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Principles and Frameworks

Guiding a phased approach to reaccelerating University research, scholarship and creative activity at South Dakota State University

Guiding Principles

Overarching Goal

To keep everyone safe, while reaccelerating research, scholarship and creative activity (RSCA) in a phased approach that may be relaxed or intensified as dictated by university directives.

Principle #1: Follow the University and relevant Local, State and National Public Health Authority directives and implement social distancing.

  • Public health authority (PHA) directives have become more restrictive over time, and will progressively “loosen” as conditions dictate. 
  • President Trump has issued a similar set of criteria for reopening economic activity. See the White House Plan for Opening up America Again. See also South Dakota´s guidelines released by Governor Kristi Noem: South Dakota´s Back to Normal Plan.
  • We can expect these State and National plans to influence the local decisions of city and county officials based on local and regional conditions. We expect that between “only essential/minimal activity outside of the home” and “return to business as usual,” there will be intermediate phases of increased access, with several weeks or months between phase changes, with the possibility of returning to a more restricted phase should COVID-19 infections again rise.
  • South Dakota State University directives for phase in or out of activities are based on all relevant facts and will govern implementation phases of this reacceleration plan.

Principle #2:Protect the emotional and physical health and safety of the research workforce and human research subjects.

  • No researcher should feel they are being compelled to work on campus or in the field during periods of broad shelter-at-home or remote work directives. Safety under all phases, safety within laboratories must be rigorously maintained, with adequate access to PPE and other safety related supplies. SDSU’s Environmental Health and Safety Office (EH&S) must be made aware of all research activities within university spaces. Labs will not be authorized for access unless adequate safety precautions are taken and are available. Principal Investigators (PIs) must identify who among their workforce is considered to be essential or appropriate personnel (and their corresponding replacements/backups). Researchers will be advised that if they feel uncomfortable about their work situation, they can report their concerns anonymously (through Lighthouse) or by contacting their department head or the VP for Research and Economic Development, Dr. Daniel Scholl, who will investigate these concerns and involve other leadership as appropriate.
  • Given that the relaxation of access constraints is locally determined, it may be especially challenging to ramp-up projects that are distributed across sites or which depend on international collaborations.
  • Lifting of travel restrictions, such as those that limit international travel or restrict non-essential travel, are necessary before field research can recommence. This includes human subject related field research that must be conducted in person and require travel.
  • A number of research projects have successfully and safely transitioned to being remote, requiring infrequent or no access to university spaces. While also considered important and essential, research that can be conducted remotely is not considered in the priority tiers discussed below. Furthermore, even if research can be conducted at home, we recognize that research productivity may be affected and may be conducted in a less efficient way. 
  • Researchers should plan as best they can for the inherent uncertainty for when a return to research spaces will be safe or when more stringent remote work must be reinstituted.

Principle #3: Protect the careers of early stage researchers.

  • As access restrictions are relaxed under university directives, priority to return to research spaces will be given to those researchers who cannot work remotely and are under time constraints to complete degrees or term appointments (e.g., postdoctoral researchers, graduate students), or for tenure and other career reviews. 
  • Temporary Tenure Review Extension: To mitigate the consequences of reduced access to research spaces, the tenure review period is extended.  Consult the Office of Academic Affairs Consult the Office of Academic Affairs for details. 

Principle #4: Recognize undergraduates as students first, researchers second.

  • During periods of remote work directives, engagement of undergraduates not employed by the university in research will only be permitted by exception, and only if it does not violate any safety and precautionary guidelines for researchers on campus. These may include situations in which (1) the undergraduate student is an essential team member for the project, (2) the project itself has been authorized for access, (3) that student’s work must be performed in person in the research space, (4) no other work can be assigned to that student that can be performed remotely, and (5) involvement in university research projects is necessary to fulfill degree requirements. Such situations will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Principle #5: Implement a fair and transparent process for granting access.

  • The conditions and priorities for granting access will be rational, non-arbitrary, and made public. 
  • Social distancing rules may be enforced by periodic inspection of authorized spaces by EH&S and facilities management, the auditing of card key swipes, or supervisors.  Enforcement is the responsibility of supervisors.

Principle #6: Ensure as rapid a research reacceleration as public health conditions permit.

