Plan for the Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research

UPDATES

Dec. 1, 2020

While recognizing the importance of keeping campus density as low as possible, the University has announced a limited expansion of the categories of researchers that can apply for approval to return to work on campus.

Note: To: keep the campus density low, wherever possible, faculty and researchers are strongly encouraged to work from home if they can do so effectively. On-campus work must be done in compliance with the University’s strict health and safety protocols.

  • Graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and others in academic departments in engineering, natural sciences, social sciences and humanities whose living conditions are a major impediment to their work may request approval to work on campus. 
    •  The policy includes researchers conducting non-laboratory work, including theoretical or computational work. (Previously, only laboratory-based researchers were permitted to work on campus.)
    • Priority will be given to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers
  • Faculty members (assistant, associate and full professors, as well as senior lecturers) may request use of their office as a single-occupancy space. 
  • To learn more and to request approval, visit: 

Nov. 2, 2020

The lab occupancy density requirement has been updated to a minimum of 125 square feet per researcher. (It was formerly 160 square feet per researcher.) PIs who want to update their plans using the new density requirements must submit a revised RLOP.

June 17, 2020

Princeton is in Level 2 of the Plan for the Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research

    INTRODUCTION

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Princeton University halted all non-essential on-campus research activities on March 21, 2020. We took this difficult decision in order to protect the health and safety of the campus community, and in full awareness of the sacrifice made by faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and members of the research staff in delaying experiments or terminating those in progress.

    It is now time to be ready to resume research safely, in an orderly fashion, and as promptly as circumstances permit. To this end, we have formulated this Plan for the Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research.

    The plan describes four levels of on-campus research activities:

    • Level 1: Normal Operations
    • Level 2: Phased Resumption (Current Level)
    • Level 3: Essential Operations
    • Level 4: Operations Suspended

    The proper time for implementing the phased resumption of on-campus research (Level 2) will be determined by the University’s leadership, taking into account the relevant local, state, and national public health directives regarding stay-at-home and social distancing. 

    Our goal is to enable the smooth restart of Princeton’s extraordinary on-campus research enterprise, with the health and safety of the campus community as our paramount concern. 

    Principal Investigators (PIs) will be asked to formulate and submit a plan, indicating how compliance with safety, hygiene and social distancing requirements will be implemented and adhered to, so as to establish a system of local responsibility in compliance with University-wide policies and public health guidance. Department chairs will be asked to formulate and submit a building-level plan for the resumption of research activities. All plans must be approved by the Dean for Research.

    Researchers who can work remotely are strongly encouraged to continue doing so. We must also be prepared for the possibility of suspending research operations in response to a widespread resurgence in infection.

    We thank the many colleagues who have provided invaluable input into the formulation of this plan, which will be continuously updated as new information and guidance on COVID-19 and its treatment and prevention become available. It is our hope that this resource can help guide Princeton’s research community on the path to eventual resumption of normal research operations, in alignment with University policy and guidance, and relevant local, state, and national public health directives.

    The Committee on Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research

    • Bonnie L. Bassler, Squibb Professor in Molecular Biology; Chair, Department of Molecular Biology
    • Pablo G. Debenedetti (Chair), Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science; Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering; Dean for Research
    • Karla L. Ewalt, Associate Dean for Research
    • Robin M. Izzo, Executive Director, Environmental Health and Safety
    • Tom Muir, Van Zandt Williams Jr. Class of 1965 Professor of Chemistry
       

    1. GUIDING PRINCIPLES

    1.1 Introduction

    • Purpose. The principles outlined below are intended to guide the planning and implementation of the phased resumption of on-campus research.
    • Timing. The proper time for implementing the phased resumption of on-campus research will be determined by the University’s leadership, taking into account the relevant local, state, and national public health directives regarding stay-at-home and social distancing.
    • Uncoupling. The phased resumption of on-campus research is not coupled to the resumption of on-campus undergraduate teaching and senior thesis work.

