Research and Libraries

Research and Libraries

Updated June 29, 2020

2020 Reopening Plan: Research and Libraries

Go to FAQs about Research and Libraries

UMass Amherst is reopening research labs, onsite library services and access, and other facilities for research and creative activities based on the state plan and requirements for Reopening Massachusetts. This reopening is taking place in stages, as the university certifies that the Sector Specific Safety Standards for Laboratories and Office Spaces are met. Success requires the engagement of faculty, students, and staff in our shared efforts to protect health and safety while resuming our important research activities.

bicycles outside isbThe university is informed by national best practices, and continues working on more detailed guidance to meet these standards. Reopening requires Research and Library Operating Plans proposed by faculty and approved by departments and deans, in coordination with the Office of Research and Engagement.

  1. Consistent with Reopening Massachusetts, activities should continue remotely as much as possible. Note that the state has issued a “Safer at Home Advisory” including guidance that “People over the age of 65 and people who have underlying health conditions – who are at high risk for COVID-19 – should continue to stay home except for essential errands such as going to the grocery store and to attend to healthcare needs.” Individuals who are at high risk can contact Human Resources if they are requested to work on campus and are unable to do so. Graduate students can also contact the designated person in their school or college dean’s office.
  2. We expect to provide some limited space on campus for researchers without adequate IT infrastructure at home.
  3. The Libraries are developing a phased plan for restoring in-person services and onsite access to collections. Prior to reopening library facilities, on-site staff will provide access to materials through its Library Express service, and scanning some materials with restrictions.
  4. Activities currently approved under a Research Lab Continuity Plan (RLCP) may proceed according to those plans; please check to see that they continue to meet current Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) guidance. Continuity plans were put in place to enable the minimum level of activity necessary to avoid a catastrophic loss of research results, materials, or infrastructure. In contrast, the Research & Libraries Operating Plans (RLOP) will enable a higher level of activity and participation. The operating plans will replace continuity plans, and researchers are asked not to submit new or amended RLCPs unless there are significant extenuating circumstances so that resources can be devoted to the operating plans.
  5. Because faculty and other researchers have the best information on the facilities, the program, and the participants, they are best positioned to propose the RLOP. The RLOP must also be consistent with state and university health and safety requirements, so will require institutional review and approval.
  6. Requirements for social distancing, by both physical and temporal means, are critically important. In many cases, this will mean a lower occupancy in spaces and staggered shifts of personnel consistent with the safety standards.
  7. In addition to social distancing within individual laboratories, it is important to avoid overcrowding in public spaces such as restrooms, eating areas, elevators, etc. Therefore, information on the number and timing of personnel for each floor and in each building from the individual RLOPs must be aggregated and individual plans may require revision to avoid overcrowding.
  8. The vice chancellor for research and engagement will provide a Kuali form to submit the RLOP and will provide aggregated information from the proposed RLOPs to deans and departments.
  9. Once the RLOP is submitted, labs can begin operations by meeting the conditions in the COVID-19 Interim Operating Plan and with the approval of the department, dean and center/institute director (where applicable).
  10. Undergraduate students returning in fall 2020 should be aware that on-site laboratory and field work is subject to several conditions and limitations required to mitigate the health and safety risks of COVID-19. Research that can be conducted remotely is not subject to these limitations, and it is recommended that projects be adjusted to remote work if possible. Students planning to do research involving on-site laboratory or field work should be registered for academic credit (e.g., honors thesis, or an independent study course). These registrations will be placed on a wait list until students confirm with the instructor that their participation can be accommodated under an operating plan as required for all on-site laboratory and field work. These students will be accommodated as the space available in research laboratories and the availability of appropriate supervision permits. Priority will be given to graduating seniors who require the course to satisfy a graduation requirement, e.g., to complete an honors thesis.

Research and Libraries Operating Plans

Work on the RLOP can proceed, with all researchers intending to use laboratories completing the following:

Faculty should use the following prompts in anticipation of the RLOP preparation.

