Research Reactivation

June 18, 2021

Dear College of Social Science Researchers and Research Administrators:

MSU continues to see movement toward further reactivation of research activities both on and off campus. Based upon current COVID-10 requirements from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA), below is a summary of the current guidance that researchers need to follow regarding research protocols. Dr. Gage, the VP for Research and Innovation recently articulated his expectations for active research teams regarding research under new on-site work framework (Research Reactivation Update) and the HRPP articulated their expectations for research involving human participants here (Human Research Reactivation Update).

Please note the following changes and current guidance:

MSU Returning to On-Site Work Framework

The MSU Returning to On-Site Work framework plan completed by the major administrative unit (College of Social Science) will now replace the need to file individual MSU Research Lab Safety Plans and/or Human Research Safety Plans. However, research teams currently operating in-person who have previously approved safety plans should retain copies of these plans should there be another pandemic outbreak.


In-person interactions with research participants
In-person interactions with research participants by MSU employees, MSU students, or agents of MSU are now permitted so long as the research team’s MAU has approval for their MSU Return to On-Site Work framework, follows current MIOSHA orders, and accounts for the vaccination status of all research team members.

Current research teams working remotely should continue to do so until the MAU/unit leadership indicates your team may return.

Meanwhile, active research teams with previously approved plans may proceed with eased restrictions today by following these key points:

COVID-19 Training

Personnel working in approved labs and research spaces who have already completed their EHS COVID-19 Safe Return Training have fulfilled the requirement and do NOT need to repeat it. Individuals on your research team who have not completed the training module should do so immediately.

MSU Community Compact
All employees should review the updated MSU Community Compact to understand their personal responsibilities.


Continued Health Screening

The health screening form remains a requirement and is a necessary tool for PIs to determine who is or is not vaccinated. Responses to the new attestation of vaccination will prompt a notification to supervisors. Members of the research team who have a supervisor other than the PI, should be sure to list the PI’s email address on their health screening form to enable proper notification.

The health screening form needs to be completed by all people participating in activities on the MSU campus or on property governed by MSU, including non-MSU individuals (e.g. research participants). There is a “visitor” option on the main page of the health screen. This addresses vaccine status. Consistent with MSU policy, people who are unvaccinated or do not declare vaccination status will need to wear masks and socially distance.

Non-MSU individuals who are research participants or involved in an MSU activity conducted off-site would either complete a local health screening form or a paper MSU form (MSU COVID-19 Research Participant Screening if a research subject).


Mask Wearing and Personal Safety in Research Settings

Fully vaccinated
Fully vaccinated (defined as those who have completed their final vaccination and the two-week waiting period) are NOT required to wear masks or maintain physical distancing in research spaces, offices or other public spaces, such as conference rooms and break rooms, and there are no longer capacity limits in such spaces.

unvaccinated or do not wish to disclose
Individuals who are either unvaccinated or do not wish to disclose their vaccination status are still required to wear masks and maintain six (6) feet of distance while indoors. Supervisors of research spaces that have a mixture of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals will need to address those scenarios, as well as public spaces.

Personal protective equipment
Personal protective equipment needed for the specific research setting must still be used. If mask wearing could hinder the required safety equipment, researchers should discuss a possible exemption with the PI or supervisor.


Sanitization and Personal Hygiene

MSU employees should follow the COVID-19 safety rules of the location (e.g. health care facilities require masks) or MSU, whichever is more stringent.

If working at a site without rules (like a private home), then the MSU rules should be followed which means:

  • if unvaccinated, you must wear a mask and distance,
  • if vaccinated, mask-wearing and distancing are not required

MSU employees always have the option to wear a mask if they want to even if not required; e.g., it is recommended but not required to wear a mask if vaccinated and working closer than 3 feet for more than 15 minutes or if you or a research participant is immunocompromised, pregnant, or have other health conditions.


Mask Wearing and Personal Safety in Research Settings

Sanitization requirements reflect updated CDC recommendations. Research teams should ensure that daily cleaning is maintained (either by the team or building custodial services). In the case of exposure to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 at the work site, enhanced cleaning and disinfection of the space must take place before work can resume. Public spaces ,such as breakrooms, are not typically cleaned by building custodial services so sanitization of those spaces are the responsibility of all who use them.

All research team members should continue to follow personal hygiene protocols such as frequent handwashing. Hand sanitizer also should be made available.


Other Research Considerations

Fully vaccinated individuals may now carpool for research or other work-related activities. Those who are not vaccinated must wear a mask and are limited to only two (2) individuals per vehicle.

Undergraduate student researchers
Undergraduate students need to be registered to work in research spaces on campus. Undergraduate students who work in research must continue to participate in the Early Detection Program (COVID-19 testing) even if fully vaccinated. The need for testing will be reevaluated for the Fall semester.


Considerations for In-Person Research with Human Participants

Given unique considerations specific to human research, the MSU COVID-19 Considerations for In-Person Interactions with Research Participants document has been developed and research teams are expected to incorporate these considerations into their interactions with research participants. The guiding principle will continue to be the safety of our students, staff, faculty, and the community.

All in-person interactions with research participants by MSU employees, MSU students, or agents of MSU must follow current COVID-19 university requirements and as applicable, any local site requirements including facility (e.g., school, hospital) and city, state, or country requirements. Please be prepared to pause in-person interactions again if a spike in COVID-19 infections occurs.



Collaborative Research

MSU Oversight Collaboration
If in-person interactions are being performed by individuals who are acting under the oversight of MSU (e.g., faculty, staff, students, contractors), MSU’s requirements should be followed, including COVID-19 safety precautions and processes to restart in-person research.

External Oversight Collaboration
If in-person interactions are being performed by an external collaborator who is acting under the oversight of the external organization, that organization’s requirements should be followed, including COVID-19 safety precautions, and they would make their own decision about conducting any research activities, following the organization's processes to restart in-person research.

COVID-19 safety protocols
MSU researchers should communicate and work with their collaborators to ensure COVID-19 risks have been addressed through mitigation strategies appropriate to the research and location. The expectation is that collaborating organizations have COVID-19 safety protocols in place appropriate to the location and procedures being conducted.

Procedure concerns
If there are any concerns about the collaborator’s procedures, Principal Investigators should address these with the collaborators and consult with their Department Chairs and Associate Deans for Research as needed.


International Research and Travel

Please note that all MSU requirements related to travel remain in place and must also be followed. See the Office for Global Health, Safety and Security website for current requirements. Also remember that all faculty, staff and students engaged in international activities must submit a MAU Essential International Travel Waiver Request to the Office of Research in the College of Social Science with sufficient documentation and rationale to engage in this travel at least four (4) weeks in advance of the anticipated travel date. Please note that there are additional requirements for student international research travel requests.


For more information, contact:

Please feel free to Contact the Office of Research in the College of Social Science if you have any questions about these protocols.


Anna Maria Santiago
Associate Dean for Research
College of Social Science


Barbara Cernadas
Senior Research Administrator
College of Social Science