Date: Wednesday, May 6, 2020
To: NYU Researchers
From: Stacie Bloom, Vice Provost for Research

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to update you on our plans to safely and slowly reopen science and engineering research laboratories at NYU. This is part of a phased return to onsite research that will eventually expand to include all campus and off-campus research across all disciplines.

NYU Research Reconstitution Plan – Executive summary

NYU will gradually begin to increase onsite research activity starting June 1, using a phased approach for a safe reopening of some research laboratories, complying with NYC and New York State mandates. This will occur after the current PAUSE order ends on May 15, allowing two weeks for preparation. The decision to reopen was made in collaboration with the President, the Provost, the Vice Provost for Research, and School Deans and faculty across NYU.

NYU Phased Approach

Phase 1 (Present):

Access is currently restricted to those conducting critical research and COVID-19 research; we estimate that this represents 10-25% of normal capacity. NYU and many of its peer institutions have adopted this approach.

Phase 2 (Beginning June 1):

Some relaxation of restricted access, as permitted by public authorities, with priority given to those conducting time-sensitive research activities, and those at work in buildings that are already open and staffed for security and cleaning. We estimate that this represents 25-50% of normal activity.

Phase 3 (Timing TBD, Goal of Fall 2020):

Increased relaxation of restrictions, with new research permitted to begin if it has been deemed a priority and approved at the department and/or school level. We estimate that this will represent 50-85% of normal activities.

Phase 4 (Date TBD):

A return to full campus activity, with onsite research operating at 100%.

Priorities and Guiding Principles for Phase 2 Reopening

During Phase 2, labs will gradually reopen, with returns to more restricted access in the event of a COVID-19 infection resurgence. A very small number of research labs will have a pilot reopen on May 18; if successful, we will proceed with Phase 2 on June 1. The decision to re-open will fall to labs’ respective schools, in consultation with NYU Research, and schools will inform researchers of those plans.

Our approach to reopening research labs and bringing additional research personnel back on site during Phase 2 is limited to buildings already open for critical or COVID-19 related research - specifically, in FAS, Tandon, and the College of Dentistry. Research access is granted only to socially-distanced essential personnel and activities are confined to critical, time-sensitive research. Research that requires travel, in-person human subjects,  or extended stay at a research site off-campus will resume when it is safe (presumably Phase 3 or 4).

During this phased return, we will continue to emphasize that no researcher should feel compelled to work during periods of broad shelter-at-home advice. For individual labs that are performing critical time-sensitive research, we ask PIs to ensure social distancing and safety guidelines within laboratories be met and maintained, and that all personnel have appropriate access to PPE before reopening. NYU Research will plan in advance to ensure safety is never sacrificed due to lack of adequate supplies, including the type and quality of PPE. Researchers will be able to request PPE via a Google Form one week ahead of arrival to the lab.

Our priorities for Phase 2 research include reopening research laboratories for PIs with:

  • Critical, time-sensitive research, whose work cannot be done remotely;
  • Externally-funded researchers who have obligated deliverables to sponsors.
  • Trainees who need to complete projects in a timely fashion

Our guiding principles are:

  • The health and safety of the NYU workforce is our first and most primary concern;
  • All research that can be done remotely must continue remotely and time onsite must be limited to that required to complete work
  • That the careers of early-stage and graduate researchers must be protected by allowing them to make research progress wherever possible;
  • To ensure a research restart that is aligned with public health conditions.

Concluding thoughts

As we look ahead, we will also prepare for the possibility that COVID-19 might resurge and cases will not resolve as soon as we would like. At this point, we are making preparations across the Washington Square and Brooklyn campuses for reconvening in person to perform critical, time-sensitive research only. We will continue to communicate our plans for reopening to researchers, campus leadership, and the public when appropriate.  Thank you all for your patience and flexibility.

Sincerely,

Stacie Bloom, PhD
Vice Provost for Research