  • Social distancing strategies will include permitting 7 day/24 hour building and lab access and staggering work day or shift schedules.  Extending EH&S, janitorial, and facilities support to enable round the clock operation of laboratories, research facilities, libraries, archives, collections, etc. may also be implemented by SDSU as needed.
  • Plan in advance for supply chain issues on restart. Under no circumstances should safety be sacrificed due to lack of adequate supplies, such as the type and quality of PPE.

Principle #7: Protect people, both those internal and external to SDSU, who are vulnerable to serious complications of COVID-19

  • Strategies for distancing and protection should particularly make allowance for protecting from infection risk those employees, students and volunteers who have characteristics that are believed to increase the risk of complications if they contract COVID-19.  
  • University employees, students and volunteers will extend all protection principles to non-university people as well; in particular non-university people who have characteristics that are believed to increase the risk of complications if they contract COVID-19.

Phases and Permitted Research Activities

Public health directives and the current state of the health care and Covid-19 public health response systems determine the timing as to when the campus is permitted to move up or down between phases (See Principle #1 above). Elements of plans for phased changes in on-site activity may include the following (this list is illustrative, not exhaustive; at a minimum, the elements specified in the SDSU pandemic plan annex will be implemented): 

  • scheduled/work-shift access;
  • recommended facial coverings;
  • minimum distancing between occupants, depending on size of research space and nature of activity therein, density limits recommendations such as no more than 2 researchers per bench, or 1 researcher per 150 sq ft, or maximum numbers of individuals per lab unless further density is justified and approved;
  • temperature checks or other screening actions at start and end of work shift, if and to the degree implemented by SDSU; and
  • disinfecting instruments, benches, work surfaces or other items after use.

Phased Approach

Emergency Phase (Time period: 3/16/20 up to at least 5/31/20)
Essential Functions and Essential Personnel

EXTERNAL CONDITIONS

SUMMARY & METRICS

CRITERIA

No on-site access for non-essential functions as directed by SDSU.

The external conditions may be characterized by the public health situation uncertain, rapidly changing or significantly deteriorating.

On-campus access allowed to maintain research capability or prevent catastrophic disruption

COVID-19 related research encouraged

Research personnel must be designated as essential to be on site.

A research continuation request and a continuity of operation plan and essential personnel list for each project/laboratory must be approved by Department Head, Associate Dean for Research, and VP for Research and Economic Development

Overall SDSU research activity transitions to an estimated 5-20% of normal

Research access limited to social-distanced essential personnel only for priority and essential research activities:

  1. Critical activities essential to preserve research assets and resources (for example maintain cell lines, animal health, instrumentation, etc.)
  2. “Critical Research”, where a delay would have significant financial impacts or catastrophically disrupt the project or protocol (including avoiding necessary euthanasia of research animals).
  3. COVID-19 related research activities; for example, research that: (a) will help deal with the pandemic, (b) has the potential to lead to therapies for COVID-19, and (c) will help the nation to recover after the pandemic eases.
  4. No “new” projects that require laboratory access can be initiated on campus with the exception of projects that are COVID-19 related.
  5. Core facilities function only to the extent that can safely support COVID-19 research or other approved essential functions.
  6. Field Research: Seasonal data collection or experiments close to completion are prioritized, that when paused or deferred would lead to “catastrophic loss” of research results, determined case-by-case. Refer to Appendix 1 guidance on field work.
  7. Human Subjects Research activities requiring in-person activity are suspended.

Safety guidelines for Emergency Phase: Essential functions by essential personnel will be conducted in accordance with CDC guidelines for COVID-19 prevention, and SDSU guidelines as implemented generally including but not necessarily limited to the following:

  1. Social distancing and cleaning measures understood and in place
  2. Distancing of people in time and space: 1 person per lab at a time, make use of shifts over 24 h and 7 days; multiple people allowed for field and barn work, but only if appropriate social distancing guidelines are followed;
  3. PPE or self-provided cloth face coverings: Wear mask and gloves in the laboratory, and mask during field and barn work when social distancing cannot be strictly maintained or when otherwise needed according to expectations associated with the functions being performed;
  4. Sanitation: Sanitizing of objects before and after use for lab and field/barn work;
  5. Travel:One person per vehicle; disinfection of surfaces
  6. Common areas within buildings:Do not congregate in common areas such as break rooms, hallways, conference rooms. Minimize number of people in bathrooms;
  7. Accessing service centers: Establish and maintain protocols to drop off or pick up of materials outside of the facility or in an entryway without any direct interactions with service center staff.

