Carnegie Mellon University

COVID-19 Updates

Information and resources for the CMU community

Scotty with mask and vaccination bandaid
March 19, 2020

Details About Transition to Remote Research and Teaching Operations

A Message for CMU Faculty and Researchers,

As you read in today’s message from President Jahanian, we are taking preventative measures to keep our community healthy and safe during the rapid spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19. Farnam’s message earlier today established a deadline of March 25 to move to fully remote research operations. Late this afternoon, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued an order mandating all non-life-sustaining businesses in the state to close by 8 p.m. on March 19. We are working to discern the full impact of the order on Carnegie Mellon.

While the order exempts virtual and telework operations, it is clear that both research and teaching activities will be impacted. Thus, it is imperative that these activities be moved to remote operation as quickly as possible. The Governor’s order states that enforcement will start on Saturday, March 21.

In light of this order, all CMU research and teaching activities must move to fully remote operations immediately.

Teaching from faculty offices, classrooms, or laboratories must move off campus and now be done remotely.

If your research activities cannot be done remotely, please plan to postpone on-campus work and replace it with off-campus work through at least the end of April and take the necessary steps to shut down your operations and secure your labs. As you make this transition, please continue to practice social distancing protocols.

We expect that the only research-related activities permitted in CMU facilities moving forward will be those approved by a college and satisfy very specific functions, including:

  • sustaining living organisms and perishable specimens, and
  • maintaining the facilities and equipment necessary to allow remote operation.

Researchers who believe they need critical short-term access to campus to maintain irreplaceable, long-term research studies that cannot be conducted remotely must receive approval from their dean and the vice president for research. Deans and/or associate deans for research will communicate the protocols for requesting consideration of these critical short-term needs. Approval of such activity will only be granted in exceptional circumstances pending further clarification of the Governor’s order.

Please note the following:

  • Negative impact on costs and schedule will not be adequate justification for approval of special cases.
  • Under no circumstances will “routine” research activities be granted permission, regardless of the length of time spent on premises.
  • A student must not be designated as the primary person responsible for any of the functions described above.
  • Under no circumstances should a student who is uncomfortable coming to campus for research-related activities be compelled or pressured to do so.

Staff who have reservations or concerns about performing allowable activities on campus are encouraged to engage with their Human Resources business partner and their department.

Moving research to remote operation will reduce the number of people on campus. Additional steps we are taking at this time are:

  • No in-person research-related meetings should occur, nor should CMU host any research-related visitors at this time.
  • All research-related visits planned during this period should be postponed; no new requests for collaborating visits that occur during this period will be processed or approved.
  • External visitors who are already present on campus must also work remotely and must not have responsibility for performing any of the allowable functions described above.

We recognize many of you will have to pivot your research activities and plans over the next month. It is our expectation that researchers will make every effort to continue their grant activities, as well as justify staff and student efforts for current funding sources. Working remotely provides an opportunity to complete data analysis, literature reviews, manuscript submissions, professional development and other activities that do not require a physical presence in a campus facility.

It is our intention that all graduate students receiving stipends and associated support, such as health care insurance premium coverage, will continue to receive that support through the remainder of the semester as they work remotely. Faculty supervisors and departments are responsible for ensuring the appropriate funding sources are used for this purpose. Please be advised that federal and non-federal sponsors continue to issue guidance and amendments to policies in these uncertain circumstances. In the near term (i.e., the next 30 days) we are asking researchers to continue to charge student, staff and faculty efforts to their existing funding sources. During this time, researchers should work with their departmental research administrators, Sponsored Projects Accounting (SPA) and/or the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) should any issues arise. In the event an individual working on an existing sponsored award requests to work remotely from a foreign country, please contact OSP.

The information above, as well as additional guidance, can be found on the CMU Coronavirus Researcher Resources webpage and CMU Teaching Online Resource webpage. Please check the site frequently. In addition, we will continue to update the entire research community with regular communications. If you have additional questions, please contact your associate dean for research and copy to ensure we can track the request.

We appreciate your cooperation in helping to keep our campus safe and protecting the health of our community during these uncertain times.


Michael McQuade, Vice President of Research
Jim Garrett, Provost