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December VPR Update

VPR Update

December 14, 2020

VPR Update is a monthly email produced by the Office of the Vice President for Research that aims to increase awareness around important research and scholarship items that impact our community. VPR Update is sent to all active researchers, including those engaged in human research, and research administrators across the three U-M campuses.


Rebecca Cunningham

Dear Colleagues,

As part of our ongoing efforts to catalyze, support and safeguard research and scholarship across the three U-M campuses, I am pleased to share with you the December installment of VPR Update.

COVID-related research updates

  • COVID-19 metrics across the research community

    • Researchers to date who have been working on campus and tested positive for COVID-19 (May 21 - December 10): 75 (73 Ann Arbor, 2 Dearborn)

      • Three researchers who have been working in person have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past seven days, with no virus transmission reported in our research workspaces.

  • Surveillance asymptomatic testing available to researchers

    • Members of the U-M research community who are asymptomatic and interested in COVID-19 testing are encouraged to enroll in the Community Sampling and Tracking Program. There is capacity at this time, but you must register for the program in advance to receive a test. Learn more

  • Laboratory density to remain at 60 percent

    • Over the past seven months, there have been no instances of virus transmission between laboratory or research coworkers (which includes testing of asymptomatic close contact coworkers) when proper safety precautions were followed. Therefore, laboratories and research spaces will remain at a current operational capacity of 60 percent density.

  • Human research activation checklist

    • Reviews and approval notifications for human research activation checklists will pause December 19 through January 3. Checklists may be submitted during this time and will be processed in the order they were received, beginning January 4.

Committee addresses COVID-related research disparities

  • We recognize the rapidly changing COVID-19 pandemic has caused and exacerbated a multitude of challenges and disparities across the U-M research community. A new multidisciplinary committee, charged by the Office of the Vice President for Research, has partnered with groups across the university to identify some of these immediate challenges and propose actionable solutions.

  • As part of its initial findings, the COVID-19 Research Disparities Committee developed recommendations to help mitigate challenges disproportionately experienced by women, underrepresented racial/ethnic group members and junior faculty across tracts. Although they are interconnected, committee members identified and grouped challenges into six categories: Career Disruptions; Family Care; Research Continuity; Research Time Recovery Needs; Internal Communications; and Personal Impacts.

  • Informed by committee recommendations, units across U-M already are working to address some of these disparities.

    • U-M issued new guidance in October that allows for the expansion of institutional spending on research. This guidance allows faculty to utilize institutional funding for research and scholarship purposes, and helps address inequities caused by COVID-19 for those most dependent on internal funding. Learn more

    • With many parents and children working and learning from home, child care continues to be a challenge during this pandemic. Aside from ongoing services, the university plans to help faculty and staff by offering a university-paid membership to, and a new posting board for various family care needs. Learn more

    • The committee cited concerns around how COVID-19 has impacted the academic and research progress of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. The Rackham Graduate School has played an important role in addressing many of these concerns, including a recent expansion of the eligibility criteria for its graduate student emergency fund program. Learn more

    • In accordance with committee recommendations, units across U-M will continue to address other important COVID-related research disparities, including matters ranging from promotion and tenure clocks to supporting researchers as they document the impacts of this pandemic.

University salary freeze and the use of sponsored funds

  • Are faculty allowed to use grant funding to provide themselves and/or their teams (including postdocs) with a salary increase?

    • We recognize and acknowledge the financial austerity measures attributed to COVID-19 are indeed challenging, but research teams are not permitted to provide salary increases to those select employees supported by external funds. This is not allowable, per the Uniform Guidance (2 CFR § 200) that governs how U-M manages its federal grants.

    • Universities are required to be consistent in how they treat their research employees, regardless of their source of funds. The Uniform Guidance (2 CFR § 200.403) states that “costs must meet the following general criteria in order to be allowable under federal awards ... (c) Be consistent with policies and procedures that apply uniformly to both federally financed and other activities of the nonfederal entity.”

    • Therefore, faculty and staff who are on grants cannot be differentially provided merit or raises this year because of their funding source when a salary freeze exists for non-sponsored employees. These policies exist to prevent inequitable treatment of all U-M employees, including research staff and faculty teams who are funded by both internal and external funds.

    • Some faculty have expressed concerns that unused grant funding must be returned to the sponsors, but in most cases, sponsors have allowed for funds to carry over due to COVID-19. We encourage teams to be in contact with their program officers and sponsors.

Animal Care and Use Program receives full AAALAC accreditation

  • U-M recently received full continued accreditation from AAALAC International. AAALAC accreditation is critical to the success of our research enterprise as it demonstrates to our peers, collaborators and funding agencies that U-M adheres to the highest national and professional standards of excellence in animal care and use. In its notification letter to university leadership on November 30, the AAALAC Council commended U-M teams for the tremendous amount of commitment, knowledge, pride and enthusiasm that was demonstrated throughout the AAALAC site visit in August. Learn more

U-M to host human research accreditation virtual site visit in March

  • The university will host a virtual site visit with AAHRPP as part of our reaccreditation for the Human Research Protections Program. The site visit will involve virtual interview sessions with select individuals from across our three campuses and the health system. AAHRPP reaccreditation is critical because it reaffirms the university’s commitment to the continuous improvement of its programs and processes that aim to protect the rights and welfare of human research participants. U-M has maintained AAHRPP accreditation since 2008. Learn more about the site visit, and if you have any further questions, please contact

Graduate student temporary parking available

  • In support of graduate student research and teaching activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, Logistics, Transportation & Parking is offering a temporary parking permit option between December 1 – June 30, 2021. Learn more

New ULAM per-diem rates take effect January 1

  • The Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine (ULAM) recently announced upcoming changes to its husbandry per-diem rates that take effect January 1. View the list of revised per-diem rates that have been reviewed and approved by the Financial Analysis team. If you have any further questions, please contact


This is our final installment of VPR Update for 2020, so I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your tremendous support, expertise and dedication over the past year. 2020 has presented us with so many challenges that we have never before experienced, but our research enterprise pressed on.

I recognize our community has experienced a multitude of challenges as it relates to balancing research and academic commitments, all while managing increased and changing demands on your family and personal life. I encourage researchers to grant and accept some grace for themselves and their teams, as well as their project timelines.

Researchers worldwide have experienced delays and setbacks, and so I encourage our community to accept this situation for what it is and not to place unrealistic pressure on ourselves and our teams at this time. There is now an end in sight for this pandemic, and as we emerge from COVID-19, projects and career timelines will naturally reshape and accelerate. Our people are the most important research assets, and together, we will emerge even stronger from this global pandemic.

Have a safe, happy and healthy holiday season. And thank you again for everything you do to keep our research enterprise running smoothly.


Rebecca Cunningham, M.D.
Vice President for Research
William G. Barsan Collegiate Professor of Emergency Medicine


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