COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

These frequently asked questions (FAQs) for researchers have been updated to reflect planning for the Phased Resumption of on-campus research. For more detailed information about sponsored research, visit the Office of Research and Project Administration (ORPA)'s COVID-19 FAQs.

Planning for Returning to On-Campus Research

WHAT ARE THE MAIN POINTS OF THE PLAN?
  • Princeton University has created a plan that will enable the eventual phased resumption of on-campus, laboratory research in a safe and orderly manner.
  • The plan applies to laboratory-based research on campus. Any work that can be done remotely will continue to be done remotely.
  • Faculty will develop plans for ensuring compliance with University policies including social distancing, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning and disinfecting, foot-traffic patterns, and limits on the number of researchers that can be in a lab at any given time.
  • Departments will develop plans that cover the safe usage of shared facilities, public areas in buildings, and research infrastructure.
  • The actual resumption of on-campus research will occur only after approved plans are in place. The decision to resume will be made by University leadership in accordance with local, state and national health and safety directives.
  • Faculty, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students and research staff will be able to return to on-campus experimental research under the plan. At this time, undergraduate researchers will continue to work remotely.

Learn more about the Plan for the Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research

WHAT WILL BE THE PROCESS FOR RESUMING ON-CAMPUS RESEARCH?

In advance of the phased resumption of on-campus research, each Principal Investigator and facility director is required to create a written Research Lab Operations Plan detailing ways in which lab members will  comply with social distancing, hygiene, and safety practices. The plan will be reviewed by the department chair or institute director and be approved by the Office of the Dean for Research. 

Similarly, departments and institutes will prepare Academic Research Infrastructure Plans with information on the operations of core facilities and support services, plans for enforcing social distancing and PPE use, and best practices for cleaning and circulation patterns in common areas. These plans must be reviewed and approved by the Office of the Dean for Research.   

Learn more about the Plan for the Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research.

HOW WILL THE PLAN FOR MY LAB BE COMMUNICATED TO LAB MEMBERS?

PIs will communicate the plan to their lab members. The Research Lab Operations Plan also will be available in SHIELD, the University’s health and safety management system, to all researchers in a group. 

All lab members must be registered with their lab to receive access to SHIELD. If you have not registered, please contact your PI or laboratory director. 

 

WHICH RESEARCH ACTIVITIES CAN BE DONE ON CAMPUS AND WHICH SHOULD BE DONE REMOTELY?

Only activities that require laboratory resources or equipment should be conducted on campus. All non-experimental work should continue to be done remotely whenever possible. These include activities such as data analyses, project planning, and reading literature. In some cases, however, it may be necessary to stay in the lab or in a location where social distancing can be enforced until a procedure is complete, to avoid multiple trips in and out of the facility.

HOW CAN I PLAN FOR CONTINUITY OF RESEARCH IN THE EVENT OF A RESURGENCE OF COVID-19 IN THE AREA, OR A CASE IN MY LAB OR BUILDING?

All individuals who conduct experiments should consider whether it is possible to coordinate with coworkers who could step in to finish or shut down your experiments if you become ill. Lab members may be able to cross-train on equipment maintenance and other procedures as needed. Talk to your PI about the plans in case you cannot come back to the lab to finish an experiment.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I HAVE A MEDICAL CONDITION OR OTHER RISK FACTOR THAT I BELIEVE WOULD MAKE A RETURN TO CAMPUS UNSAFE?

Upon providing appropriately safe working conditions in accordance with University policies and prevailing guidance issued by public health authorities, the University will expect all faculty and staff approved to perform research in our labs to report to campus. It is anticipated that the vast majority of graduate students will be eager to resume “hands on” research. 

Any graduate student who has a specific issue related to the return to on-campus research should submit the information to the relevant Director of Graduate Studies. The University will seek to honor students’ requests to the extent they are reasonable and appropriate, although decisions must take into account relevant collateral implications, including impact on progress toward degree and funding.

Individuals who have a medical condition or other risk factor that may make the return to campus unsafe may request an accommodation (see Section 4 of the Plan for the Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research).

