Resuming On-Site and Field-Based Research Activities

This guide advises principal investigators, deans and Research Office employees on their roles in resuming on-site and field-based research activities at OSU in compliance with state and local health authority resumption requirements. The guide serves to support as much research activity as possible while ensuring the health and safety of OSU personnel and individuals in the communities in which OSU conducts research.

Resumption Open Forums


Researchers or research teams seeking to resume research activities at locations other than personal residences (i.e., campus, field, research stations) must prepare research activity resumption plans and receive approval of these plans from their deans if the research activity is a part of a college or the vice president of research (VPR) if the research activity is a part of a center or institute. Activities that have already been deemed critical and are ongoing can continue as planned. Deans and the VPR may also continue to authorize critical research. All activities that can continue to be carried out from home should continue at home until further notice.

Return to activities will be very gradual and will occur in research stages. A resumption of research activities will likely take several months and will continue to follow guidance issued by the governor and public health officials.

Values

The approach to re-engaging OSU’s research enterprise will be consistent with the following values articulated by OSU’s Task Force for Research Continuity and Resilience.

  • Health: The health of the OSU community and the communities in which we operate is the top priority.
  • Vulnerable Populations: Decisions about research should acknowledge and mitigate the impact on the most vulnerable populations.
  • Valuing all contributors to our research mission: We support to the fullest extent possible all people who participate in our research enterprise.
  • Student Success: Research is integral to the educational process of OSU students at all levels.
  • Accountability and Collaboration: Decisions about research should prioritize the judicious and collaborative use of resources.
  • Flexibility: Decisions about research should recognize complexity and allow for creativity and flexibility.
  • Institutional Integrity: We are guided by OSU’s mission and values.

Prioritization

Priority should be given to work that:

  • Is essential to the success of complex and long-term projects.
  • Requires unique seasonal activities.
  • Is essential to student degree and post-doctoral progress.
  • Involves brief on-site activities to facilitate continuation of remote work.
  • Maintains unique specimens and collections, plants and animals or cultures; highly specialized analytical, manufacturing, computing facilities; and field-based facilities (such as orchards).
  • Assures continuity of services that are essential to external stakeholders.
  • Initiates or continues research to address an imminent and severe threat to society, such as COVID-19.
  • Sustains fee-for-service activities.
  • Involves individual(s) who cannot otherwise perform work from home.

Requirements

To adhere to the values stated above, research activities should be planned to:

  • Be performed while maintaining at least 6 feet of physical distancing at all times.
  • Be performed while adhering to improved cleaning protocols, following guidance from Environmental Health and Safety (EHS).
  • Maintain existing safety procedures (e.g., lab safety protocols).
  • Coordinate other activities in adjacent spaces to enable appropriate physical distancing (<6ft).
  • Be curtailed promptly (see guidance on timelines below).

During the first research stage of resumption, preference will be given to activities that:

  • Involve only trained personnel (no training needed).
  • Take place locally (no travel to get to the research site, i.e., campus, field, etc.).

Timing of Research Activities Resumption

Resumption of research activities will occur gradually and in several research stages.

Research activities that satisfy all seven requirements above will receive the most expedient review and approval. Note that such research activities will be resumed in a prioritized manner (not all at the same time) to assure that the density of people within OSU facilities increases gradually, and OSU resources are utilized judiciously. Deans and the VPR will determine prioritization for college and center/institution activities, respectively (and will lead prioritization of the review of any research component related to human subjects, animals, biosafety, boating and diving).

Research activities that cannot satisfy all seven requirements must provide alternate mitigation strategies to address these requirement(s). For example, researchers who would like to resume activities that involve travel will need to articulate why the travel is essential and how they will assure safety of all participants during transit.

Research activities that cannot adhere to the requirements above and do not employ mitigating strategies may require special considerations. In some cases, these activities may need to be postponed or cancelled. Deans or Directors can contact the Research Office to explore options.

Approval Process

Researchers who are affiliated with a college (including centers and institutes that are housed in colleges) and are interested in resuming activities that are carried out in spaces under the purview of their college will seek approval from college leadership (dean or a delegate such as an Associate Dean for Research). Similarly, those associated with a center or institute who will be using facilities associated with that center or institute will seek approval from the Research Office leadership (VPR or a delegate). Researchers who are primarily affiliated with a specific college/center/institute but require access to facilities associated with a different college/center/institute must work with both leadership entities and receive approval from leadership associated with both units.

Resumption Stages

OSU has multiple phases of resumption.  Within Phase 1, OSU will resume research activities gradually to protect the health of investigators, staff and students while remaining in compliance with guidance from local and state health authorities. The permitted activities outlined below are guidelines. Appropriate adjustments for local circumstances and needs are expected.

While this guidance is subject to change, it is anticipated that OSU will be able to begin Research Stage 1 of resumption activities once Executive Order 20-09 expires and pending new state guidelines. Research activities will continue to follow Research Stage 1 guidance for at least three weeks before possibly transitioning to Research Stage 2.

As of 18 May, Oregon research universities are still awaiting clear guidance from the Governor’s Office about what activities might be allowed in the beginning research stages of resumption of on-site and field-based research activities. It is highly likely that there will be restrictions on research with animals, face-to-face research with human subjects, and work that involves travel, boating or diving. There will also likely be restrictions on the number of personnel that can be on-site. Investigators are encouraged to begin assembling resumption plans so that they are prepared when the university receives the green light to resume research activities from Governor Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority.

