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23 March 2020
Managing Research Activities Amidst Covid-19 Protocols

(Published - 23 March 2020)

Dear Students and Colleagues

The Acting Rector, Prof Lawack, sent out a notice on 20 March 2020 indicating that all activities at UWC will be minimised in terms of physical contact, but that we will continue to be as operational as possible.

In terms of research activities and support, please note the following:

Postgraduate students are encouraged to continue their work off campus. We encourage all supervisors to make use of digital technologies to stay in contact and provide necessary supervision support. Postgraduate training support from the Division for Postgraduate Studies will continue online. Faculties will make the necessary arrangements to continue coursework modules online in term 2.

Where postgraduate students are doing field work, judgement is required on whether the work can continue. Research involving human subjects should consider how the Covid-19 protocols must be applied. Other field work should be considered on a case-by-case basis to minimise the spread of the virus, and to protect both the field sites and researchers. In most cases, continuation is unlikely to be possible, but students, with their supervisors, can make the call. The Research Office and the Division for Postgraduate Studies will be available to provide guidance.

Postgraduate students involved in research in laboratories whose work cannot simply be stopped will be allowed to continue, and we advise these postgraduate students to work with their supervisors to ensure that all the recommended hygiene measures are implemented. We advise those who do not need to be in laboratories to stay off-campus and focus on reading, writing and other desk work to ensure that we can adhere to social distancing and minimise the spread of the virus.

The library is currently physically closed in order to limit social contact. Library Services are available digitally, via the UWC Webpage. Library Services -

  • Access to information – use the uKwazi search button on the homepage; or Click Databases or Subject Guides, to get relevant reliable academic peer reviewed information.
  • All Faculty Librarians' contact emails are listed on the subject guides for further assistance.
  • The online Librarian Chat service is available.
  • All physical loaned items will carry extended return dates, which will be communicated to students via the SMS facility

The Research Office and Research Contracts & Grants remain operational, but electronically. Staff can be reached through email and other digital technologies. All scheduled workshops are being arranged to take place online.

In the case of research activities where people are brought together for research purposes, and where research staff are placed at risk as a result, these activities should be urgently reviewed to determine the risk of COVID-19 transmission. In most instances, these activities will need to be halted or redesigned to remove the potential for transmission where possible.

We urge all researchers to work with us and to act ethically as we navigate this journey. We recommend that researchers contact the Research Office for guidance on how we can develop a plan to reduce research activities. The Research Office will also be issuing a letter that researchers can use for funders, indicating how the closure of the Institution could impact research processes and outputs.

Most conferences around the world have been cancelled or postponed. Thus, on a case by case basis, we will determine how we manage those researchers who have been approved for funding in 2020. Where conferences were postponed, rather than cancelled outright, researchers will retain the conference funds allocated to them and use that money to attend the conference when it is rescheduled in 2020. However, if the conference is cancelled, the allocated funds will revert back to SR and researchers will be eligible to apply in 2021.

Staff exchanges can be postponed to the second half of the year, and if the uncertainty persists, we will reassess. As we are all facing this challenge, we appeal to staff and students to work with the respective offices to find workable solutions.

The Technology Transfer Office remains fully operational while working remotely. All the TTO staff can be reached via email or telephone, and meetings can be held with the TTO staff using various digital platforms.

Together we can survive this.

Yours Sincerely

Professor Jose Frantz
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation