Research Reboot FAQ

We welcome questions about the Research Reboot. Please submit questions at this link.

Unobserved Self-Administered Testing: Harvard has transitioned to unobserved self-administered testing. For Harvard affiliates who are authorized to be on campus, you are required to test yourself at your assigned cadence, learn more here: For FAS Science/SEAS-specific guidance, visit


A vendor that is planning to come to the SEC in early April will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-March (> 2 weeks before coming). Can we accept vaccination documentation in lieu of COVID-19 testing documentation for individuals who have been fully vaccinated? And presumably we would still ask the vendor to wear a mask and maintain social distancing for everyone else's comfort, right?

No, the current plan is to retain our testing program, regardless of vaccination status. Moreover, all visitors to our buildings should continue to wear masks and social distance irrespective of their vaccination status.


Should we start advising our staff to wear 2 masks?

We are not mandating the use of 2 masks, but our procedure masks in conjunction with cloth masks can provide a better seal, so staff are welcome to wear both. The procedural mask should be worn underneath the cloth mask.


Not all students doing a thesis have access to a research lab, but instead rely on teaching labs to do their work. Are teaching labs still closed off to students in those instances?

Our building occupancy management is built around research labs, any instances like this should be brought to the attention of the SEAS Dean or the Divisional Dean.



What is the University's perspective about faculty conducting in-person research off-campus with a private lab, at a time when on-campus research is either limited or not happening at all?

Harvard-related research must happen in our lab facilities. Any exceptions require decanal approval.



What is currently the procedure for a lab member to obtain one-time access to their office? Who do they need to get approval from (and in what form does the approval need to be - does an email suffice)? Do they need to submit any forms?

Lab members should reach out to their department/area chair or local administrator for permission to access campus.



I am a faculty member and I work from home. I need to access my office one time to pick up some books. Is this possible?

Yes it is, with approval from your department/area chair.




Where can I find details on Harvard's testing program?

Information on the University's testing program can be found here:


What is the return-to-work plan for researchers (faculty, grad students, staff, postdocs)?

Following the Governor’s four-phase plan to reopen businesses in the Commonwealth, Harvard has started a phased return to on-campus research. This return has been guided by protocols that are in line with national and state guidelines and resources issued by the CDC and WHO. We are starting at low density, subject to approvals at the PI, Departmental/Area, School, and University levels, through an evaluation process that is based on protecting both the health and the safety of our research community and all those working in the buildings.

Harvard’s current policy is that, “all those who can successfully work remotely should continue to do so.” This applies to all members of the Harvard community, including staff, faculty, students, and postdocs. But in some cases, purely remote work cannot accomplish a research project’s goals. Staff and post-doctoral fellows supported on research funds that have an essential on-campus element are expected to fully engage in the work for which they receive salary or stipend support, as are graduate students who receive funding from federal research funds and whose progress toward their advanced degrees require on campus research. Graduate students, postdocs, and staff should consult with their Principal Investigator (PI) or supervisor about reciprocal expectations for on-campus experimental work. It is expected that experimental and hands-on work occur on campus.

Read the full return-to-campus work policy for researchers.


For people who are on an alternating weekly schedule, it is ok if they are just getting tested only on the weeks that they are on campus (i.e. every other week)?

Yes, that is permitted.



If we're invited back to campus, will we be required to bring boxes of our own masks, or will they be provided?

  • Masks will be provided (although you will need to wear one en route to campus and upon entering Harvard buildings).
  • Mask distribution to FAS and SEAS lab groups will occur on a monthly basis at Northwest B104.  Lab/COVID Safety Officers will receive regular emails regarding the distribution schedule.


A research group member wants to go on a personal vacation out of state to a state which requires quarantine upon re-entry to MA. The researcher is being paid by a federal grant and all of the grant objectives require hands-on lab research. When the researcher returns and quarantines for 2 weeks, is that quarantine time also counted as vacation (or sick leave)? Or does the lab need to offer remote work -- perhaps from a different funding source? -- for those 2 weeks?

  • Staff should check with their HR Office.
  • If this is an academic/research appointment, contact the appropriate Assistant Dean for Faculty Affairs.


