Last updated: 14/10/2020 09:25
An updated message from Professor Kim Graham, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Research, Innovation and Enterprise to our research partners about our research activities during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
We continue to respond proactively to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, conscious of our responsibilities to staff and students, research partners, the NHS and the general public. The pandemic has had an impact on any research that requires access to University facilities and laboratories, face-to-face interactions or access to external locations. Back in March 2020 as the pandemic took hold across the UK the University switched largely to remote working, with only essential research for medical reasons or for reasons of national security being carried out in University buildings. This was in line with Government advice and activities which were able to continue included a range of projects to aid the understanding and treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19).
A priority for us during the pandemic has been to ensure that our early career research staff and postgraduate research students are provided for. Retaining their talent will give the UK the resilience it needs to quickly recover from the current crisis and quickly regain our research and development momentum. We are working with the Welsh and UK Governments and with national research funding bodies such as UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to jointly resource this activity. Some funders such as UKRI and The Wellcome Trust have committed to supporting project staff and research students with additional funding at this difficult time, although we appreciate that not all research funders are in a position to do likewise. We acknowledge that some sectors such as research funding charities have been severely impacted by a fall in donations and closure of their high street shops.
Since the early summer the situation has evolved and we have gradually transitioned more researchers back to working on campus. In all cases this has been carried out in full alignment with guidance from the Welsh and UK governments with due regard to the health and wellbeing of our staff and students. Over two initial phases almost 600 research staff and 300 postgraduate research students had returned to the campus by September. We anticipate numbers will continue to increase in an ongoing third phase, alongside the return of limited face to face teaching to the campus. Rest assured, we will continue to monitor the situation and Government advice closely and we are being highly proactive in safeguarding the health of our researchers, having invested in the recent introduction of the University’s in-house asymptomatic COVID-19 screening service.
At the same time, many of our research staff and postgraduate research students will continue to work productively from remote locations for the foreseeable future and will maintain progress with their research. Any impact on their efficiency and effectiveness due to these arrangements is being monitored by academic supervisors and will vary according to research discipline, by individual project and as dictated by individual personal circumstances. Academic staff and project principal investigators are maintaining regular contact with research staff and students via videoconferencing and other means and we are supporting remote research activity with a view to maximising the productivity of our staff and students at this time. We have issued extensive guidance and have made available a range of tools to support remote working, including enhanced access to digital libraries, secure online data storage and powerful supercomputing capabilities.
We have taken the opportunity to secure support from the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in some cases, furloughing relevant University staff for defined periods. In such cases the University has been able to use salary savings in order to extend the employment contracts of the researchers affected, providing them with the opportunity to complete their research (whether remotely or on campus).
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting organisations globally and we are mindful of the effects the pandemic is having on our funders, partners, collaborators and their staff. Our collaborative relationships and partnerships are critical to our success and we recognise that our partners may themselves have short-term challenges which will affect their delivery of existing commitments with us. It is important that we share information and updates on projects that might be affected by the coronavirus so we can work together to successfully address any changes to deadlines or project requirements.
Thank you for your continued support and for your patience during these challenging times. Together, I am confident we will emerge from this pandemic with our relationships remaining productive and well-placed to support the UK and global economies in their future research and development efforts.
If you have questions about the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on a specific project you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.