Continuity of Research

Updated March 25, 2020

With the governor's stay-at-home order that took effect at 11:59pm on March 23, no non-critical research should continue on campus. To continue critical research, you must obtain approval from the VPRI and provost.

Even with approval to continue critical research, you should monitor yourself for signs of illness and stay home if you are ill. Specifically, you should:

  • Take your temperature every day and stay home if you have a temperature at or above 100.4 degrees.
  • Stay home if you have a cough or difficulty breathing.
Note that not all of the following information is relevant under the stay-at-home order, but it is being preserved here for reference.

Access to facilities

With the governor's stay-at-home order in effect, campus as a whole is closed. To maintain access to  individual buildings, you must have approval from the VPRI and provost to continue critical research on campus.

Student participation in research

Undergraduate students are not permitted to be on campus to carry out any research activities. Graduate students conducting research for their thesis or dissertation, or as part of a research assistantship are expected to continue their research activities if possible. However, research groups should implement mechanisms or shift activities to conduct research remotely whenever possible, consistent with the recommendations below. Where research activities on campus and in associated research facilities are necessary, additional practices should be adopted to keep health and safety a priority. Please see the guidance below.

Planning for contingencies

Because of the rapid pace of change, Principal Investigators and others who manage research labs should plan now for any interruptions in access to facilities, disruptions in supply chains, or suspension of operations. Planning can minimize the impact of such events. See below for guidance.

Create a staffing and essential duty coverage plan

  • Prepare for a limited number of researchers to staff facilities for a 45- to 60-day period.
    • Identify and assign roles and responsibilities for essential functions.
      • Consider limiting lab staffing to one or two people at a time by staggering hours. If two people must be in the lab together, advise them to maintain adequate social distancing (a minimum of 6 feet). Develop a communication plan to verify the safety of anyone who is in the lab alone. 
      • Note that undergraduate researchers are not permitted to be on campus to carry out any research activities.
      • Cross-train personnel to cover essential functions.
      • Develop a plan to delegate authority in case any responsible individual is unable to make decisions.
    • Identify experiments that can be scaled down, delayed, or stopped. Prepare a shutdown checklist.
    • Immediately notify your supervisor if you or any member of your research team becomes ill.
    • Plan for decontamination of workspaces in the event a staff member who has been in the lab becomes ill.
    • Coordinate with colleagues who have similar research activities to cover critical activities with as few staff as possible.
    • Perform work that can be done remotely -- such as data analysis -- off campus.
    • Consider generating data now and postponing analysis that can be done remotely should access to facilities become restricted.
    • Note that campus buildings are currently locked and require a university ID to gain entry. It is possible that, in an extreme case, building access may be limited to critical personnel.
    • Coordinate as appropriate with Research Ethics & Integrity and Environmental Health & Safety.

Prepare personnel to work remotely

  • Researchers who are sick, immuno-compromised, or have other relevant circumstances should make alternative arrangements with their advisors, PIs, or supervisors as needed.
  • Make sure all staff update their emergency contact information.
  • Create a list of off-campus contact information for all members of your research team. Share that list with your team and your business manager/department administrator and make it available to these parties online.
  • Confirm personnel have access to campus IT resources via the university's VPN.
  • Verify personnel have access to necessary files, data, and software applications (consult IT Services' Remote Tech Toolkit).
  • Researchers who will lose access to lab computers they rely on for computational work may be able to continue research remotely on the Redhawk cluster.
  • Determine how you will communicate with remote personnel.
  • Review all plans with all members of your team.

Plan for managing lab equipment

  • Identify critical lab equipment.
  • Identify equipment that cannot be shut down.
  • Identify equipment -- for example, liquid nitrogen dewars, inert atmosphere gloveboxes, vacuum lines, freezers, and incubators -- that requires routine monitoring.
  • Determine how long it will take to shut down equipment and experiments. Document the safest and most expeditious procedures.
  • Determine availability of remote monitoring and back-up power supplies to maintain critical equipment.
  • Notify Environmental Health & Safety if required monitoring cannot be performed.
  • Plan for the possibility that Physical Facilities and other service providers may be unavailable to perform repairs.

Plan for managing materials and supplies

  • All essential research must be conducted in appropriate laboratory space. Researchers must not take materials -- with the exception of laptops or other computers and data storage devices -- to any offsite location, including their homes.
  • Animals may not be removed from university facilities.
  • Exercise special care with identifiable human subjects' data. Do not place such data on a storage device or on a laptop, unless the laptop is encrypted.
  • Identify sensitive materials and supplies.
  • Determine whether brief utility outages or other situations require contingencies for temperature-sensitive or other special materials.
  • Secure radioactive and other hazardous materials. Store hazardous materials and waste in the appropriate environment in case access is not available for an extended period.
  • Plan for disruptions in the supply chain:
    • Assess which supplies and services are truly critical.
    • Contact vendors to inquire about potential disruptions and identify alternative sources.
    • For supplies and services that are critical even during a research curtailment, work with your team and your department or building manager to include this need in your continuity plan.
    • Plan for the eventuality that scientific service centers and other fee-for-service resources might be unavailable.

Notify sponsors

If you are concerned that your funded research will be negatively affected by COVID-19 -- that you will be unable to meet timelines or milestones or produce deliverables -- you may need to notify the sponsor. In many cases, questions about government- or foundation-sponsored research can be sent directly to a program officer. For answers to other questions, contact your proposal consultant.


Contact Us: Continuity of Research

Alicia Knoedler
Vice President for Research & Innovation
102 Roudebush Hall