    1.2 Principles

    • Health and Safety. Protect the health and safety of the campus community.
    • Safe Working Conditions. Provide researchers with appropriately safe working conditions, including lab space, in accordance with University policies and prevailing public health guidance and directives issued by national, state and local government authorities.
    • Hygiene. Implement, adhere to, and enforce best practices for social distancing, cleaning, use of personal protection equipment (PPE) and case reporting as essential to the safe and successful phased resumption of on-campus research.
    • No Coercion. Treat with utmost seriousness any supervisor’s or Principal Investigator’s failure to implement the health and safety measures required by the University, or coercion of an employee or graduate student to work under conditions inconsistent with those measures.
    • Transparency. Put in place transparent policies and processes that allow a phased resumption of on-campus research, and communicate with the research community prior to and during implementation.
    • Flexibility and Agility. Design plans that can be easily adapted to multiple scenarios, including different end-points for phased resumption, and the possibility of a widespread resurgence in infection requiring shutdown.
    • Complexity. Acknowledge the complexity of the research enterprise by consulting broadly in the formulation of resumption policies and procedures.

    2. OPERATING PRINCIPLES

    2.1 Staged Approach

    The plan envisions four levels of on-campus research:

    • Level 1: Normal Operations. Normal research operations resume within prescribed hygiene, health and safety protocols.
    • Level 2: Phased Resumption (Current Level). Department chairs must submit a department-level Research Infrastructure Plan, which must be approved by the Office of the Dean for Research. PIs who lead laboratory research groups must submit Research Laboratory Operations Plans detailing how each lab will enact strict social distancing and comply with Environmental Health and Safety (EHS)-prescribed density and hygiene metrics and practices. PIs who lead theory or computational groups must submit Research Non-laboratory Operations Plans that specify how group members' work spaces will be arranged to maintain social distancing and proper room-occupancy levels. Use of PPE and cleaning protocols are strictly enforced. All work that can be done remotely is strongly encouraged to continue to be done remotely. Changes in University-wide requirements (e.g., area per researcher) can result in adjustments to department-level or laboratory-level plans.
    • Level 3: Essential Operations. Only a limited number of essential research and COVID-19 projects is allowed. Authorized researchers can also access laboratories for maintenance operations. Access to laboratories requires authorization by the Office of the Dean for Research following submission of a Research Lab Operations Plan by the Principal Investigator (PI).
    • Level 4: Operations Suspended. All experiments are stopped, except for COVID-19 research specifically approved by the Office of the Dean for Research. Only designated critical staff are granted access to buildings.

    2.2 Departmental Responsibilities

    Department chairs and institute directors, working closely with academic managers and, where applicable, building managers (e.g., Engineering Quadrangle) must submit to the Office of the Dean for Research a plan for resumption of research activities (Research Infrastructure Plan). The plan must include identification of critical dependencies (e.g., utilities, loading docks, procurement), a plan for re-opening core facilities, a plan for enforcing social distancing, and best practices for cleaning common areas, PPE use, and circulation patterns in common areas. Research Infrastructure Plans must be approved by the Office of the Dean for Research.

    2.3 PI-driven Approach, with Supervision

    The University will issue campus-wide metrics that must be strictly adhered to (e.g., minimum area per researcher), initiating the transition from Level 3 to Level 2. PIs and facility directors must submit a Research Lab Operations Plan or Research Non-lab Operations Plan indicating how compliance with these metrics will be implemented, how social distancing will be strictly enacted, how proper room-occupancy levels will be maintained, and how hygiene practices (PPE, cleaning) will be followed and enforced. Department chairs and institute directors must review and approve PI plans prior to submitting to the Office of the Dean for Research for final review and approval.

    3. LEVELS OF ON-CAMPUS RESEARCH

    Level 1: Normal Operations

    • Normal research operations.
    • All personnel adhere to hygiene and health and safety protocols as prescribed by EHS.
    • Undergraduates are allowed in laboratories.

