University of Southern California

Research

Guidelines for Resuming Campus Research Operations

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Introduction
Key Principles for a Phased Research Ramp‐Up
Key Recommendations
University‐Level Actions
School‐Level Actions

 

Introduction

The COVID-19 Research Ramp-Up section provides policy and guidelines for the gradual ramping back up of research activities. The different sections detail approaches to clinical, experimental laboratory, human subject, social science and humanities, and computational and data science research. Crucial to the development of these guidelines is the realization that each laboratory environment is different.

The PI’s are best placed to design realistic return to research plans calibrated against a common university framework to ensure a safe workplace for students, trainees, and staff. Individual lab plans should be critically reviewed by home department faculty, and department chairs will discuss their faculty plans with their research vice deans (or equivalent).

Departments and schools should establish best practices and enforcement measures to maximize the return to productive research while protecting all researchers.

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Key Principles for a Phased Research Ramp‐Up

With multiple committees working in parallel on Project Restart, there are several critical dependencies to acknowledge.  For the policy and guidelines these dependencies are:

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Key Recommendations

  • There is a compelling case for the university to require and provide a base level of standardized PPE. Procurement of PPE should be centralized to utilize USC collective purchasing power.  Bring‐your‐own face coverings and other ad hoc PPE does not convey a safe workplace to our research workforce.
  • Without a regular testing protocol in place, all researchers returning in the second phase (Research Phase 2A, defined in Table) should be aware and acknowledge (in the form of a waiver) the risks of the workplace to infection. Students and postdoctoral trainees must opt in to conduct research on campus.
  • In the phase 2A (see Table) the University should restrict peak research workforce on campus to 30% of normal occupancy or the maximum allowed within 6 feet (10 feet preferred) of social distancing at all times, in all spaces.  Building‐specific plans will be required (see an example in Figure 1 below).
  • As USC is recommending travel to campus only by car, parking should remain free of charge to all researchers beyond May 31 until the end of the summer, or a full return to normal operation, whichever comes sooner.  At the very least, this should include graduate students, postdocs, and essential staff, as well as those faculty members who will be required to conduct to some portion of their workdays at USC (e.g., Research Task Force Members).
  • The peak research workforce % will only rise as state, county, and city ordinance allow and the university can continue to provide for a safe workplace.
  • Access to campus should be requested, granted, and approved each time a researcher is returning to campus, and monitored at the campus or building level.
  • Some level of viral testing will be implemented so the testing data can be used for planning and review of research return policies.

Figure 1. Example schematic of floor plan with 25% occupancy at 6ft social distancing between people and the use of furniture/cubicle barriers

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University‐Level Actions

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School‐Level Actions

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