Lab members are advised to discuss concerns with their supervisors. In addition, these other resources are available:

  • Graduate students may contact the academic deans in the Office of the Graduate School, Dean Christine Murphy (Natural Sciences and Engineering) and Dean Geoffrey Hill (Humanities and Social Sciences).
  • Research staff may contact the Human Resources Employee Relations staff member assigned to their department.
  • Faculty members, research scholars, and postdoctoral researchers should contact the Academic Affairs staff in the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS FOR TRAINING AND RESEARCH ACTIVITIES THAT REQUIRE PEOPLE TO WORK TOGETHER LESS THAN SIX FEET DISTANCE APART?

Consider approaches that reduce or eliminate the requirement to bring individuals within six feet of each other for long periods of time. Training new lab members should incorporate social distancing to minimize close contact when possible. For example, some training can take place via video conferencing, or via videos made by more experienced lab members. Lab members are encouraged to think of solutions to training challenges.

When planning activities that normally involve two or more people, remember that the safety of the operation shouldn’t be compromised by the application of social distancing guidelines. If necessary, consult with EHS to identify a solution to a specific challenge.

See Building Guidance in the Plan for the Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research for more information.

Health and Safety

WHERE CAN I FIND THE HYGIENE AND SAFETY GUIDELINES FOR RESEARCH OPERATIONS?

The Plan for the Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research contains guidelines on social distancing, face coverings, lab coats, decontamination and disinfection, hazardous waste, training, shared facilities and equipment, general work rules, requests for accommodations, and related resources.

See Section 5 for Guidelines For Safe Research During COVID-19 Pandemic (EHS website).

See Section 6 for Building Guidance (EHS website).

 

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR SANITIZING EQUIPMENT AND COMMON SURFACES IN LABS BETWEEN USERS OR SHIFTS?

Equipment and surfaces inside the lab are the responsibility of the PI and lab members. Guidance for disinfecting lab surfaces is available from EHS. In addition, each lab will have an approved Research Lab Operations Plan, available via SHIELD, which details the surfaces needing sanitization, as well as guidelines to ensure that sanitization occurs as needed. 

Surfaces outside laboratories, such as doorknobs, elevator buttons and restroom facilities, will be sanitized by Building Services. 

See Section 5 for Guidelines For Safe Research During COVID-19 Pandemic (EHS website).

See Section 6 for Building Guidance (EHS website).

 

WILL COVID-19 SAFETY TRAINING BE REQUIRED BEFORE RETURNING TO THE LAB?

Yes. Researchers will need to complete mandatory online training prior to returning to campus. The training module “Safe Practices for Resumption of Research” will be made available on the Employee Learning Center.

WILL TESTING BE REQUIRED BEFORE RESEARCHERS CAN RETURN TO WORK?

The University is exploring whether PCR tests will be required on a regular basis. More information will be posted as it becomes available.

WHAT DO I DO IF I AM SICK? HOW DO I REPORT IT? WHAT HAPPENS TO MY LAB, MY GROUP AND MY BUILDING?

If you are sick, stay home. If you think you might have COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider to obtain care and information on getting a test. If you are tested for coronavirus, you must notify University Health Services by emailing communityhealth@princeton.edu

Testing positive for COVID-19 does not mean that your lab or building will immediately be shut down. Your privacy will be respected during the tracing of your recent contacts. 

See Sections 5.1 and 5.2 (EHS website) of the Plan for the Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research.

WHAT DO I DO IF I FEEL INDIVIDUALS ARE NOT COMPLYING WITH THE SAFETY PROTOCOLS AND PROCEDURES?

It is everyone's responsibility to be a good colleague and model the right behavior for others. If you noticed a colleague who is not complying with the safety procedures, good communication is essential. You may want to ask, "Can I get you a mask?" or "I think you forgot your mask." Help each other establish healthy new habits as research on campus resumes.

If you are not comfortable speaking to your colleagues about the issue, or if behaviors or conditions do not improve, speak with a trusted colleague such as your PI, lab manager, director of graduate studies, department manager, or another person in authority. If these tactics are not successful, or if you wish to remain anonymous, you can report confidentially via EthicsPoint.

Personal Protective Equipment

HOW DO I KNOW WHICH PPE TO USE?

The University requires all students, faculty and staff to wear face coverings at all times when on campus, except when alone in a room or vehicle. Wear your reusable face covering until you enter the laboratory. Upon entering the laboratory, remove your reusable face covering and don a disposable face covering. 

Cloth laboratory coats must be regularly laundered to minimize the risk of an exposure from contamination on the coat and to help mitigate the risk of the coat becoming a viral reservoir. If working with human specimens or biological materials that require BSL 2 containment, wear the covering specified in your IBC approval, which may include using disposable lab coats or isolation gowns.

