March 20, 2020, by Rob Ounsworth
Coronavirus (COVID-19): a message from Professor Dame Jessica Corner
We are living in unprecedented circumstances. Many of you will be focused on how best to protect, support and reassure our students and colleagues, while also focusing on your own families and friends. As you are aware, the University transitions to online learning from 23 March, and we are actively preparing for how we best support you and your research, whilst adhering to the government’s guidance on social distancing to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus.
We are continuing with our mission to deliver world-leading research but recognise our activity – not least any on-campus research – is affected with the closure of laboratory facilities in many areas, and the restrictions on all field and archival research. We are prioritising essential research, and this will continue past next week with a focus on efforts in diagnostics and understanding of COVID-19, this includes a ‘testing task force’.
We are reviewing how best to support all of you during this time. Faculties and schools are updating their research staff and I refer you to the University’s coronavirus homepage; this is updated regularly and has comprehensive advice. These pages also include FAQs aimed at postgraduate researchers, research staff and supervisors.
Like many of you, I have been joining colleagues in virtual meetings as we shift business as usual to the virtual world, work from home where possible, and minimise contact in line with government advice.
Your wellbeing comes first
I recognise this is a challenging time, with colleagues coping with illness, worried about loved ones, and supporting friends and family. Your health and wellbeing remain an absolute priority and, while connectivity allows effective working from home, we recognise colleagues may be working in less than ideal circumstances and addressing immediate issues with switching to new ways of teaching, assessment, and working. Do keep your line manager informed in the usual way, be realistic and allow time for yourself and your loved ones.
This will be the first of a series of communications that will go out each week to the research community
I would like to hear your thoughts and ideas for future communications and sharing of information, please also let us know your ideas for keeping in touch and offering mutual support to help our researcher community. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas.
To supplement advice from your faculties and schools, I would like to update you on the following areas related to research:
Research and Innovation
Research and Innovation, like all professional services, is likely to be impacted by staff illness and caring responsibilities. Capacity may be affected, and contingencies are in place to prioritise workloads and activity. In relation to research funding applications and research, please see the below.
No change – all bids to be submitted via web-based portals, this can be done remotely.
In instances where internal approvals/sign off are not completed within the time frame, exceptional processes have been drafted and will be agreed with schools. We are not aware of any deadlines being extended at this time, but funders may review this.
Acceptance of awards
No change – some awards have to be formally accepted by the University within a 7-10 day period and this will be done via portals remotely.
No change – awards will be coded via the usual processes.
Managing projects (including claims/audits)
Active research projects are likely to incur delays in delivery and expenditure during this period. Research and Innovation is reviewing all projects which are due to end before September 2020 to identify potential project specific issues.
Requests to funders for extensions will be made where appropriate. Funders are currently producing guidance to support this, and Research and Innovation will work closely with schools and PIs to ensure early action is taken. If you are intending to make any changes to projects that have previously received ethical approval, you are advised to seek guidance from your research ethics committee before implementing any changes
No change – contract drafts and reviews will continue remotely via RIS. Completing and executing fully signed agreements may incur delays due to the dependencies on third parties. Research and Innovation will liaise closely with schools and PIs to manage the risk.
No change – protocols will be reviewed and guidance and support will be provided through the usual processes. Clinical studies may incur delays as with all projects and the team will work closely with PIs to manage the risk.
More information: email@example.com
Research Excellence Framework (REF)
Research England has informed the sector that so far, its schedule is unchanged, although it will consult on mitigations and adjustments for REF in due course. Our preparations must therefore continue. Fortunately, much of our internal REF work can be conducted remotely with meetings moved online as required. As you would expect we are actively identifying new risks that will influence REF delivery, for example impact case study evidence collection will be affected where external organisations now have very different priorities.
Our preparations are well advanced with environmental and impact statements under review. Selecting outputs is advancing well and we have even completed our first successful test of the Research England submission system.
Everyone contributes to the effort through their research related work, a smaller group of people have responsibility for our submission. REF is a massive and complex process at the best of times, delivering our University’s submission in these extraordinary times is a huge challenge.
As always, I am immensely grateful for the hard work and dedication of everyone involved, from those working on the day to day delivery of research, through to the teams working so hard on the formalities of our REF submission.
More information: REF@nottingham.ac.uk
Support for researchers
Please update your supervisor, line manager and collaborators on your wellbeing and the status of your research project. Where possible use virtual meetings and file sharing for contingency planning and to progress work – see the guidance on remote working. Do stay in touch with friends and colleagues. Research trips both in the UK and overseas have been curtailed, with some researchers leaving projects in order to return to home countries ahead of further restrictions on international travel. Please contact your supervisor or line manager at the earliest opportunity to discuss concerns and seek support.
Postgraduates supporting NHS
Many of our medically qualified postgraduates with existing contracts with the NHS may now be voluntarily interrupting their studies to undertake clinical work during the COVID-19 pandemic. We strongly support our PGRs contributing in this way. The University will continue to support you, including maintaining access to University email, and the resources that you need to keep in touch with your research work such as access to the library, until your PhD registration can be restarted when you return to your studies. If you have any concerns please contact your supervisor.
The Graduate School
A detailed FAQ document for postgraduate research students, research staff and research supervisors has been produced that specifically covers the types of questions you may have in relation to your research project. Do check this as new questions are being added regularly. In addition to the regular institutional updates via the main University channels, the Graduate School will separately update researchers via email, its website and social media.
More information: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Libraries’ Research support team are on hand to provide continued support to researchers over email including answering enquiries, processing Gold Open Access applications and checking data management plans.
For support, please contact:
- Libraryemail@example.com for enquiries including bibliometrics, publication framework, copyright, research data management and systematic reviews.
- Openaccess@nottingham.ac.uk for help with Open Access including funder policies, REF, RIS and Plan S.
Visit the Libraries Support Hub for the latest updates from libraries, frequently asked questions and details of support for researchers.
The Digital Research team remain on hand to provide researchers with specialist support and guidance including discussing technologies that you may not be familiar with, planning your research project, and safely and securely managing your data. For support please contact your faculty-specific digital research specialist via Digital Research For IT advice and support for researchers including working remotely please contact Information Services
The Digital Research Service are all working from home and on projects as normal. Check twitter @ADAC_UoN for updates. Please continue to use the request page as normal. If you have work with the service that is now not going ahead in the immediate term, please get in touch so the team can release staff onto other work.
Research R: drives can be accessed from home by going to files.nottingham.ac.uk
Our international campuses
Our thoughts are also with our international colleagues in China and Malaysia, and we are working closely together to ensure the most effective way of complying with advice from our respective governments.
Provost Professor Nick Miles reports that University of Nottingham Ningbo China is in its third week of delivering teaching wholly online. This has not been without its teething problems, but the feedback has been increasingly positive. Staff returning to China are self-isolating for 14 days.
The University of Nottingham Malaysia campus is closed until 31 March to comply with a nationwide restricted movement control to deal with the spike in COVID-19 cases. The University had previously cancelled all large events, activities and all non-essential gatherings.
Bringing out the very best in our community
I am proud that colleagues from across the University are responding to the current crisis with resilience, determination and good humour, while also being compassionate and supportive of each other.
It is also heartening that those making momentous decisions affecting us all are drawing upon science and expertise drawn from research institutions across the UK, including Nottingham.
Thank you for your continuing dedication. We remain strong in spirit together and I wish you and your family good health.
Professor Dame Jessica Corner is Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange