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The pandemic has put unprecedented pressure on universities, which had to find ways to protect the health and safety of faculty, students, and staff; migrate to online education; cease non-COVID-related hospital operations; and make difficult decisions about which research to halt.  Based on data about 37 of American Association of Universities member institutions, the estimated financial losses for each institution ranges from $74 million to $153 million just for one semester.

But even as the pandemic magnifies some existing problems, it can prompt the research community to seek new solutions. National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt recently opened a virtual workshop to discuss the challenges and imagined novel solutions for research universities in the context of COVID-19. “These are challenging circumstances, no doubt, but we also have an opportunity, not only to reimagine and strengthen our research universities but also to help our nation and [the] world be better positioned to respond to inevitable future crises,” said McNutt.

BME Lampe Distinguished Professor Frances Ligler participated in the online workshop, and she proposed that schools and faculty set an example by creating a “revolving door” to encourage early-career faculty to take leaves of absence to work temporarily in industry, government, and nonprofits. “Not only will this enrich the experience of the faculty level, but it will have incredible impact on showing students that you can have a diverse and flexible career,” said Ligler. “You can do research in all kinds of environments, not just an academic research lab.” To read the full feature and watch the workshop sessions recordings, visit the National Academies of Sciences website here.

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