Returning to Campus: Research Plan

Goal

To facilitate research activities to the greatest degree possible during Summer 2020 and beyond, while adhering to any federal, state, local or institutional restrictions in place.

The plans outlined below are specific to a situation in which a phased return to campus is possible at some future date, but social distancing must still be in place. These plans are subject to change based on additional developments and restrictions imposed at the federal, state, local or institutional level.
 

Considerations:

  • Those who can engage in their research remotely should continue to do so and should only be on campus when absolutely necessary.
  • Research in many disciplines has effectively been halted for several months. It will take some time to ramp activity back up.
  • For scholars who require library access, the virtual Falvey Memorial Library is open and continues to provide unmediated 24-hour access to e-books, e-journals and research databases. Library staff have worked closely with academic publishers to provide free, temporary access to additional electronic resources.
  • Research progress may still be negatively impacted due to lack of commercially available supplies, including the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) normally used in the course of laboratory work. Under no circumstances should safety be sacrificed due to lack of adequate supplies, type, and quality of PPE.

  • Departments best understand their research needs, personnel and support staff requirements. A departmental return-to-work plan should be developed collaboratively with researchers and support staff—including Facilities and Environmental Health and Safety(EH&S)—and approved by EH&S and college leadership (dean or dean’s designee).

 

  • To allow for the greatest number of researchers to return to campus, while still adhering to social distancing requirements, a “shift work” approach can be supported.
    • The exact hours should be determined in cooperation with key areas to provide staffing within a given department. As an example, two shifts could operate from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 2:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. 
    • Alternatively, research personnel could consider alternating week on/week off scheduling.  These approaches would maximize the number of personnel who could return to campus while maintaining appropriate physical distancing.
  • If a shift work approach is adopted, custodial staff planning is needed so restrooms and high-touch public surfaces can be cleaned between/after shifts. This approach should be adopted on a floor-by-floor basis within a given building. Facilities has confirmed that this staffing can be supported. A one-hour time period between shifts is necessary to thoroughly clean and sanitize areas.
  • EH&S has confirmed that sanitizing materials can be procured and provided to each laboratory. Research personnel within a given lab must appropriately sanitize their areas using guidance to be provided, as custodial staff will not enter labs for cleaning/sanitizing.
  • Standard lab trash should be collected, sealed and bagged by laboratory research personnel and placed outside lab doors in the main hallway where custodial will pick up and remove daily.  Custodial staff will not enter labs to remove trash. Specialty trash (biologicals, chemicals, etc.) will be handled as usual. 
  • There will be a mail services employee in the mailroom Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. to accept mail and packages. There will not be any intercampus mail or departmental deliveries.
  • To arrange a pickup, email or call extension 9-4492 prior to visiting Kennedy Hall. Departmental ordering can commence, but should be coordinated to minimize the number of individual deliveries to the extent possible (e.g. order supplies from a given vendor once-per-week rather than daily).  

A separate set of guidelines will be developed and shared to provide clarity on hygiene expectations, PPE usage (e.g. masks, gloves), cleaning protocols, etc.
 

Phased Return Operational Expectations:

  • Personnel should only return to campus if they feel comfortable doing so.
  • Personnel should not come to campus if they are feeling unwell. If an employee feels unwell, they should stay at home to monitor their symptoms for 14 days before returning to campus (in accordance with current guidance issued by the state as of the time this document was prepared).
  • Staff who support research operations are expected to return to campus duties unless there is an accommodation request that is approved in advance by the University’s Human Resources department.
    • Individuals can request a workplace accommodation (policy/process outlined here) and should make this request through Annette Lucidi.
    • Human Resources will handle the review of these requests on a case-by-case basis.
  • Room/lab capacity and arrangement should be limited in a way that maintains adherence to social distancing guidelines in place by federal and state authorities (e.g. CDC, Pennsylvania mandate, etc.)
  • Existing safety protocols—including use of personal protective equipment as would normally be used in a lab setting and not working alone—must still be enforced.
  • Group meetings should be done online with whatever personal protective equipment/mask requirements are in place for campus, unless one can ensure appropriate social distancing for an in-person meeting.
    • At the time this document was prepared, there is a requirement that anyone entering a building on campus must wear a face mask. Please see accompanying lab safety guidelines for proper donning and doffing techniques.
    • A mask always needs to be worn, unless isolated in an office alone. 
    • Personnel must wear masks while on campus, except when eating or drinking. 
    • Procurement has a vendor through which surgical masks can be purchased by departments. Homemade masks also may be used.  
  • Departments engaged in on-campus research should devise a fair and equitable plan to prioritize the return of faculty, staff and students to on-campus activity, in cooperation with the respective colleges, considering the following:
    • Departments and programs, through the respective colleges and their offices of research and graduate studies, should devise a plan to prioritize and schedule who could return to campus and for what times. Consideration should be made for the level of staffing required to support on-campus research work.
    • Departments and programs should consider prioritizing graduate student and postdoctoral scholar projects that will contribute to degree/career progress and consider seniority of the student/postdoc, with those closer to degree/postdoc term completion receiving higher priority.
    • Departments and programs should consider prioritizing pre-tenure faculty for earlier return to campus facilities. Those working on funded projects with no available extensions for project deadlines should also receive priority to return to campus facilities.
    • Departments can use a single-shift model, so long as their operating hours are consistent with available staffing in their department/college.
    • Faculty return to work on campus must align with HR and University policies, which may evolve over time as the situation changes. At any given time, the standards set forth by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania must be followed. 
  • Departments and colleges should devise a schedule of attendance, with the oversight of the respective colleges, that would allow personnel to maximize social distancing, while adhering to safety procedures and ensuring that adequate support staff are available.
  • Departmental access to printing/scanning/other office resources will be available. 
  • All academic buildings are now card swipe access only, with access provisioned by the Dean’s offices and/or the Wildcard Office.
  • If an individual cannot gain access using their Wildcard, Public Safety is instructed to allow employees into buildings/offices as needed to access resources (e.g. to retrieve items, print, scan, etc.). Employees must practice good hygiene and social distancing and wipe down any equipment used with sanitizing wipes after they have finished.
  • Public Safety officers will continue to patrol the campus. Due to the limited occupancy of the campus, it is always helpful for Public Safety to know who is approved to be on campus.
  • Colleges should share with Public Safety a schedule of attendance that lists the active research projects/area; where they are located on campus (building/rooms/labs); the area’s primary contact main point person (with contact number); persons (faculty, staff, students) working; and a proposed schedule. This information may be shared in a spreadsheet, recognizing that there may be changes, with updates provided accordingly.  
  • Each laboratory must develop a checklist for restarting laboratory-based research and clearly communicate this to their personnel. Plans should be flexible enough to enable the swift suspension of research in response to changing circumstances.
  • To ensure the safety of returning personnel, departments and colleges should consider implementing a check-in/check-out procedure, as well as periodic checks of personnel throughout a given work shift.
  • If two-shift operations are being considered:
    • Departments and colleges should consider working together to share across departments/college the services of those personnel who support critical safety and infrastructure activities. This will allow for maximum coverage while minimizing the burden on any one group of staff/personnel.
    • Shifts should be distributed in a fair and equitable manner. Personnel should be given an opportunity to select shifts that best suit their personal needs.
  • All personnel returning to campus will undergo online training in collaboration with the College of Nursing and EH&S on good hygiene, PPE and social distancing.