Wear gloves when touching or manipulating equipment.

Detailed guidance on the PPE needed in the lab is covered in Section 5.4-5.5 of the Guidelines For Safe Research During COVID-19 Pandemic of the plan for Phased Resumption of on-campus research.

CAN I WEAR MY REGULAR CLOTH LAB COAT? HOW OFTEN DO I NEED TO CLEAN IT?

Lab coats should be worn as usual. Cloth lab coats must be cleaned by a professional or dedicated laundering service at least weekly. Lab coats may not be taken home for laundering or cleaned with public laundering service or facility. Contact your departmental administrator for additional information regarding the process for laundering lab coats.   

If cloth lab coats are worn by a researcher who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, the coat should be turned inside out, placed inside a sealed bag, and held for 7 days prior to laundering. The bag containing the potentially contaminated laboratory coat should be labeled “COVID-19 quarantined laboratory coat” and the date when the coat can be removed for laundering.

See Section 5.5 Laboratory Coats (EHS website) of the Plan for the Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research.

WILL PPE BE PURCHASED AND DISTRIBUTED CENTRALLY, OR SHOULD EACH LAB SOURCE ITS OWN SUPPLIES?

At this time, EHS is sourcing and procuring PPE centrally. Contact EHS to obtain surgical masks/face coverings, surgical gowns, hand sanitizer bottles, disinfectant wipes, and N95 and other air purifying respirators. 

Departments should visit the EHS website to see the current availability of PPE. Departments should carefully calculate anticipated weekly use rates in order to make accurate requests of a 2-3 week supply. Labs should not hoard supplies and consider slowly restoring reserves over several months.

Disinfectants (ethanol, isopropanol) and gloves are not restricted and can be ordered by departments or individual labs. See this guidance from Procurement on ordering supplies for the resumption of research.

Also see Section 5 Guidelines For Safe Research During COVID-19 Pandemic (EHS website) and Section 6 Building Guidance (EHS website) of the Plan for the Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research.

 

WILL SANITIZING SUPPLIES BE PURCHASED AND DISTRIBUTED CENTRALLY, OR SHOULD EACH LAB SOURCE ITS OWN SUPPLIES?

Isopropanol, ethanol and other products for disinfecting lab surfaces may be ordered by departments or individual labs. These are available on the marketplace but may have longer lead times due to intermittent supply disruptions. Procurement has issued guidance on ordering supplies (including ethanol, propranolol, and gloves) for the resumption of research.

For guidance on cleaning and sanitizing, see:

Section 5 Guidelines For Safe Research During COVID-19 Pandemic and Section 6 Building Guidance of the Plan for the Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research.

 

WHAT PRECAUTIONS SHOULD UNIVERSITY CONTRACTORS AND VENDORS TAKE?

All University contractors and vendors who provide services on campus or in University-owned or leased buildings must comply with New Jersey Department of Health COVID-19 guidelines and Governor Murphy’s executive orders. Learn more at the Environmental Health and Safety website.

Building Access

WILL UNIVERSITY BUILDINGS BE OPEN TO RESEARCHERS, STUDENTS, FACULTY AND STAFF?

Under the Plan for the Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research, all research buildings will be set to card access “weekend” schedule. TigerCards will be required for access.

See Section 6 Building Guidance (EHS website) for more information.

WILL THERE BE A SPECIFIC ENTRY AND EXIT PATTERN FOR MY BUILDING, OR A DESIGNATED TRAFFIC FLOW THROUGH MY BUILDING?

Departments will evaluate traffic patterns and develop plans for buildings, while PIs will develop plans for movement around the laboratory, including possible specific entry or exit points. To maintain social distancing, only one occupant at a time is allowed in the elevator. While waiting for an elevator, appropriate social distancing should be maintained.  If occupants identify choke points or high-traffic areas, EHS will work with the department or building manager to enact solutions. 

See Section 6 Building Guidance (EHS website) of the Plan for the Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research.

WILL VENTILATION BE ENHANCED OR IMPROVED IN THE LABORATORIES?

EHS is responsible for ensuring optimized ventilation throughout the University, including in the labs. In most labs, the total volume of the air in the lab is changed upwards of ten times per hour. Some areas, such as walk-in refrigerators, will not have frequent air changes. EHS is monitoring CDC guidance on ventilation as a means to slow the spread of coronavirus.