If, at any point, additional constraints are imposed due to worsening COVID-19 conditions  in Oregon, resumed research activities may need to be curtailed completely (within two days during Research Stage 1 and one week in Research Stage 2), and the research enterprise may have to return to a state of “critical activities only.”

Research Preparatory Stage

Develop research activity resumption plans.

  • Resumption plans should be assembled now, even if the desired resumption will occur in Research Stage 2. This will allow time for review and revision and other additional necessary reviews (e.g., Human Research Protection Program, Animal Program, Biological safety).
  • Deans and the VPR (or their delegates) must approve resumption plans for colleges and centers/institutes respectively.

Research Stage 1

  • All research that can be performed from home will continue to be conducted at home.
  • With approval, only individuals who cannot otherwise perform duties remotely may return to research activities at locations other than their residence.
  • For facilities with several employees, only a fraction of the lab or facility’s usual complement of employees may be present on-site at any one time. The objective is to maximize physical distancing and minimize contact among employees and others present.
  • Only trained research employees can conduct on-site research activities. Individuals who require training should not be on-site during this research stage.
  • Research activities should occur at OSU facilities/sites (e.g., campus, experiment stations, OSU research forest) or at local field/on-location sites that do not require overnight stays.
  • Only essential research-related travel will be permitted, and all travel must be consistent with OSU guidance on travel and CDC restrictions. Requests for essential travel will continue to be reviewed by deans and the VPR or their delegates.
  • Seagoing research will require special considerations and coordination. PIs should consult with OSU Ship Operations if a vessel being used is an OSU research vessel or a chartered vessel (contact anthony.koppers@oregonstate.edu) or the OSU Scientific Boating Program if the vessel is a PI-operated small boat (contact Kevin.Buch@oregonstate.edu).
  • It must be possible to curtail resumed on-site and field-based research activities and return to a state of critical activities only with two days’ notice. Curtailment planning for activities that involve approved essential travel should consider options related to initiating an immediate return home or sheltering in place.
  • Some face-to-face research with human participants may resume, contingent on OSU Environmental Health and Safety guidelines and CDC restrictions.

  • Some research activities involving animals are allowed with limitations imposed by Environmental Health and Safety guidelines.

Research Stage 2

Includes Stage 1 allowable activities with the following modifications:

  • The number of research employees at OSU facilities/sites at any one time may be increased as allowed by EHS guidelines.
  • Some face-to-face research with human participants may resume, contingent on OSU EHS and CDC restrictions.
  • Travel restrictions are eased, subject to the requirements of the university’s travel suspension policy and guidelines from the governor and public health agencies.
  • It must be possible to curtail resumed on-site and field-based research activities and return to a state of critical activities with one-week notice. Curtailment planning for activities that involve approved essential travel should consider options related to initiating an immediate return home or sheltering in place.

Additional Guidance

  • OSU’s Human Research Protection Program, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, Biosafety Committee and Scientific Diving Program have made available additional guidance related to COVID-19. Note that these programs will continue to evaluate risks associated with COVID-19 as they carry out their customary reviews and approvals.
  • The university is adhering to CDC and Oregon Health Authority guidance with respect to the use of masks and face coverings. All PIs must adhere to the university’s policies.
  • The Research Office may facilitate coordination among OSU units and/or non-OSU partners to avoid undue demand on shared OSU resources (e.g., hiring, purchasing) and facilities used by multiple research groups.

Responsibilities

This table summarizes the responsibilities of different OSU parties.

Party

Responsibility

All research personnel

  • Support the conduct of research to ensure the health and safety of OSU employees, students, research collaborators and community members.

Principal Investigators (PI) or Research Groups

  • Develop a plan for resuming on-site (e.g., lab) and field-based research activities that aligns with OSU’s general resumption plan. See template assembled by the Research Office.
  • Acquire necessary PPE, face coverings and cleaning supplies in compliance with OSU university-wide resumption guidelines and EHS guidance for research facility operations.
  • Coordinate with OSU and non-OSU partners when needed to ensure the safety of OSU personnel and efficient use of resources.
  • Participate in regular meetings coordinated by colleges or centers/ institutes to review latest health and safety protocols; discuss resumption concerns and questions; review current university COVID-19 resumption guidelines; and facilitate collaboration. 

ADRs/Center or Institute Directors

  • ADRs (as designees of the deans) and CI directors (as designees of the VPR) review principal investigators’ plans for compliance with university’s resumption plan and existing EHS standards.
  • Organize regular check-in meetings with PIs.
  • Furnish an updated biweekly report to the Research Office with prioritized activities that have received approval. The prioritization is especially important if activities require review by HRPP, IACUC, Biosafety, the Boating or Diving Programs or Ship Operations. 
  • Participate in biweekly meetings coordinated by the Research Office.

Vice President for Research

  • Coordinate biweekly meetings to review current health and safety protocols; discuss resumption concerns and questions; review current university COVID-19 resumption guidelines on its COVID-19 response; and facilitate collaboration.
  • Develop and distribute updated research activity guidance that is fully aligned with the university’s resumption guidelines.