Researchers

Last updated 2:29 PM, May 29, 2020

Unprecedented circumstances and the health and safety of our community, families, friends and neighbors have made research difficult for many at UW–Madison. We know this has been — and may continue to be — a challenging time for many, and that the urge to get back into offices and labs is strong.

To protect public health, campus staffing will continue at sharply reduced levels. Most employees will continue to work from home, and research that can be accomplished remotely should proceed remotely.

No person — faculty, staff, postdocs, or students — should be forced to work on campus during this time. However, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education has posted a guide to resuming research in UW–Madison facilities.

Please note that there is no set date for when all on-site research can resume.

The phased return to campus is designed to minimize the risk to our students, staff and faculty, and all plans for on-campus research must be approved by deans or the VCRGE, and comply with campus and public health guidelines for safety.

For details on the Research Reboot process, including requests to return to work on campus, visit the Phase 1 web page.

Please consult this space for answers to your questions; information about accessing resources, support for researchers and remote work, and more. It will be updated continuously, so check back often.

Please also visit the other FAQs on this site, which may contain answers to questions you don’t see here. You may also visit the pages for EmployeesInstructors and Graduate Students.

Important contacts

Essential Research

While all research that can be conducted remotely should continue to do so, on-campus research must be approved by deans or directors. The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education has announced a phased return of some research to UW–Madison facilities.

Please consult this guide for instructions on applying for approval to resume on-site research. Note that researchers seeking to resume their on campus research must receive approval from their college dean (or designee for approval) or the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education. If a request is not approved, that research cannot commence.

Labs should follow their continuity of operations plans. Research approved to resume should also follow all campus and external public health and safety guidelines, and only approved activities may take place during Phase 1 of the research reboot process.

PIs should continue to monitor research labs and facilities in their departments or centers that cannot be left unstaffed, including for reasons such as:

  • Animal care
  • Sample security
  • Ongoing equipment and materials maintenance

No external visitors are allowed in labs or animal facilities without approval during Phase 1.

General Information

Grants and Funding

Research and Sponsored Programs staff are still submitting grants. To ensure processing, please deliver proposals to RSP in a timely fashion and avoid submitting at the last minute. More information can be found on the RSP website, which also includes updates for funding opportunities, including new funding for COVID-19 research.

Additional information about proposal submission, deadline changes, award management and more is available at funding agency sites, including:

Graduate students

Graduate students play an important role in our instruction and research missions. They should continue their research activities remotely. On-site activities must be approved by deans and directors. While it is clear some work will be complicated by pandemic-related restrictions, campus is providing flexibility. For information specific to graduate students, please visit the Graduate Student page.

Career and academic progress

Faculty

Given the myriad challenges presented by COVID-19, UW–Madison is offering an extension of the tenure clock for reasons associated with the pandemic.

Many faculty hiring processes are moving forward, as are nominations for fellowships and named professorships.

The university will be as flexible as possible with requests to modify sabbatical leave granted for the 2020-21 academic year due to the circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees eligible for sabbatical changes should already have received information from the provost’s office. Questions should be directed first to deans’ offices, and then to provost@provost.wisc.edu.

Doctoral candidates

To offer flexibility amidst the disruption of COVID-19, doctoral candidates will have an additional 8 months beyond their 5-year time limit to take their final oral examination and deposit their dissertation. This penalty-free extension is available to doctoral degree candidates who are or will be in dissertator status in spring and summer 2020.

Postdoctoral researchers

To offer flexibility amidst the significant disruptions caused by COVID-18, the five year time limit for postdocs has been temporarily lifted. Campus recommendations for new recruitments remain in place.

Personal Protective Equipment

If you have PPE you would like to donate to address shortages or critical needs, or if you need these items for essential operations, contact the emergency operations center logistics team at EOC_PPE_Supplies@lists.wisc.edu.

Do not work without PPE or reuse PPE unless approved to do so. If you need more information, contact the Office of Biological Safety.

Respect Statement

COVID-19 is not specific to an ethnicity or race—disease does not discriminate. Racist behaviors or stereotyping are not tolerated at UW–Madison. If you experience harassment or discrimination, students are encouraged to file a bias incident report.

