Staged Approach to Returning to On-Campus Research

The Ohio State University has moved to a new stage of restarting on-campus research labs, studio and field activities. While we recognize that many are eager to return, ensuring the health and safety of our faculty, staff and students remains our top priority and responsibility.

An Informed Approach

We have worked with numerous entities across campus to help inform this staged approach. In April, we launched the faculty-led Research Recovery Committee, which through its final report provided invaluable guidance and recommendations. In addition to that committee’s work, we have been informed by the university’s COVID-19 transition task force and its committees, including the Safe Campus & Scientific Advisory and PPE subgroups. We also have received regular briefings from the Infectious Diseases Institute.

Research Recovery Plan for Staged Reopening

All these sources were used to develop the Research Recovery Plan for Staged Reopening. This document provides the current framework for reopening all laboratories, studios, and research spaces in a staged approach. College leadership has been asked to complete and approve a staged planning template for each department detailing how they will implement each stage. Before returning to campus, all faculty, staff and students are asked to complete an attestation form acknowledging their responsibilities and view a short, online training module. It is important to note that you must have approval from your college before returning to campus.

In addition, if you are reopening a lab you are strongly encouraged to review this checklist developed by Environmental Health and Safety.

Please note that due to the increase in caseloads across Ohio and Franklin County we have made some modifications to Stage 4 reopening. Learn more about the modification details.


If you have any questions that cannot be answered by your college leadership please contact research@osu.edu.

FAQs for Return to Research

As a reminder, the Research Recovery Plan for Staged Reopening was originally developed in April and May. We allowed 3 weeks between each stage to provide time to evaluate the increase in density and researchers on campus. Due to the increase in caseloads across Ohio and Franklin County and guidance from the College of Public Health we have modified some of the allowable activities which are noted below.

First, Stage 4 will remain at 25% density both within a building and within each individual lab/studio (consistent with the current, Stage 3 density limitations). Please review your Stage 4 plans and determine if any changes are needed to maintain 25% density.

Planned types of activities in Stage 4

  • BSL-3 level laboratory work for non-COVID-19 activities (not inherently high-risk, placed here to allow priority access to individuals doing COVID-related work first) – NO CHANGES (aside from density allowance)
  • Work from private offices (While this activity is not inherently high risk, this allows for a staged return to campus those specific activities which can only be done on-campus.) – NO CHANGES (aside from density allowance)
  • Research with human participants that requires face-to-face interaction (assuming use of PPE, physical distancing, sanitization, etc.), where participants are not from high-risk groups (this includes clinical trials not included in previous stages) – UPDATE: CRITICALLY ASSESS IF FACE-TO-FACE CONTACT IS REQUIRED; REINFORCE PHYSICAL DISTANCING FOR PARTICIPANTS; WEAR MASKS AT ALL TIMES; TIME-LIMITED SESSIONS WITH ROOM CHANGES WHERE POSSIBLE; NO WAITING ROOMS; LIMIT INTERACTION/NUMBER OF PEOPLE THE PARTICIPANTS INTERACTS WITH; REQUIRE SYMPTOM/TEMPERATURE CHECKS OF PARTICIPANTS
  • Field or agricultural work that cannot be accomplished individually or with strict physical distancing (with use of appropriate mitigation tools as feasible) – NO CHANGES (aside from density allowance if done in greenhouse or other indoor facility)
  • Studio, laboratory, performance space work where physical distancing cannot be accomplished due to the nature of the work –  UPDATE: REINFORCE REQUIREMENT TO USE MASKS; CONSIDER N95 MASKS IF EXTENDED EXPOSURE/PROXIMITY; LIMIT TIME IN CLOSE PROXIMITY; NO VOCAL OR MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS (unless perhaps outside); REVIEW PLANS AND IDENTIFY ANY ACTIVITIES THAT FIT THIS CATEGORY – FOLLOW UP WITH JAN AND RANDY FOR MORE DETAILS AND TO DEVELOP A MITIGATION STRATEGY

The training is currently in BuckeyeLearn and can be accessed directly at go.osu.edu/returningtocampus. At the conclusion of the training, you will be asked to sign the required attestation form.

As a reminder, in addition to this training and the attestation, you must have prior approval from your college before returning to campus.

Please visit go.osu.edu/researchattestation.

The attestation is also available at the conclusion of the required COIVD-19 research training.  As a reminder, in addition to the attestation and training, you must have prior approval from your college before returning to campus.

There are two ways to complete the health monitoring checklist, which is used to log daily temperatures and symptoms and is required to be completed as a condition of returning to labs or studios.

  1. Starting June 22, the university is piloting a health reporting tool via compass.osu.edu or the Ohio State app. You are strongly encouraged to use this option and provide feedback if asked. For additional information please visit the Health Reporting Pilot webpage.
  2. A paper version of the health monitoring checklist is also available.

Unless otherwise specified by your college, you are only required to use one version.

The Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) procurement team has been coordinating with University Purchasing to address concerns regarding the purchase of PPE for research and creative expression activities upon reopening of labs and studios.

Each building that reopens will be provided with an initial supply of PPE to enable people to get back to the lab and assess what ongoing supplies are needed. This initial supply will include:

  • 1 infrared thermometer
  • 3 boxes of Disposable Masks (50 per box)
  • 3 boxes of Nitrile Gloves – (1) Size Small; (1) Size Medium; (1) Size Large — 100-200 gloves per box
  • 10 – 4oz. Hand Sanitizer Bottles

A building Reopening Coordinator will help to distribute these items to labs throughout the building that are reopening. Each lab will need to order all PPE and other supplies beyond this initial provision.

