Coronavirus Impacts - Research Return
Information on Coronavirus Impacts - Minimizing Research
11 November 2020
With COVID-19 cases rising across Hamilton County and the tri-state region, I want to urge each of you to continue to observe and enforce appropriate safety measures for those who are conducting research on campus or at a field site. Masks, social distancing, cleaning/disinfection and limiting the size of gatherings within your research spaces all remain important measures we can take to limit the spread of the virus.
In addition, for those planning to continue research-related activities after the end of the fall semester, please keep in mind that UC’s facilities will be operating between semesters as in the past. Personnel will be allowed on campus for research. Buildings will remain open except during the Winter Season Days, when key card access will be required.
I continue to appreciate your diligence and concern for safety that underpins your research, scholarship and creative activities throughout this pandemic. Thank you for all you do.
Vice President for Research
17 September 2020
I want to start by thanking all of you in our research community for your commitment to the principles of health and safety during these times. Since the Research Return plan initiated on June 1st, I have received many positive affirmations of the seriousness and dedication of our researchers to a safe and efficient research enterprise. I also know that it has not been easy working under such limiting conditions for the past 3+ months, so I also thank you for the patience you have exhibited.
I am pleased to note that we will be removing any density limitations to our research activities effective Thursday October 1st.
Each college will determine how they prefer to manage changes in research, scholarship and creative activities once we move into October. You are expected and required to follow the appropriate guidelines and instructions from your college. Guidelines for the safe conduct of research will follow those already in place for the rest of the university. Those are found at https://www.uc.edu/publichealth/return-to-campus-guide/stay-safe.html#safety-measures: daily wellness check*, facial coverings, social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing workspaces, and adherence to travel restrictions. Gatherings are limited to 10 or less individuals, and we want to continue to strongly recommend that any and all research-related activities that can be conducted virtually, such as laboratory meetings, continue to stay in a remote environment. *The use of the UC Covid Check app is required for all students and strongly recommended for all faculty and staff conducting research or related activities on campus. Further, any additional requirements put in place by your college to maintain and manage a safe and healthy research environment must be followed.
Up-to-date information on UC’s COVID-19 response is available here. Research specific information, including updates on Human Subjects Research and Animal Care and Use, are available below.
Again, the responsibility, care and patience you have exhibited since March are inspiring. Please continue to live out those values, keeping the health and safety of all involved in our research and creative activities as your top priority.
Vice President for Research
View the VPR's Research Continuity Discussion (recorded 5/13/2020) here.
Principles and Process for Research Return to Campus
The University of Cincinnati may now focus on the principles and processes required to return to on-campus research activities. This guidance has been prepared to assist our research community with accomplishing this task. This guidance is not authorizing a return to research as usual…significant restrictions remain in place to support the health and safety of all involved.
Principles for Research Return
The following principles must be followed in allowing on-campus research:
(5/20/2020 - updated mandatory actions for all on-campus research activities)
- All research activities that can be completed remotely (e.g. data analysis, report generation, lab meetings) must continue to be performed in a remote work environment.
- Any and all on-campus research activities should follow the cognizant Public Health Authority directives.
- Employees who meet the CDC’s definition for those who are at higher risk for severe illness (see https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-at-higher-risk.html) may request reasonable accommodations by contacting the Human Resources Department.
- Student, staff and faculty safety, health and well-being are the most important considerations when allowing any on-campus research activities. To achieve this principle, the following actions will be mandatory for all allowable activities:
- Before returning to campus for the first time, all employees must successfully complete a brief online information session administered by University Health Services to ensure awareness of CDC and ODH guidelines. The tutorial can be found here.
*NOTE* - Students may have trouble accessing the return to COVID-19 Pandemic: Working Safely at the University of Cincinnati training ( https://bit.ly/COVID19_UCTraining). We realize this is time sensitive, HR is attempting to provide an alternative login for students ASAP, look for a new link from your college and on this website prior to June 1.
- Before coming to campus each day, all employees must complete a self-administered wellness check based on CDC and ODH guidelines. The wellness check can be found here. All employees who have symptoms that may relate to COVID-19 should contact University Health Services immediately at COVIDWatch@uc.edu.
- All employees must wear facial coverings on campus, except while eating or alone in a private space. For more information on facial coverings, including exemptions to this requirement, click here.
- All employees must adhere to social-distancing requirements detailed here.
- All areas must clean and sanitize their workplace settings throughout the day. These efforts will supplement cleaning and sanitizing activities that will occur after hours by our facilities staff. Click here for specific directions.
- All employees must continue to abide by restrictions on travel detailed here.
- All employees who meet the CDC’s definition of individuals at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 may continue to work remotely. CDC information on risk factors is available here. Please contact Human Resources to submit a request to work remotely due to being at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
- For more information on mental health resources, please click here.
