Research Restart Guidelines

Guidelines for Resumption of Research at Indiana University

Updated August 18, 2020 to add new guidelines for participation of undergraduates in research

Research is central to the mission of Indiana University and one of the most critical ways in which we serve the people of Indiana and beyond. COVID-19 has posed exceptional challenges to researchers, however, thanks to flexibility granted to us by Governor Eric J. Holcomb, a wide range of protective measures taken internally, and the dedication and skill of IU researchers, IU has been able to continue considerable research both on campus and off despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much of that research has involved working with governments, businesses, and other universities to fight COVID-19. In fact, during the month of March, IU researchers submitted more proposals for external research support than during any month in the prior decade, and IU itself has funded a number of new research initiatives relating to COVID-19.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has slowed or stopped many other important research activities. This has delayed ongoing projects, interfered with new studies, slowed the progress of students towards their degrees, and denied the public the benefits of this research at the very time that the pandemic has forcefully demonstrated how vital research is to our health, safety, economy, and quality of life.

As we have learned more about COVID-19 and about our communities’ ability to face this challenge, we are now in a position to begin the thoughtful, phased restart of research that may have been halted and the expansion of research that was slowed. Doing so safely and effectively will require the concerted, coordinated efforts of many parts of the university, a close adherence to the guidelines set forth in this document, and a keen awareness that our actions affect not only ourselves as individuals, but our colleagues and our entire state.

The resumption of research at IU will also require patience and flexibility because we cannot simply return to the ways things were before COVID-19. Moreover, we will almost certainly have to make changes as we go along in response to new information, new outbreaks, and changes in the capacity of our communities to respond.

These guidelines have been drafted by a committee appointed by President McRobbie, working closely with university and campus leadership, with researchers across the university, and with the Restart Committee charged with developing health and safety measures applicable to all university activities.

These guidelines follow those measures and, in turn, are supplemented by additional guidance provided by campuses, schools, or departments that follow these guidelines.

The resumption of research at IU is guided by these goals:

  • Protect the health and safety of all members of the university community and the state
  • Protect and enhance the quality and impact of the university’s research and teaching
  • Protect and expand the long-term financial viability of the university
  • Support the state, the economy, and the communities in which we live
  • Emerge stronger and more competitive for the future

The resumption of research at IU is guided by these principles:

  • Comply fully with relevant federal, state, and local laws
  • Seek to return all researchers to full capacity as soon as possible, consistent with our goals and implementation principles
  • Be strategic in our investment of scarce resources with particular attention to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, achieving maximum impact from our research, and attracting external support
  • Recognize and respond quickly to new information about COVID-19, the success of measures to control its spread, and our experience implementing these guidelines
  • Respect the specific health conditions and other risks factors of every individual involved
  • Act in a coordinated way across the university
  • Communicate clearly and effectively with all members of the university community and be responsive to their concerns and needs

Preference for Remote Activities

Research that can be conducted remotely, should continue to be for the foreseeable future. Similarly, parts of research that can be conducted remotely (e.g., writing, literature research, analysis of results and data, team meetings, presentations), even if connected with research that requires facilities or equipment on campus, should be conducted remotely when possible.

 

On-Campus Research

Research that requires special facilities, equipment, in-person contact with research subjects, access to protected data, or otherwise cannot be conducted remotely should be conducted on campus, provided that it may be conducted consistent with these guidelines.

"On campus” includes any facility owned, leased, or used by IU researchers, including satellite facilities and facilities controlled by third parties and other locations in which field work or similar research is conducted.

As usual, research equipment and PPE (except for reusable cloth masks) should not be removed from campus (or other approved research facility), except to the extent permitted by applicable university policies.

Implementation Timeline

(These dates may change in the face of new information about COVID-19, new outbreaks, or changes in the capacity of our communities to respond.)

Research and related activities that can be conducted remotely are ongoing and may continue.

Research that requires special facilities, equipment, access to protected data, in-person contact with research subjects, or otherwise cannot be conducted remotely may be conducted on campus beginning June 1, 2020, provided that it can be conducted in compliance with these guidelines.

There are two exceptions to the June 1, 2020, resumption date for on-campus research:

  • On-campus research activities deemed “essential” under the university’s Essential Research Activities Guidelines are currently permitted and may continue consistent with those guidelines until July 1, 2020. As required by the university’s Essential Research Activities Guidelines, PIs designating their research as “essential” must have completed the appropriate informational form.
  • Research that requires the facilities of a third party may begin June 1, 2020, or at whatever date the third-party specifies, whichever is later, provided that the research can be conducted in compliance with these guidelines and with any requirements specified by the third party.

Research that requires special facilities, equipment, access to protected data, in-person contact with research subjects, or otherwise cannot be conducted remotely, but that cannot be conducted consistent with these guidelines, will be reviewed on an individual basis by campus research leadership and the Vice President for Research, in cooperation with the Office of Research Compliance. Requests for exceptions should be sent to vpr@iu.edu describing the nature of the research, why it cannot be conducted in compliance with these guidelines, and why it should not wait until the pandemic has ended.

