Welcome to the spring 2021 semester. I’m writing with an update on the state of research at BU, including our community’s collective effort to keep faculty, students, and staff healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even as we continue to grapple with challenges as a campus and as a nation, the relentless curiosity and potential of our research community have never offered more hope. With 1,681 laboratories, over 300 programs of study, 130+ research centers, 17 schools and colleges, and more than $574 million in sponsored research awards in FY20, we are poised to provide evidence-based leadership and pioneering solutions to help our local and global communities recover and rebuild.

As the semester moves into full swing, I want to provide a few important updates:

Laboratories continue to operate at reduced density, with occupancy limits for labs set by the principal investigator within each lab’s approved recovery plan, adjusted for any additional restrictions set by the state.

The current state restrictions set a temporary 25 percent capacity limit for administrative spaces through February 8. While this limit doesn’t impact experimental (wet) labs, it does affect administrative spaces associated with research, including offices and most non-experimental (dry) labs.

Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) continues to conduct unannounced lab walkthroughs. While EHS inspections are not new, they are happening more frequently during the pandemic so we can ensure adherence to COVID safety requirements.

BU’s lab inspection checklist identifies eight major COVID safety violations. For everyone’s health and safety, any of these violations may result in revocation of lab access privileges if they are observed by EHS during a lab walkthrough:

  1. Laboratory is not performing and documenting required hygiene practices, including daily disinfection of high-touch surfaces and equipment. Documenting disinfection requires keeping a daily cleaning log and holding onto past records in the event of an inspection by an outside public health agency.
  2. Personnel are not practicing social distancing as per BU policy. In labs, it is considered a violation if assigned work stations are fewer than six feet apart on any side.
  3. Laboratory does not maintain a schedule for the use of shared equipment.
  4. Personnel are not adhering to the density limits set forth in their lab’s approved recovery plan.
  5. Appropriate personal protective equipment is not available or not being used.
  6. A hand-washing station is not available and/or stocked.
  7. Infection prevention signage is not posted.
  8. Personnel have not completed their daily health screening before returning to campus. It is equally important that all on-campus researchers keep up with testing requirements, as determined by assigned testing category.

Stay informed: You can find details on lab occupancy limits and safety protocols in our Research Recovery Toolkit. I encourage you to continue to visit the University’s Back2BU website and the Research Support COVID-19 page for the latest information.

Thank you for your continued commitment to the safety of your research group and our campus community. Above all, I thank you for your resilience during a year when so much has been asked of you, and for your tireless dedication to your work. Your research matters. My office is here to help make that research possible. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, feedback, or ideas about how we can support you better as we move forward together in 2021.

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