A visiting scholar from another US state would still like to come to our department to do research this spring. Is this allowed, as long as it works within our re-occupancy planning and capacity, or is Harvard not supporting any new residential visiting scholar appointments?

Please contact the Assistant Dean for Faculty Affairs in the appropriate Division or School.



For College students, does the prohibition of research with faculty while on a leave of absence extend to other schools (such as HBS)?

For College students on a leave of absence, the prohibition of research with faculty extends to other schools (such as HBS). It is University-wide. Overall, undergraduate student access to physical facilities will be very limited. To find more detailed information, please visit here:



Could there be a relaxed policy regarding students on leave and their interaction with faculty, researchers, and courses (i.e., not a strict separation)? This with regard to TF positions, too, as many SEAS courses rely on undergrad TFs?

If an undergraduate student is on leave we are unable to hire them as a CA, per faculty legislation. Ordinarily, undergraduates cannot be hired as TAs.



Can local undergraduates be included in re-boot plans and work in labs?

Please check the section of our site, titled Spring 2021 Guidance  at for information on undergraduate research opportunities for Spring 2021.



Under current guidance if staff want to return to campus to remove personnel belongings from their workstation, a single one-time visit just long enough to put items in a box not to perform work or interact with colleagues, is that possible and what would the process be to schedule and obtain permission? If this won't be allowed how will staff moving to Allston be able to prepare for the move?

  • FAS Science Staff are instructed to speak with their supervisor about building access. Supervisors should seek approval according to local departmental procedures.
  • SEAS staff will receive further instructions in regards to the Allston move.


Can researchers arriving from out of state quarantine in on-campus Harvard housing, or do they have to stay off-campus during their quarantine period?

All visitors and returning residents entering Massachusetts must follow state travel orders. Review the new travel order, exemptions, and protocols as well as the University Travel Guidance webpage. For long-term harvard housing options, please visit:



Do you know what guidance has been communicated for anyone testing positive and notifying the PI / their manager? I would imagine that managers are advised not to share that information. Though are others then encouraged to be tested? 

Individuals are to notify HUHS of positive test results. Contact tracing and notifications will come through HUHS and state authorities.



What are the quarantine requirements?


My glasses keep fogging up due to my mask, what can I do to prevent this?

There are also affordable products you can purchase:


We need to bring technicians into the building to service one of our instruments. When can we do this and who do we need to contact to get authorization?

Laboratories can schedule and bring service technicians into the lab as needed. Each technician/lab visitor must:


If I live with someone who has traveled internationally or out of state, does that impact my ability to come to the lab as part of our return plan?

All Harvard community members must stay home if they are sick. If you suspect an illness or symptoms may be related to COVID-19 you should contact your healthcare provider to discuss testing and to receive additional guidance. Otherwise, please follow the steps that individuals returning to campus must take prior to entering Harvard facilities in order to enable the safety of those returning and essential on-site staff:, and review the University Travel Guidance webpage



Can someone take another person’s place (in the same lab) in a different shift if they are not going in? Will this be tracked and accounted for via the keycard swipe address?

Yes, if you are substituting people who are both already listed on your laboratory’s re-occupancy plan. If the person coming in is not listed on the plan, they should be added before the schedule change is implemented. Building access is being monitored and compared against the roster of individuals listed on approved re-occupancy plans.



How do I find out more information about testing?

To protect the health and safety of both those returning to campus as well as essential on-site workers, the University requests that authorized researchers and lab personnel on campus more than four hours per week to participate in the University's self-adminstered testing program.  More information is available here:


Regarding the app for declaring ourselves symptom-free: is there a specific list for what (and what severity of) symptoms we need to declare? For example, having a random headache, sniffling because of the mask or the walk to lab, if someone has allergies, etc... These are symptoms that appear easily in the absence of sickness. What's the standard for getting access to the building?

Before coming to campus each individual must complete the health attestion via Crimson Clear.  Please answer the questions to the best of your ability and attest to symptoms even if they are mild and/or a chronic condition.  By doing so, HUHS will contact you to discuss your symptoms, clear you to come to campus (or not), advise you how to best answer the questions if you have a chronic condition, as well as answer any other questions. you may have.



Will HUIT support be available to assist labs with desktop or IT issues as they resume research on campus?

Yes, for support, please contact the HUIT Service Desk at 617-495-7777 or visit the IT Help Portal at to “browse knowledge”, chat with a technician, or submit a ticket. There will also be a limited onsite HUIT technician schedule for laboratory IT support. All HUIT support requests should be made by contacting the service desk.



Is the VWR Stockroom be open?

The Biolabs VWR Stockroom re-opened on Monday, June 15th; however, it is not available for "in-person" shopping.  All orders must be placed via email and purchases will be available for "curb-side pick-up" in the Biolabs Bulding.  To place an order, email a copy of the order form to  harvardbiology.stockroom@avantorsciences.comIf you have questions, please call the VWR Stockroom at 617-495-2385.


If I plan to drive to campus and I don't currently have a parking permit what should I do? Do I use the current parking permit portal? 

You can find this information on the Harvard transportation and parking page, here: and here:



I am a theory group, and have at least one person (a postdoc) who wants to return to campus, in his case because of two toddlers at home. Do I only need to complete form 5B (and if so, where is it?). Can I also choose to nominate my faculty office for him to use?

Yes, complete 5B, and refer to page 22 for more details.


Can re-occupancy plans be changed later on? For example, I don't need access to my office now, but if I need it later, may I submit another plan?

Updates to lab re-occupancy plans can be requested and approve via local departments or SEAS approval processes.



Can faculty go to their office now and then to pick up a book or maybe to work there for a few hours to, say, record a video lecture.

One-time, short visits to offices to pick-up materials are permitted.  If you would like to work in your office, you must complete an Office Re-Occupancy Plan Appendix 5B found on page 22 of the "Harvard Faculty of Arts and Science and School of Engineering and Applied Science, Staged Campus Re-Entry Plan" from Version 8.0. and submit it to your Chair.


Is there flexibility on the schedule of lab reboots?

Yes, every laboratory is different and we anticipate that what works for one lab may not work for another. So, flexibility and variation is expected and encouraged. 



How specific do you expect the justification for return for each person to be able to return to lab? Do we need to have justifications for each person, or project, or grant?

If the density of a laboratory will be high, this justification will enable decision making. Specifics are needed only if it is useful for your plan. Ultimately it will be up to each PI to decide how they would prioritize within their own lab. Regardless of plan specifics, the goal is to keep occupant numbers as low as possible, with the goal of 50% building occupancy at any given time (where 100% was typical building occupancy pre COVID-19. 


One of my researchers/staff wants to return to campus due to personal issues to work in his/her office in a research building, how do I arrange for this?

Please fill out Appendix 5B (Individual OFfice Re-Occupancy Planning Form) found on page 22 of the "Harvard Faculty of Arts and Science and School of Engineering and Applied Science, Staged Campus Re-Entry Plan" from Version 8.0. If you are from a research group, this form should be completed and submitted by May 15th.

How should we schedule our lab groups to achieve social distancing and isolate different groups of the lab such that if one person becomes ill, the whole lab is not such down? 

  • Have people rotations across days or weeks.
  • Divide groups into cohorts, or subgroups who can work opposing shifts/schedules and do not have any in-person contact between cohorts. 
  • Consider square footage and create occupancy limits of each space within the labs. 
  • We currently recommend that faculty have a minimum of 2 hours between different shifts to separate cohorts from the other’s airborne particulates
  • Create a plan to decrease density and achieve social distancing in the lab


How do we decrease cross-contamination?

Given the highly collaborative nature of our labs, this will be important to manage. Many researchers use space and equipment in different labs in addition to using shared or core facilities. Our plans need to include methods to decrease the potential for cross-contamination.

We recommend minimizing members of your lab performing work in other labs or shared spaces.


How do we use our rest rooms safely?

  • Determining how to minimize the number of people using a specific restroom is a major goal. Our overarching goal is to achieve 25% of the normal restroom load. 
  • Consider having subgroups who already use the same lab space use the same restroom. It is likely multiple subgroups in different lab spaces will have to use the same restroom. 
  • Considering coordinating with other labs that would be using the same restrooms.

What happens if an individual tests positive for COVID19?

Please read the “Steps for a Safe Return to Labs” The COVID-19 training, available for free on the homepage of the Harvard Training Portal provides steps for individuals to follow.



Should we start directing our lab users to wear double masks after the latest statements from Dr. Fauci and Prof Joe Allen at the School of Public Health. The latest shipment of masks that we received this past Monday are very loose with the masks constantly sliding down our faces

Our procedure masks in conjunction with cloth masks can provide a better seal. The ear protectors (available at mask pick-up) can help to tighten the fit.



If we're invited back to campus, will we be required to bring boxes of our own masks, or will they be provided?

  • Masks will be provided (although you will need to wear one en route to campus and upon entering Harvard buildings).
  • Mask distribution to FAS and SEAS lab groups will occur on a monthly basis.  Lab and COVID Safety Officers will receive regular email communications regarding the distribution schedule.


Is the inventory of lab coats increased? We would like to have one new coat per day, but this is only possible if the pick-up stations have adequate stock of new coats.

Lab coats inventory will be increased as needed to meet increased demand. Lab coats should not be shared. However, lab coats will not be increased to the level that allows each individual to get a new coat every day as it is not necessary to change your lab coat every day. EH&S recommends coats be exchanged once they are soiled or used for two weeks.



Can we clarify the exceptions (aside from eating/drinking) to the requirement of wearing a face mask ("single occupancy offices")? Is wearing a face mask required in rooms that are occupied by only a single person at any one time, but by different people at different times?

Sole-occupancy spaces are OK for taking off face coverings. If the office is shared, please wear your face covering and you will also need to carry the face covering with you as you move around campus; you must wear a face covering in all public spaces and common areas.



Per “Face Coverings: General Use”, a face mask is required only when social distancing is not possible. So, in other words, if I am the only person in my office and my office’s door is closed to the public, I am not required to wear a face mask in my own work office, right?

Yes, however, you will still need to carry the face covering with you as you move around campus; you must wear a face covering in all public spaces and common areas, not too mention to your car or to public transportation.



Where can I find detailed information on the use of Harvard provided masks on campus? Can I bring masks home and then wear one while traveling to campus? Does a mask have to be discarded before departing campus? If I am on campus only for a short period each day (say 1 hour), do I need to use a new mask each day?

There are sections in the COVID safety training on the Harvard Training Portal which address face coverings. You will need a face covering prior to arriving on campus as the City of Cambridge has issued an order requiring that face coverings be worn in all public places. If you choose to retain a mask, that’s up to you. We do not require that they be discarded but please be informed about the risks of extended use of face coverings.



Will Harvard be reaching out to Federal agencies to ask about exceptions around purchasing new desired PPE which many not be applicable to the research but will enable my lab to perform research in a safe manner?

In the event additional measures beyond masks are needed, we will evaluate those requirements in conjunction with occupational health experts and Harvard will procure items as needed.



What is being done to ensure equitable resources among the labs in terms of acquisition of PPE above and beyond what the university is providing? i.e. better resourced labs getting more PPE vs less resourced labs getting less.

Harvard is providing face coverings to all.



For staff that cannot sufficiently perform their job duties remotely and have moderate/severe asthma will a higher form of face protection be provided such as an N95 mask?

Instances like this will be referred to occupational health services.



How are wipes used for disinfecting surfaces to be disposed of?

They can go into the regular trash. They are not biohazardous waste.



Where are we receiving our funding for plexiglass? or other PPE related items?

Harvard is committed to providing and sustaining a workplace that meets our goal of virus suppression. If individuals or PIs have concerns about their workspace they should bring this to their supervisor or department chair and we will address it case-by-case.



Can labs procure different face masks for cleanrooms? The surgical masks may release particulates that are harmful to research.

Yes, please contact Bill Wilson in the Center for Nanoscale System for recommendations on face masks.



Will the University provide N95s to those that need them for health reasons or live with someone that has health issues?

Those masks are in short supply, with priority to health care providers. Individuals who cannot work remotely and who require workplace accommodations should contact disability services:



What PPE will be provided by Harvard, and what PPE will individual labs have to acquire?

