Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb’s executive order recognized that university research is “essential” to our state and to our fight against COVID-19. As a result, IU's Essential Research Activities Guidelines have permitted a great deal of in-person research that can be conducted consistent with CDC health guidelines to continue on IU campuses.
In addition, research activities that can be conducted entirely remotely have continued without restriction. This includes the many components of lab research that can be performed remotely (e.g., data analysis, manuscript preparation and review, presentation preparation, proposal development, grant report preparation, and online discussions with students and lab staff).
As a result, IU faculty, staff, and students submitted more research proposals during March for federal and other external funding than in any previous month in the past decade.
But there are limits to what can be done under the current state and university policies, and important research and creative activities have been slowed or stopped by those restrictions. As the Governor considers easing some of the requirements of his executive order, Indiana University is also taking steps to facilitate the orderly and safe resumption of research across IU.
President Michael McRobbie has announced the formation of a Laboratory Research Restart Committee that will focus on lab research and other research activities that require being on campus. This committee, which James Wimbush, vice president for diversity, equity, and multicultural affairs and dean of the University Graduate School, and Fred Cate, vice president for research, will co-chair, includes faculty, students, and staff, working together to “allow for a safe and timely resumption of full research activity in these areas on IU campuses including the return of graduate students associated with this research.” The committee has held its first meeting, and the goal is to facilitate the resumption of some previously restricted research activities by mid-May—subject, of course, to state requirements—and, we hope, of all research activities by early June.
Even before the committee began its work, however, President McRobbie had approved an exemption to the university-wide hiring freeze for new hires and reappointments that are funded entirely by external grants. These appointments will still go through normal school and campus hiring processes, including an exception request form through the appropriate budget office, but they will not be subject to the hiring freeze.
Over the past three weeks, the Office of the Vice President for Research has partnered with schools and campuses to provide modest support to more than a dozen research initiatives involving COVID-19 and its broad impact, to help position that research for future external support and to fill critical gaps where such support may not be available. You can learn more about these and other activities on the IU Research Impact website.