When placing an order for PPE, please check the item availability through Ohio State’s Stores. Stores has PPE on hand, and should be used to fulfill these needs internally where possible. If the item required is not available through Stores, an order may be placed to an external vendor should the charge be allowable and allocable to the project.

Please note: PPE requests may not be able to be fulfilled by external vendors as supplies may be limited but not initially note. Before placing an order to an external vendor, it might be useful for the lab to reach out to that vendor to see if the item is in stock before taking the time to submit an eRequest only to find out the item isn’t available. For example, VWR informed OSP that they have general supplies and gloves in stock, but that other PPE items are on allocation from their suppliers so they can only fulfill orders for customers that previously ordered those items from them, which Ohio State has not. Fisher has required some gloves to be purchased in large quantities, which isn’t practical for individual labs. These examples show that while a lab may see an item as available online, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the order will be fulfilled. If you have questions regarding the availability of an item through an external vendor please contact an OSP Buyer for assistance.

For any additional questions regarding PPE or other lab supplies, please contact your OSP buyer.

  • If the nature of the work on the sponsored project required PPE prior to the COVID-19 pandemic (for example, hazmat, biohazards, infectious agents, etc.) then charging PPE is allowable as long as they are still necessary to advance the work on the project.
  • Donated PPE. Please use the COVID expense donation tracking spreadsheet to document any donations.
    • The NIH and NIFA have stated that if project-purchased PPE (or other lab supplies) were donated for clinical or first responder use, the cost of re-purchasing PPE may be charged to the grant.
    • Most other federal agencies, including the NSF, require agency approval or notification to donate PPE; so any PPE donated should either be replaced using non-sponsored fund sources, or the PI should request agency prior/retroactive approval (contact your SPO). If approval is received, the PI can charge the replacement PPE on the grant.
  • Additional (beyond standard) PPE may be charged to grants if needed to conform with research re-opening requirements AND such costs are being uniformly charged to the benefiting activity (e.g., all sponsored projects and all non-sponsored activities with similar needs are required to cover the cost of such items.) For example, if an experiment requires two individuals to stand within 6 feet of each other, any PPE needed to conduct that experiment would be an appropriate charge to the sponsored project during the re-opening phase even if no PPE for that experiment was considered necessary prior to COVID-19.
  • Additional (beyond standard) PPE not required to conform with research re-opening requirements (e.g. PPE acquired for the personal preference of the individuals involved) should not be purchased on sponsored funds.
  • Allowable PPE purchases on sponsored programs does not include hand sanitizer and general cleaning supplies.
  • Finally, standard allocation expectations still apply for PPE wholly or partially charged to sponsored fund sources, so if PPE charges are made to multiple sponsored projects or to a combination of sponsored projects and institutional fund sources, the cost must be allocated based on proportional benefit

The following is from Ohio State’s Facilities, Operations and Development (FOD). Everyone should review the current guidelines for specific building spaces to determine which areas they are responsible for disinfecting:

  • Individual Offices – Individuals will continue to be responsible for cleaning and disinfecting their own workstations. For employees who occupy single offices, we ask you to please empty your own deskside trash and recycling bins into centrally located containers. This will limit foot traffic in and out of your office.
  • Research Labs – Lab benches and sinks will remain the responsibility of the lab employees. Shared spaces and high touch surfaces will require more frequent disinfection and cleaning. Individuals should clean and disinfect shared workspaces before and after use.
  • Kitchen and Break Areas – Building occupants utilizing break rooms or kitchens should wipe down surfaces after each use, including handles and buttons on water coolers, microwaves and refrigerators.
  • Conference Rooms – Virtual meetings are a preferred alternative. If in-person meetings must be held, users are responsible for wiping down conference room high touch surfaces after each use.

Disposable facemasks can be discarded in waste baskets. Cleaning supplies for all the above areas are the responsibility of building occupants or may be provided by your college or unit. In limited circumstances, FOD may provide cleaning supplies, when available.

Guidance for studios will be coming soon.

Please contact your zone leader with any additional questions.

These types of expenses are considered administrative costs (indirect costs), and generally are not appropriate as a direct cost unless specifically approved by the sponsor. You may wish to talk with your supervisor about your needs in order to be set up to work remotely.

With prior approval from your college, as long as your lab is adhering to the recommendations of the Research and Creative Expression Plan for Staged Reopening of On-Campus Activities and the Safe Campus and Scientific Advisory subgroup, graduate students are allowed in on-campus labs and studios.

All faculty, staff and students must complete the COVID-19 training for researchers and sign the attestation before returning to campus labs and studios. You are also required to record temperature and health symptoms daily.

What to do about possible coronavirus cases:

Individuals: Contact your primary care physician if you are personally experiencing signs or symptoms of respiratory illness consistent with coronavirus, have been exposed to an individual with coronavirus or have been diagnosed with the virus. If you are unable to reach your primary care physician, call the Wexner Medical Center’s COVID-19 call center at (614) 293-4000.

Managers: If you receive a report, confirmed or unconfirmed, that a member of your team has been exposed to or has contracted coronavirus, connect with your HR Business Professional and call the Wexner Medical Center’s COVID-19 call center at (614) 293-4000 for guidance on what you should do

Please remember: If you learn of a possible case, do not share the person’s health information with colleagues. This is a violation of their privacy, and this information is protected by HIPAA and other laws. In the face of this unprecedented pandemic, we must rely on regional public health officials to continue to investigate cases and trace potential contacts.