- For more information on maintaining a safe work environment as well as wellness and support resources, please click here.Before returning to campus for the first time, all supervisors and lab leaders must complete a health safety assessment of their workplace setting. Find more information, including deadlines for completion, here.
- To accommodate these safety principles, laboratory directors, faculty mentors and principal investigators must develop a plan to promote safety. Plan templates will be provided by your college to assist in addressing these safety principles. Each plan will require you to:
- Develop a process to record daily personnel activity and entry/exit from research space;
- Establish a laboratory space cleaning/disinfecting schedule;
- Develop a plan to maintain spatial and temporal distancing of personnel (e.g. consider shift scheduling/cohorting to minimize personnel density);
- Coordinate research involving shared spaces to maintain distancing requirements.
- Research locations and dimensions for planning purposes can be found at https://space.uc.edu/.
- Research directors/faculty mentors/PIs should assume that additional Stay at Home orders can be authorized at any time to combat future outbreaks of the virus. Now is not the time to be starting new long-term research projects.
Preparing for Research Return
- Laboratory directors, faculty mentors and principal investigators can begin preparing for the return of on-campus research activities. Suggestions to ensure appropriate and successful on-campus activities include:
- Identify crucial contingencies that must be accomplished first before broader research can be conducted (e.g., restarting/recalibration of equipment, restarting cell cultures, gradual expansion of animal colonies, availability of core facilities). Begin planning research return based on these contingencies.
- Prioritize on-campus research to those most crucial experiments/studies/data gathering that can maximize off-campus data review/evaluation and/or proposal/paper preparation/submission while minimizing research time and need to be on-campus.
- Identify needed supplies, reagents and the like that should be procured and available before on-campus research can resume.
- Discuss with trainees and staff current research status and develop plans for progress under limited on-campus access and that may be impacted by limited availability of core facilities/collaborators/supplies, by social distancing requirements, illness/quarantine within the research location or building, or a new ‘stay at home’ order. Create clear plans of action during the research return that are agreed upon by all parties.
Phased Approach to Research Return
- Research return plans may include allowances to begin preparing on-campus research laboratories or facilities prior to June 1st. Those allowances would be for preparations that are essential for a resumption of research. Examples include, but are not limited to: cell culturing, expanding animal colonies, instrument calibration, etc.
- Documentation must be provided that describes the personnel to be involved, the location, the frequency and duration (e.g., weekly for 2 hours), and the health, safety & wellness plans and processes.
- Research activities during the month of June will be limited as follows:
- Weeks of June 1st and June 8th: Personnel restrictions –generally no more than 25% of the total research team present in a single research location at the same time.
- Weeks of June 15th and June 22nd: Personnel restrictions –generally no more than 50% of the total research team present in a single research location at the same time.
- The limitations above must always adhere to social distancing guidelines.
- Contiguous research spaces are considered as a single research location
- These research personnel restrictions will be re-evaluated in late June/early July. Researchers should assume limitations and plans in place for week of June 22nd will be continued indefinitely. As the campus status changes, researchers will be informed.
College Documentation and Approval Process
The Office of Research has created a template to be used by each college to document the research plans and standard operating procedures for safety, scheduling and access, along with a multi-week plan for research activity prioritization under limited access conditions. Only the Dean or their designee may modify the template to accommodate college-specific needs. Under no circumstances should the information relating to Research Location Health and Safety Plans and Personal Protection Plans be deleted or otherwise not provided for review.
Each Dean or their designee will identify the appropriate approval chain for these research plans. College-wide summaries of approved plans must be provided to the Vice President for Research via email no later than May 28th for activities planned to begin the week of June 1st. A summary form to be completed by each college will be provided by the Office of the Vice President for Research.
In addition, each department or unit area that will be having researchers return must identify a point of contact and establish a process whereby mail, package and cleaning supplies delivery can be accommodated. Each Dean or their designee is responsible for communicating this unit-level information to Joe Harrell in Facility Services.
Any approved requests for on-campus access ahead of the June 1st research return date must be submitted to Heather Geers for final review and approval by the Vice President for Research.
Additional Information and Resources
Faculty and Principal Investigators (PIs) should always keep the safety and well-being of their trainees and research staff as their top priority.
All documents also available on our researchhow2 page.
Key Office of Research Contact Info
Sponsored Programs Grants - email@example.com
Sponsored Programs Accounting - firstname.lastname@example.org
Animal Care - email@example.com
Human Subjects - firstname.lastname@example.org
Compliance & Safety Concerns - email@example.com
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
View the Questions & Answers from the Research Town Hall: Research Continuity from 5/13/2020 here.