Harvard will begin a “phased” reopening of its research labs through the oversight of a new Lab Reopening Planning Committee, University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 wrote in an email to Harvard faculty Monday.
Though Garber called the need to resume research operations “urgent,” he wrote that reopening will happen gradually and only in accordance with public health guidelines. Harvard’s labs were drastically scaled down two months ago — with the exception of essential activities — in response to the global coronavirus pandemic.
Vice Provost for Research Richard D. McCullough formed the reopening committee at Garber’s request in collaboration with Dean of Science Christopher J. Stubbs, according to the email. In cooperation with local and state leaders, the committee — which is composed of Harvard faculty and staff as well as outside experts — will develop protocols for personal protection and testing in labs as well as guidelines for modifying research spaces to prevent spread of infection.
“It will base its decisions in data and draw on insights from epidemiology, engineering, medicine, laboratory science, decision sciences, and ethics and the law,” Garber wrote. “With the committee’s guidance, we will monitor the success of the phased reopening and be prepared to make changes as dictated by health and safety issues.”
The group will also draw from protocols developed in Harvard labs that have remained operational during the pandemic — namely, those dedicated to COVID-19 research.
“We can build on the experience of the laboratories dedicated to COVID-19 research that have continued to operate safely during the pandemic, along with the experience of laboratories in our affiliated institutes and hospitals, as well as other institutions, that have resumed work,” he wrote.
The University is also preparing for the reopening of research access to Harvard’s libraries and museums. He wrote that “infection control measures” will be adapted to meet the features of the University’s libraries and museums.
“Staff need to return to these facilities to be able to provide the full complement of virtual research services and to satisfy requests for physical materials needed for scholarship,” he wrote. “As in the laboratories, health and safety is of paramount importance, so infection control measures will be adapted for the distinctive features of libraries and museums.”
The efforts will be led by Vice President for the Harvard Library and University Librarian Martha Whitehead, Director of the Harvard Art Museums Martha Tedeschi.
—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.