Carnegie Mellon University

July 24, 2020

Following our usual procedures for research communications, this message is being sent to Associate Deans for Research (or equivalents) in each college, who are asked to forward to department heads, faculty and researchers including research-related staff and student researchers. A copy of this message is also posted on the OVPR Research Communications Page.

Note: Bi-weekly research updates are usually sent on Thursday. This update was delayed a day to include new guidance for human subject research.

Dear CMU Research Community,

Thank you to everyone who has and continues to support the safe return of activities that necessitate being on CMU premises. To date, 133 Pandemic Safety and Preparedness Plans for CMU On-Premises Research and Non-Curricular Creative Work have been submitted, of which 119 have been approved. The remainder are proceeding through the review process.

New Human Subject Research Guidance: One important segment of our research enterprise that has largely not resumed on-site operations is in-person human subject research. In order to enable such work, my office recently generated and posted several guidance documents to support the development of research plans involving work with human subjects. These documents are available from the Researcher Resources page of the COVID-19 updates site. In addition, the research plan form has been updated with additional questions intended to guide the development of plans involving human subjects. Human subject researchers who have not already done so should work through their Associate Deans for Research (ADRs) and Deans to draft and submit a plan for approval by the VPR. Anyone with approved plans who wishes to restart a human subject component of their work should submit a revised/amended plan through their ADR addressing the human-subject specific questions in the updated form/template.

Recent messaging to approved faculty, staff and students: Last week, my office sent two targeted communications to those on approved research plans. First, I sent a message to all faculty and staff on approved plans asking them to remain vigilant in their oversight of their groups and the adherence to their pandemic safety protocols as more people begin to come back on-site and we prepare for the Fall semester. This was followed by a note to all students on approved research plans that delivered a similar message about vigilance as well as a survey to provide their direct feedback on the planning and execution of the return to research process. We are currently reviewing the survey results and will work with the Deans and ADRs to reflect back a summary of the results including lessons learned and actionable next steps to all of the stakeholder groups in the research community (students, faculty & staff).

A key part of my messages to faculty, staff and students that I repeat here for the entire research community: Please consider the impact of your choices and activities on others. Adhering to your plans and the university’s minimum requirements is crucial to protecting the safety and wellness of the campus community. Each of us have important roles and responsibilities for our community. First, continuing to perform research that does not require being on CMU premises remotely is vital in supporting the entire university and enables those who must return on-site to do so, while minimizing density in university facilities and maximizing safety for all. Second, the activities in which you and members of your research groups choose to participate, whether on personal or professional time, have the potential to impact more than just your individual research progress. I strongly encourage you to consider this reality in all of your activities, both on and off campus.

Finally, a number of reminders:

  • If you haven’t already, please see the return to research best practices Google doc with information that we are learning from the weekly reports for research activities that have returned on-site.
  • Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) will continue annual fire evacuation drills for academic and administrative facilities through July 30. During these drills, all stairwells can be used for evacuation purposes regardless of the indicated direction of travel. Reach out to with any questions or concerns.
  • Please continue to monitor the COVID-19 updates researcher resources page for the most up-to-date information, including the most recent version of the return to research plan template.
  • If you already have an approved plan in an earlier format, you do not need to update and resubmit. However, revisions to approved plans, including changes in processes, scope, or personnel, need to be re-submitted through your ADR.

Thank you again for your continued efforts. Whether you are performing research remotely or on-site, it is crucial that we continue to demonstrate how the CMU community can successfully mitigate the risk of COVID-19.

Regards to all,


J. Michael McQuade
Vice President for Research