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FAS Guidance on Laboratory Research Activities

Dear GSAS Students,

I wanted to share the message below, which went to the FAS community earlier today. In it, FAS leadership outlines guidance regarding scholarly activities in FAS laboratories. If you are a research assistant based in an FAS lab, I encourage you to read this message carefully and consult with your PI on next steps.

If you are a research assistant in a lab based at another Harvard School, you should receive information directly from that School.

Please know that GSAS is here to support you. Reach out to your program's director of graduate studies or to GSAS directly if you have questions.

With all best wishes,

Emma Dench
Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History and of the Classics

Dear Colleagues,
Following today’s message about piloting remote work in FAS next week, we are writing about what this will mean specifically for our scholarly activities. Efforts to de-densify our campus bring particular complications in laboratory and other collaborative settings, and academic leaders across the University have been exploring strategies to incorporate public health practices like social distancing into our research environment. While we recognize the challenges, we also believe that we must shift work habits to significantly reduce the number of physical interactions amongst our graduate students, postdocs, faculty and staff. Accordingly, we request your help in developing a rapid strategy to move to remote work for our scholarly activities. We are taking this action in close coordination with other Harvard schools.
Each Principal Investigator or group leader of a laboratory research program (experimental, computational, or otherwise) will be responsible for the coordination of a strategy to ramp-down laboratory research activities by Wednesday March 18th, with the expectation that such a period of suspended lab access will likely last at least six to eight weeks. We will revisit that time frame on a regular basis as more information on the trajectory of disease transmission becomes available, and we will update you if this estimate changes. Please be prepared to implement your plans starting Monday, March 16.

We are mandating that all group meetings, courses, and scientific convocations be conducted virtually, per the FAS and University guidance. To minimize community interactions, we ask that each lab identify at most 2-3 key individuals, in discussion with the department chair, to manage issues such as animal husbandry or essential experiments—those that if discontinued would generate significant financial and data loss.
Scholars whose research does not entail laboratory work should comply with the spirit of limiting campus presence to essential personnel during the week of Spring Break (March 16-22), while making contingency plans for a more extended period of reduced access to campus.
We understand your research is critically important, and during this period we urge you to devote your time to productive alternatives, such as writing grant proposals, reviewing articles and papers, writing thesis chapters, conducting analyses, compiling data and/or synthesizing important research. This is a good opportunity to reflect, and to work on books and research papers. We ask research group leaders to identify contributions that individuals in their group can make while working remotely.
We expect to sustain access to FAS Research Computing resources during this time.
We appreciate that this is a disruption to the life to which we are accustomed. We are facing an unprecedented challenge and must all do our part to “flatten the curve” to protect our community, and lessen predictable pressures on our public health infrastructure. This is our chance for Harvard to act decisively, rise to the occasion, and protect our community. Thank you for taking on this challenge as you have so many other hard problems—with creativity, innovation, and a commitment to the common good.
Claudine Gay
Frank Doyle
Emma Dench
Chris Stubbs
Lawrence Bobo
Robin Kelsey

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