FAQs: Research activities and the COVID-19 pandemic

Updated 5/19/2021: Outdated information removed and revised to reflect current operational status of the SMPH research enterprise.

The SMPH research community should follow current SMPH, OVCRGE and UW-Madison guidance on COVID-19-related matters, including:

  • Building access
  • Masking, testing, vaccination
  • In-person meetings, including faculty meetings, laboratory group meetings, etc.
  • Space restrictions and distancing requirements
  • On-site work
  • Travel

Additional guidance is provided by the SMPH Office of Basic Research, Biotechnology and Graduate Studies. Please direct questions to Andrea Poehling (andrea.poehling@wisc.edu) in the SMPH Dean’s Office.


Are SMPH PIs required to submit or update OVCRGE research reboot forms?

What on-site research work is allowed?
The SMPH research community should follow current SMPH, OVCRGE and UW-Madison While the university and SMPH no longer require that any work that can be done remotely should be done remotely, it is recommended that researchers limit density for activities that need not occur in a laboratory.

Who is allowed to work or conduct research in SMPH laboratories?
The following groups are allowed.  The lab must follow the procedures outlined in the “Return to On-site Work: Department Assessment Guide” on the SMPH COVID-19 website.

  • Undergraduates, as researchers or student hourlies
  • Graduate students, postdocs and health professions students
  • Faculty and staff
  • Volunteers who have an official unpaid honorary appointment in the HR system

Note: A March 23, 2021 communication from campus leadership provided guidance authorizing high school summer research internships in-person, “at the discretion of Principal Investigators within their own laboratories.” The full text of this information is available here.  At present, the SMPH Office of the Dean will not permit in-person participation of high school students for summer research projects involving SMPH investigators or investigators from other schools and colleges who are working in facilities managed by SMPH.

Is the SMPH following the OVCRGE’s distancing requirements?
Current OVCRGE distancing requirements are posted to the Research website (scroll to the “What are the health and safety requirements” section).The current distancing requirement states that six feet of distance must be maintained.  In cases where such distances cannot be maintained (such as training of undergraduates or others in the lab), an exception must be requested by the PI and approved by the unit director (i.e., department chair, division chief, or center director).

Who is responsible for ensuring that PIs comply with distancing requirements?
SMPH unit directors (i.e., department chair, division chief, or center director) are responsible for ensuring that PIs comply with the OVCRGE’s distancing requirements.

Is installation, repair, and/or demonstrations of laboratory equipment and other instrumentation allowed?
Installation or repair of laboratory equipment and other instrumentation may proceed at this time, if the OVCRGE’s distancing requirements can be appropriately followed. Demonstrations of laboratory equipment operation should be delayed unless all personnel are able to adhere to the OVCRGE’s distancing requirements.

Where can personnel report concerns about personnel density or other possible safety concerns?
First, try to resolve any concerns within your unit, either by working with other individuals within your workgroup, your PI, or your unit head. If this is not possible or does not resolve the problem, contact your HR representative to outline your concern. The Dean’s Office will then follow up on reported safety concerns.

Who should we contact regarding human subject studies or clinical trials questions?
For studies that may have patient safety concerns please access the COVID-19 Research website at www.clinicaltrials.wisc.edu or contact Chief Clinical Research Officer Betsy Nugent at enugent2@wisc.edu for information on how to proceed.