Skip Navigation

Guidance for Progressing to Research Phase 3​: 6/24/2020 (see below 7.)

Guidance for Restarting Research: 6/9/2020 (see below 6.)

Download Orignal Plan for Restarting Research Activities 5/18/2020

Download Principal Investigator Laboratory Operation Plan


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, as needed.

Outline of the Plan

1. Principles Informing the Plan

2. Framework of Controls and Practices for Safeguarding the Research Workforce 

2.1 Engineering Controls

2.2 Administrative Controls

2.3 Face Coverings/Personal Protective Equipment

3. Schedule for Phased Return to Research

3.1 Special Research Activities

4. Principal Investigator Laboratory Operations Plan

5. Checklist for Returning a Lab from Standby to Operations

6. Important Update - June 9, 2020

7. 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 compliance.

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 talks.

● 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 engineering controls, 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 of personnel.

o Construction of “sneeze barriers” (e.g., plexiglass; may require request through Building Manager).

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 be observed.

● 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 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 guidance.

● 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. 

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.

Phase I

Phase II

Phase III

Phase IV

Phase V

3.1 Special Research Activities

Human Subject Research:   PIs should consult  updated guidance  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   clinical research  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).

For   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 listed above.

Animal Research:  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 protective.

4. Principal Investigator Laboratory Operation Plan

Download the Word template here 

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.

5. Checklist  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 a 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

Access Control . 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 ( 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.

Additional Information . 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 State’s Phases.

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 Brook.