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FAQs

GENERAL GUIDANCE

  • Where can I find guidance about conducting research during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • Where can I find general Northwestern guidance about COVID-19 and the phased return to campus?
    • Visit the University’s Coronavirus/COVID-19 Update page to learn about the six-step process, including estimated timelines, for returning to campus. That site also contains a variety of resources relevant to the pandemic, such as an aggregation of school- and unit-specific guidance.

RETURN TO CAMPUS

  • What must researchers do before they can return to campus?
    • Refer to the section “Before Returning to Campus” in the VPR’s May 22 message. Note that principal investigators and their research teams must complete the online training module “Pandemic Essentials,” assigned to them in myHR. As well, they must create a Pandemic Research Plan and submit it for approval. A templated form is available to support this effort.
  • How will I access my research building?
    • All facilities will require keycard access. In addition, buildings will have clear designations for entry and exit. Hallways will be open. Mask use in public spaces, including hallways and elevators, is mandatory.
  • I am a principal investigator who needs help in uploading my Pandemic Research Plan to LUMEN. Who can I contact for help?
  • When will my research space be available for reoccupancy?
    • Most of the buildings on campus not affiliated with research will remain closed at this time. Refer to “Places Impacted in This Step” for the current list of facilities currently reopening.
  • I am a non-laboratory staff member. When should I return to campus?
    • Non-laboratory staff members should continue to work from home through at Step 2 and Step 3 of the University’s phased return. Staff who have been designated as “essential” throughout the COVID-19 pandemic can continue to work on campus as necessary and as they have since the outbreak began. Other staff, designated as “critical” staff, are being granted limited on-site access with approval.
  • I am an undergraduate student or student worker. Can I return to campus now?
    • Most undergraduate students are not permitted on campus until after Step 3 in the University’s phased return. However, undergraduate students who are deemed by their PI’s to be significant contributors to research programs can return to our laboratories. We expect that any undergraduates now returning are integral to their research team and are familiar with the research space and activities therein. Undergraduates who are “shadowing” research or pursuing an on-campus internship are not allowed back at this time.
  • How quickly will the University move from each step in its six-step process?
    • Visit the University’s Coronavirus/COVID-19 Update page to learn about the six-step process, including estimated timelines, for returning to campus.

VISITORS

  • Are campus visitors allowed on campus at this time?
    • No. Most visitors are not permitted on campus until after Step 3 in the University’s phased return. In certain circumstances, research study participants may be allowed on campus, as outlined below in the “Human Participant Research” section.
  • Will non-University service technicians have access to campus?
    • Yes, critical service visits will be permitted in the laboratories and research spaces, but will require that all individuals strictly abide by University guidance. All visits must be scheduled and coordinated with the relevant Northwestern staff or faculty members.

HEALTH, SAFETY, AND CLEANING

  • As more research returns to Northwestern, what are the key ways we will help keep the campus safer during the COVID-19 pandemic?
    • The Vice President for Research has provided guidance for the research community and will continue to update the guidance as necessary and in alignment with current protocols from state and federal public health authorities. The University also has provided guidance about building ventilation. Principal investigators are responsible for providing direction and oversight of their projects, laboratories, and/or research sites, as well as graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff in their groups. Northwestern has implemented recommended practices to support health and well-being on campus. These include:
  • Must I wear a face covering on campus?
    • Face coverings are mandatory in all common areas and research spaces on both the Chicago and Evanston campuses. The only exceptions are if a person is working alone in a private office or working with hazardous materials that the mask might concentrate, resulting in a dangerous situation. You should direct any questions to Research Safety.
  • How will the University monitor compliance with its guidelines for social distancing and other measures intended to support well-being?
    • Everyone on campus is expected to understand that creating a safer environment is a shared responsibility and that each member of our campus community has a vital stake in working together to minimize transmission and support health and well-being. The University also will have various monitors in on-campus research spaces, including members of the Office for Research Safety. Monitors also will be walking the buildings and observing compliance with expected behaviors, including in common areas.
  • How do I report concerns or issues related to noncompliance with the University’s return-to-campus guidelines?
    • Graduate students and postdoctoral trainees should report their concerns to The Graduate School by writing to covid19compliance@northwestern.edu. Trainees may also contact their chairs or others to discuss their concerns. Faculty, staff, and students can call a hotline to report concerns. Evanston: 847-467-8840. Chicago: 312-503-3437.
  • How often are the University’s research facilities being cleaned
    • Refer to the May 28 communication from the Vice President for Research to learn about the University’s enhanced cleaning protocols within research buildings.
  • I have sensitive or hazardous instrumentation in my research space. I am concerned that custodial staff could endanger my work or themselves. How are these spaces to be cleaned?
    • As indicated in the May 28 communication from the Vice President for Research, custodians have been instructed not to clean any active work surfaces or touch instruments in the labs. That cleaning must be performed by principal investigators and their research teams in alignment with Northwestern guidance.
  • Is the University monitoring the health of individuals working or visiting campus, such as using temperature monitoring?
    • At this time, the University has decided not to implement mandatory temperature monitoring on campus, basing the decision in consultation with public health experts. We are encouraging each person to remain vigilant and monitor their health based on guidance from the CDC. If ill, people are not allowed on campus.
  • What should I do if I have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or may have been exposed to the disease?
  • What is Northwestern’s strategy for testing individuals for COVID-19?
    • At this time, widespread testing as a precondition of returning to campus is not feasible due to current testing capacity limitations in the State of Illinois. As Northwestern has done since the pandemic’s start, the University will continue to test those who are symptomatic. We also anticipate performing “spot testing” each week to identify areas of potential concern, as testing capacity increases. This testing will be voluntary.