  • What activities cannot be done remotely; which are most-time sensitive, e.g., seasonal work, thesis or postdoctoral research close to completion; projects with a large impact on tenure and promotion; sponsored projects with upcoming deadlines; timely access to special library collections, studio space.
  • Who must be in campus facilities to conduct the activities? Are the individuals able to do so at this stage and on what schedules?
  • How will plans protect early career researchers, graduate students’ programs of study, and postdocs training and mentorship? Undergraduate researchers should not be included unless they have substantial prior training and experience. How will our campus values of diversity, equity, and inclusion be reflected? Note: Sponsorship of international visitors is currently suspended until at least September 2, 2020.
  • Given your use of facilities, how will the health and safety of research teams be protected? For instance, how will physical distancing be accomplished within the research space? As a first estimate, 113 square feet per person (6-foot radius) is recommended to determine an occupancy that allows for appropriate social distancing (FEMA). However, this does not account for the details of fixtures, furnishing, and equipment or, most important, for the movement within the spaces. So, we expect that the operational maximum occupancy for a space will be significantly less than the maximal occupancy based on this first estimate. In a separate message, we will provide instructions on accessing data on square footage by building and room, as well as floor plans which may be used to make more detailed estimates of the operational maximum occupancy.
  • If the space available cannot accommodate all researchers, what subgroups of people (teams) should access the facilities at different times? Separate teams without shared membership enhances social distancing and diminishes the chances that an entire lab group might need to self-isolate for an extended period. What sort of time blocks are required – several days a week for different shifts, or different blocks each day? Note that enhanced cleaning between time blocks and time to exit and enter buildings without overcrowding is necessary. Please consult with your team members on their views and home responsibilities (e.g., high risk, childcare, elder care).
  • What kind of other shared spaces (besides restrooms, elevators, and eating areas) are needed, e.g., access to Library materials not available online (please visit the Libraries’ Remote Services page for updates), Core Facilities, shared cell culture rooms, autoclaves, etc.?
  • Core Facilities operational status is variable, subject to staff availability. Access and level of service is at the discretion of the core director or the director of centralized core services.
  • Will you need campus support services to operate successfully and safely (e.g., CEMS or package deliveries)?
  • EH&S requests that if part of your research safety requirement includes personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves or N95 masks, please email askehs@umass.edu and include your name, laboratory location, and PPE needs. A limited supply is currently available, and EH&S will work on a centralized procurement of additional items if necessary.
  • To ensure availability of cleaning supplies, Physical Plant Custodial will provide hand sanitizer, disinfectant, paper towels, soap, and tissues for your laboratory. When your plans are set, please email Pam Monn at psmonn@facil.umass.edu with your name, contact information, and the location where you would like it dropped off. In the future to request additional supplies, please contact Pam Monn.

 

Resources

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Research and Libraries

What happens if an employee becomes ill while working from an alternative site?

Should employees become ill or otherwise be unavailable to perform work, they are required to enter accrued time for absences from work duties during those times and notifying their supervisor.

What are the general obligations of an employee working remotely?

During established work hours, the employee is required to be available and ready for any work-related communication or task. The employee may be required to attend departmental or other meetings at the primary work location or on campus or via video conferences, if approved by the supervisor.

Work completed at the employee’s alternative work site shall be considered official university business. The employee must protect the information from unauthorized access, disclosure or damage and must comply with federal, state and University policies, procedures regarding access, disclosure and/or destruction of official University records.

Employees must ensure that university information, including personally identifiable information (PII) and student records is secure at all times.

Will the campus allow designated onsite employees who are parents or caregivers time off from work to care for sick family members with COVID-19?

Designated onsite employees who are healthy but whose family members are home sick with COVID-19 should contact central Human Resources at 413-687-2283 or Covid19HR@umass.edu, and they will contact public health officials for guidance on conducting a risk assessment of their potential exposure. A designated onsite employee may be entitled to take leave to care for a family member who is ill under applicable policy and collective bargaining agreement provisions.

If I work off campus at a remote location, what guidance do I follow?

Employees working remote will follow the measures announced in the communication from Chancellor Subbaswamy released on March 13, 2020. This applies in Amherst, the Mount Ida Campus in Newton and at the UMass Center in Springfield.

If someone is not an on-site employee, can they come to campus to gather materials from their workplace?

Yes. Employees can certainly come to campus to retrieve items from their offices or other work locations. This is an individual choice. They should use social distancing practices while on campus.

What strategies will be used to mitigate the spread of COVID-19?

Seven core actions are being implemented: required education for all; daily self-screening for all; enhanced cleaning; increased testing and tracing capabilities; arranging for high-risk individuals to study and work remotely; increased mental health support; and use of face coverings and physical distancing.

When I arrive on campus, what preventive public health measures will be in place?

