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University of Wisconsin–Madison

OVCRGE Center directives for research during COVID-19 response

Message to OVCRGE Center Directors (March 20, 2020)

These are challenging times for all of us and our families. I encourage you all to plan how best to carry out research activities while protecting your staff and slowing the spread of COVID-19.

OVCRGE centers are diverse, and researchers may want to continue limited on-site research. Any plans for on-site research must comply with campus and external guidelines, and be approved by the Center Director.

As Center Director, you have the authority to approve on-site research plans and determine what research activities are vital to your center and should occur in your assigned space, if the plans follow the campus guidance.  In reviewing and approving requests to continue work on-site, consider the temporal and spatial needs of each research project, but also that we share the responsibility for reducing the spread of COVID-19, and the burden of doing so must be shared equitably as well.

Please let our office know what on-site research you are permitting by sending a list to Peggy Ziebarth <>.

As you carry out your responsibilities, remember:

  • We are a research university. Research is a core institutional activity.
  • All research that can be accomplished remotely should proceed.
  • Requests to continue limited research functions on site should include a plan that addresses the following:
    • A complete description of the planned activity
    • Why the research activity is essential (e.g., time sensitivity, preventing breakdown of equipment, supporting remote research activity)
    • How long the activity is expected to continue, both in calendar time and in staff hours each week or month
    • Which staff are involved and how.
    • A schedule (e.g., days of week and approximate number of hours) for staff to be on site that reduces co-presence (that is, staggers work times)
    • How the protocol for on-site work (for cleaning work areas and physical arrangement of staff) will reduce contact among those who are co-present and, thus, the spread of COVID-19
    • Whether conducting the activity with reduced personnel will reduce the safety of the procedure (e.g., will the activity require moving large equipment or hazardous materials, or assistance from campus safety or police)
    • How the plan follows other relevant campus (

      )  guidance.

  • If you need assistance in developing a process for authorizing essential research or for making determinations, feel free to contact me or the associate vice chancellor who you work with most closely.
  • No group or individual should feel that they must resume on-site research activity, including undergraduate or graduate students, or postdoctoral fellows.
  • If you have a plan in place for your researchers and staff to telecommute, and this plan is working for your center, there is no need to develop and approve on-site research plans.

It is likely that we will operate under the current conditions until at least the end of the semester.

In any event, you should review and update your research center’s continuity of operations (COOP) plan, which anticipates possible curtailment of on-site research and other activities, including building closures. Consider the following elements in updating the COOP plan.


Have the necessary processes in place for safely shutting down research equipment.

Have procedures in place to maintain equipment and keep animals safe and viable.  For example, maintenance of animal husbandry, maintaining shared computational equipment, and maintaining equipment that requires gas or cryogen monitoring/service (e.g., deep-storage freezers, electron microscopes, mass spectrometers, and incubators). AirGas will continue to deliver liquid N2 to campus. If you need N2, confirm how it will be ordered and picked-up.

Working off site may require investigators to log on to computers or servers on campus and in your centers. Have plans that can deal with a power outage, or some other event, that requires these on-site computers or servers to be rebooted.

Animal Care

Animal Care is being managed with the highest priority, and we are following contingency plans to maintain the highest level of support possible. I recognize the recent request for PPEs and restrictions on purchasing can be an issue for carrying out vital research. Please keep me, Nadine Connor and your Associate Vice Chancellor aware of any actual or anticipated problems with maintaining animal care.


All of your administrative activities should have been moved off-site. If that is not the case, let me know and develop an approved on-site activity plan for these functions.


Discontinue face-to-face group meetings, and reduce laboratory presence to that approved under a plan. (See guidelines for plans above.)  Establish a robust communication network with your group.

Building Access

If you share your space with another unit and have issues with building access, let me know.

Please forward all questions to the appropriate Assoc. Vice Chancellor and we will work to get you an answer.

I very much appreciate all the work you have done to address this unique and ever changing situation.



Steven A Ackerman
Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education

Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences