Field Research Activities

The University has developed guidelines to safely conduct field research activities during the coronavirus pandemic. Field research activities are typically conducted on university-owned properties and off-campus locations such as in the local region, national and international sites.

  1. Field research activities can occur as long as all the WashU public health recommendations and any local restrictions can be followed including
  2. everyone can maintain 6ft separation
  3. everyone wears a face covering if there is potential for interactions with less than 6ft separation,
  4. no one participates if they have symptoms
  5. hand washing/sanitizing is done
  6. gatherings are kept small
  7. outdoor spaces are used whenever possible, and
  8. the plans for research activities are approved by the department or school.  

Research groups should continuously evaluate research plans and interactions with respect to compliance with the public health guidelines and to modify plans to correct any deficiencies identified.

Plans and Approvals

Before conducting field research activities, PIs must carefully plan and take the following steps to ensure the safety of research staff and the community:

  • Each PI should develop plans that work best for their projects. Because projects will differ with respect to types of activities, locations, etc., it is understandable that specific aspects of each plan may differ. The plans should be developed in collaboration with community groups (if applicable) so that everyone is in agreement with the plans and processes.
  • Plans for field research must comply with the same public health constraints as any other on-site research activity, including density restrictions, physical distancing, and any other identified public health requirements for the site. 
  • Field work requiring in-person social interactions, including human subjects research, should take into consideration guidance from the Non-clinical Humans Subjects and/or Community-based Research guidance documents.  
  • Plans should outline the types of activities that will be conducted, the risks involved, risk mitigation strategies, and a plan for response in the event of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 incident in the field. Plans should address the following concerns in relation to COVID-19:
    • Travel risk, including both travel to the field site and travel while at the field site
    • Food and lodging risk at the field site
    • Research activity risk at the field site
  • If the fieldwork will occur at a managed facility, ask the facility manager if there are plans or guidelines WU researchers should follow.
    • If the managed facility has established guidelines that are more restrictive than WashU guidelines, or if WashU guidelines are more restrictive than the facility’s guidelines, researchers should follow the more restrictive guidelines.
    • If no plan exists, the PI should develop plans based on standardized guidance and resources that align with WU Principles and other federal guidelines (e.g. CDC) as well as local Department of Health rules and regulations.
  • All research staff must be screened daily for symptoms or risk of COVID infection.  All WU personnel should complete the daily WU screening portal or an equivalent screening protocol prior to the field visit. No one should participate in a field visit or come to campus if they are symptomatic.
  • All WU personnel must have appropriate and current training on minimizing risks from exposure to the virus, including the trainings developed by EH&S and available through on-line training modules on Learn@Work.
  • Different schools at WashU have different structures. For the School of Medicine, the departments will communicate to their faculty the process for submission, review and approval of plans. For the Danforth Schools, each School will communicate the process for submission, review and approval of plans. No research should proceed without approval from the appropriate department or school.
  • The approved research plans should be distributed and reviewed with all research team members.

Travel for Field Research

The University has suspended all non-essential university-sponsored travel until further notice. PIs who wish to engage in “essential” university-sponsored travel must have their plans approved by the chancellor or provost, a dean, executive vice chancellor or vice chancellor. All approved essential travel must be registered here. All travel restrictions are subject to change based on travel conditions and public health guidance. To engage in university-sponsored international travel to conduct research, PIs must submit a Petition for Exceptions Process to the International Travel Oversight Committee (ITOC). Visit this link for additional details about the international travel exceptions process or contact with questions.

Travel Considerations

Consider the followings steps to ensure safety while traveling: