3/17: Expanded Research Guidelines


To: Faculty, Staff, and Student Researchers

From: Maja Mataric, Interim Vice President of Research

Date: March 17, 2020

Subject: Expanded Research Guidelines

Faculty, Staff, and Student Researchers

Following up on Monday’s memo, and in anticipation of the need for stricter personal distancing, we ask that you prepare to dramatically reduce the number of people in your labs and core facilities. This will entail pausing all but essential laboratory and core laboratory research by Friday of this week. Guidelines for human subjects research were addressed in a memo from my office on March 16. This timeline may need to be shortened in response to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 emergency.

All USC PIs/research leads, labs, and teams need to:

Complete Research Continuity Plans and, where required by the school also the lab research continuity checklists (see attached template documents for the information required) and submit them to department chairs/division chiefs by noon on Thursday, March 19. Importantly, these Plans must include evidence for perceived critical functions and designated individuals who must have campus access on a limited basis; those individuals need to be in agreement with the plans.

  1. Finish ongoing, on-campus work in a way that minimizes on-site meetings. Any meetings must follow social distancing and other safety guidelines already outlined in previous memos and found on the Research COVID-19 site (research.usc.edu/coronavirus).
  2. Refrain from launching any new experiments/studies.
  3. Begin an orderly process immediately to have on-campus activity reduced to essential functions only by Friday, March 20 at 5 pm. Schools and departments have the option to accelerate this timetable while allowing their faculty sufficient time to complete necessary procedures.
  4. Remind those who may be at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 including those over the age of 65, those with severe chronic health conditions – heart, lung, or kidney disease, or immune suppression, and those who are pregnant  –  to check with their health care provider and follow-up with their PIs. PIs should show flexibility in assigning tasks only to personnel who are comfortable being on site, during and after this period.
  5. Communicate that prior approval of the department chair / division chief or relevant vice dean for research or dean is required for the removal of any research materials (e.g., specimens or sensitive equipment) from USC laboratories, other than computers, storage devices, and lab notebooks and papers.

The following are the only remaining essential on-campus research functions:

  • Begin procedures to scale back research, to be completed by Friday, or sooner.
  • Critical maintenance procedures, including: animal veterinary care and support, cell lines, research cores, gas or cryogen monitoring, etc.
  • Certain clinical research; please see separate guidance from the relevant schools.
  • COVID-19 research that has been approved as an exceptions by the dean and vice president of research.

Any exceptions to the above must be approved by the relevant school dean and by the vice president of research before they can proceed.

If you have concerns, please contact their department chair / division chief, student services staff, or the relevant dean.

We will continue to monitor and support essential on-campus research functions and communicate updates to our research community.

The Research COVID-19 web site (research.usc.edu/coronavirus) is being continually updated with resources: contact information for receiving information, advice, and help, checklists, and links to funding opportunities (external and internal) for which you can apply during this time, for near-future research and beyond.

While all on-campus / on-site USC research must pause, we hope that remote research can thrive. We welcome ways to further facilitate your vital work for the coming weeks and beyond. Please continue to interact remotely and virtually.  Let us keep the USC research community thriving by being safe at this key time.

Thank you.

Maja Mataric

Interim Vice President of Research


Research Continuity Plan Template

Due to the department chair / division chief by noon on Thursday, March 19th.

PI Name:

PI Email:

Lab location(s):

Part 1. Describe steps you are already taking to perform the majority of lab research remotely: 

[No in-person meetings should be held, including group meetings, student oral or defense exams or external-speaker seminars. All such meetings should be held online]

Part 2. For research activities before 5pm Friday, how are you ensuring social-distancing measures for on-site personnel?

Part 3. Describe on-site activities that will be critical to maintain your lab capabilities.  What support (if any) from school or core lab personnel will still be required to achieve this?

[Considerations of criticality include where discontinuation would generate significant data, sample, or animal life loss; where equipment would not operate safely or might be damaged.

Please indicate the researchers (names, emails and responsibilities) required for critical capabilities. Do not list all members of your lab here.]

Part 4. Steps that you as PI will need to take to ramp-down solely to critical activities for your labs.  Please indicate any assistance you require in doing so.


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