Research Ramp-Up Guidance

Last Updated: May 17, 2021 (Phase III begins)

Previously updated:

April 18, 2021 (Undergraduate workers unrestricted)

March 26, 2021 (Undergraduate workers description)

November 19, 2020 (Undergraduate workers over the holidays)

November 16, 2020 (Phase II begins)

November 9, 2020 (SBS-travel restrictions instructions)

October 15, 2020 (corrected error in Phase)

October 5, 2020 (uploaded new PDF)

September 30 (SBS Guidance)

September 17 (SBS Guidance)

September 07 (Undergraduate Guidelines)

September 02 (Health & Safety Requirements- policy SEC-045)

July 31 (SBS Guidance)

July 1, 2020 (Travel Policy)

June 30, 2020 (Human Subjects update)

June 21, 2020 (Off-Grounds Field-based Research)

June 5, 2020  (Phase I begins - Research Ramp Up)

Letter to the Community, Melur Ramasubramanian (4/13/20)

March 23, 2020: Research Ramp Down - Phase 0 (See Update on Research Enterprise at UVA, Liz Magill)

Update on Guidance, Melur Ramasubramanian (3/20/20)

Mike Lauer, NIH video message "COVID-19 Resources for Applicants and Recipients of NIH Funding"

Due to the potential exceptional impact of the declared public health emergency, we want to assure our recipient community that NIH will be doing our part to help you continue your research. See a video message from Dr. Mike Lauer discussing the flexibilities available for applicants and recipients.

Letter on Graduate Students, Anda Webb (3/19/20)

Letter to Research Community, Melur Ramasubramanian (3/19/20)

Update to Research Community, Liz Magill (3/18/2020)

Letter to University Community, Jim Ryan and Liz Magill (3/17/2020)

Letter to Researchers Using Animals (3/16/2020)

Research Continuity Considerations for Research in the Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts and Other Field-based Research

COVID-19 and Human Research Subject Studies Guidelines (3/15/20)

From Provost Liz Magill (03/13/2020)

Research Guidance

To reduce the risks of researchers potentially being exposed to SARS-CoV-2 in the laboratory and research spaces or exposing others to it as we ramp up of research, we aim to gradually increase the density of our research personnel through ramping up in phases with a set of safety guidelines.

Current knowledge and the advice from epidemiologists and health experts point to three important elements that will help keep you and others safe. They are: (i) wearing a face covering; (ii) regularly washing your hands and the environment around you clean; and (iii) keeping your distance from other people. We have developed our safety guidelines that expand on these elements and contextualize them for our research environments. As new knowledge emerges, we will provide additional guidance to further reduce the risks.

Our general principle is that only research activities requiring on-Grounds presence would be conducted on-Grounds. All other research-related work would continue to be performed by telework until restrictions are lifted. Separate school, department and building specific plans should supplement these guidelines.

For research that needs to be on Grounds, the plan is to ramp up in phases with emphasis on safety. The goal of this document is to provide a central framework for resuming activities while allowing for coordinated school specific implementation strategies.

The success of the ramp up depends on each researcher placing the safety of themselves and the people around them first, while conducting their research. In order to reduce our risks as much as possible, this must be a partnership between the researchers and the administration.

All researchers are expected to fully comply with the policies, protocols and guidelines outlined in this document. Failure to do so may result in loss of research space access privileges.

Schools are developing a process for the approval of ramp up requests and enforcement of safety guidelines described in this document. The VPR office is working with the schools to provide the necessary support for business process infrastructure, and working with the COO’s office to coordinate the acquisition of supplies necessary including face coverings and sanitizing supplies.

We thank you in advance for your commitment. The following are the key safety expectations for ramping up research.

This guidance is evolving. 

Key Safety Expectations When We Ramp up Activities (applies to all on-Grounds research)

  1. Only those who actually need to be in the lab, studio, or research space for conducting research activities are allowed.
  2. Building access provided for individuals and for a specific period according to a time- table approved and prepared by the research leader and approved by the department and schools who will also monitor the area assigned to them for compliance.
  3. Only essential visitors. No letting others in with your I.D. badge.
  4. Accommodation for visitors who are essential for the conduct of research; for example, instrument repair technicians. Essential visitors should be escorted and adhere to safety measures implemented within the visited research environment. Research subjects in human research projects, when allowed, are not visitors under this definition.
  5. Avoid more than one person on an elevator. No congregation in front of elevators and will need to maintain social distancing while waiting.
  6. Convening in groups prohibited (lunchrooms, office, bathroom, conference room). Eat sitting outdoors if possible. If you use common areas, you must wipe down surfaces with disinfectant after use.
  7. Maintain social distancing by designing space between people to be at least 6 feet during prolonged work which will be accomplished by restricting the number of people in the lab to a density of ~125 sq. ft. /person in lab areas. When moving around, a minimum of 6 feet social distancing is required. Ideally only one person per lab bench and no one can work at the same time in the same bay.
  8. Time in labs may be scheduled in shifts by your research leader. It is essential that you vacate the building at or before the designated time, and leave ample time to conduct disinfection of high touch surfaces before you exit.
  9. Before you leave home for Grounds, you must complete an online health screening checklist. If flagged by the screening checklist, you must contact Employee Health for further instructions, as well as your direct supervisor, and act on their instructions.
  10. If you or any member of your household, have tested positive for COVID-19, or are awaiting test results, you must notify your supervisor immediately, and you may not come to work for any reason until it is resolved. Personnel who know they have had contact in the last 14 days with someone who tested positive or is awaiting test results, should stay home.
  11. Face coverings must be worn at all times (see separate guidelines for how to wear your mask, types of masks, re-use of masks, etc).
  12. Staff must wash hands at regular intervals. When hand washing is not possible, use ethanol (>60%) hand sanitizer. We plan to provide where possible, especially in elevator areas, and common areas. You must hand wash just prior to entry into the lab or research space and just prior to exit.
  13. When you begin your work and end your work, you must clean work area you have been in contact with an EPA-approved disinfectant or disinfecting wipe.  This includes shared instrumentation such as a microscope, tissue culture equipment etc. located in shared work spaces.
  14. When you finish work, you must contact the assigned floor coordinator to “check out” so that your exit is logged. Leaving without informing anyone is not allowed. This is key to contact tracing if someone in your lab or you get sick.
  15. Currently used facilities/equipment must be cleaned by designated research staff at least once a day, following CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfecting. This is not the same as cleaning high touch surfaces at the end of daily work.
  16.  A certification process on training to stay safe and use of PPE is required for every individual allowed to return to the lab before gaining initial access.
  17. For a lab or research space where the typical number of active lab personnel would exceed the required density, the PI will be responsible for determining which individuals are allowed to work in each designated shift in their group and seek the approval of the department and school.

Phases Description

Phases designed to increase on-Grounds density levels during research ramp-up 

Phase 0. Designated faculty & staff may continue work on key research in labs using the appropriate protective safety equipment and maintaining proper social distancing requirements. Pre-ramp up activities begin. Core facilities ramped back up, needed supplies acquired, and business processes designed and deployed to ensure a smooth approval and monitoring process.

Phase I. Researchers allowed back on grounds who can attest to health expectations and ongoing compliance with safety guidelines.

Phase II. On-grounds density levels can increase as disease spread in the labs is deemed under control and effectively monitored, and/or management and treatments options are successfully advanced to acceptable levels set forth by the Commonwealth. At this stage, select graduate students, second, third, and fourth year undergraduate students can return, following research ramp up guidelines. For summer, a student who has finished the first year of their college career is now a 2nd year, whereas a recently graduate high school student would be an incoming 1st year and not eligible to access the labs. 

Phase III. (We are in phase III) Individuals allowed to work in all environments normally following any new and permanent implementation of safety guidelines.

Process to add an undergraduate to the lab:

The researcher’s approved research ramp up plan must be revised with undergraduate’s name, hours of work per week, and work schedule and submitted for your school’s approval via the research ramp up portal. Researchers must attest that the inclusion of undergraduate(s) does not violate the density guidelines agreed upon for current phase. All undergraduate students returning to on-Grounds laboratory work must complete the Return to Grounds training and fully comply with the return to Grounds” guidelines and University policies. We do not recommend scheduling undergraduates to work alone in the lab, especially at night or on the weekends, and do recommend having the undergraduate paired with an experienced mentor (graduate student, post-doc, fellow, lab manager, etc.).

Additional Considerations for a Successful Ramp-up:

See Ramp-Up Toolkit

Lab-based Research

An excellent PI checklist for PIs has been developed by EHS. Use of the check list will increase the chances of a successful lab ramp-up. Check and make sure that applicable resources from the following list are available for your research

  1. Core facilities operational
  2. Laboratory materials and supplies for you research are available
  3. Availability of necessary PPE for individual use and a process for distribution and safe use
  4. Animal care operations operational to support ramp-up
  5. Visual signs and hand wash stations in place
  6. Adequate cleaning supplies in individual research spaces
  7. Computation support services
  8. Library services available for all, especially for the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities

Research Studio/Shop/Makerspace

  1. Studios may have workstations with built-in spacing that may not be consistent with the spacing and sq. ft. /person requirements for the ramp up to phase I. In such cases, either the workstations may have to be rearranged or the usable workstations are identified to meet the distancing requirements.
  2. Adequate cleaning supplies in work spaces to disinfect all:
    • work shared surfaces after use
    • shared equipment, etc. (maker bots) after use
    • plotting/printer stations after use
  3. Prohibit all types of sharing of tools and equipment to limit cross contamination where feasible. When not feasible implement plan to sanitize.
  4. Availability of necessary PPE for individual use and a process for distribution and safe use.
  5. Alter mode of delivery of desk critiques through distancing and virtual meetings.
  6. Alter mode of pinup/review sessions through distancing and virtual meetings.

Off-Grounds Field-based Research

For complete instructions see this Field Protocols document.

  1. Field based research is dependent on the “field stations” such as public schools and community of relevance to be open and available. Allowance of field-based research should be consistent with the policies of field-stations and the ability to meet the safety guidelines of both UVA and the field station.
  2. Research involving in-person meetings (social sciences are currently only allowed to conduct research without face-to-face contact), may be opened gradually while ensuring adherence to social distancing, and group gathering limitations. The schedule and provisions for this will be set as soon as possible.
  3. If a researcher has access to all the “field stations” that they need and are certifying to abide by the safety rules, then they may be granted permission by the department and School to restart their work.
  4. Departments and Schools will develop detailed policies for field-based work approval and monitoring.

Human Subjects Research:

  • See separate guidelines for clinical research
  • See separate guidelines for Social & Behavioral Sciences

Social, Behavioral and Professional School Research (Both on-Grounds and off-Grounds):

  1. Field research in the social and behavioral sciences, visits to archives and collection for the humanities, and access to remote site or facilities depend on the operational status and policies of those organizations and locations.
  2. Field-based research is dependent on the lifting of non-essential travel restrictions. See SEC-046 for current travel restrictions and use Ramp-up instructions to request approval of essential research travel.
  3. Self-quarantine after out-of-state travel, when such travel is allowed for field work should be practiced.
  4. Travel by car policy such as one person per car should be implemented.
  5. No congregation or eating together when outside on field work that violates social distancing guidelines.
  6. Allowance of face-to-face human subjects research subject to safety regulations that protect both the researcher and the subject is necessary. At this time, human subjects research requiring face to face contact is allowed only with the specific permission. We will continue to review the relevant conditions and guidelines and will consider resuming such research when safety precautions and protections can be better defined.
  7. For hired data collectors in the fields, a safety procedure training, and monitoring for compliance must be put in place, and equipped with adequate mask and cleaning supplies
  8. Library services should be available for all, especially for the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities. In particular, a well-developed copying and pickup service with social distancing should be available.

Other types of research work (non-lab based):

Faculty work in many different disciplines, research norms, and practices vary significantly. A literary scholar will face different challenges than an economist who will in turn not face the same barriers as a researcher working with students in the school system. A studio artist or a musician will face a different set of challenges. The primary ramp up to phase I considerations for such research are social distancing, personal hygiene including wearing face covering at all times, and contact surfaces cleaning as described under key safety expectations.

Graduate Research Assistant Work

These guidelines were developed to provide direction for the work of UVA graduate students in research labs and other research settings during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also meant to apply to post-doctoral researchers, research scientists, and other personnel in UVA research labs and other research settings.

1.   Within graduate programs/departments/labs, etc., share draft guidelines/procedures and/or approved plans regarding involvement/participation in research with graduate students (and other laboratory personnel) and then talk with them as a group to allow questions and/or concerns to be addressed openly and problems to be solved collectively.

2.   At all times, follow guidelines for social distancing, maintaining good health.

3.   Maintain open lines of communication with graduate students re: guidelines/procedures.

4.   Consistent with VPR guidance, address graduate students’ concerns by providing options (when applicable) for doing work remotely, using physical research space on a rotating basis during regular work hours, and/or using physical research space in evenings/on weekends.

5.   Seek feedback on approved guidelines/procedures and be willing to revise guidelines/procedures; i.e., be willing revise a given plan. Note that when changes are made to a given plan, it needs to go back through the approval process. Also, once plans are submitted and approved, it should be straightforward to update/modify them.


(Restrictions as of April 10, 2020

Given the continuing risk associated with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States and around the world, the prohibition on all University international and non-essential domestic travel will remain in place through June 30.

If you require an exception to the prohibition on international travel, please request an application from the Office of the Provost’s at Requests for exceptions to the policy will be evaluated for approval based on the following set of considerations:

  • The potential benefit of travel with regard to the mission of the University
  • The necessity of the travel in order to achieve the anticipated benefit
  • The potential risk to personal health and safety
  • The University’s ability to assist in a return to the United States in emergency circumstances
  • The risk to the health and safety of the University and Charlottesville community

Please note that due to the health and safety risks associated with travel during a pandemic, the University anticipates a limited number of approvals and only in exceptional circumstances. Any international University travel without a formal exception from the Office of the Provost will not be funded or reimbursed.

Non-essential domestic University travel is also prohibited. Essential travel is defined as supporting activities that are absolutely necessary, cannot be rescheduled, and must be done in person. If a supervisor, associate dean, or dean deems the travel essential, it will be reimbursed. If not, it will not be reimbursed. No formal approval from the Office of the Provost is required.

Personal Travel

We ask all University employees to take account of this guidance as they evaluate their own personal travel. Check the state and territorial health department websites for the latest information. If you do travel internationally, it is important to note that return may be difficult. Please consult the Center for Disease Control for details.


If you must cancel University travel, seek waivers and refunds directly from the airlines and hotels first. If airlines and hotels are not issuing waivers or refunds, employees can submit expense reimbursement requests through ExpenseUVA after the date of travel. For more information, please see the “Travel and Expense” website and the more specific “Travel and COVID” site. If you have a question that isn’t covered on either of these sites, contact the travel team at or 434-924-4121.

Health & Safety requirement-Face Masks, Physical Distancing, Events and Gatherings, and Visitors. Policy SEC-045

This policy guidance has been incorporated into SEC-045, the existing policy on Face Masks, Physical Distancing, Social Gatherings, and Enforcement, and is now titled COVID-19 Health & Safety Requirement – Face Masks, Physical Distancing, Events and Gatherings, and Visitors.

The University is committed to providing a safe environment in which to teach, perform research, work, learn and study. Because the Coronavirus (COVID-19) can spread quickly and cause widespread illness and death, the University has established requirements for face coverings, physical distancing, events and gatherings, and visitors to the University in order to protect faculty, staff, students, and contractors (vendors who have a contractual relationship with the University) from potential exposure to this disease.

Environmental Health & Safety Ramp-Up Checklist