Key prevention measures include:

  • Students will be required to make a promise to respect social distancing and other public health practices.
  • Face coverings are required in classrooms, workspaces and all other common areas, both indoors and outdoors where social distancing is not possible.
  • Appropriate barriers — plexiglass and other similar materials — will be established in high-volume areas.
  • Sanitation and cleaning will be enhanced in buildings throughout the campus, and adequate hand sanitizer products will be made available in all common spaces (lobbies, lounges, academic learning centers and classrooms).
  • Residence halls, workplaces, meeting rooms and research laboratories will have modified occupancy.

What is the Daily Screening?

Faculty, staff and students must conduct symptom self-monitoring every day before coming to campus or leaving their residence hall room. Students (on or off campus) will be required to use the COVID-19 symptom checklist through University Health Services’ secure patient portal (Medicat Connect). Faculty and staff can use the My UMass app.

How will face-to-face instruction be conducted?

The occupancy of classrooms will be modified to maintain social distancing, including assigned seating where appropriate. Before the start of each class, students and faculty must wipe down their chairs and any other commonly touched surfaces. Students are required to wear face coverings. There is no eating or drinking in class. An educational video is being produced that will detail the public health measures in place for classrooms and laboratories.

How will you reduce density in classrooms?

Classrooms and study spaces will have diagrams depicting the reduced seating capacity for each space, including designated areas for instructors and required space between students to ensure appropriate social distancing. Room locations for some courses may be reassigned to meet public health standards. Signs will be posted to explain appropriate ways to enter and exit, as well as reminders about preventive health practices.

How will meals be served?

UMass Dining operations will be modified to meet new state requirements for cleaning, social distancing, customer limits and modified indoor seating. More than 30 campus locations will be revamped. The plan includes new grab-and-go sites, outdoor dining tents and mobile ordering at some retail locations. To protect public health, buffet-style service will be prohibited.

Will classes start earlier this year?

Yes, fall semester classes will begin Aug. 24 and conclude Nov. 20, with classes held on Labor Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day. Students will be strongly encouraged to remain on or near campus until the Thanksgiving recess, after which they will not return. Final exams will be conducted remotely through Dec. 4. Faculty will make accommodations for students who have an apartment lease starting Sept. 1 or who are otherwise unable to arrive by Aug. 24; for example,  remote participation or make-up work.

What is face-to-face instruction?

Courses that have been designated by colleges and departments as face-to-face-only and essential for delivery in the fall will be offered face-to-face. These include labs, studios and performance courses that are required for degree pathways, licensure or accreditation. To ensure social distancing, some face-to-face courses may have students attending on alternate days and learning remotely on other days, as determined by the instructor.

What will be different about classrooms and class schedules?

Classroom capacities will be limited to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Additional sections of courses may be needed to reduce class sizes. Course schedules may be adjusted to increase time between classes, and start and end times may be staggered to reduce interactive foot traffic on campus. Students will be encouraged to be patient and flexible regarding classroom assignments and course schedules.

What if I choose not to return to campus?

Students who have an underlying medical condition or feel unsafe returning to campus and have face-to-face or face-to-face plus blended courses in their fall schedule should meet remotely with their advisor so their fall schedule can be adjusted to only include fully remote courses. Students who are seeking a residential experience but are uncomfortable returning to the Amherst campus have the option of applying for housing on the Mount Ida Campus in Newton, Mass., while taking courses remotely.

Will I have access to the UMass Libraries?

Yes, the Libraries are developing a phased plan for restoring in-person services and onsite access to collections. Prior to reopening library facilities, on-site staff will provide access to materials through its Library Express service, and scanning some materials.

How will academic advising and faculty office hours be provided?

All academic advising will be performed remotely, either by phone or through use of another platform such as Zoom, unless both the student and advisor agree to meet in a socially distanced way. All faculty office hours for students in their courses, advising or other consultative purposes will be performed remotely. Advisors will also provide guidance and processes via their college websites. Students can find their college academic advising contact listed in their SPIRE Student Center.

What will fall move-in be like?

The residence hall move-in process requires reservations and will occur over a multi-day period with few early arrivals. Two helpers will be allowed and all move-in participants must wear a face covering and gloves. When packing, students should take into account the shorter, 12-week fall residency period.

What will life be like in the residence halls?

Residential Life anticipates creating online micro-communities. Plans include the following:

  • Students will experience limited face-to-face contact.
  • Pedestrian flow will change with students required to follow specific routes for walkways and lounges. Elevator occupancy will be restricted.
  • Staff will only meet with small groups.
  • Bathrooms will receive frequent deep cleaning and will have posted occupancy limits.

Are student guests and visitors allowed in residence halls?

To deter the spread of COVID-19, no guests are allowed in residence halls until further notice. A guest is defined as someone who does not live in the residence hall. Two family members or helpers can help with move-in and move-out.

Will the Craft Center and Makerspace be open?

The Craft Center will be open in a manner that adheres to safety measures. Information about the All-Campus Makerspaces can be found on the ACMS website.

What recreation will be available?

The Recreation Center will be open for activities that comply with health guidelines. Safety measures may include population restrictions, elimination of activities that require person-to-person contact or touching shared equipment, restriction of pool use, and restriction of locker room use. Outdoor group fitness will allow a greater numbers of participants while maintaining physical distancing. Fitness classes will be streamed through IM Leagues, and special online tournaments and challenges will be offered.

When will the child care center be available?

The Center for Early Education and Child Care (CEED) hopes to reopen in mid-July, though no official date has been set. When the date is finalized,  CEED will contact families and update the community. CEED will follow all state, local and university regulations for child care centers, including extensive cleaning and enhanced health and safety protocols.

What is the process for reopening research and libraries?

UMass Amherst is reopening research labs, onsite library services and access, and other facilities for research and creative activities based on the state plan and requirements for Reopening Massachusetts. This reopening is taking place in stages, as the university certifies that the Sector Specific Safety Standards for Laboratories and Office Spaces are met. Reopening requires Research and Library Operating Plans proposed by faculty and approved by departments and deans, in coordination with the office of Research and Engagement.

Will I have access to the UMass Libraries?

Yes, the Libraries are developing a phased plan for restoring in-person services and onsite access to collections. Prior to reopening library facilities, on-site staff will provide access to materials through its Library Express service, and scanning some materials.

How do we transition into research and libraries operating plans?

Activities currently approved under a Research Lab Continuity Plan (RLCP) may proceed according to those plans; please check to see that they continue to meet current EH&S guidance. Continuity plans were put in place to enable the minimum level of activity necessary to avoid a catastrophic loss of research results, materials or infrastructure.

In contrast, the Research & Libraries Operating Plans (RLOP) will enable a higher level of activity and participation. The operating plans will replace continuity plans and researchers are asked not to submit new or amended RLCPs unless there are significant extenuating circumstances so that resources can be devoted to the operating plans.

What are some strategic priorities as labs begin to reopen?

An important principle is to reopen with an emphasis on protecting the careers of researchers, especially at critical stages, including those approaching completion of degrees or terms of appointments. Key aspects to evaluate include: How will plans protect early career researchers, graduate students’ programs of study and postdocs' training and mentorship? How will our campus values of diversity, equity, and inclusion be reflected? Undergraduate researchers should not be included unless they have substantial prior training and experience.

How will the pandemic affect the daily operation of research facilities?

Requirements for social distancing, by both physical and temporal means, are critically important. In many cases, this will mean a lower occupancy in spaces and staggered shifts of personnel consistent with the safety standards. In addition to social distancing within individual laboratories, it is important to avoid overcrowding in public spaces such as restrooms, eating areas, elevators, etc. Therefore, information on the number and timing of personnel for each floor and in each building from the individual RLOPs must be aggregated and individual plans may require revision to avoid overcrowding.

Will the university provide safety supplies?

Yes, personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves and N95 masks, is currently available in limited supplies through Environmental Health & Safety, and plans are being developed for central procurement of additional items as needed.

Does remote work in research remain important as we begin to reopen?

Yes, consistent with Reopening Massachusetts, activities should continue remotely as much as possible. Note that the state has issued a “Safer at Home Advisory” including guidance that “People over the age of 65 and people who have underlying health conditions – who are at high risk for COVID-19 – should continue to stay home except for essential errands such as going to the grocery store and to attend to healthcare needs.”

Can undergraduate researchers gain access to labs?

Undergraduate students returning in fall 2020 who have registered for an independent study course involving on-site laboratory or field research will be moved to a waiting list. These students will be accommodated as the space available in research laboratories and the availability of faculty and staff for appropriate supervision permits. Priority will be given to graduating seniors who require independent study course for graduation, e.g., to complete an honors thesis.

Why did all class times change?

As of July 2, all original course times are reinstated in SPIRE. Previously, adjustments were made as we considered how to best allow for classrooms to be cleaned. After further safety evaluation, and having heard concerns about lengthy days for students and faculty, the original schedule was reinstated.