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3/24/20 - Research continuity guidance in the event of a shelter-in-place order

As of Tuesday, March 24, Mississippi State is not under a shelter-in-place situation. However, the Office of Research and Economic Development is posting this guidance to prepare the research community should we receive a "shelter-in-place" order from the university, city, state, or federal government.


In the event of a shelter in place/stay-at-home rule


We are posting this guidance to prepare the research community should we receive a ‘shelter-in-place’ order from the university, city, state, or federal government.


We encourage ALL Principal Investigators (PIs) to develop a research continuity operations plan. Consider how the work of your groups could be impacted if the university/state receives the order to halt operations in a shelter in place or stay-at-home situation. What steps can you take now to prepare for that event, and what steps would you follow if your work had to be placed on hold or you could not access your facilities with short notice? The planning you do now may support the long-term success of our laboratories and research groups.

Remember, PIs should enable students, postdoctoral researchers, and research staff to work from home as much as possible.

If a lockdown/shelter-in-place order is given, only research that is deemed critical will be allowed to continue in a university lab or facility. Only the approved personnel responsible for critical research activities should be allowed in research labs or in university facilities needed to complete the work.

The definition of critical research activities includes the following. Other research not mentioned may be approved by the Vice President for Research and Economic Development or the Vice President for the Division of Agriculture, Forestry, and Vet Medicine.
* Research that must be maintained for the health and safety of human subjects.
* Research for which discontinuation would generate data and sample loss that would be effectively irreplaceable.
* Maintenance of critical equipment and a safe standby mode of laboratories and facilities.
* Maintenance of animal populations and/or ensuring the ethical care and conduct of research with animal subjects.
* Maintenance and care of plant populations that are hard to recreate and represent years of research.
* Maintenance of research deemed critical or essential by the sponsor according to contract requirements.
* Researchers working on experiments that have a small window for completion such as those related to agriculture during spring planting.
* COVID-19 research with a timeline relevant to the current pandemic.

We recommend that teams critical to maintaining operations be divided into two or more fixed member groups. This will ensure continuity of critical functions should a single team member no longer be able to participate due to illness and avoid potentially leading to all team members having to stop work. If critical operations rely on a single individual, contingency plans must be developed. Where possible, written operational procedures should be documented, and cross training of personnel may need to be accelerated. In the worst case, shutting down operations may be required.

Centers and labs should consider their supply chains where critical supplies may be sole-sourced or come from regions that are hit hard by COVID-19.

Even with reduced staff density of normal operations, all centers and labs must implement social distancing and other best practices based upon University and CDC guidance. You should develop individualized work plans that minimize close contact and maintain clean environments. All standard safety procedures should be followed.

Last, in the event of a shelter-in-place order, we will provide more instructions for PIs seeking approval to continue their work as CRITICAL. To plan for this, you should be considering responses to the following items.

A. What steps are you taking to perform the majority of research remotely?
[All meetings are online, technology for remote work has been provided, staff are rotating, etc.]

B. How will you ensure social-distancing measures for personnel who will need to work on-site in a facility or lab?
[Signs are posted to remind about CDC safety guidelines, equipment arranged to provide for distancing, etc.]

C. For research activities deemed critical, describe the on-site activities that will be critical to maintain your lab capabilities. What support (if any) from university personnel will still be required to achieve this?

Consider when discontinuation would generate significant data, sample, or animal life loss; where equipment would not operate safely or might be damaged.
Please indicate the researchers (names, emails and brief responsibilities) required for critical capabilities. Identify supervisors. Do not list all members of your lab, only those who will be asked to work to maintain critical operations/activities.

D. List any steps that you as PI will need to take to ramp-down solely to critical activities for your labs. Please indicate any assistance you require in doing so.

For questions or support related to this guidance, contact Dr. Devon Brenner in the Office of Research and Economic Development at The ORED is tightly coordinating with the VP DAVFM.

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