COVID-19 has dramatically changed how we conduct research on campus. We are now embarking on a limited expansion of on-site research, while ensuring we are following campus guidelines to minimize the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Research will be restarted in phases, with a focus on expanding research activities while minimizing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to our students, staff, faculty, and the larger Madison community. All plans for on-site research must comply with campus and external guidelines and be an approved activity.
Phase 0: Minimal Research Presence on Campus
Currently, only research that met certain restrictive criteria is allowed on campus. This includes research that has the potential to address the COVID-19 crisis; therapeutic human subjects studies involving drugs or devices, or other human subjects research activities that are critical to the health and safety of patients or study participants; and projects where termination of the research would lead to loss of long-running experimental data, critical time-series or time-sensitive data, loss of equipment, or the loss of life of critical research-related organisms.
Phase 1: Restricted Expansion of Research with Protections
In the early phases, activity on campus will look very different from that prior to COVID-19. Only activities that cannot be performed at home will be allowed on site. Significant changes in workplace practices are expected from returning researchers. Restrictions will limit the number and density of people in campus buildings and rooms used for research and scholarly activities. New health safety protocols that follow government recommendations and best practices will be in place throughout campus operations.
During Phase 1, research activities with low risk for viral transmission and that can be conducted safely by modifying the work environment will be considered.
Phase 1 provides opportunities to test and refine new procedures for maintaining physical distance, minimizing the number of people in research spaces at any given time, reducing contact duration, developing capacity for contact tracing, and monitoring for local instances of viral infection at research sites and buildings. If Phase 1 is implemented without any increase in the spread of COVID-19, further phases of limited expansion may be started.
How to Request Approval for On-Site Research and Other Scholarly Activity in Phase 1.
All Phase 1 on-site research and scholarly activities require advance approval. All research activities that were previously approved in Phase 0 require reapproval for Phase 1. “On-site research” refers to research and other scholarly activities conducted on the Madison campus, at University-owned facilities, and at non-University field sites.
PIs must complete this online form as part of their request to conduct on-site research during Phase 1. PIs must also complete this form on behalf of all personnel under their supervision who are seeking to return to on-site research. The form lets PIs briefly describe research they would like to conduct in Phase 1, including the location of the research activities; the research personnel involved; the time periods personnel will be on-site; and the steps they will take to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Individuals whose activities were previously approved during the campus shutdown must also complete this form to assure a complete record of the activities occurring across campus and in our buildings.
Requests from PIs will be evaluated by department chairs/section chiefs/center directors, who will consider the request along with those from other researchers in the unit. After the chair/section chief/director reviews the request, they will forward the request and recommendation to the Dean or to the VCRGE for additional coordination and final approval.
Major considerations in the approval process at each stage include ensuring that the density and scheduling of people in labs, rooms, floors, and buildings is consistent with current campus health protocols; that lab safety considerations are appropriately addressed; that personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitizing supplies needed to support the requested research will be available; and that approval processes and outcomes are equitable across departments, schools, colleges, centers and other units on campus. Additional considerations apply when human subjects are involved. Additional communication and notice to employees who have been subject to campus workforce reduction programs will be required and should be coordinated with the divisional HR office. Given these multiple constraints, an individual request may not be fully approved.
Cloth face coverings are not considered PPE in this document. Cloth face coverings are different from traditional respiratory protection devices like N-95 respirators and surgical masks. PPEs -- such as surgical masks and N-95 respirators -- have been, and will continue to be, provided to employees who work with hazardous substances including COVID-19 and to employees that have the potential to being exposed to COVID-19 due to their work. Surgical masks and N-95 respirators must be reserved for these purposes; others should use cloth face coverings to preserve PPE for those who need it. This guidance may change over time as the availability of supplies evolves. For the most up-to-date information, refer to https://facilities.fpm.wisc.edu/returning-to-campus-safely/.