Research Plan for Campus Re-Opening
Effective Date: September 8, 2020, Updated August 23, 2021 and January 6, 2022

Goal:  A phased roadmap for the safe, efficient, and effective restart of faculty, staff and student research activities.


  • Mitigation of the risk of spread of COVID-19 on campus and in the greater community will be a priority.
  • Activities will comply with all local and national requirements, and OSHA, CDC, and DC Health Department guidance will be followed to the extent possible.
  • The university-wide Covid requirements should be used as a model whenever possible.
  • The research’s Principal Investigator will have the ultimate responsibility to ensure compliance within their areas, in conjunction with building managers, and, as appropriate, campus EH&S.


Personal Protections:

  • All personnel must complete the university’s online training module “10 Steps for Safely Returning to Campus”.
  • Face coverings must be worn at all times.  The university will supply personnel with a face mask as supplies last, but it is the responsibility of the individual to provide a personal face covering.  A mask or face covering is not required if you are working alone in a confined office space.
  • Personnel should wash their hands with soap and water, per university instructions, upon entering and exiting the research space.  
  • Personnel should wash their hands with soap and water as often as practical during their work.  Hand sanitizer will be made available in all locations for use if hand washing is not practical.
  • The university online Health Check Survey, when available, will provide a daily monitoring and self-care questionnaire for faculty and staff.  Only those who have been given the “green checkmark” from this survey will be allowed onto campus to conduct research.

Workspace Distancing:

  • All workspaces are limited to no more than 50 people at any time, as allowed by the following restrictions.
  • Personnel should not work within 6-8 feet of each other if possible.  It is preferred to maintain a density of one researcher per 60 sq. ft. of lab space, with no less than 35 sq. ft. per researcher. 
  • In situations where such distancing is not practical or possible, lab personnel should be assigned to a smaller group of 2-3 people (a “pod”).  Personnel should only violate the 6-8 foot distance suggestion with others in their pod.  An example of when this might be needed would be if more than one person is required to either operate or maintain a piece of equipment. 
  • PIs can request additional facilities support if the prescribed workplace distancing is not attainable for a particular project.

Time Considerations:

  • Laboratory hours should be expanded to spread the project personnel over longer periods of the day to reduce headcounts.
  • Each researcher’s “time-in-lab” should be minimized to the extent possible by the principal investigator.

Vulnerable or Higher Risk Populations:

  • Principal investigators should take special precautions when scheduling any personnel with situations that place them at higher risk for contacting COVID-19.
  • The above guidelines represent only the minimum criteria for resuming work in research labs.  Personnel may request additional safety precautions or support from their PI.  These requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

STUDENT PARTICIPATION: For all students, externally-funded positions, those internally-funded positions that have been approved by the Provost's Office, and volunteer positions will be allowed, subject to the following:

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS AND SCHOLARS: Principal Investigators should coordinate with the Office for International Students and Scholars regarding any travel restrictions and requirements (including quarantines) related to bringing in research personnel from abroad.  It should be noted that immigration paperwork processing (including visas) could take much longer than normal to process.

HUMAN SUBJECTS RESEARCH: All protocols approved for remote interaction (online, phone, email) can continue/start.  Protocols that include individual interactions with the researcher may continue/start as long as it is allowable per the requirements of the location of the interaction.  Undergraduate students may be used as subjects as long as personal protection requirements can be maintained.

For all research involving personal interaction, personal protection (face coverings must be worn) and social distancing guidelines per the local jurisdiction must be maintained.  Focus groups or other interactions with multiple research subjects are allowed to the extent the interactions can be done within any requirements in place at the site of the interaction.

OFF-CAMPUS ACTIVITIES: Off-Campus laboratory facilities: Catholic personnel must continue to follow the guidance from their off-campus sites.  All safety precautions and personal protection directives must be discussed with the Catholic PI as well as the site host representatives, and understood by all personnel.

Field (outdoor) research: Only activities that meet all current local restrictions and requirements can be conducted.  At a minimum, face coverings must be worn indoors at all times and 6-8 ft. social distancing should be maintained when possible.

RESEARCH TRAVEL: All international travel is suspended until further notice, except with approval of the Provost’s Office. Domestic travel for externally-funded research requires approval from the Principal investigator and the Provost Office.


  • Prepare and share with all personnel working on the project a Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) document.  These SOPs should highlight any specific instructions or trainings that are required for the project and space utilized, and must include personal protection and social distancing provisions that must be followed. 
  • All personnel should sign the SOPs and will be given a copy of the signed document.
  • Liaise with EH&S and Facilities to plan for coordinating the cleaning of the research space. 
  • Maintain a timed log of lab entrance and exit to ensure both that only trained and authorized personnel have access to the shared space and to help with any contact tracing that may be needed.  Log should either indicate that the person has received clearance from the Health Check Survey.
  • Ensure all provisions of university-wide personal protection protocols are maintained.
  • Report to the relevant offices (Provost, EH&S, Student Affairs, etc.) if anyone working on the project begins to exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19.

CONCERNS/COMPLAINTS: Any complaints or concerns regarding participation in research activities should first be brought to the attention of the specific laboratory PI.  The PI will address the concerns with consultation with department chairs, deans, the Vice Provost for Research and/or the Provost Office.  Any concerns that need to be reported anonymously should make use of the university’s Compliance and Ethics Program’s reporting systems currently in place. Submissions to the CUA Compliance email ( are confidential.

ADDITIONAL RESTRICTIONS: Given the uncertainties about the course of the pandemic, Principal Investigators should be prepared for the sudden need for the university to revert to prior criteria for research operations. As conditions warrant, and/or the university must respond to new regulations imposed by local public health and governmental authorities, these guidelines could be revised.