Some research put on hold as pandemic limits campus operations

On-campus participation for research has been halted. (Archive photo)

Just over a week ago, President Richard Myers issued the statement that all on-campus courses and activities would either be moved online or canceled entirely amidst the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.

This massive shutdown has reduced research operations drastically, with only mission-critical operations being allowed to continue on campus.

“We are living through an unprecedented time in our history as we confront the COVID-19 pandemic,” Peter Dorhout, vice president for research said. “We must take steps to mitigate the spread of disease and protect our K-State and Manhattan communities by practicing safe social distancing and minimizing in-person activities on campus.”

Mission-critical research includes the maintenance of essential lab or project functions including hazardous materials, care of living organisms and previously-initiated studies that are multi-year or time-sensitive.

Other types of research that are being allowed to continue include seasonally-restricted projects in which an entire year’s worth of research would be lost, such as migratory bird studies or crop planting.

These are only allowed to continue if they can be carried out in accordance with social distancing guidelines. All other research projects are to be put on hold for the remainder of the academic term.

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“Unfortunately, this means we must delay or pause research activities that can be put on hold. All research at the university is important and valuable,” Dorhout said. “However, the majority of research on all three campuses can be suspended/hibernated safely and for the duration of the time of limited operations. This is unfortunately the case with all of our peer universities who see this as one important mechanism for stopping the spread of the disease.”

Other reasons for halting research include reserving the amount of personal protective equipment on hand, which is in short supply all over the world. Department heads are currently developing and implementing Continuity of Operations Plans to administer to all applicable parties, which are to adapt to social distancing guidelines.

During the suspension of in-person activities, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, the Institutional Biosafety Committee and the Institutional Review Board will be meeting regularly to ensure that Kansas State is adhering to necessary protocol regarding live organisms.

Graduate students assisting with research are encouraged to do as much research or publication work from home as possible, but will continue to be compensated and awarded credit for projects during this time. Access to library databases and virtual private networks for research purposes are available as well.