Two months after the COVID-19 pandemic required WPI to significantly limit access to on-campus labs, the university is beginning the process of resuming on-campus research. This process will be phased, deliberate, and guided by local, state, and federal guidance and orders. You can expect the resumption of on-campus research to be considerably slower than the process we took to ramp down research in March.
WPI’s Research Lab Reopening Guidance lays out critical information on WPI’s evolving approach to resuming on-campus research, the responsibilities of all members of our research community, and the principles guiding our efforts as we resume the important research that is a hallmark of WPI.
Our overarching goal is to protect and support our community, both by mitigating the risk and extent of viral infections and by ﬁnding safe and creative ways to restart research on campus. We are asking for your help and your patience in this reopening eﬀort.
Because the resumption of on-campus research will require careful orchestration of people, buildings and labs to allow for social distancing, all principal investigators (PIs) and center directors are being asked to develop detailed written plans for their labs, as outlined in this guidance. This information will allow the university to manage the resumption of on-campus labs in phases, based on the access priorities and estimated timelines listed below:
1. Critical research – May 26 (estimated)
• Research where a delay would have significant financial impacts.
• Research where a delay would catastrophically disrupt the project or protocol.
2. Time-sensitive existing research – June 8 (estimated)
• Research where further pause or deferral would lead to significant delay or loss of research results.
• Research where further deferral would lead to inability of students to graduate.
3. Critical new on-campus research – June 22 (estimated)
• New research where a delay would have critical impact on the commitments to sponsors, on the faculty’s research program, and on the ability of students to graduate.
4. Expansion of on-campus research – August (estimated)
• All research that must be done in-person is permitted on-campus.
Research and lab activities that can be conducted remotely at this time should continue to be conducted remotely. Research meetings must continue to be held virtually.
Please note: Human subjects research that requires in-person interaction is not allowed at this time, but may be permitted in future phases. PIs are encouraged to find alternate ways to continue this research. Plans for restarting in-person interaction in human subjects research in the future should be discussed with the Vice Provost for Research. In addition, visitor access to core facilities at WPI is limited at this time.
When we return to labs on campus, our models for research and collaboration will look very different from how they looked in the past. The Research Lab Reopening Guidance lays out standards and factors based on the very real possibility that we may need to ramp down or shut down research again at any point due to COVID-19 concerns.
Thank you for your thoughtful attention and coordination as we begin this reopening process. We are committed to supporting you through this unprecedented challenge. Please do not hesitate to contact the Office of the Vice Provost for Research if you have any questions or concerns.