    Level 2: Phased Resumption (Current Level)

    • Department chairs and institute directors, working closely with academic managers and, where applicable, building managers (e.g., Engineering Quadrangle) must submit a Research Infrastructure Plan for resumption of research activities. This plan must include identification of critical dependencies (e.g., utilities, loading docks, procurement), a plan for re-opening core facilities, a plan for enforcing social distancing, and best practices for cleaning common areas, PPE use, and circulation patterns in common areas. Research Infrastructure Plans must be approved by the Office of the Dean for Research.
    • PIs must submit Research Lab Operations Plans or Research Non-lab Operations Plans detailing how research groups will comply with EHS-prescribed campus metrics, enact social distancing, and enforce hygiene practices (PPE, cleaning). Plans must be reviewed by the department chair or institute director and approved by the Office of the Dean for Research.
    • Experimental work resumes within the parameters reviewed and approved by the chair and the Office of the Dean for Research.
    • Research that utilizes core facilities or services commences after consultation with the facility director (e.g., LAR for animal research, Clean Room).
    • All personnel must adhere to hygiene, health and safety protocols, including protective equipment, established by EHS to ensure safety of all personnel.
    • Undergraduate students, with the exception of seniors explicitly authorized to conduct senior thesis research, are not allowed in laboratories until further notification by the University.
    • All research buildings are set to card access “weekend” schedule.
    • Remote work is strongly encouraged whenever possible for non-laboratory activities.

    Level 3: Essential Operations

    • PIs must submit Research Lab Operations Plans detailing shutdown plans and/or requesting maintenance and/or essential research activities. Plans must be reviewed by the department chair or institute director and approved by the Office of the Dean for Research.
    • Essential and COVID-19-related research must be approved by the Office of the Dean for Research. 
    • Maintenance of key resources — such as animals, cell lines, liquid N2, sensitive equipment, etc. — must be approved by the Office of the Dean for Research.
    • In labs approved for critical maintenance, essential research, or COVID-19 work, one to three lab members (including the PI) must be identified in the plan and approved for building access. Any additional personnel needed for hazardous operations or critical maintenance requires approval by the Office of the Dean for Research. 
    • Approved on-campus research commences only with acknowledgment from relevant department(s) confirming any required services/facilities are in operation or can be brought online.
    • All personnel must adhere to hygiene, health and safety protocols as prescribed by EHS.
    • Undergraduate students are not allowed in the lab.
    • All research buildings are set to card access “weekend” schedule.
    • Remote work is required for non-laboratory activities.

    Level 4: Operations Suspended

    • Research Lab Operations Plans, including critical monitoring and maintenance, are reviewed and approved by the Office of the Dean for Research.
    • All experiments are stopped, except for COVID-19 research specifically approved by the Office of the Dean for Research.
    • Key resource maintenance is allowed only for irreplaceable animals (e.g., transgenic mice, zebrafish, Drosophila), cell lines that cannot be cryopreserved, and equipment that cannot be shut down. Activities must be approved by the Office of the Dean for Research.
    • Vertebrate animal management is allowed only by Laboratory Animal Resources (LAR), with access to animal facilities by research personnel as required and with the express approval of LAR.
    • At most, one person per lab is allowed on campus at any given time for critical maintenance functions only, and these functions must not include activities that fall under “hazardous operations.”
    • All personnel must adhere to hygiene, health and safety protocols as prescribed by EHS.
    • Undergraduate students are not allowed in the lab.
    • Only designated critical staff are granted building access. 
    • Remote work is required for all activities not specifically listed above.

    4. SAFE WORKING CONDITIONS AND NO COERCION

    4.1 Working Remotely

    A key tenet of the phased resumption of research plan is that members of our campus community will not be required to return to campus (and in some cases will not be permitted to return to campus) if the PI and/or senior University officials determine that such research can and should be accomplished remotely.  