 

Implementation Process

Prior to the resumption of on-campus research, PIs or research facility manager must first obtain the permission of campus research leadership. Permission may be obtained by submitting the Return to On-Campus Research form.

Access Return to On-Campus Research Form

This form specifies that:

  • The lab or other facility is prepared to comply with the requirements of these guidelines;
  • Research personnel are aware of their responsibilities under these guidelines and have completed the Community Responsibility Acknowledgment form that will soon be available online;
  • The research will comply with all requirements of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), Institutional Review Board (IRB), and Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC), as appropriate, including any special guidelines relating to COVID-19;
  • The lab or other facility has access to the necessary PPE, disinfecting cleaning materials, and other supplies required to operate safely;
  • The department chair, school dean, or other official to whom the lab or other facility reports has approved the resumption of research; and
  • Additional requirements imposed by campuses or schools for resumption of on-campus research have been met, according to any separate campus guidelines:

On-campus research activities that were designated as “essential” under the university’s Essential Research Activities Guidelines may continue without additional authorization until July 1, 2020, provided those activities otherwise comply with these guidelines.

To continue beyond July 1, 2020, all labs and other research facilities conducting on-campus research must have completed the online form and obtained the permission of campus research leadership.

The requirement for permission is not intended to slow the resumption of on-campus research, but rather to ensure that on-campus research resumes in an orderly and safe manner, local and campus leaders are aware of which activities are resuming, cleaning services and other operations in buildings in which on-campus research is resuming are prepared, and that the university has accurate information about on-campus research activities that have resumed.

It is the committee’s hope that all on-campus research that can be resumed consistent with these guidelines will be able to restart no later than July 1, 2020. 

Conditions for Research on an IU Campus

All research conducted on campus must comply with the following requirements:

In the rare cases in which this is not possible, those situations should be kept to the shortest time possible and surgical face masks should be worn.

Steps to achieve this include limiting the number of people permitted in a facility at any one time, working in shifts, and scheduling shared facilities and equipment. Sometimes a density of no more than one person per every 60 square feet cannot be maintained. Those situations should be kept to the shortest time possible and surgical face masks should be used. Incidental encounters with other people (e.g., passing in a hallway) are unavoidable, but should be reduced whenever possible, for example, by not sharing passenger elevators and limiting the number of people in restrooms and other common areas.

The university will provide all researchers needing to work on campus with two reusable cloth masks. Researchers should have a mask with them at all times when on campus. Researchers are responsible for laundering their own masks.

See PPE section below. 

Shared equipment should be cleaned by each user, using appropriate disinfecting cleaning material provided by the university, both before use begins and after it is completed. Similarly, researchers should frequently clean “high-touch” surfaces (e.g., door handles, drawer handles, faucets, etc.) in shared spaces. The university will increase regular cleaning of common areas, but not scientific or other specialized equipment.

This includes washing hands for at least 20 seconds with antibacterial soap (which the university will provide) regularly throughout the day and upon entering and before exiting all buildings, using hand sanitizer (which the university will provide) when hand-washing facilities are unavailable, and covering coughs and sneezes.

Ensure symptomatic colleagues stay or return home as soon as symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, difficulty breathing) develop.

Comply with the university’s policy on checking for symptoms of COVID-19, testing for COVID-19, tracing people who may have been exposed to COVID-19, and quarantining people who test positive for COVID-19 or who are likely to have been exposed to it, as described by the Restart Committee.

Participate in a “buddy” safety system so that any student working alone in a research facility in which hazardous chemicals, equipment, or other material are used has an identified “buddy” working elsewhere in the building or who is in contact electronically and is aware of the researcher’s presence in the facility.

For research in patient care areas, researchers must also adhere to all requirements in effect for those areas.

For field work and other research conducted in facilities under the control of an entity other than IU, researchers must comply with the policies of that third party and with applicable law in that jurisdiction, in addition to these guidelines.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

To request N95 masks, disposable surgical masks, disposable gloves and disposable gowns for research purposes, please complete the appropriate IU Purchasing form. Other specialty PPE for research may continue to be ordered through normal p-card or Buy IU processes.

For additional information regarding central supply of PPE by IU Purchasing, please visit the IU Purchasing COVID-19 Resource Center.

Access PPE Request Form

Please note:

  • With some exceptions, N95s will not be distributed for protection against COVID-19 (unless there is laboratory or clinical work related to the request).
  • The university has ordered cloth face coverings (not considered PPE) that will be required for use in non-clinical settings, non-research settings, and when social distancing is not an option.
  • For research involving hazardous chemicals or biologicals that does not currently require respiratory protection, face coverings should be worn in accordance to the Interim Guidance on Protection of Laboratory Personnel during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Chemical and Biological Laboratories). Until university-provided cloth masks have arrived and been distributed (likely June), please use your own cloth mask in accordance with this guidance.
  • Plan to re-use and conserve PPE as prescribed by EHS interim guidance and adjust N95 and surgical mask requests accordingly.
  • You may receive N95s from a manufacturer that you have not been fit-tested for due to limited options. Please contact iuehs@iu.edu for Bloomington/Regionals or ehs@iupui.edu for IUPUI. Due to the influx of fit-test requests and limited fit-testing resources, you may experience a longer than usual delay in fit-testing. Due to limited fit-test machines, your request may be redirected to other fit-test providers such as an on campus medical provider or vendor, which may result in departmental charges.

