Plan for Restarting Research Lab, Field, and Studio Activities (5/18/2020)
This document describes a structured plan for restarting research activities at all
Stony Brook University facilities. In response to the Directive from the VPR on March
20th, all lab-based research activities were curtailed as of March 22nd, with only
critical maintenance being permitted by essential personnel designated specifically
for that purpose. Research directly involving COVID-19 was also allowed with the provision
that appropriate safeguards were observed. The purpose of the current plan is to establish
a framework for an orderly and phased resumption of research that is consistent with
guidance from relevant authorities and aligned with Stony Brook’s broader plan for
returning to campus facilities and operations. This plan is guided by six principles
intended to safeguard the research workforce while enabling research to resume as
quickly and efficiently as conditions and guidance allow. While this phased return
to operations focuses on research activities, the phased approach to opening research
labs is applicable to all scholarly and creative activities that need facilities on
or off campus to proceed.
Principal investigators (PIs) or faculty supervisors are responsible for adapting
the provisions of this plan for their own research lab and/or activities. This requires
implementation of safe work practices, including appropriate engineering measures,
administrative measures, and use of face coverings/PPE to comply with key elements
of the plan. Principal investigators must submit their operational plan for approval
by their respective Chair or Director, who will coordinate with their Dean and Facilities
representative to enable compliant implementation. Additional oversight will be provided
by the COVID Key Area Research Recovery Committee and the Senior Executive Group,
Outline of the Plan
Principles Informing the Plan
Framework of Controls and Practices for Safeguarding the Research Workforce
Face Coverings/Personal Protective Equipment
Schedule for Phased Return to Research
Special Research Activities
Principal Investigator Laboratory Operations Plan
Checklist for Returning a Lab from Standby to Operations
Important Update - June 9, 2020
Important Update - June 24, 2020
1. Principles Informing the Plan
Principle 1: Follow the cognizant directives and guidance from NY State, SUNY, and SBU leadership,
and ensure the plan to restart research is aligned with Stony Brook’s broader plans
for returning to work.
Principle 2: Protect the emotional and physical health and safety of the research workforce, with
particular consideration for vulnerable and immunocompromised members of our community.
No researcher should feel they are being pressured to work on campus or in the field
during periods when NY Pause is in effect. Safety within laboratories and related
spaces must be rigorously maintained, with adequate access to face coverings/PPE and
other safety-related supplies. The health and safety of our clinical patients and
human research subjects must also be protected.
Principle 3: Protect early career researchers. Junior faculty are at a critical time in their
careers when research productivity is especially important. Postdoctoral researchers
are particularly vulnerable with the implementation of hiring freezes at many academic,
government, and industry organizations. As such, early career researchers who wish
to return to their labs should do so as soon as they safely can.
Principle 4: Graduate students are students in addition to being researchers. Critical skills
are gained in the classroom as well as in the lab. New graduate students arriving
in the Fall of 2020 must be afforded a proper balance of classwork and practical laboratory
experience following appropriate safety protocols. Senior graduate students with limited
funding or who require additional laboratory or field research to complete their dissertation
work should be given preference as labs open.
Principle 5: Undergraduates are students first, researchers second. Engagement of undergraduates
in research should only occur subsequent to the incorporation of postdoctoral researchers
and graduate students back into lab spaces.
Principle 6: A transparent process for a phased return to research activities, accounting for
equity and fairness, should be implemented as rapidly as public health conditions
and guidance/approval from relevant authorities allow. Principal investigators are
best able to adapt the plan to their lab operations and/or research activities. Oversight
must be provided by Department Chairs, unit directors, and higher leadership to assure
2. Framework of Controls and Practices for Safeguarding the Research Workforce
Guidance from the
CDC states that the virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person:
● Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
● Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or
● These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly
be inhaled into the lungs.
● COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.
The plan requires safe work practices to be introduced to minimize the risk of transmission
of the coronavirus in the research workplace in accordance with
guidance from the CDC, State health authorities, and Stony Brook leadership. These safe work
practices are categorized as
administrative controls, and face coverings/
personal protective equipment (PPE). The lists below identify possible measures that may be adopted as safeguards for
resumption of research activities. Whereas most of these apply to the lab setting,
equivalent controls may be appropriate for core facilities, studios, rehearsal rooms,
computer labs, field-based research, shipboard, or other research areas.