    4.2 Faculty or Staff Performing Research on Campus

    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. Faculty and staff approved to perform theory or computational work on campus may do so but are strongly encouraged to work remotely if possible. Individuals who have a medical condition or other risk factor that they believe would make their return to campus unsafe are encouraged to request an accommodation (see Section 5.12).

    4.3 Graduate Students Performing Research on Campus

    It is anticipated that the vast majority of graduate students will be eager to resume “hands on” laboratory research. Graduate students approved to perform theory or computational work on campus may do so but are strongly encouraged to work remotely if possible. Graduate students with a medical condition or other risk factor that they believe would make their return to campus unsafe are encouraged to request an accommodation (see Section 5.12).

    In addition, any graduate student who has particular problems 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, though such decisions will need to take into account relevant collateral implications, including impact on progress toward degree and funding.

    Issues with non-compliance with social distancing, hygiene, or safety practices also can be reported confidentially via the EthicsPoint hotline.

    5. GUIDELINES FOR SAFE RESEARCH DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

    View this section at Environmental Health and Safety (EHS)

    6. BUILDING GUIDANCE

    View this section at Environmental Health and Safety (EHS)

    7. DEPENDENCIES

    Departments and contacts with services and support for research:

    Facilities provides critical services and support with direct impact on research. Building energy and utility levels will need to be adjusted for occupancy. Cleaning and sanitizing of all research buildings along with special attention to the availability of handwashing supplies will be necessary to minimize spread of SARS-CoV-2. Critical on-site and remote research support is provided by a number of Special Facilities personnel, notably to the Department of Physics and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. As the phased resumption of campus research takes place, Facilities will scale operations according to the scope, timing, spaces, occupancy schedules and buildings utilized for research. Advance notice of the resumption of research operations, as much as is reasonably possible, and communication between Facilities key contacts and science and engineering building managers will help to smooth the transition as research activity resumes.

    Facilities contacts: 

    Laboratory Animal Resources (LAR) provides animal care and research support for all research and teaching conducted with animals at Princeton University. This includes standard daily husbandry and regular veterinary care for all vertebrate animals housed on campus. As the phased resumption of campus research takes place, LAR will need to consult with PIs in the planning of their resumption of operations to ensure adequate support for research studies, procurement of animals and supplies, and scheduling of services. Frequent and thorough communication between LAR, PIs and research personnel about all issues, including plans for significant changes in census, need for services or training, or health concerns will be important as research activity increases.

    LAR contacts: 

    Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) provides training, information, support and equipment to help researchers work safely in the laboratory, including with biological agents, chemicals, radiation and other hazards. EHS is responsible for providing researchers with written guidelines, protocols, and specifications for safe research during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the resumption of research, EHS will launch online training necessary for all researchers returning to campus, and for onboarding new researchers. EHS will distribute PPE and face coverings to on-campus researchers during the initial return to campus. Activities that are not compatible with the standard hygiene and safety guidelines need to be discussed between EHS personnel and researchers to explore options for a customized management plan.

    EHS contacts: 

    Procurement provides systems, processes, and support related to sourcing, contracts, purchases, and payments in support of research. Centralized sourcing of restricted research items (e.g., personal protective equipment) is being supported for the resumption of research due to disruptions to the supply chain. Working closely with academic departments, procurement staff will provide support with items that become difficult to obtain due to shortages or demand surges. As departments begin ordering research supplies, they should notify procurement of any shortages so that they can assist with assessing lead times, investigating alternate suppliers, or initiating a centrally managed purchase process for those items. 

    Procurement contacts: 

    Office of the Dean of the Faculty, Human Resources, and the Graduate School provide policies and procedures for supporting faculty, managers and research personnel. As research resumes with new workplace requirements for social distancing, hygiene, health and safety procedures, these three offices will be needed to support research personnel and their managers through the application of the relevant policies and procedures on work schedules, accommodations, reporting and compliance. In addition, academic departments may need support from staffing personnel to ensure that critical positions are filled.

    Office of the Dean of the Faculty contacts:

    Graduate School contacts: 

    Human Resources contacts: