Office of Research & Sponsored Programs

University Guidance on Research at UNI During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The following is provided as a framework for faculty, staff, and student researchers here at UNI. While guidance is provided on implementing sponsored and non-sponsored research, travel and fieldwork details, IRB considerations, operational guidelines for labs, and preparing for future disruptions, note that the information presented is not all-inclusive. For more, please visit the UNI Forward Together website for current information related to the University's plans to resume on-campus instruction and operations. 


UNI Forward Together Guidance on Research, Scholarship, & Sponsored Projects at UNI

The following guidance is offered to faculty, staff, and student researchers across campus to assist in implementing sponsored and non-sponsored research and public service projects as UNI resumes on-campus operations for the fall 2020 semester.

As was the case this past spring and summer, the circumstances will continue to evolve. Please visit, and continue checking, the UNI Forward Together website, which is the University’s central information hub for all faculty, staff, students and visitors regarding the resumption of on-campus operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, information regarding funding and project management for sponsored projects can be found here on the RSP Website.


Travel & Fieldwork Guidance

The following document provides current information and guidance on travel. This information, in addition to other UNI guidance, should be used when preparing for travel and fieldwork.


Resuming Face-to-Face (F2F) Research

Although all researchers are asked to continue remote/virtual data collection, starting Monday, August 3, 2020, F2F is permissible with IRB approval. As resuming F2F data collection or changing to remote/virtual data collection would be considered a study modification, this request must be sent to Rebecca Rinehart, Interim IRB Administrator at (please CC for review and approval before being implemented. 


Face-to-Face (F2F) Data Collection and Risk

Risk of exposure to COVID-19 during data collection follows OSHA, CDC, and UNI guidelines.

High-risk face-to-face data collection is generally restricted at UNI. High-risk F2F data collection means a high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of COVID-19, including:

  • Aerosol-generating procedures
    • Exercising (e.g., VO2 max)
    • Inducing cough, sneeze, or strong exhale (e.g., spirometer)
  • Specimen collection that may generate a cough or a sneeze
  • Contact with individuals who have or were exposed to COVID-19

Those scholars who wish to pursue high-risk F2F data collection may contact David Oesterle, UNI Environmental Health and Safety, extension 3-7491, to complete a hazard assessment. A determination that the data could be collected would allow scholars to submit an IRB protocol. The scholar must include the hazard assessment agreement with the IRB submission. The IRB makes the final approval of the study. If the hazard assessment discovers F2F data collection is not feasible due to risk, the scholar will either (a) change data collection or (b) postpone data collection until it is safer.  


Medium risk face-to-face data collection will occur on a case-by-case basis at UNI. The ability to engage in medium risk face-to-face data collection is dependent on the degree of risk and the researcher’s ability to mitigate the risk. Researchers should contact the IRB Administrator before submitting their IRB application to determine feasibility. See the IRB website for mitigation strategies.

  • Medium exposure risk includes frequent or close contact with people who are not known nor suspected of being infected with COVID-19, including:
    • Specimen collection
    • Interaction with the general public
      • Interviews
      • Survey collection

Those scholars who wish to pursue medium-risk F2F data collection may contact David Oesterle, UNI Environmental Health and Safety, extension 3-7491, to complete a hazard assessment. A determination that the data could be collected would allow scholars to submit an IRB protocol. The scholar must include the hazard assessment agreement with the IRB submission. The IRB makes the final approval of the study. If the hazard assessment discovers F2F data collection is not feasible due to risk, the scholar will either (a) change data collection or (b) postpone data collection until it is safer.  


Low-risk face-to-face data collection is unrestricted at UNI. Researchers will seek IRB approval and add mitigation strategies as needed.

  • Low exposure risk includes no contact nor close contact with people who are known or suspected of being infected with COVID-19, including:
    • Secondary data
    • Data already collected for a different purpose
      • Typical classroom activity
      • Typical weight-room activity


Operational Guidelines for Researchers

The university will return to normal operations on Monday, August 3, 2020. Based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as other federal and state agencies, UNI has developed specific guidelines for operations. 

Research labs and studios need to follow UNI protocols, including wearing face coverings and reducing the capacity in the lab. Researchers and artists should do remote work, as much as possible. Researchers and artists should also postpone high exposure risk studies, projects, and tasks until further notice.

Please consult the documents and links below for current guidance for conducting operations. Important Note: this guidance applies primarily for 220, 225, 250 and 255 spaces, but may also apply to 210 and 215 spaces on campus.

  • Operational Guidelines - Research Labs and Studios (DOC) - This document provide an outline of current guidance as well as considerations and procedures for conducting operations in research labs and studios. 

  • Room Assessment - Labs and Studios (DOC) - A COVID-19 procedures template, this document is intended to help guide faculty/staff as they plan to re-open classrooms, labs, workspaces, etc and may be used for documentation purposes. Note: this is NOT intended to be an all-inclusive list. 

  • Department Space Allocation - A university report that provides a general inventory of facilities space assigned to campus departments.

  • Classroom Floor Plans - Includes downloadable PDFs of campus wide classroom and lab space layouts.


Preparing for Future Disruptions

Researchers should consider the possibility that this disruption to campus activities may continue for months to come and make contingency plans accordingly. In addition, preparations and a contingency plan must be developed in the event that the campus is ordered to shut down entirely, where no one other than critical personnel are allowed to physically go on campus. These guidelines are being offered to assist you in developing and implementing plans for both circumstances. In the event of a campus shutdown, recommendations in the above guidance document (things that “should” be done) will become requirements.

All faculty and staff should also immediately begin contingency planning to prepare for curtailing all but the most essential on-campus research and creative activities over a longer term. Three forms have been developed for use by lead researchers and/or lab managers:

  • Lab Shutdown Checklist (EXCEL) – An optional checklist to assist you in preparing to shut down as well as in actually implementing a shut-down plan.

  • Research-Lab Continuity Request Form (DOC) – All faculty/researchers who will need on campus access to their laboratories (e.g., in order to maintain critical research materials or care for animals), must submit the Research/Lab Continuity Request Form to their department head and dean.

  • Lone Worker Guidelines for Laboratory Personnel (DOC) – Risk Management in collaboration with the Associate Vice President for Research and Innovation created this guidance document to assist individuals in developing appropriate procedures when finding themselves working alone in laboratories in pursuit of research.


Other questions?

For additional questions related to beginning or resuming a research project involving human subjects, especially if in-person research is planned, please contact Rebecca Rinehart, Interim IRB Administrator at or 319-273-6482.

For additional questions about your sponsored project and how the resumption of on-campus activities might impact a current or future project, please contact Tolif Hunt, Director of RSP, at or 319-273-3025. 


Updated: 1/29/21