Reopening Research at UWM

(Last updated: September 23, 2020)

The decisions and processes to reopening research labs and spaces at UWM are based on guidance from the State of Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin System, and UWM Emergency Operations Center in consultation with UWM University Safety & Assurances (US&A), Campus Health, and Legal Affairs.

As UWM prepares for the Fall 2020 semester, the Research Reopening Plan has been updated to reflect (1) the changing usage and occupancy patterns that will occur with on-site instruction, (2) the development of building-level use and occupancy plans, and (3) updated safety guidance from the UWM Emergency Operations group and various professional organizations. Recognizing that these factors will result in different levels of research activity across UWM’s research facilities, this plan provides a more flexible approach to restarting research as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact UWM’s activities. The approach to phasing human subjects research has also been substantially revised.

UWM Research Operations & COVID-19 Monitoring Plan

The reopening of UWM’s research facilities has made it necessary to develop COVID-19 monitoring criteria and response protocols to control the usage of individual research facilities/laboratories based on COVID-19 occurrences to avoid further spread of the virus. Developed by University Safety & Assurances, the UWM Research Operations & COVID-19 Monitoring Plan (PDF) outlines policies and procedures for reporting and handling cases of COVID-19 among research staff in an individual lab or research facility. This includes research staff working on projects involving human subjects, animals, field research, and transportation between UWM research sites and facilities.

Per the Fall 2020 Research Reopening Plan (PDF), research activities are allowed only under the guidance of an approved Research Operations Safety Plan. To ensure compliance, the UWM Research Operations & COVID-19 Monitoring Plan requires the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) to verify that all newly funded sponsored projects operating in any UWM facility have an approved Research Operations Safety Plan in place before the grant award can be set-up for spending. OSP will use the Safety Plan Dashboard to determine the status of these plans.

Fall 2020 Research Reopening Plan

UWM has been using a phased approach to reopening research facilities. The original plan involved five stages that moved gradually from more restrictive operations toward normal operations. This has been successful in restarting research at a limited level, but as we approach the Fall semester we must de-couple some of these restrictions to allow greater access to research facilities. The original five-stage plan is no longer operative and is replaced by the Fall 2020 Research Reopening Plan. Notable changes include required on-site work plans for units and Employee Training and Attestation for all UWM employees returning to work on campus.

Human Subjects Face-to-Face Research Guidelines

Human subjects research is now subject to color-coded levels (red, orange, yellow, green), with red having the most restrictions and green the least restrictions. As of August 18, UWM is currently at Level ORANGE, which allows face-to-face interactions with low-risk populations in the same room that maintain social distance (greater than 6 ft.) or which require close (within 6 ft.) or direct contact for a limited duration (<15 minutes). Face-to-face testing of higher-risk populations is not allowed until Level Green is declared. Study teams are responsible for reviewing the CDC’s information on higher-risk populations and to identify whether their subject population or any individual subject is at higher risk.

Preparing and Submitting Your Research Operations Safety Plan

1. Review Guidance Materials

Before preparing and submitting your Research Operations Safety Plan, please carefully review these guidance materials.

  1. Fall 2020 Research Reopening Plan: Outlines the criteria and procedures for reopening research spaces and restarting research activities.
  2. Research Startup Safety Checklist: Guides researchers through the process of preparing their space and staff for reopening.
  3. UWM Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Guidelines
  4. Guidelines for Field Research During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Outlines the process for restarting field research while minimizing the risk of COVID-19 disease transmission and protecting the health and safety of personnel conducting research activities at field sites.

2. Complete the UWM Research Operations Safety Plan Template

After reading the above documents, use this electronic system to develop your Lab Safety Plan, which is required before permission can be obtained to reopen individual research spaces. Plans will be submitted and routed through this template system.

3. Obtain On-site Employee Work Status

Each member of a research group working on-site must be designated as an On-site Employee.

    For each member of your group who will be on-site, complete all columns except I, J, and K on this spreadsheet, and forward it to your Dean or Division Head. In Column L (Director), list your Dean (will apply to most researchers) or Director (if you are not in an academic unit). In Column O, include the work schedule/pattern you anticipate needing to resume your research project(s), e.g., hours per day, days per week, is it necessary for the days to be consecutive, number of weeks, etc.
    All UWM employees are required to complete UWM’s Employee Training and Attestation. This training is provided by UWM University Safety and Assurances and includes a training video, on-site work practices guidance, interim COVID-related health and safety rules, and a symptoms monitoring tool. Information is provided on practices for dealing with suspected and confirmed COVID cases and exposures.Each member of a research team must complete this training no later than the first day they return to the workplace. This requirement also applies to UWM research-related staff who need to come to campus for one-time, short-term access to their facilities.