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March VPR Update

VPR Update

March 17, 2021

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 March installment of VPR Update.

COVID-related research updates

  • This week marks one year since we all worked together to ramp down research and scholarship activity to protect the health and safety of our community. Thank you for the immense creativity, flexibility and persistence that you all have exhibited when faced with so many challenges over the past year. It is because of your commitment to public health practices and your ability to overcome critical challenges that I am able to announce our plans to safely expand research and scholarship activity.

  • Labs to expand capacity April 1

    • Given the decrease in virus transmission rates across our community, effective April 1, laboratories and research spaces on our three campuses may begin to operate at a density capacity that safely allows for at least six feet of social distancing between personnel. There will no longer be a mandate to maintain 144 square feet per person.

    • Researchers must continue to maintain at least six feet of separation at all times and wear face coverings. We anticipate some teams may not be able to reach full capacity on April 1 because their labs or research spaces cannot safely accommodate more personnel and still maintain at least six feet of separation. Operational capacity for research will remain at 75 percent through March 31.

    • The research environment has been demonstrated to be safe and not a source of virus transmission when face coverings and social distancing guidelines are followed.

  • Tier 3 human research is eligible for reactivation April 1

    • All human research studies categorized as Tier 3, which have been paused since last spring, may resume in-person activity beginning April 1. These studies must first apply for activation.

    • Human research studies categorized as Tier 0, Tier 1 and Tier 2 are currently eligible for and may continue in-person activity.

    • Studies that are able to complete their goals remotely should continue with remote work.

    • Study teams (including those newly applying for Tier 3 activation) are required to work within the guidelines outlined in their Human Research Activation Checklist. Researchers must resubmit their checklist if they intend to transition from remote to in-person activity and/or from clinician to other study team members.

    • If you have any further questions, please refer to the Research Re-engagement webpage or contact the Human Research Activation Committee.

  • Vaccine FAQs

    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued updated guidelines as it relates to social interactions among people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Please note these guidelines are applicable to a residential setting only. Most other settings will maintain their safety precautions at this time, which include face coverings, social distancing and frequent handwashing. Faculty, staff and students across all three campuses must continue to comply with the U-M Face Covering Policy.

    • University Human Resources developed FAQs to address important questions regarding the ongoing vaccine rollout. We included a few FAQs below, but please visit Human Resources’ COVID-19 webpage for more information.

      • Will the vaccine be mandatory? Do I need the vaccine if I primarily work remotely?

        • While the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory at this time, it is highly recommended that all eligible individuals consider receiving the vaccination as the opportunity to do so becomes available. We will continue to share additional safety and efficacy data to help build awareness and understanding, and support informed individual decision-making.

      • Can I ask my staff to provide me proof of their vaccination status?

        • No. The COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory at this time, and there is no need to track employees’ vaccination status.

      • If an employee chooses not to receive the vaccine, does that determine what work they are allowed to perform, including whether or not they are allowed to work on site?

        • No. Vaccination is not mandatory at this time, and should not be a factor in assigning work, including whether or not someone can work onsite. When on site, employees are required to wear a face covering, and should continue to follow the safety measures recommended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

  • COVID-19 metrics across the research community

    • Researchers to date who have been working on campus and tested positive for COVID-19 (May 21 - March 14): 129 (127 Ann Arbor, 2 Dearborn)

      • Two 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.

New funding program to support, catalyze research

  • OVPR will launch a new funding program next month that aims to catalyze research and spur innovation across our three campuses. The Research Catalyst and Innovation (RCI) Program features four new funding mechanisms that will total more than $1.5 million in research support over Fiscal Year 2022. The program also helps teams leverage internal investments to then seek more external support through increased collaboration between OVPR, its research development team and schools/colleges across U-M.

  • RCI replaces the Faculty Grants and Awards Program, which OVPR managed for more than 20 years. As part of RCI, researchers across our three campuses are eligible to apply as early as next month for some of these new funding opportunities. Learn more

Agreements offer no-cost publishing opportunities to U-M authors

  • Two new, three-year agreements between academic publishers and the Big Ten Academic Alliance are piloting new models for sustainable open access publishing.

    • The Read and Publish agreement with Cambridge University Press allows U-M authors to publish without charge, and without caps, in CUP journals that are fully or hybrid open access. Research papers published under this agreement will be freely accessible to everyone. The CUP contract also provides reading rights to the full CUP journals package.

    • The Community Action Publishing agreement with PLOS allows U-M authors to publish without fees in two highly selective journals, PLOS Biology and PLOS Medicine. Because PLOS is an open access publisher, all articles are freely available to the public. Learn more

Expanded training course required for all researchers

  • Faculty, employees and students engaged in research and scholarship across our three campuses are required to complete an expanded training course that outlines important guidance about responsible conduct in research and scholarship. The updated PEERRS Responsible Conduct of Research and Scholarship training course, which is designed to include expanded federal requirements, is available through My LINC and must be completed by June 30. Learn more about RCRS training, and if you have any further questions, please contact

March 22: President’s Awards for Public Engagement

  • The university research community is encouraged to participate virtually in the President’s Awards for Public Engagement on March 22. Professors Emily Toth Martin and J. Alex Halderman will be recognized as the National and State Leadership Awardees, while Professors Margaret Dewar and Marc A. Zimmerman will be honored as the Public Impact Awardees. The event also will feature a series of lightning round talks that focus on how to successfully engage with the public. RSVP


Stay safe and healthy, and research onward.


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


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