UL research community responds to Covid 19.
With the impact of the Covid 19 crisis, our research community have mobilised in response to the pandemic. The UL COVID Action group coordinates the many activities in progress and emerging across campus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID Action Group is coordinated by the Vice President Research. At a national level, UL staff are advising and informing government through the National Epidemiological Group, DPER, the National Advisory Group and the Department of An Taoiseach Research Group, on how best to manage the emerging impacts from COVID-19. Some of the initiatives already underway include:
- Prof Cathal Walsh and Prof James Gleeson are contributing to the National Epidemiological group coordinated by Prof Philip Nolan (MU). Currently several UL Mathematics and Statistics colleagues and PhD students are helping with coding and parameter sensitivity analyses.
- Researchers at the School of Design, led by Dr Leonard O’Sullivan are collaborating closely with the HSE and industry in the Mid-West to develop user-friendly headbands for healthcare visors. The design developed by Dr O’Sullivan and his team has been validated by the HSE and scale up production by local industry, which is expected to yield 5,000 units per day, will commence in the coming days.
- Dr Jim Buckley, Department of Computer Science and Information Systems has contributed to the review and assessment of internationally available contact tracing apps, which were for national consideration and roll out by HSE.
- Professor Conor Ryan is collaborating with Scoilnet to develop/roll out an online platform for support of teachers/schools, which will provide an interactive tool for Leaving Cert students
- UL scientists prepared a lysis buffer to support the testing of COVID-19 samples at UHL.
- Departments have donated PPE to frontline staff.
- UL is assisting the HSE with contact tracing and a number of our staff and students are involved with Revenue staff in contact tracing in the Mid-West.
There are several other initiatives in development with both national and international consortia, and our industry partners. Throughout this crisis, we have built strong relationships with our colleagues in the University Hospital Limerick to support frontline healthcare workers, scale up testing and provide services and infrastructure. We are also working closely with the HSE on the provision of a field hospital that will be under the governance of the HSE. The University has provided sole access for HSE staff to the UL/UHL Clinical Education & Research Centre (CERC) situated on site in the University Hospital. This includes access to the laboratory space, which can be used for preparation and processing of clinical samples for COVID-19 PCR testing. The HRI (and Clinical Research Support Unit, CRSU) in collaboration with the HSE, are developing a clinical guidance and evidence based repository for healthcare staff.
As part of the contingency planning for the closure of the University significant considerations have been given to the breadth of our research activities. Each faculty and institute prepared a contingency for the various research projects currently underway or about to start. Some projects have been paused or put on hold elements of the work to ensure participant and researcher health and safety is prioritised. Staff are working remotely and discovering new ways of working to meet their research deliverables as far as possible. Inventories of essential supplies in laboratories have been collated and plans for deliveries of such supplies made with colleagues in Buildings and Estates. A process for approval of restricted access in exceptional situations is in place and starts with the line manager followed by Dean and VPR approval. This decision making and contingency planning has been informed by our concerns for staff health and safety in line with government advice.
Nationally, I am collaborating as VPR with senior colleagues in other institutions to work with funders to explore the anticipated and unanticipated impacts of this challenging situation. This evening a joint statement issued from SFI/IRC/HRB informed by our collective input. This offers considerable comfort to the research community at a time of great uncertainty.
I am working continually with the Deans and with the University Crisis Operations Executive Committee to review research activities. We are currently working on a 2 week timeframe and will revisit decisions as the landscape evolves. I would like to thank all involved in preparing these contingency plans and supporting their implementation.
Your support efforts are crucial to manage our research in an extremely challenging time during which the prioritisation of health is paramount.
Office of the Vice President Research contact details Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with all general queries relating to funding and proposals
So far the 22 April ICT and 13 May FET deadlines are unaffected but this may change in due course. (updated 18th March 2020)