The health and well-being of our faculty researchers, students and staff are the primary driver of decision making for the Division of Research and Economic Development (DORED) in creating plans and practices for the Fall 2020 academic term with coronavirus still a major public health concern.

The guidelines provided here align with national, state and local directives, as well as guidance from the UNC System Office, the State of North Carolina and North Carolina A&T. Information in this section is disseminated through DORED to the college deans and laboratories leaders to ensure current information is consistently communicated to all research staff and faculty.

Individuals working in laboratories are responsible for ensuring they have received appropriate training and are up to date and compliant with all university operational guidance.


To ensure research projects can continue as planned while providing for social distancing and disinfectant processes necessary to minimize spread of coronavirus, access to laboratories and other research space will be managed closely. Staff will be provided access to laboratories and research during the academic seasons and temporary closures in three phases:

  • Maintenance activities only;
  • Time-sensitive data collection;
  • And full data-collection operations.

Research will not be conducted alone after normal business hours. All individuals returning to laboratories do so voluntarily.

Building access and laboratory security follows standard and pandemic related operations and guidelines. Laboratory staff will minimize interactions in laboratories, and researchers will identify key individuals to manage issues such as animal husbandry and key experiments in each laboratory.

Field work should be done via day trips only – field workers must be able to leave and return to their local homes every day in a vehicle and limit the number of researchers working together, to maximize social distancing when traveling and working together.

Human-subject data collection should focus on research that can comply with social distancing guidance that it is in effect at the current stage.

Sanitization and cleaning

Facilities will provide materials to clean laboratories. Laboratory managers, researchers and/or their designees, will be responsible for cleaning individual laboratories. If a laboratory requires specialized cleaning, the researcher or laboratory manager must reach out to facilities for needed materials.

All cleaning must meet U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) disinfection guidance with respect to contact times (such as: laboratory benches, common areas, equipment, etc.). While working in laboratories, face coverings are required at all times. Each researcher will determine the specific type of personal protective equipment and face covering for their laboratory based on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), CDC and EPA recommendations based on current risk management standards and guidelines.

Considerations: Research operations

Faculty members are responsible for their own laboratories. Each should establish unidirectional building access (entry/exit) and arrange through Facilities for signage throughout building. Laboratory capacity must be defined for social distancing depending on the size of the lab.

Identify work that can be accomplished remotely and introduce shift schedules to reduce staff present in laboratories. Create structure for ensuring people in laboratories maintain recommened six feet of distancing (1person per 250 square feet). Laboratories and public spaces will be cleaned frequently.

Labs will maintain access logs with times of entry/exit and full contact information for staff. Use/install electronic access mechanisms, if possible. Detail shut down procedures, and define protocols for research maintenance in case of a shut down.

Human-subject research that can follow social distancing recommendations should be allowed to continue, but those that cannot will be disallowed. Human-subject research should be conducted with remote interaction tools, whenever possible. Include face-to-face assessments or visits only after careful assessment and weighing risks and benefits for the participants. Procedures must be put in place for visits/interactions to ensure safety and social distancing when face-to-face interactions are allowed. Include measures that reduce direct contact, daily wellness checks for research personnel when participant interaction is face-to-face and remote wellness screenings for subjects prior to them reporting for studies.

Types of research
  • Laboratory research (wet and dry labs) – Hygiene practices, PPE, Social distancing, access control (capacity and directional traffic)
  • Laboratory (animals or living organisms) – IBC, IACUC, Hygiene practices, PPE, Social distancing, access control (capacity + directional traffic)
  • Field research (animals, plants, sites) – IACUC, Hygiene practices, PPE, Social distancing

  • Clinical/human subject research – In person (clinical, focus group, observation) - IRB, Hygiene practices, PPE, Social distancing, risk assessment, communication

  • Clinical/human subject research – Surveys (clinical, focus group, observation) – IRB, Can be managed in telework

  • Computational and remote sensing research – Privacy, minimal adjustments/ITS support