2.1 Engineering Controls
● Separation of personal workspaces to achieve minimum 6’ distance, or other barriers
between personnel when otherwise needed. Examples include:
o Staggered use of “bench-top” space.
o Use of tape on benchtops and/or floors to delineate space and maintain separation
o Construction of “sneeze barriers” (e.g., plexiglass; may require request through
o Separation of or limited access to common equipment and instrumentation to avoid
close contact and cross-contamination (hygiene, see below).
o Separate storage of individuals’ face coverings/PPE.
● Post appropriate signage at lab entrance and at essential locations within labs
to remind personnel of safeguard procedures.
● Ensure adequate air flow in labs and fume hoods.
● Ensure hand washing stations with soap and signage are available within labs. Hand
sanitizer should be made available as an alternative, especially for field work.
2.2 Administrative Controls
● All normal safe lab and field practices appropriate for the intended research should
● Regular health screening as required by SBU. Current SBU guidance requires:
o All non-health care employees will be required to conduct a brief health care screening
before coming to campus. This daily screening will involve temperature check and a
review for COVID related symptoms. These currently include shortness of breath, cough,
body aches/muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste and/or sense of smell, fatigue,
and headache. For an employee who returns or remains on campus after 12 hours this
screening must be repeated.
o If the temperature recorded is less than 100 F without use of fever reducing medication,
and no other symptoms are observed, the employee may attest to their supervisor/PI
that they screened negative, and may come to campus. An employee who screens positive
for a temperature over 100 F or one or more symptoms must notify their supervisor
and not come to campus. If during the day an employee begins to feel unwell, they
should notify their supervisor/PI and leave the campus immediately.
o Employees who identify themselves as symptomatic are provided information about
diagnostic testing, including the testing available to employees at P lot. They should
contact the health information line (HIL) at 631-632-5000 and will also be advised
to seek guidance from their health care provider. The employee may not return to campus
without a clearance from their healthcare provider or the HIL, which must be shared
with HR Time and Attendance at email@example.com. HRS Time and Attendance
will notify the Supervisor/PI and the employee that the employee has been cleared
to return to work.
● Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 virus and/or antibodies if required by SBU. As of
5/18/2020, SBU guidance does not require testing. However, PIs should check for updated
● Control lab access to limit personnel density. A 6’ minimum separation is the goal,
however other mitigation strategies may need to be employed on a case-by-case basis.
o Implement staggered work hours and/or shifts as needed.
o See separation of personal workspace in Engineering Controls
● Continue use of teleconferencing for meetings.
● Comply with SBU’s guidance regarding non-essential travel.
● Implement regular cleaning of common areas and contact surfaces (including control
surfaces of instrumentation).
2.3 Face Coverings/Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
● Comply with SBU guidance regarding use of face coverings or masks. Currently, SBU
requires the use of a face covering or mask in situations where social distancing
(minimum 6’ separation) cannot be achieved. Care must be taken to wear face protection
when transiting public spaces (e.g., hallways, elevators, bathrooms) to avoid unexpected
infringement of social distancing.
● If the standard operating procedure for a research activity requires use of more protective
PPE or face coverings, the standard practice takes precedence.
3. Schedule for Phased Return to Research
Research activities will resume following a multi-phase approach. The goal of this
approach is to ensure a gradual and safe return to operations. The plan comprises
five phases, with Phase 1 being the current state of research stand-by, and Phase
5 being the return to normal research operations. The phases reflect increasing levels
of activity achieved by gradually relaxing limitations on the number of research units
open and projects per unit allowed. Estimated percentages of the total research workforce
are suggested for different phases. The criteria for prioritizing research efforts
depend on: operational readiness, access to shared facilities (i.e., core facilities),
impact of delay, time-sensitivity of research, funding commitments, and fairness.
Activities that can be done remotely (e.g., data analysis, computation and theory,
writing, seminars, group meetings, mentoring) should not be conducted on site until
Phase 5, unless consistent with SBU’s broader plan for returning to work.
Progression through the phases will be dictated by guidance from the Key Area Research
Recovery Committee, as informed by the Senior Executive Group, NY State, SUNY, and
local policies based on external conditions, and by a lab’s readiness to operate safely
with increasing workforce. For this, PIs and core facilities’ directors/coordinators
will need to demonstrate lab operational readiness through the submission of a “
Laboratory Operations Plan”. Factors that contribute to readiness include compliance with all necessary controls
for social distancing, availability and use of face coverings/PPE, access to all related
instruments, facilities, or cores needed to conduct research, available supply chain
for all necessary materials, reagents, cleaning procedures, necessary custodial and
related services, etc. PIs must coordinate with their respective Chair and Building
Manager to ensure readiness of common areas (e.g., building entrances, hallways, bathrooms,
elevators, offices) with appropriate safeguards, including regular cleaning/disinfecting
of common touch surfaces. If research activities require access to another lab or
facility (e.g., a core facility), it is necessary to ensure that such access is available
at times that permit research activities. PIs that share a lab space must coordinate
among themselves to ensure equitable implementation. Plans for a return to earlier
phases should remain in place if warranted by a deterioration of external conditions.
The Laboratory Operations Plan must be submitted to the Department Chair, Unit Director,
or corresponding reporting authority for review and approval, with the Dean (or the
Dean’s Coordination 5 Team) and the Key Area Research Recovery Committee providing
oversight and acting to resolve questions. Once approval is in place, Department Chairs
or unit Directors will then identify the timing for the progression of core facilities
and individual research projects/labs to the next Phase. For progression to a higher
Phase, the PI updates their existing Laboratory Operations Plan, and resubmits for
approval as described.
3.1 Special Research Activities
Human Subject Research:
PIs should consult
for changes to research involving human subjects. Research activities must follow
IRB policies for changes in operation of research facilities. The IRB should be notified
of any changes to procedures that were not part of the initial approved protocol.
Screening of subjects for
should incorporate the following new inquiries: i) Ask if subjects hae been tested
for coronavirus and/or antibodies, and the results of these tests, ii) Ask for any
current symptoms of fever, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, sore throat, headache
or body aches, and iii) Ask for any contact with known COVID-19 cases or with individuals
with the symptoms above. Exclude subjects from participation/screening/visit to research
facilities, if answer is yes to ii and iii. For i, include only if evidence supports
immune status (subject to further guidelines from either the CDC or local health authorities).
non-clinical research, subjects must be interviewed by phone or sent an on-line questionnaire/survey in
order to avoid direct interactions. Consent can be mailed to the individual or can
be part of the on-line questionnaire/survey. If subjects need to be screened, phone
or email (written) screening can be performed without having actual interaction with
the individual. In studies where there is direct interaction with the individual,
videotaping or observation through a two-way window is preferable. Direct interaction
where no indirect alternatives with subjects are available, must follow the precautions
PIs should consult updated guidance for changes to research involving animals (provide
link). PIs should outline procedures for coordinating and complying with DLAR procedures
for return to research. Briefly, i) the use of DLAR procedural space will be limited
to ensure proper social distancing, ii) for procedures requiring two people that do
not allow social distancing to be observed, proper PPE will be worn at all times,
iii) orientation will be provided on-line instead of in-person and group training
sessions will be replaced with one-on-one sessions with proper PPE worn, and iv) use
of all equipment and special procedure areas will be prioritized according to the
campus phasing plan.
Field and Off-Campus Research:
PIs conducting field or off-site research should follow the same process outlined
for lab spaces, accounting for the particular aspects of the off-site activities.
Additional guidelines for hazardous activities (e.g., SCUBA diving) will also apply
as appropriate to ensure personal safety. During all aspects of operations, social
distancing must be maintained unless appropriate PPE are employed. It must be recognized
that the 6’ distance is generally specified for indoor, land-based conditions. In
a windy and moisture-laden environment such as on a boat, downwind positions require
greater distancing. Social distancing applies to all activities, including transportation
to and from the site, as well as sample work-up and storage. Food and liquids must
be separately maintained and handled for and by each member of the field team. Operational
planning, briefing, and communications should be conducted prior to departing for
the field site. A responsible party not associated with the research trip must be
made aware of the full details of the plan, including departure and return ETAs.
For individuals conducting approved fieldwork alone, a responsible party must be made
aware of the full details, including times of departure, return and receive periodic
check-in calls at agreed upon times. All shared vehicles, vessels and equipment, must
be properly disinfected according to CDC procedures before and after use by the person
using it. Field work involving travel outside of New York State must comply with all
local safety recommendations pertaining to mode of travel, registration with local
authorities, and quarantines as appropriate, and ensure adequate supplies of all necessary
safety equipment, including PPE prior to departure. Out-of-state travel must be pre-approved
by the Department Chair, Dean, and/or relevant supervisor. Research to be conducted
at remote facilities must operate in accordance the safety protocols in place for
that institution in addition to protocols stipulated in this plan, whichever is more
4. Principal Investigator Laboratory Operation Plan
Download the Word template
Guidance to PIs: Use this template to create a plan for your research activities that
accounts for the requirements set out in the
Plan for Restarting Research Lab, Field, and Studio Activities document. This template is also required for core facilities, studios, rehearsal
rooms, computer labs, field (off-site), shipboard, or other research activities. PIs
in shared/open lab spaces will need to coordinate with each other and describe the
coordination in the template. Once completed, submit this plan to your Department
Chair, unit Director, or corresponding reporting authority for review and approval.
for Returning a Lab from Standby to Operations
Laboratory Contingency Plan – Returning to the Laboratory
6. Updated Guidance for Restarting Research Activities at Stony Brook University
Revision date: June 9, 2020
NY State continues to release more guidance for reopening as regions in the State
progress through the phases outlined by the Governor’s Office. Research activities
are approved to restart when regions move into the State’s Phase 2. Long Island is
expected to advance to the State’s Phase 2 on Wednesday, June 10th. Contingent on
confirmation by the Governor’s Office, principal investigators (PIs) are able to restart
research activities in labs and off-site locations
provided they have submitted and received approval for their individual plans from their department
Chair or unit Director and Dean.
NY State guidance for reopening requires implementation of the safeguards that were
outlined in Stony Brook’s
Plan for Restarting Research Lab, Field, and Studio Activities. These include daily health screening by all personnel before coming to work, social
distancing in the workplace, use of masks/face coverings, and reduced density in labs
and other shared spaces. In addition, all employees will be required to take online
COVID-19 Returning to the Workplace training prior to returning.
Principal Investigators’ Individual Lab/Activity Plans
. We are aware that many PIs have already created their plan for restarting activities
in their labs or at off-site locations. The updated guidance provided here does not
require any changes to these plans. PIs’ initial plans should describe the return
of a cohort of research personnel (estimated 10-30% of the total research workforce),
as described in Phase 2 of SBU’s Plan (hereafter SBU Phase 2). (Yes, it’s unfortunate
that SBU and NY State both designated the progression of reopening using “Phases”.
There is no correspondence between them.) When reviewing plans, Chairs and unit Directors
must coordinate with their respective Dean or supervisor before granting approval
and scheduling returns. In addition, Chairs and unit Directors must also coordinate
with respective Building Managers to ensure readiness of building spaces. As noted
above, PIs may restart research activities as described in their approved plans when
so informed by their Chair or unit Director. This is dependent on official announcement
of Long Island advancing to the State’s Phase 2.
PIs must keep a copy of their signed/approved plan in the lab (or off-site location)
and accessible to approved research personnel.
Upon returning to labs and other research activities, PIs should evaluate the effectiveness
of the safeguards implemented and introduce any corrections, as preparation for advancing
to SBU Phase 3. To advance to SBU Phase 3, PIs must revise/update their approved plan
and submit it to their department Chair or unit Director for review and approval.
The increase in research personnel accompanying SBU Phase 3 (30-60% of the total workforce)
should be accounted for using staggered shifts (as needed), while continuing to maintain
social distancing, use of masks/face coverings, and other safeguards.
Required Daily Health Screening
. SBU and NY State require daily health screening by all personnel before coming to
the lab or off-site work location. This self-screening involves taking the temperature
and reviewing symptoms identified by the CDC for COVID-19, and noting if you have
been exposed, symptomatic, or if tested positive to COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
Research personnel may elect to use the online health screening tool or must complete
daily log in order to confirm that they have completed a self-screening, and that they are
free of symptoms prior to reporting to work. A separate email will be sent detailing
the online self-screening option. NY State has required that daily screening compliance
is reviewed, and supervisors/PIs must monitor whether their lab personnel have completed
the screening If an employee identifies that they have one or more symptoms, or indicates
recent exposure, they may not come to the workplace, are instructed to call the Health
Information line at 631-631-5000, and will be advised of next steps.
Required COVID-19 Return to Work Training
. NY State and SBU are requiring all individuals to complete the “Return to Work”
training video prior to returning to campus. This requirement applies to those who
have been working remotely and those essential employees who have remained working
on campus, as well as those restarting research activities at off-site locations.
The video can be accessed within SOLAR as follows:
- Log into SOLAR
- Go to >For Employees >Learning & Development >Return To Work Training
- Use the password “employeesback” to access and watch the video
- Check the completion box and hit save
. The department Chair or unit Director must provide a list of research personnel
for their department/unit who have been approved to return to research. The list will
be used to enable building access for those approved to return. The list should be
taken from the Personnel sections of the individual plans provided by PIs, and should
specify the department and building(s). The lists should be sent to Eric Olsen (firstname.lastname@example.org).
When a PI’s lab is approved to advance to the next SBU Phase, this list should be
updated with added names and resent to Eric Olsen.
. As explicitly stated in SBU’s Plan for Restarting Research Lab, Field, and Studio
Activities, no research personnel should be pressured to return to the lab if they
feel reluctant. A separate email was sent to Chairs and unit Directors regarding availability
of masks and gloves for returning researchers. PIs should ask their Chair or unit
Director about availability of masks/face coverings prior to their return. Additional
information is provided in the FAQ section of Stony Brook University Brook’s
Coming Back Safe and Strong webpage.
Progressing to Research Phase 3
Revision date: June 24, 2020
It has been two weeks since we opened the door for restarting research activities
beyond those who had been performing Covid-related research. I am pleased to report
that this process has progressed smoothly, thanks to the careful attention being given
to the guidelines outlined in the
Plan for Restarting Research. The thorough reviews provided by the Deans and their Department Chairs of PIs’
individual plans have permitted a gradual return of research personnel with appropriate
safeguards for the health of our researchers. Building Managers and the Campus Facilities
group have done an outstanding job of preparing buildings for our return. Based on
the positive experience gained over these two weeks, it is clear that many research
groups are well prepared to advance to Phase 3 as described in our
Plan for Restarting Research, hereafter referred to as
Research Phase 3. This terminology is important to remember, as many of you are aware that NY State
has also adopted the use of “Phases” to indicate when different types of businesses
are approved to reopen. There is no correspondence between Research Phases and NY
Research Phase 3 allows for 30-60% of the research workforce to return, while still
complying with the requirements of social distancing, use of masks/face coverings,
daily health screening, etc., as described in the Plan. Principal investigators that
have operated effectively under Research Phase 2 (preferably for at least one week)
and are ready to advance to Research Phase 3 should revise their individual plans
and submit them to their Chair or unit Director for review and approval. For those
who already have approved plans for Research Phase 2, the necessary revisions may
only involve updating the personnel list and the related work schedules, and sharing
the plan with the additional personnel for their signature of acknowledgement. It
is important that revised plans account for any additional engineering or administrative
controls needed for the increase in personnel. After reviewing plans, the Chair or
Dean will inform PIs when they may advance to Research Phase 3. New research personnel
starting with Research Phase 3 are required to view the training video in SOLAR and
provide affirmation. For those graduate fellows, postdoctoral fellows, and any other
researchers unable to view and record the training in SOLAR, they should visit this
site to view the return to work training video and provide affirmation. If your lab is
already operating with all personnel, then it is not necessary to revise your plan.
Also, make sure that a copy of the approved plan is accessible to every lab member
in each lab.
For those principal investigators who have not yet submitted a plan for restarting
their research activities, you may choose to create a plan for advancing directly
to Research Phase 3 (30-60% of the research workforce). However, the PI should first
check with their Chair, and the PI’s plan should clearly outline a gradual ramp up
in personnel level in order to allow enough time to evaluate the effectiveness of
the safeguards and controls. These plans should be submitted to the Department Chair
or unit Director for review and approval.
It is important that each PI’s plan provides an up to date list of research personnel
for the proposed Research Phase. Unless requested by the Dean in your area, it is
no longer a requirement to create a separate excel file to be provided for access
control purposes. If access to a building is required for an approved researcher,
the department should submit a request to Access Control following the normal procedure.
Finally, I again remind PIs that any individual who is reluctant to return to research
on campus or at an off-site location out of concern for their health should not be
pressured to do so.
For any questions, please contact your Department Chair or unit Director first. Thank
you for your cooperation as we continue to resume our research activities at Stony