 

At-risk Personnel

The CDC has identified the following individuals at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. These colleagues are strongly advised not to participate in on-campus research at this time.

  • People 65 years and older
  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • People who have serious heart conditions
  • People who are immunocompromised
  • People with severe obesity (body mass index of 40 or higher)
  • People with diabetes
  • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
  • People with liver disease

Students

Recognizing the critical role that undergraduates play in research at Indiana University and that research, in turn, plays in students' professional lives, new guidelines applicable on on-campus undergraduate research have been issued as of August 18, 2020.

We are strongly encouraging undergraduates with conditions identified by the CDC as posing special health risks not to participate in on-campus research at this time.

Read the complete Guidelines for Participation of Undergraduates in Research

Visitors

Visiting scholars are permitted in university research facilities provided they comply with these guidelines and have completed a Community Responsibility Acknowledgment and Agreement.

Visitors who are performing specialized services such as repairing equipment or providing training are permitted in university research facilities provided they comply with these guidelines.

Visitors who are making deliveries should remain outside of labs or other research spaces to the greatest extent possible; buildings housing research facilities should designate spaces to receive deliveries and from which researchers may collect those deliveries.

Casual visitors and researcher friends and family members are not permitted in university research facilities.

Research Involving Animal or Human Subjects

Research involving laboratory animals or human research subjects must also comply with the requirements of Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), Institutional Review Board (IRB), and Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) protocols, and any special guidelines that those committees issue.

Travel

IU’s travel policy at this point permits only “essential” out-of-state domestic or international university travel. Other out-of-state domestic or international travel on university business is prohibited. That policy is currently being reviewed.

For domestic travel only, the university will consider travel for research “essential” and permit it provided that:

  • the research activities to be undertaken cannot otherwise be carried out without travel;
  • the travel takes into account the considerations identified by the CDC for domestic travel; and
  • fieldwork and other research conducted in facilities under the control of an entity other than IU comply with the policies of that third party and with applicable law in that jurisdiction, in addition to these guidelines.

This exception would not cover travel to conventions or regular association meetings.

Plans for Research Pause or Wind-Down

Researchers should be aware that there will likely be a need to pause or wind down on-campus research in the future in response to new information about COVID-19, new outbreaks, or changes in the capacity of our communities to respond. PIs resuming research under these guidelines should have in place a plan for the orderly reduction or cessation of on-campus research on a temporary or long-term basis.

Awareness and Training

All researchers conducting research on campus should be familiar with these requirements. PIs are responsible for ensuring that all people working in their labs or research groups understand and follow these requirements and guidelines.

Campus research and graduate school leadership, the Vice President for Research, and the Dean of the University Graduate School will make available appropriate training material, as needed, for students and other researchers.

Enforcement

IU expects all researchers to comply fully with these guidelines to protect the health of each other and our broader communities. PIs bear additional responsibility for compliance with these guidelines throughout their research teams and facilities. Academic units (e.g., schools, departments, centers, institutes) also have additional responsibility for oversight and support.

Willful or repeated noncompliance can lead to termination of grant funding, prohibitions against receiving further grant funding, restrictions on future use of animal or human research subjects, reputational harm, loss of salary or financial aid, or academic sanctions.

Persons observing noncompliance with these guidelines should address this, as appropriate, with the individual(s) involved, the PI or lab manager, departmental director of graduate studies, associate dean for research, campus research leadership, dean of the University Graduate School, or vice president for research. Complaints may also be made anonymously through the Ethics Point reporting system.

Revision of Guidelines

These guidelines will be reviewed regularly to respond to changing conditions and new information. Researchers will be advised of any significant changes. These guidelines will be suspended or terminated as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic permits. Suggestions for revisions and questions may be sent to vpr@iu.edu.

Members of the Laboratory Research Restart Committee

  • Fred H. Cate, co-chair, Vice President for Research, Distinguished Professor, and C. Ben Dutton Professor of Law
  • James Wimbush, co-chair, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs, Dean of the University Graduate School, Johnson Chair for Diversity and Leadership
  • John Baumann, Associate Vice President for Research Compliance
  • Janice Blum, Interim Associate Vice President for Research and Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, IUPUI, Chancellor's Professor of Microbiology & Immunology
  • Dakota Coats, President, Graduate and Professional Student Government, and third-year JD student, IU Maurer School of Law
  • David Daleke, Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Health Sciences, Associate Dean of the University Graduate School, and Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Carmel Egan, Associate Dean of Research Affairs, IUSM, Operations Director of the Precision Health Initiative, and Chief Operating Officer, Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute
  • Steve Martin, Associate Vice President for Research Administration
  • Mary Waldron, Chair, Graduate Faculty Council, and Associate Professor of Counseling & Educational Psychology
  • Jeff Zaleski, Interim Associate Vice President for Research and Vice Provost for Research, IUB, and Provost Professor of Chemistry