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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.

In-person activities must be conducted while maintaining a minimum of six feet of physical distancing, a reduced density of individuals at any given time, and while limiting the time researchers work in shared spaces.

Members of the campus community are also expected to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 daily using the COVID Health Screen app. Anyone who develops symptoms should immediately self-isolate and seek a COVID-19 test.

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 after the Thanksgiving recess 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?

Research spaces should be staffed to maintain a maximum of one person per 200 square feet of research space (or one person per room for rooms less than 400 square feet). Researchers should also maintain a minimum of six feet of physical distancing between personnel at all times and limit the duration of time that researchers are working in shared spaces. At a minimum, all participants are required to wear face coverings and gloves while working in the lab. Depending on the activity, surgical masks may be more appropriate than cloth face coverings, and lab coats and face shields may also be required.

Researchers must limit the time they spend working in proximity to others.

Individual units may have 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.

Do I need to get tested to conduct research on campus?

Beginning with the start of the spring semester, UW–Madison will expand its systematic testing program to ensure that all undergraduate students who are in Madison are tested twice each week and that employees and graduate students working on or visiting campus are also tested regularly.

For information on COVID-19 testing options visit

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?

Due to public health concerns related to COVID-19, all university-sponsored travel outside of Wisconsin or by air within the state remains cancelled until further notice.

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