are available as part of the research FAQ from the office of the Vice President, Research and Innovation:

 

https://research.info.yorku.ca/news-events/ 

 

Note that equipment that cannot be operated safely within a home environment should not be removed from university property.

 

This rapid shutdown will undoubtedly have significant impacts. The Office of the ADR&GS will work with all affected researchers during this pause in on-campus research operations to mitigate these impacts to the greatest extent possible. We will also help researchers to get started up again as expeditiously as possible once conditions allow research to resume on campus without restrictions. However, no researcher should imagine this process will be completely painless and some shared sacrifice may be needed in these difficult times.

 

In the interim we will work with researchers in the following ways:

 

1. Pre-award services provided by the Office of the ADR&GS continue as before but have moved to an electronic approval and support format, i.e. via Zoom, Email and Telephone and ORS checklists are now electronic only and no longer require the signature of the chair (though a copy will be sent for information). Many competitions have delayed their deadlines as a result of COVID-19, so please check with the relevant agency before submission. In particular, information is expected from the tricouncils this week on extensions. 2. For currently funded research, we will work with the Office of the VPRI to seek amended terms for completion via force majeure for contracts, with advancement for donor-sponsored research and with granting agencies to seek extensions. Note that many granting agencies have developed policies around research disrupted by COVID-19.  Please direct any questions surrounding a need to modify the terms of an existing research grant to Paulina Karwowska-Desaulniers.

 

 

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