Employees may file a complaint with the Office of Compliance.

Research FAQs

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Can I still conduct my on-campus research?

Research that can be accomplished remotely should continue to proceed remotely.  Beginning May 29, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education has implemented a phased return to campus research. This phased approach is designed to minimize the risk to students, staff and faculty.

All plans for on-campus research must be approved by deans or the VCRGE and comply with campus and public health guidelines for safety. Limited essential research was approved prior to May 29. In most cases, on-site research activities that were previously approved during the COVID-19 campus shutdown from March to May 2020 will be allowed to continue, but must be registered and approved during Phase 1 to facilitate safety coordination among groups within buildings. In addition, PIs can request approval for other research to resume on-site during Phase 1.

For details on the Research Reboot process, including requests to return to work on campus, visit the Phase 1 web page.

Faculty, students, post-docs, technicians and other staff may not be compelled to engage in research travel or activities as a condition of employment or fellowship support while research activities are restricted due to the pandemic.

Please note that there is no set date for when all on-site research can resume. 

 

Last updated 3:24 PM, June 1, 2020

Can I travel to conduct research?

In limited cases, deans or vice chancellors may approve requests to travel for research purposes even during the travel restriction in place through June 30.

For details and forms to request travel approval, see this message from Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education Steven A. Ackerman.

Last updated 9:42 AM, April 30, 2020

How can UW-Madison research labs assist with COVID-19 response?

With the exception of the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, which is doing diagnostic testing, other UW–Madison labs do not have the capability to perform testing for COVID-19 because they do not have diagnostic laboratory certification through the CLIA program (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments). However, one laboratory has a research test for COVID-19 and is performing tests on de-identified samples in an effort to understand mechanisms related to the virus, but not for diagnostic purposes.

Labs can help the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene, which, like all state and large public health labs, is currently at full sustainable capacity testing for COVID-19. The biggest strain on the lab currently is access to necessary reagents for nucleic acid extraction platforms. State Lab is in search of these reagents for future contingency planning and is asking anyone able to help fulfill their request to be in contact (contact information below). 

The needed reagents include:

  • MagNA Pure LC 2.0
    • Total Nucleic Acid Kit, Cat. No.03038505001
    • Plates, tips, tubes needed to run MagNa Pure LC 2.0 extraction runs
  • EMAG
    • all 6 components (same components as EasyMag): buffers, beads, etc.
  • QIAcube HT
    • QIAmp 96 Virus QIAcube kit, Cat. No. 57731
    • QIAcube HT plasticware kit, Cat. No. 950067
  • Viral transport media
  • Nasopharyngeal swabs

If you think you can help, please contact: Pete Shult, peter.shult@slh.wisc.edu, 608-224-4328 or 608-262-5419 |  Alana Sterkel, alana.sterkel@slh.wisc.edu, 608-224-4277 | Allen Bateman, allen.bateman@slh.wisc.edu, 608-224-4254

Also, if you have personal protective equipment — especially N95s, Tyvek suits, isolation gowns, and procedure masks — these are in extremely limited supply, as are disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer. If you have extra PPE you would like to donate, or if you need these items for essential operations and have a request in that is currently unmet, contact the EOC Logistics Team at EOC_PPE_Supplies@lists.wisc.edu. All PPE use requests will be evaluated for need, application of equipment alternatives, and for measures that can be taken to reduce PPE consumption. Do not work without PPE or reuse disposable PPE unless approved to do so under your biosafety protocol. If you need more information, please contact the Office of Biological Safety.

Last updated 2:54 PM, March 30, 2020

Can I still get help from Environment, Health & Safety?

Yes. Environment, Health & Safety will continue to respond to campus emergencies, incidents and spills, and provide support as needed to campus. However, some non-critical activities are being curtailed. For the latest information on EH&S operations, visit their COVID-19 website.

All chemical, radiation and biological lab visits are suspended until further notice.

All routine biological safety cabinet certifications for April are cancelled. Only high priority certifications will be done. A limited number of staff are available  for emergency work.

Hazardous waste and radioactive waste pick-ups will continue, at a reduced level, for operating facilities.

