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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Campus research operations during COVID-19

UW–Madison has taken steps to ensure researchers and students can conduct in-person research and scholarly activities on campus, at university-owned facilities, and at non-university field locations or leased spaces while minimizing the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

All on-campus or on-site research must follow campus and public health guidelines and first be approved by department chairs, associate deans for research and an associate vice chancellor for research. Faculty and PIs must request approval for all on-site activities conducted by individuals for whom they have responsibility.

UW–Madison will continue to follow best practices and make adjustments based on health and safety guidance from campus, local, and federal government authorities. Depending on factors such as an increase in positive cases in the community or on campus, we may need to quickly introduce additional restrictions to in-person research activities.

We will continue to monitor and provide guidance to our research community, taking all necessary steps to protect our employees and students while ensuring continuity of safe in-person research.

A committee consisting of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, the associate vice chancellors for research, and associate deans for research representing all the schools and colleges developed the health and safety protocols for in-person research at UW–Madison. The team also worked with Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities Planning and Management, and consulted an architecture firm that designs research labs to create campus guidelines for conducting research during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These protocols and guidelines, as well as the ongoing diligence of our research community, have allowed UW­-Madison to continue to conduct research safely.

To learn more about the campus Workplace Safety Policy, visit


Frequently Asked Questions:

How do I get approval to come to campus to do research?

Please reach out to your Associate Dean for Research, Department Chair, or Associate Vice Chancellor for Research, to request approval.

Can graduate students conduct research on campus?

Graduate student research activities (e.g. lab rotations and 790, 890, and 990 research) may be permitted to continue in-person if the advisor/program has received approval from the school/college dean, or if the research activity has been previously approved. Graduate students and graduate assistants conducting on-site research should consult their faculty advisors and supervisors for additional guidance

What are the health and safety requirements for conducting research on campus? (updated May 10, 2021)

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (OVCRGE) continues to work with partners across campus to transition to a greater research presence on campus, while mitigating risk. As part of this ongoing process, campus leadership is removing the 113 square-feet-per-person restriction in research spaces effective May 10. However, 6-foot distancing continues to be required as well as use of face coverings in indoor spaces/rooms where others are present. Any exception to these ongoing public health requirements requires approval by a Dean or Vice Chancellor (or their appointee). Although not required, the OVCRGE also recommends that supervisors continue to make use of the Safer Badger App badge status for those working in group research environments.

Individuals who are fully vaccinated are exempt from testing and their badge will remain green unless they report symptoms in the app or test positive. University Health Services is offering vaccines to everyone eligible in Wisconsin. Learn more here, including more about appointments and drop-in hours, and instructions for uploading off-campus vaccine records:

Individual units may implement additional guidelines for conducting in-person work while minimizing the risk of virus transmission. This may include considerations due to the layout of research spaces, HVAC systems and the specifics of individual research protocols.

Most divisions have an appointed person to order Personal Protective Equipment. To order equipment use the PPE request form.

Is face-to-face human subjects research allowed?

Face-to-face human subject research interactions is permitted with approval. Studies must take steps to mitigate the risks of COVID-19, with extra consideration provided for higher-risk study populations.

Before applying to conduct face-to-face human subject research, consult the EHS Guidance for Minimizing COVID-19 Risks for Face-to-Face Research Activities and assure that your research plan aligns with those guidelines.

Can I travel to conduct research?

Effective May 26, 2021, the travel ban on university-sponsored domestic travel – defined as travel within the contiguous United States as well as Alaska and Hawaii – is lifted. Employees, guests, graduate students, and undergraduates traveling domestically for business purposes should follow campus existing travel policy guidance.  The Concur online travel booking function will be available for self-booking of domestic air, lodging, and car rental beginning May 26.

All domestic travel should follow current campus health protocols as well as  CDC Domestic Travel Guidance.  It is recommended that individuals delay university-sponsored domestic travel until fully vaccinated. In addition, face coverings should be worn when driving or riding with others and vehicle occupancy is recommended to be no more than 50 percent of capacity. Those organizing travel for individuals whose primary work site is at the UW Madison campus have the option of limiting vehicle occupancy to those with a green Badger Badge.

International Travel Remains Restricted

All employee, guest, graduate student, and undergraduate international travel remains restricted. In limited cases, academic deans, vice chancellors and research directors may approve essential international travel. Essential activities are those that: support, further or execute the organization’s mission; cannot be rescheduled effectively; will result in the loss of significant external financial grant or award if not executed; and/or are not available and cannot be accomplished online or by other alternative means.

Employees seeking an exception will need to download and complete an Essential Travel Exemption Form. Once the Essential Travel Exemption Form has been approved by division leadership, it should be submitted to Dan Langer at

For any approved international travel, all air passengers coming into the U.S. must follow CDC International Travel Guidance.  If not otherwise required, it is recommended that individuals delay university-sponsored international travel until fully vaccinated.

In addition, regardless of whether student international travel is approved by division leadership as essential, students must still comply with the UW–Madison International Travel Policy. The International Travel Policy applies to students of all levels and programs of study – undergraduate, graduate, and professional.  Students are precluded from travel to any location that remains under a U.S. Department of State level 3 or 4 travel advisory or a CDC warning notice level 3. The International Travel Policy offers a process by which waivers can be requested if risks can be mitigated effectively. See the UW–Madison International Safety and Security website’s “policies and standards” tab for more information about the policy and waiver process.

International travelers on university-related business without approval are subject to personal financial responsibility and potentially individual or group corrective action.

How do I acquire library materials?

Please remember that while the Libraries will have study space available, you are encouraged to use the Libraries robust online and virtual services, rather than coming to campus. To learn about pick-up options and in-person collection access, visit the Libraries main page at