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Experiments at home: health and safety for research staff

Professor Parveen Yaqoob

This message from Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Parveen Yaqoob has been sent to Environment, Agriculture, Food and Health researchers.

Dear colleagues,

I hope this message finds you and your families safe and well. As the Vice-Chancellor said in his message earlier, working remotely has been a new and sometimes challenging experience for us all. I have personally found comfort in trying to focus on the things I can do rather than the things I can't.

As a researcher myself, I understand that you might have concerns about the impact of the lockdown on your work - more so if access to specialist equipment or environment is critical to your work. The decision to close buildings and labs following the government's advice on social distancing wasn't an easy one, but the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues was our most important consideration.

A small number of colleagues who need access for critical lab-based research (e.g. on COVID-19), to maintain facilities, or to care for animals (e.g. on the University farm) continue to have this.

I would encourage you to keep alive your research, analysis, writing and even seminars from home - as much as is safely and reasonably possible. (We would not wish anyone to replicate the experience of an Astrophysicist in Australia whose homespun experiment had unfortunate consequences!)

However, I would advise you not to carry out any experiments at home unless you have carefully assessed the risk, as is the normal process. If you have any questions or need advice, please consult the Health and Safety Coordinator for your School.

"We have a duty of care to try to keep everyone as safe as possible in the current difficult circumstances, as well as an ethical and legal obligation as well", Jenny McGrother, Director of Health and Safety Services says.

"So please don't be tempted to try to continue experiments at home without assessing the risk and having control measures in place."

All major research funders are reviewing grant funding arrangements and potential extensions, and there has been assurance from the Research Councils that studentships will continue to be paid. RES has published a web page containing advice on Funder policies and contingency plans for grants and contracts, so please check regularly for updates.

Kind regards,

Parveen

Professor Parveen Yaqoob, Deputy Vice-Chancellor

Chair, COVID-19 Major Incident Team

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