EH&S will continue to provide critical consultations and reviews. Staff will respond to emails, and most can be reached on cellphones.

EH&S staff available for immediate on-site assistance:
Todd Yanke, chemical safety — 608-279-2340
Ann Larson, biological safety — 608-443-9950
Karl Seltzer, general safety — 608-575-6263
Jeff Schiller, fire and life safety — 608-225-7693

Last updated 11:43 AM, April 20, 2020

How are funding agencies responding to COVID-19? How can I get funding for COVID-19 research?

For information about changes to sponsored research, please visit the UW–Madison Research and Sponsored Programs website.

For access to funding opportunities, including new funding for COVID-19 research, please visit RSP’s Finding Funding page.

Please note that RSP is open and processing grant submissions, but staff are working remotely. To assure processing, please deliver proposals to RSP in a timely fashion. Don’t wait to submit proposals at the last minute.

Additional information about proposal submission, deadline changes, award management and more is available at funding agency sites. Including:

Last updated 12:06 PM, April 20, 2020

How do I access software that I usually use in a library or computer lab? 

Many software programs are available through the Campus Software Library, including Matlab, Smart Draw, and more. For information on access to software while working remote, please see How to get software while remote

Last updated 12:11 PM, June 1, 2020

Can a PI require a graduate student or postdoctoral researcher to take part in laboratory-based research?  

In an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, per the Chancellor’s announcement, as well as by order of Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, only research and campus operations deemed essential are permitted to continue at this time. A PI may not pressure or compel graduate students or postdoctoral researchers engaged in research to take part in laboratory-based activities during the pandemic. This is prohibited whether graduate students or postdocs are in roles deemed essential* or non-essential, regardless of visa status, and even when a request for authorization for continuation of limited research activities has been approved by the Dean’s office.

Consistent with campus guidelines, students, staff and trainees who are not engaged in an essential laboratory research activity or essential research function authorized by the Dean’s office cannot be physically present in the laboratory. They should work remotely on other aspects of a research project such as writing, planning experimental protocols, or data analysis.

If a graduate student or postdoctoral researcher’s role is considered essential*, a decision about whether to work on campus should be voluntary and informed by a discussion between the student/postdoc and supervisor, outlining activities to be done, possible concerns about health risk, and a plan to mitigate or eliminate these risks, including the student/postdoc responsibilities for risk reduction. This must be approved by their dean or center director.

*This flexibility for essential roles only applies to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

Last updated 9:35 AM, March 27, 2020

What should a graduate assistant or postdoctoral researcher do if they feel pressured to work on-site?

Graduate students or postdoctoral researchers who feel pressured to work on-site may report such incidents using program/department or school/college reporting structures first. If these mechanisms do not exist or do not result in resolution, or the student is uncomfortable with those structures, graduate students should contact the Graduate School at gsacserv@grad.wisc.edu and postdoctoral researchers should contact the Office of Postdoctoral Studies at contact@postdoc.wisc.edu.

Last updated 3:52 PM, March 26, 2020

What does COVID-19 mean for upcoming sabbaticals?

The university will be as flexible as possible with requests to modify sabbatical leave granted for the 2020-21 academic year due to the circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees eligible for sabbatical changes should already have received information from the provost’s office.

Because changes in sabbatical plans may have an impact on course offerings and other planned service, faculty must seek approval first from their department and then from their dean’s office before a request can be forwarded to the Office of Human Resources and authorized by the provost. Requests for changes to already-granted sabbatical leave must be made by June 1, 2020.

Questions should be directed first to deans’ offices, and then to provost@provost.wisc.edu.

Last updated 1:44 PM, April 24, 2020

Will there be a time limit extension for postdoctoral appointments?

Current university policy on time limits states that postdoctoral appointments are normally up to a maximum of five years, and are normally given to an individual who is within five years of having received the doctorate.

To offer flexibility amidst the major disruption that COVID-19 may have on postdocs’ research and scholarship progress at this time, the 5-year time limit is temporarily lifted while the campus’ recommendations for new recruitments are in place.

Posted on 4:28 PM, March 31, 2020