WHAT ARE THE OIT INSTRUCTIONS FOR INSTALLING CAMERAS OR OTHER VIDEO EQUIPMENT IN MY LAB?

Lab members are not allowed to install cameras or surveillance equipment without prior authorization from OIT. To install cameras to monitor research projects or for other non-security uses, consult this OIT article on How to Request Deployment of a Campus Based IP Video Camera.

HOW WILL THE IMPACT OF CONSTRUCTION BE COMMUNICATED TO RESEARCHERS?

Any changes in construction schedules or work plans would not result in more prolonged utility/water outages than originally planned.  To the extent the timing of such outages shifts, Facilities will communicate to the impacted buildings.

Transportation and Late Hours

WHAT PERSONAL SAFETY MEASURES WILL BE IN PLACE? MEMBERS OF OUR LAB MAY BE WORKING UNUSUALLY LATE SHIFTS.

If working alone after regular working hours, take steps to put in place safety measures. For example, you may want to buddy with another lab member or department member who is also working late. You may want to synchronize work hours and commuting times. Use the TigerSafe app to maximize safety. 

If working with hazardous materials, ensure that you follow safety guidelines. Don't work with hazardous materials alone.

WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS FOR PARKING ON CAMPUS?

Transportation and Parking Services has agreed to let people park in the nearest lot instead of taking TigerTransit during the summer. 

If you rely on TigerTransit to take you from your campus residence or parking lots to your building, you have a valid parking permit, AND if there are numbered parking lots closer (except lots 8, 9, and 18) with empty spaces please feel free to park temporarily in those locations.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Transportation and Parking Services at ttps@princeton.edu.

Core Facilities

WILL SHARED AND CORE FACILITIES CONTINUE TO BE AVAILABLE FOR USE AS USUAL?

Under the Plan for the Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research, core facilities will be able to resume operations. Consult with core facilities or research labs that host shared equipment to find out if they will be available when you plan to use them. See the shared facility's website or contact the facility manager to obtain the hours of operation, which may be limited or have different scheduling constraints than before.

Animal Research

WHAT PROCEDURES WILL BE IN PLACE WHEN WORKING WITH LABORATORY ANIMALS?

Laboratory Animal Resources is establishing guidelines to protect researchers and laboratory animals. These include limits on the number of researchers in the animal facilities at any one time, disinfection procedures, and changes in scheduling of animal husbandry staff. More information will be posted as it becomes available.

SHOULD RESEARCHERS MAINTAIN SOCIAL DISTANCING WITH NON-HUMAN PRIMATES?

The research macaques are susceptible to infection by SARS-CoV2, causing Covid-19 and this species is known to develop a high fever and respiratory symptoms similar to humans. Should our nonhuman primate population come under direct threat of infection, LAR is prepared to transition to new requirements for additional personal protective equipment and procedures for individuals working with the macaques.

Research with Human Subjects

IS THE IRB STILL OPERATING?

Yes. The IRB office is open. The IRB website contains FAQs and contact information for IRB staff. COVID-19-specific information can be found on this guidance page.

WHAT ARE THE GUIDELINES FOR HUMAN SUBJECT RESEARCH THAT INVOLVES IN-PERSON INTERACTIONS?

This guidance is being updated and will be available soon.

Undergraduate Research

WILL UNDERGRADUATES BE ALLOWED TO COME TO CAMPUS FOR RESEARCH?

Undergraduate students will continue to work remotely, and are not allowed in laboratories until further notification by the University.

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT PRINCETON PLASMA PHYSICS LAB OPERATIONS?

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is curtailing operations and sending employees home to work effective 5 p.m. Friday, March 13. Information about the laboratory operations is available on their website: https://www.pppl.gov/. Specific questions can be emailed to pppl_communications@pppl.gov

Shipping and Supplies

HOW SHOULD WE OBTAIN SUPPLIES FOR RESEARCH?

Download information on purchasing supplies needed to support the resumption of on-campus research (PDF): Contact Procurement with questions.

WILL GAS SUPPLIES, SUCH AS LIQUID NITROGEN, CONTINUE?

The University continues to be in contact with vendors. At this point, no disruptions are expected. Airgas has instructed drivers to practice social distancing and to use hand sanitizer/hand washing practices.  For some health facilities, which are known to have infected patients, drivers have been instructed to not pickup empty containers unless they have been disinfected. This does not affect Princeton. Bulk deliveries are not affected. Any updates will be communicated as they are learned by Procurement.

