If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.


Lab Safety


US universities release research restart plans

Strategies prioritize health and safety of researchers and support staff

by Jyllian Kemsley
May 28, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 21


As colleges and universities around the world consider when and how to resume research stalled by efforts to stem the COVID-19 pandemic, 6 US research universities released guidelines prepared for their campuses.

“Common themes within our plans and elsewhere center around the critical need to adhere to public health guidance, prioritize the health and safety of the workforce and participants, and implement fair and transparent processes for decision-making,” say representatives from the institutions in a Science policy forum paper (DOI: 10.1126/science.abc5599).

Releasing their plans were Johns Hopkins University; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Stanford University; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Michigan; and the University of Washington. The schools estimate that COVID-19 restrictions halted more than 80% of on-site research activity at their campuses.

Support nonprofit science journalism
C&EN has made this story and all of its coverage of the coronavirus epidemic freely available during the outbreak to keep the public informed. To support us:
Donate Join Subscribe

Collectively, the schools’ considerations for restarting research include local or regional public health guidance and access to personal protective equipment, disinfectants, and other supplies. Considerations also hinge on the ability to conduct disease testing and contact tracing and the capacity of local support units such as facilities, health and safety, and security.

Their plans to resume research fall into three phases pegged to substantial, moderate, and minimal community transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Research ramp-up plans include symptom checks, building access controls, lab occupancy limits, physical distancing, enhanced cleaning, and disease testing and contact tracing. The schools also say that they are trying to set out reopening plans with the flexibility to ramp back down if needed—in particular to be able to identify and close specific laboratories, floors, or buildings in response to illness or exposure.

“Given the length of time that may be required to continue practicing social distancing, it may be years before academic research institutions reach a new normal,” the schools conclude.



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.