Many University of Iowa researchers and scholars who have been operating in hibernation mode since March because of COVID-19 are understandably eager to get back to campus. Delays, however necessary, jeopardize funding and momentum in gathering and analyzing important data. But as long as the threat of viral transmission persists and until an effective vaccine is developed, ramping up campus activities prematurely or haphazardly could be disastrous. Preparations for allowing researchers back on campus must take into account a range of potential risks, offer detailed plans for mitigating those risks, and involve broad coordination with campus leadership. This documents outlines the efforts of the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR), working closely with collegiate associate deans for research and the UI Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT), to guide the ramp-up process in a way that’s strategic, sensible, synchronized, and safe.
- 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 currently no campus-wide date for staff who are currently working remotely to return to campus. Employees working remotely should continue doing so until campus leadership determines that adequate health and safety measures are in place.
- 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 staged schedule for ramping up research and creative activities will be coordinated with academics, although not necessarily in perfect cadence. Research will provide the “pilot study” for the restart of campus activities.
- 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.
- “Essential” research as defined earlier and any new research directly related to COVID-19 will continue to receive priority.
- The Research Ramp-Up process will be gradual and deliberate and will help guide the restart of other campus activities. Ramp-up plans should include all on-campus work, including ongoing COVID-19 research.
- 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 will open but with a restricted 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 is required to prepare and submit 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.