Over this past winter many researchers and scholars whose presence on campus was critical to their ongoing work returned after getting approval of their Research Restart Plans and putting in place precautions and protocols to protect themselves, colleagues, human subjects, and others with whom they were likely to come into contact.

Now that we’re well into Spring 2021, and COVID-19 vaccines are becoming more widely available, those working from home may wish to return to campus. Until the community, and country, get closer to herd immunity, however, and as the risk of viral variants continues, it is essential that we maintain our vigilance and keep safeguards in place.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues adjusting its public health guidance, the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) and the UI Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT) are meeting this spring to draw up plans governing in-person campus activities, from classes and lectures, to campus tours and social events.

In the meantime, as was expected over the winter, any preparations for increasing on-campus activities must take into account a range of potential risks, offer detailed plans for mitigating those risks, and involve coordination with departmental, collegiate, and campus leadership. This document outlines the efforts of OVPR, working closely with collegiate associate deans for research and the CIMT, to guide the transition back to campus in a way that’s strategic, sensible, synchronized, and safe.

General Information

  • The conduct of research, scholarship, and creative activities is at the core of the University of Iowa's multiple missions of education, research, service, and engagement with the state, region, nation, and beyond. 
  • The health and safety of everyone in our community is paramount; we are all responsible as members of the social contract.
  • There is no campus-wide date for staff still working remotely to return to campus. Rather, employees working remotely should continue doing so until campus leadership determines that adequate health and safety measures are in place for a general resumption of on-campus activities. Researchers who have not yet returned to campus must submit and have approved by their Associate Dean for Research a Research Restart Plan (more details in the following sections).
  • Anyone who is ill or is suspected of having an infection should stay home, contact their PI or departmental administrator, and seek medical care.
  • Public health officials and state and university executive orders will be our guideposts.
  • The situation will continue to change and our response must be adaptable, flexible and nimble; we may need to “ramp-down” should the situation dictate.

  • If anyone feels unsafe or uncomfortable in a research space, they need to contact the administrative director of their unit (department, college). Any unresolved issues should be reported the Office of the Vice President for Research.
  • Trainees and early-career scholars have been especially impacted by this pandemic and should be given special consideration. [See guidance regarding Proposals for Financial Support for Graduate Students impacted by the COVD19 Pandemic]
  • Adequate PPE and source control must be available before work begins; all safety and biosafety guidelines must be followed.
  • Human subjects research must continue to follow the principle of preserving the safety of the subject and the researchers. [See guidance for Human Subjects research]
  • Animal research requires coordination with the Office of Animal Resources [See Section V-Animal Subjects]
  • The core facilities are open but continue to restrict the number of people in the facilities. Contact the specific core facility for detailed information and scheduling.
  • Studio, performance, and other workspaces on campus will follow these same guidelines to protect health and safety. [See guidance for Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences]
  • All research groups approved for a return to campus should consider working in shifts (or alternating days) to minimize the number of people in a space at a given time while maintaining all safety protocols.
  • Everyone accessing shared spaces in campus buildings (hallways, staircases, restrooms, break rooms) must follow FM and building-specific guidelines for procedures and protocol.  
  • Field studies need to adhere to social distancing and other safety concerns, especially during travel.
  • Research and creative activity conducted at off-campus sites must adhere to their specific requirements.
  • Undergraduate students and visitors should not be used to help ramp-up research activities, except in extraordinary circumstances that will require prior approval. For details, visit the Student Researchers section.

Each laboratory or research group must have a detailed plan that adheres to the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Laboratory Guidelines for COVID-19 Prevention. The plans must be specific for the spaces and activities of the research group, must be shared with members of the group and posted in a prominent place in the space. These plans need to be prepared in consultation with the department/center/institute and submitted to the Associate Dean for Research for your College for approval. Any deviations from these principles or disputes will be sent to the Vice President for Research for resolution. Examples of draft plans for core facilities may be found here

Effective June 15, 2020, the university returned to normal approval processes for all domestic travel. Trips for all domestic travel need to be created and approved through workflow. ProTrav is now available for the creation of domestic trips for purposes other than COVID-19.

Please follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on travel: CDC Travel Guidance.

As always, travelers should continue to take everyday preventive actions recommended by the CDC to help prevent the spread of the virus.  For field research, travelers should practice social distancing for all activities, including travel to and from the research field site.