March 26, 2020, by Rob Ounsworth

Coronavirus (COVID-19): update from Professor Dame Jessica Corner

As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times together, I am writing with a further update for you on our research and knowledge exchange activity. This follows the introduction by the UK Government of the most significant restrictions our country has witnessed in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Prioritising essential research

In line with UK Government advice we have moved towards remote teaching, working and examination in order to protect our staff and students. This has involved suspending research activity on our UK campuses and closing many of our laboratories, libraries, research facilities and workshops. However, our mission to deliver world-leading research continues in our homes, as best we can.  I know many of you are writing theses, papers, developing grant applications and working on research in other ways remotely. I have found it truly inspiring to see how we have moved to remote working in the space of a single week.

Acting on the call from government, we are considering the areas of science and research that will continue in on-site facilities as they are either critical for tackling coronavirus or for national security, or where pausing would affect the care of animals, preservation of essential biological resources, or storage of hazardous materials.

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

You may well have heard Tuesday’s announcement by Research England to postpone the REF submission from 27 November 2020. Research England intends to consult on next steps and universities will be given at least eight months’ notice of the revised re-submission date. While this will be welcome news for many in the current situation, it is important to note that changes have yet to be announced to the final dates for impact or outputs, there is no change to the 31 July 2020 staff census date, and therefore our REF preparations will continue for now.

Given the pressure on many staff for other vital clinical work supporting the COVID-19 efforts, teaching and research, we are consulting with colleagues directly involved in REF preparations on a modified plan of work. This will aim to slow progress of the environment work, and delay some of the time-consuming aspects of the outputs work, although assessment of new outputs and open access work will continue. It will also focus impact work on the finalisation of evidence where that is possible. We are feeding into Research England’s consultation and will revise our plans and update you as we learn more.

Support for our researchers

Your health and wellbeing remain an absolute priority at this challenging time. We are all getting used to working from home, but we do recognise that this brings challenges. It is tempting to be ‘always available’ and as we adjust to what is an extraordinary shift in our ways of working, we should all remember to take the time to take care of each other and ourselves.

I recognise that colleagues may be working in less than ideal circumstances, addressing immediate issues with switching to new ways of teaching, assessment, and working, along with childcare and caring responsibilities. However, as we continue to keep in touch with colleagues in new ways, it is heartening to see so much good humour, alongside the glimpses of pet co-workers and family life going on around us!

Information on working from home, support and other advice is available on the University’s coronavirus (COVID-19) website and updated regularly. It also includes a detailed FAQ document for postgraduate research students, research staff and research supervisors. Do check this as new questions and responses are added as the situation evolves.

Our partners and collaborators

While it is uncertain how long before our research activities can become fully operational again, we are contacting our partners and collaborators to review how we can minimise the impact and, where possible, continue to work together on shared research objectives.

Research and Innovation COVID-19 SharePoint

Today we launch our Research and Innovation COVID-19 SharePoint site. This will support the University’s central COVID-19 communications and act as a repository for the latest Research and Innovation updates.

This SharePoint site will continue to be developed but already has the latest information and guidance on research operations, research funders, guidance for PGR students and those supporting and supervising them, and updates on research ethics and integrity.

More content will be added in the coming days and weeks so please do click ‘follow’ or bookmark the link so you can find it easily. If you have any feedback or suggestions for the site, please do let us know via

Bringing out the very best in our community

I am very proud of the response by our research community to support the national effort in tackling the coronavirus. Many of you will have seen and supported with the supply of 16 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machines in conjunction with Nottingham Trent University as part of our Universities for Nottingham initiative giving the potential to increase COVID-19 testing capacity to 20,000 tests a day.

The response of our final year students in medicine and healthcare has also been fantastic, with more than 600 volunteering to help local hospitals and NHS staff.

On Monday, the government and the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser backed leading clinicians and scientists, including a team from Nottingham, to map how COVID-19 spreads and behaves by using whole genome sequencing. Through a £20 million investment, the consortium will look for breakthroughs that will help the country respond to this and future pandemics to save lives.

So that we can maximise our impact and ensure support is provided where it is needed most, if you have been asked or think you could make a contribution, please contact

Thank you for your continuing dedication in these unprecedented circumstances. I wish you and your loved ones continued good health and wellbeing.

Jessica Corner's signature

Professor Dame Jessica Corner
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange

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