Staged Approach to Returning to On-Campus Research

The Ohio State University has restarted 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.

The university has also created the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website which contains additional resources that continue to inform our approach.

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 the Together as Buckeyes pledge assigned through BuckeyeLearn acknowledging their responsibilities and view a short, online training module. This should be completed by August 25. In addition, Ohio State’s research and creative expression community needs to complete a research-specific online training module before returning to campus. It is important to note that you must have approval from your college before returning to research and creative expression activities 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 modifications to Stage 4 and Stage 5 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

With prior permission from your college and appropriate safety precautions put in place, effective August 3rd all research and creative expression activities are allowed on-campus. Consistent with university guidance, any activities that can be conducted at home should continue to do so.

Please note that with the increase in COVID-19 caseloads across Ohio and Franklin County and guidance from the College of Public Health we have asked colleges to add extra safety precautions for some activities.

In addition, Stage 4 and Stage 5 will remain at 25 percent density both within a building and within each individual lab/studio. This is consistent with Stage 3 density limitations. Please review your plans and determine if any changes are needed to maintain 25 percent density.

The Office of Research is working with the Office of Academic Affairs and other units to review density guidance as we prepare for the start of the autumn semester and students returning.

The university-wide training, called Safe and Healthy Campus training, has been assigned to all faculty, staff and students through BuckeyeLearn. Everyone needs to complete this training by August 25 unless you have taken the research training prior to July 24. If you have taken the research training that will be noted in BuckeyeLearn and you are exempt from taking Safe and Healthy Campus training.

The research training is also in BuckeyeLearn and can be accessed directly at go.osu.edu/returningtocampus. Because of the additional information included in the research training specific to your labs and studios, you are required to take this training before returning to campus in addition to the Safe and Healthy Campus training if you haven’t taken the research training prior to July 24.

As a reminder, in addition to these trainings, you must have prior approval from your college before returning research and creative expression activities to campus.

To sign the Together as Buckeyes pledge please go to BuckeyeLearn and view the university-wide training, called Safe and Healthy Campus training. At the conclusion of the training, the pledge will be available for you to sign. If you have already taken the research training prior to July 24 you will have the option to skip the university training in BuckeyeLearn and proceed directly to the pledge.

The Together as Buckeye pledge replaces the previous research attestation.  Even if you have previously signed the research attestation you are required to sign the Together as Buckeyes pledge.

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

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.

Please visit the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website for additional information about the university-wide approach to a gradual return to campuses and how you can help keep yourself, and your family and friends, safe and healthy — whether you’re returning to a campus or continuing to work and study from home.

The most direct route for addressing concerns is to contact your supervisor, department chair, or college office. However, we recognize that is sometimes not feasible. The Office of Research has developed a web-based tool to report research-related concerns around non-compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols. Any concerns reported through this tool will be sent directly to the Office of Research for review. To report a concern please visit go.osu.edu/report-a-concern.

As students return to campus and other on-campus activities gradually increase, the Office of Research has worked with the Office of Academic Affairs and other units to review current density limitations for research and creative expression activities. As a result, effective Monday, August 17th the following modifications will go into effect:

  • Density limitations for research and creative expression activities will be increased from 25 percent to no more than 50 percent density at any given time. Please note that maintaining appropriate physical distancing supersedes the 50% density cap.
  • You will be responsible for maintaining this density limitation in your office, lab or studio space where you conduct on-campus research and creative expression activities. Previously, density limitations applied to the building as well but that is no longer feasible with the increase in activities outside of researchers’ control.

All researchers must continue to comply with physical distancing requirements and other safety guidance as outlined on the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website and the Office of Research’s Staged Approach to Returning to On-Campus Research website. Researchers are encouraged to continue to assess all activities to provide for the lowest density of people reasonable to carry out research and use staggered scheduling to maintain low personnel density.