ARE THERE PRECAUTIONS FOR INCOMING SHIPMENTS?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance indicates that incoming shipments pose minimal risks and thus no special equipment or procedures are needed. People working in shipping and receiving should take utmost care to follow the general CDC-recommended hygiene practices as they handle materials.

WILL SHIPPING MATERIALS TO AND FROM CAMPUS BE AFFECTED?

Contact Procurement with questions, or download information on purchasing supplies needed to support the resumption of on-campus research (PDF):

Research Expenditures

WHAT GUIDANCE IS AVAILABLE FROM AGENCIES AND SPONSORS REGARDING THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON RESEARCH?

Please consult the Office of Research and Project Administration (ORPA) website for the COVID-19 FAQ on updates and guidance released by research sponsors. 

ARE TRAVEL CANCELLATION COSTS DUE TO COVID-19 ALLOWABLE AS DIRECT CHARGES TO SPONSORED PROJECTS?

The Office of Research and Project Administration (ORPA) continues to monitor guidance from sponsoring agencies related to charges to awards for cancellation of travel, conferences, and related expenses due to COVID-19. Please consult ORPA's website for the COVID-19 FAQ on updates and guidance released by research sponsors. 

Research or Conference Travel

MAY I TRAVEL TO ANOTHER RESEARCH SITE IF THEY ARE OPEN FOR RESEARCH (E.G., NATIONAL LABS, OTHER UNIVERSITIES)? WHO GIVES TRAVEL APPROVAL?

University-sponsored International travel continues to be suspended, and until further notice, no international travel should be planned or scheduled. Domestic travel should be limited to essential purposes, which may include travel to another research site, as determined by you and your supervisor or department chair. See the University's coronavirus travel policy and travel FAQs for more information. You may also contact the Global Safety and Security unit.

Library

WHAT SUPPORT IS AVAILABLE TO RESEARCHERS THROUGH THE LIBRARY?

Princeton University Library will continue to provide Princeton faculty and students support with virtual teaching and learning, and remote access options for using library resources. Get the latest information on the Library’s COVID-19: PUL updates webpage.

Computing and OIT Support

WILL RESEARCH COMPUTING CONTINUE AS NORMAL?

Both the Office of Information Technology and the research computing center have been planning to avoid disruptions. OIT is supporting several remote learning and conferencing applications that researchers can use. For more specific information or for assistance contact OIT through the help desk at 609-258-4357 (8-HELP) or helpdesk@princeton.edu. More information on remote instructions and meetings can be found at workcontinuity.princeton.edu

Research computing is expected to continue as normal because most operations are handled remotely. The office is working with vendors to ensure spare parts are on hand. High-Performance Computing and storage systems are up. All training sessions have been canceled and will be rescheduled. Plans are being developed to replace walk-in hours with remote help sessions. Staff at Research Computing urge researchers to make contingency plans to ensure they have access to their own data in the event of a building closure. 

WHAT TOOLS ARE AVAILABLE TO SUPPORT REMOTE WORK? WILL THERE BE A BANDWIDTH ISSUE?

Zoom is fully supported. If you wish to use an alternate communication system, contact OIT with questions but many other applications are supported as well. The University has sufficient network capacity to support conferencing. Vendors, including Zoom, have said they can expand to meet demand. OIT will assist with problems or questions and can be reached through the help desk at 609-258-4357 (8-HELP) or helpdesk@princeton.edu

COVID-19-Related Activities and Production of Materials

HOW CAN I GET APPROVAL TO PRODUCE PPE MATERIALS OR PROVIDE OTHER TECHNICAL SUPPORT TO THE COMMUNITY?

Many members of the Princeton community have expressed a desire to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic through the production of PPE materials, the use of 3D printing, medical testing, or otherwise providing technical support. To ensure the efficacy and safety of these efforts, the University requires that approval be obtained from the Office of the Provost for activities that involve University resources in non-research-related COVID-19 responses.

  • Members of the community are encouraged to submit ideas for new/ongoing projects
  • For information on 3D printing of PPE and medical devices, see the guidance provided by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

For additional answers specific to sponsored research, visit the Office of Research and Project Administration's Frequently Asked Questions.