Novel coronavirus information

March 3, 2020

Mitigating impacts to research activities due to COVID-19

From the Office of Research


As noted in President Cauce’s February 29 address to the University, the University is closely monitoring the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and associated COVID-19 disease, and extensive emergency procedures are in place.  Be sure to read the UW’s coronavirus FAQ page, as it contains important information for everyone in the UW community.

What special planning should researchers carry out? For convenience, we have included a checklist at the bottom of this message.

Emergency personnel. At this time, there are no plans to restrict access to University research spaces, but it is wise for every research group to plan ahead in the event that full access is not possible for some time period. In the case of campus suspended operations , the usual policies would apply. This includes the need for emergency personnel to carry out specified duties.  The suspended operations link above includes the definition of emergency personnel, and below are the general categories:

The position is necessary to support or maintain:

  • Human health, welfare and/or safety.
  • Information technology services or security.
  • Building or property security, safety, and integrity.
  • Research animals, specimens, or equipment.
  • Critical infrastructure (power, water, heat, roads, etc.).
  • Critical business, contractual, or legal obligations including employee payroll.

In each unit, emergency personnel should be already designated. If you are unsure of who in your research project is designated emergency personnel, work with your department administrator or an equivalent administrator to identify such personnel.

Precautions. Remember, all personnel should stay home if they experience any symptoms including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. It is also advisable to encourage limiting physical contact with others, such as hand-shaking (substitute elbow bumps or bows) and sharing of food.  Finally, the most effective prevention measure is frequent, thorough hand-washing.

Communications. If a communications plan for your research group is not already in place, designate points of contact so everyone receives timely information.

Plan for researcher time. Principal investigators and research group leads should discuss approaches now, in the event that some personnel are unable to come to work. Such advanced planning will make future decisions straightforward and minimize disruption to research activities.

Remote access. All students, post-docs, staff, and faculty involved in research projects should ensure that they have access to information they need to carry out work remotely.  This might include, for example, access to literature, access to existing datasets and research-related files, and access to meeting software (such as Zoom).  Principal investigators should prepare to carry out meetings remotely, using similar approaches as for remote teaching of classes. If you are unsure about whether you have access to such tools, it is wise to test them now.  Examples of the types of research work that can be done remotely are: data analysis, literature reviews, writing proposals, reviews, or research papers, writing the background sections of theses, computational work, meetings, discussions, etc.

Prioritization. Depending upon the nature of your research, you might consider prioritizing work that can only be carried out in your research facility, and put off work amenable to remote support, such as data analysis. Stockpiling results and data now that could be analyzed remotely in the future is a potential option that might create future flexibility.

Save samples along the way. If you are carrying out a long-term experiment and if it is feasible to freeze samples at specific steps, you might consider doing this more often.

Proposal deadlines.  In general we expect that OSP will be able to submit proposals, even if personnel are working remotely.  Our experience is that federal agencies are very flexible about deadlines under difficult circumstances beyond our control.  However, if agencies are officially closed, proposals will most likely remain in a queue, pending resumption of agency operations – as has been the case during federal budget-related shutdowns.  Information will be posted on the OSP website, if necessary.

Travel. Should you cancel planned research-related travel such as to a conference, site visit, or other laboratory?  Not necessarily. Be sure to access the list of travel restrictions – which will apply to everyone who travels on UW funds, including research grants or contracts — and use caution in considering travel to a country with restricted access to specific locations. As always, you should use your own judgement based on the circumstances.

Advance planning will allow everyone in your research group to focus on their own efforts and work together as a team, rather than wondering how they and their team members are to proceed.  Even if such plans are not needed for the current situation, they are still a good learning experience for the future.


  • Identify emergency personnel and ensure they know what to do in the event of suspended operations
  • Remind lab personnel of your communication plan or create one if not in place
  • Identify priorities in case of restricted access
  • Ensure remote access to files, data, servers, etc.
  • Prioritize experiments
  • Plan for remote proposal submission
  • Check travel restrictions before making travel plans.


Mary Lidstrom
Vice Provost for Research
Frank Jungers Endowed Chair of Engineering
Professor of Chemical Engineering and Microbiology