Student and visitor related activities – implementation practices and standards
Students, volunteers or visitors will not have access to university facilities unless a specific waiver is granted by the vice-president for research and economic development.

Early Reacceleration Phase (Time period: 6/1/20 to TBD)

EXTERNAL CONDITIONS

SUMMARY & METRICS

CRITERIA

SDSU relaxes restrictions on essential functions but continues to implement public health safety measures. 

The external conditions may be characterized by stable or decreasing public health dangers, reduced new disease occurrence and stable or decreasing hospitalizations.

Definition of “critical” relaxed to include time-sensitive research

Highest priority research activities are resumed to the extent possible while still maintaining the public health protection practices adopted by the university for this phase. 

All research activities that can be conducted remotely should continue.

Overall SDSU research activity transitions to an estimated 20% or more of normal.

Plans for quick return to Emergency Phase 1 remain in place in case needed.

Deadline-driven research activities are prioritized:

  1. Research permitted during the emergency phase, above.
  2. Animal or plant experiments where a delay would result in euthanasia or significant loss of research resources.
  3. Access for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows close to completing their degree/term of appointment (6-9 months before anticipated graduation or end of appointment).
  4. Prioritize research for completion of grants with end dates within 3 to 6 months (where funding agency has not granted leniency or extension would incur greater costs).
  5. Prioritize research activities of pre-tenured faculty (within three years of applying for tenure).
  6. Restart core and support facilities based on demand of reaccelerated research.
  7. Explore options for expanded on-campus library research. Prioritize researchers with deadlines (tenure, book contracts, degree completion, etc.) for access on a limited basis.
  8. Controlled access to studios and rehearsal spaces) for those at critical career points (tenure, promotion) and to the extent feasible with the public health requirements in place university-wide.
  9. Field research: Expand approvals depending on the restrictions that might exist in the counties where field research is to be conducted and when public health safety guidelines can be implemented for both university and non-university participants.
    Refer to Appendix 1 guidance on field research.
  10. Human Subjects Research: Requirements for face-to-face human subject research until an effective vaccine or therapeutics for COVID-19 is widely available:
    • Study personnel and participants must self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms prior to in-person interactions. Participation requires attestation that they have not recently started experiencing any of the following symptoms:
      • Fever or chills, or
      • Mild or moderate difficulty breathing, or
      • New or worsening cough, or
      • Sustained loss of smell, taste, or appetite, or
      • Sore throat, or
      • Vomiting or diarrhea, or
      • Aching throughout the body
    • A distance of 6 feet must be maintained between study personnel and participants throughout in-person interactions, unless participation requires closer contact.
    • Cloth, surgical, or N95 masks are recommended to be worn by study personnel and participants throughout in-person interactions. If study participation necessitates contact closer than 6 feet, N95 masks, gloves, and safety glasses are highly recommended.
    • Study spaces, facilities, and equipment must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before and after in-person interactions.
    • Adequate supplies of equipment, disinfectants, and PPE must be ensured before the study begins, and must not detract from the local community’s ability to respond to a potential surge.
   

Safety Guidelines for Early Reacceleration Phase: Follow “Guiding Principles for Unit/Department Return to Campus During the COVID Pandemic” adopted by the university for this phase of reopening (JacksRBack):

  • In addition implement the following relative to RSCA work:
    1. Number of people in a space at any one time determined by the ability to a) maintain 6 feet of interpersonal space or utilization of PPE or other appropriate protective techniques if 6 feet of distance cannot be consistently maintained.
    2. Use optimal combinations of on-site and remote work, evening and weekend hours, and other techniques to achieve distancing and density targets.

Student and visitor related activities in RSCA venues – implementation guidelines

TBD

Advanced Reacceleration Phase or Full Activity Phase (Time period: TBD)

EXTERNAL CONDITIONS

SUMMARY & METRICS

CRITERIA

SDSU significantly relaxes public health safety measures or lifts measures entirely.

