Planning for Reopening Research Facilities

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed how we approach teaching and research activities. The closure of campus to all but essential functions was necessary to protect the health of our community, but as a result many areas of research have slowed or even ground to a halt. To enable our faculty and other researchers to resume their vital work, we have been working with public officials to re-establish access to our research facilities as rapidly as health and safety considerations permit.

Guided by the principle that health and safety come first, the Provost’s Office is leading efforts for a phased reopen of research facilities that reflect our core academic mission. These efforts include a number of initiatives that are considering various aspects of return planning.

Laboratory-Based Research Reopening

The Lab Reopening Planning Committee, led by Vice Provost for Research Rick McCullough, is composed of faculty and senior administrators, along with outside experts. The Committee has developed a comprehensive Research Laboratory Re-Entry Plan that provides a road map toward re-establishing research access to buildings and laboratories, while anticipating the possible and persistent spread of COVID-19. The recommendations are based in data and draw on insights from epidemiology, engineering, medicine, laboratory science, decision sciences, and ethics and the law.

Laboratories are controlled, often restricted-access environments with well-established protocols that can serve as a foundation for measures to enable a safe resumption of the work conducted there. We can build on the experience of the laboratories dedicated to COVID-19 research that have continued to operate safely during the pandemic, along with the experience of laboratories in our affiliated institutes and hospitals, as well as other institutions, that have resumed work.

Libraries and Museums Reopening

Preparation is also underway for the phased resumption of research access to Harvard’s libraries and museums. Martha Whitehead, Vice President for the Harvard Library and University Librarian, and Martha Tedeschi, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of Harvard Art Museums, are working with their faculty and staff partners across the University to develop plans to re-establish on-campus core services supporting research, teaching and learning. Staff need to return to some of these facilities to be able to provide the full complement of virtual research services and to satisfy requests for physical materials needed for scholarship. As in the laboratories, health and safety is of paramount importance, so infection control measures will be adapted for the distinctive features of libraries and museums.

The goals of these planning efforts are to ensure that researchers establish and follow a high standard of infection control and that every active researcher follows safety protocols in order to minimize any potential impact. We will monitor the success of the phased reopening and be prepared to make changes as dictated by health and safety issues.

We encourage the Harvard community to be in touch with us about the phased resumption of research activities.