Guidelines for Research Activity at The University of Alabama under Modified Full Operations

Effective Aug. 3, 2020 (and continuing into Spring 2021)

These Guidelines for Research Activity replace any prior Guidelines communicated prior to this effective date.

The following represents a plan and set of measures aimed at appropriately dealing with research activity at The University of Alabama related to the COVID-19 pandemic under Modified Full Operations.  Updates to these Guidelines for Research Activity may be warranted, depending on the evolving pandemic, recommendations by the CDC and other authorities, or as otherwise deemed necessary.  These Guidelines do not limit the discretion that UA representatives have to respond in any given situation, except as otherwise specifically stated.

The University of Alabama’s Office for Research & Economic Development (ORED) is working with other divisions on campus in developing and maintaining up-to-date Guidelines for faculty, staff and students for a return to their on-campus research activities.  The Guidelines are consistent with the University’s Plan for a Return to Full Operations, and the UA System’s most current Comprehensive Health and Safety Plan, in particular.

All return to work requirements (i.e., training, symptom tracking, testing, etc.) for all employees and students must be satisfied as a prerequisite to qualify for continuing or resuming any research activity under these Guidelines.

Effective August 3, 2020, UA’s Research Activity (in all spaces, internal and external to the University, including dry and wet laboratories, studios, and other creative spaces) will begin to operate under Modified Full Operations.

  • Mitigation of Risk and Research Activity Plans.  Each Lead Investigator bears the responsibility to evaluate their personal risk, the risk to research personnel, the risk to human research participants, and those who might accompany them under their direction.  Safety and the mitigation of risk should be the primary factors in determining the extent and timing of continuing or resuming research activity as defined by these Guidelines.

Each Lead Investigator is expected to develop a Research Activity Plan consistent with these Guidelines and share the Plan with all research personnel under their direction.  Supervisors of Lead Investigators (Colleges/Schools for faculty investigators) will serve as approvers of the Research Activity Plans.  The Research Activity Plans must adhere to UA System’s most current Comprehensive Health and Safety Plan.  As always, research personnel should provide notification through appropriate administrative channels if they have concerns about the efficacy of any Research Activity Plan.

  • Per the developed Research Activity Plan, research activities under these Modified Full Operations must be carried out in a manner that mitigates risk to research personnel, human research participants, and those who might accompany them, and ensures that the research activity provides adequate protection of these persons as it relates to the coordination of research activity in single or multiple-use spaces, based on the type of research or creative work being carried out in the spaces.  Research activity must be staggered to minimize the number of research personnel, human research participants, and those who might accompany them who are present in such space at any one time.  Again, the Research Activity Plan must adhere to the UA System’s most current Comprehensive Health and Safety Plan.
  • Research Activities under Modified Full Operations. All research activities (including all essential and non-essential research as well as research that is externally or internally funded, and human research which offers direct therapeutic benefit to participants) may continue or resume.  Please note that for the purposes of these Guidelines, “non-essential research” means only that the research is not currently externally funded.

All research activities may continue or resume through an approved Research Activity Plan, with three prohibitions, all of which are applied to mitigate risk to individuals who are not employed by the University or University employees acting in roles other than related to their employment, heretofore collectively referred to as non-University employees.

The three prohibitions include research that:

1)    brings any non-University employees to campus, including collaborators;

2)    brings study participants to campus that does not offer direct therapeutic benefit to participants; and

3)    requires University employees to meet face-to-face with study participants off-campus.

Research Prohibition Waiver.  It is recognized that some research activity involving non-University employees may be justified.  Lead Investigators may write a justification for a Research Prohibition Waiver and submit such requests first to their Dean (or designee) for review and approval, then to the Vice President for Research (or designee) for consideration.  The justification should briefly describe the nature of the work, why it is important and justified, and what and how measures will be taken to mitigate risk and protect research personnel, as well as participants, consistent with the UA System’s most current Comprehensive Health and Safety Plan.

  • Vulnerable Populations. All research activity must take appropriate measures to identify or allow self-identification of vulnerable populations to COVID-19 and develop justified plans to mitigate risk to these populations.  As confirmed by CDC, vulnerable individuals are at higher risk for severe illness than others:  people 65 and older and those with serious underlying medical conditions.  Remote working for these populations during the Modified Full Operations should be considered.
  • Lead Investigators should identify those important activities that research personnel, including vulnerable populations, can do remotely to aid in the progress of externally and internally funded research and sponsored activities, such as:  data analysis; writing reports and other publications; designing new experiments; developing new grant proposals; etc.  Engaged research personnel who provide direct benefit to the project(s) may continue to charge their associated effort to the applicable grants and contracts consistent with current federal and state regulations.

These Guidelines were developed by the Office for Research & Economic Development and are overseen by the Vice President for Research & Economic Development, Dr. Russell J. Mumper (  These Guidelines will be reviewed as necessary and are subject to change at any time.