PPE and OTHER RESOURCES

  • How do I obtain PPE, hand sanitizer, and sanitization supplies for my research space or office?
    • Research Safety is providing laboratories with initial supplies as part of a welcome back kit. Investigators can sustain their supplies by ordering subsequent PPE through Procurement and Payment Services.
  • I need non-standard PPE (thermometers, face shields, disposable gowns, child-sized masks). Where do I obtain these items?
  • I would like to install Plexiglas barriers in order to create separations within my research space.  What should I do?
    • For guidance on vendor resources please contact Steve Matz, Director of Facilities and Planning, Office for Research, at s-matz@northwestern.edu.
  • Where can I obtain guidance posters to support social distancing, hygiene, and sanitization practices in my research space?
    • A variety of materials are available here for your use. You may download and print on demand.
  • I am a graduate/postdoctoral/international student with questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting my experience at Northwestern. Where can I find information that provides me with specific information about classes, teaching, financial considerations, and student life?
  • I am feeling pressured by my PI or manager to return to campus, but I have health concerns about doing so. Can I continue to work remotely at this time? Who do I contact if I have specific concerns?
    • As stated in the guiding principles communicated by the Vice President for Research, principal investigators must not pressure or expect students, postdocs, or staff to come to campus if these individuals are ill, have underlying health conditions that place them at risk, or must care for ill or homebound dependents. Graduate students and postdoctoral trainees should report their concerns to The Graduate School by writing to covid19compliance@northwestern.edu. Trainees may also contact their chairs or others to discuss their concerns. Faculty, staff, and students can call a hotline to report concerns. Evanston: 847-467-8840. Chicago: 312-503-3437.
  • Is the campus shuttle still running?
  • I’ve heard a lot about “Zoombombing” Is it safe to use Zoom for research?

HUMAN PARTICIPANT RESEARCH

  • My research involves human subjects. When can this research continue on campus?
    • Critical human subject research has continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Northwestern is currently returning more human subject research to campus and has enlisted a faculty committee from across various departments to develop principles and protocol for doing so. This guidance is available on the IRB Office website.
  • I’m preparing to ramp up my human participant research on campus. How can I do this effectively and safely?
    • The IRB Office recommends creating a Pandemic Research Plan to demonstrate that the PI or department can safely conduct the on campus activities within the parameters of current University campus requirements. Review of safety plans and the decision to allow human research activity to resume on campus is ultimately at the discretion of department chairs and/or, school deans, or institute directors (or appointed designee). Please contact your chair or dean’s office for guidance regarding submission and review of plans.  PIs within the Feinberg School of Medicine should submit their plans to FSMReactivationPlans@northwestern.edu.
  • A study participant will be coming to campus for a study visit. Are there any actions that I must take prior to the visit?
    • Participants must be remotely pre-screened for COVID-19 symptoms no more than 24 hours prior to any in-person study visit. The IRB Office has provided a COVID-19 Pre-Screener to support your efforts. Cancel the study visit if participant does not pass pre-screening. Fully inform participants of what to expect and the procedures they need to follow while on site. See the IRB’s guidance for ramping up human research activities on their COVID-19 Resources webpage for more detailed information.
  • A study monitor wants to come review my study. Is this person allowed to do so?
    • On-site monitoring visits are currently not allowed unless they are deemed essential. Please work with your monitor to set up a remote visit if possible, or notify the monitor that the visit will be postponed until on-site visits are allowed.