The external conditions may be characterized by “low” endemic public health risk, or effective disease control tools widely available. 

Definition of “critical” relaxed to include virtually all or most research activities

Overall SDSU research activity transitions to an estimated 70% to 100% of normal

Plans for sudden return to Emergency or Reacceleration Phases in place

Research activities:

Relative fewer than in the previous phase to possibly no limitations. Activities accelerated further probably through a transition period.

Human Subject Research: Guidelines will be developed specifically for the prevailing external conditions.

Actual specifications will depend on SDSU directives and the actual public health conditions in place

Safety Guidelines: basic good practices of self-assessing symptoms and remaining home if sick, and hygiene.

Student and visitor related activities – implementation practices and standards: Practices will depend on directives and actual conditions at that time

  • Undergraduate students
  • Graduate students
  • Visiting scholars

Considerations for Reacceleration Planning

  • Develop a checklist for restarting laboratory-based research. Start now to develop restart/safety plans based on the phases above. Plans should be flexible enough to enable the swift ramp down of research to an earlier phase in response to changing circumstances.
  • Plans must comply with physical distancing requirements and should provide for the lowest density of people reasonable to carry out research. Gatherings, including group meetings and one-to-one discussions, should continue to occur virtually.
  • Consider staggering work schedules to maintain low personnel density after researchers return to campus.
  • Any personnel returning from out of state are encouraged, and may be required to follow current guidance on self-quarantine prior to reporting to campus. These individuals should work from their place of quarantine to the greatest extent possible.
  • DO NOT restart research that requires PPE without first ensuring/acquiring an adequate supply of PPE.  Start ordering PPE now, if necessary, to have on hand for restart if current stock on hand is insufficient.
  • Cloth masks are encouraged as part of physical distancing when on campus or at field sites.
  • Non-critical research that generates large volumes of hazardous waste and/or necessarily involves chemical, biological, radiation or other hazardous materials should not restart until it has been established that the waist can be properly disposed of.
  • All restart planning must consider the needs of employees/students with current disability accommodations or those who will require new accommodations, or employees/students that belong to high risk populations (e.g. immunocompromised people or older individuals).

Choice of lab members who return to work. Each research director must think carefully about which lab members will be allowed to return to work initially.

  • Trainees (M.S., PhD students and postdocs) should be given top priority due to the need to complete their research projects in a timely fashion. 
  • Priority should be given to lab staff who volunteer willingly to return to the lab.
  • Consider the well-being of young trainees and staff who live alone in small apartments and might benefit greatly from the ability to come in to work.
  • Consider the urgency of the work: students or postdocs should be given high priority if they need to complete experiments to meet a thesis deadline, a paper submission, or a grant submission. 
  • Consider occasional replacement of personnel in the schedule with new people, to allow as many lab staff as possible to enjoy some progress in their projects. 
  • Undergraduate research activities should not be allowed only if the training in the laboratories follows appropriate safety guidelines.

Research director pre-start checklist for safety:

  • Follow directives of Environmental Health and Safety

Lab Startup Checklist

  • Before you arrive in the lab: review hygiene guidance, develop staffing plan and file with department head, PPE decontamination and reuse guidelines, and work alone guidance.
  • First time you arrive: evaluate laboratory for safety considerations and proceed with caution.
  • Before you begin: 
    • Evaluate supplies, e.g., PPE availability and cleaning supplies, and evaluate whether you have sufficient supplies to complete the intended work.
    • Evaluate support services, e.g., compressed gasses, compressed air, house gasses, deionized water), hazardous chemical or biological waste pick-up, supply deliveries, regular custodial services.

Attribution note

This document was initially developed as revisions to a plan drafted for UC Berkeley, with contributions from other University of California and APLU campuses (for example University of Washington), as well as from colleagues at private institutions, such as Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology. Our initial focus is on managing access to those types of research spaces to be found on the main university campus and its field stations. These include science and engineering research laboratories, shared facilities for animal research and specialized facilities for scientific instrumentation (including computational facilities). We welcome your input via email to the VP for Research and Economic Development Dr. Daniel Scholl (SDSU Office of the Vice President for Research) for upcoming revisions of this document.