  • Upon rebooting our labs, only face coverings will be required at all times - not gloves, or other PPE.
  • Harvard will provide face masks (and procurement is being coordinated with Central.) 
  • Facilities will provide hand sanitizer in shared spaces
  • Crown fabric lab coat program is ongoing
  • Only Harvard-provided face coverings will be allowed inside Science/SEAS buildings.
  • Labs who use gloves or lab glasses are responsible for procuring them. If labs have difficulty in procuring these, let Sarah Elwell (FAS) and Leigh Needleman (SEAS) know and we will engage University Strategic Procurement to help in the purchases.

What disinfecting guidance procedures are recommended for shared tools, equipment & spaces?

  • Harvard Environmental Health & Safety has provided and will be updating the following guidance documents:
  • Minimizing the use of shared equipment is optimal. Anything touched by multiple people should be disinfected before and after use. This includes:
    • Tissue culture rooms, eating areas, tools, microscopes, incubators, biosafety cabinets, laser cutter, milling machine, drills, screwdrivers, pipetmen, etc.
  • Recommendations to faculty
    • Identify opportunities for purchasing additional equipment and tools where possible, so as to avoid or minimize sharing.
    • Explore how any existing equipment or tools can be modified to minimize contact or risk of person to person transmission. (ex. Saran Wrap on microscope optics or knobs)
    • Identify where a single person may be the sole user of tools or equipment where they perform work for others.
    • Identify where single use gloves, paper etc can be used.



Below are a series of questions related to the use of printers and photocopiers:

How will people be getting paper for the printers/copiers?

Office supplies are being supplied through normal channels for on-campus devices.

Some people previously got additional paper delivered via the Presto system – should they instead be ordering through HCOM now?

See above, Presto system should be working.

Is there technical support for printers/copiers? (in cases of jamming, etc.)

Most machines have a trouble-shooting diagram that can be used to remove jammed paper. If the problem persists, there is a mechanism to bring vendors onto campus. Contact your supervisor or group leader.

What is the guidance on cleaning them? For example, the Ricoh guidance says to spray disinfecting solution onto a paper towel and lay it on the area for 3-5 minutes. There’s concern on the one hand about damage to the displays/machines caused by prolonged exposure to cleaning supplies, and on the other hand, that the likelihood that someone will actually do that both before and after printing, considering the time involved, is low. Perhaps hand sanitizer should be placed at every printer and photocopier for people to use both before and after printing/copying?

Please feel free to place a hand sanitizer there if you like.

Should/can labs and faculty purchase their own printers?

Not for home use, no.



Is there any guidance on signage that should be displayed in labs? Either minimum requirements or recommendations? Or is signage to be hung at the discretion of the individual lab?

Signage for laboratories are available at EH&S does not have specific guidance, other than if a room has an occupancy limit, that limit should be posted.



Is it still okay for us to go to the shared space area where we switch out lab coats?

Yes, one at a time with appropriate attention to shared surfaces.



Can someone help us coordinate with use of shared autoclaves and glass washing facilities?

Yes, please schedule equipment via calendars available on SPINAL. If you need access to the calendar please contact Taylor Chang, by email at



What building modifications will be required before researchers can begin to resume research in the lab?

Each building is very different and what works for one may not be a solution for another. Facilities is looking into removing doors where possible, reviewing HVAC systems, adding paper towel dispensers near elevators and doors, increasing hand sanitizer stations, etc. 


How can we find out about the ventilation in all of our spaces?

The rate of air turnover in a lab space is an important piece of information. We want to minimize risk of airborne transmission (either across different researchers working in the same space at the same time, or at different shifts). There are many different types of lab spaces and there will be a spectrum of different air turnover rates. Please hold off on reaching directly out to Facilities as they are currently compiling this information. 

Surveys are being conducted and results of these studies will be prepared by Facilities. This is ongoing in earnest but may take up to 2 weeks to collect all of the information for all FAS-SEAS spaces.  


Should we buy individual air purification units for our lab?

After we understand the lab air handling and filtration systems, it will be clearer what labs or spaces may benefit from air purification units. 



How will research studies that involve human subjects be handled? Will there be guidelines for scheduling participants for human subjects studies? Do they need to be spread out with sufficient time in between? Will human subjects studies be allowed in the yellow phase?

Guidelines for human subject research are currently being developed collaboratively with faculty across FAS and SEAS as well as the IRB. Please contact Conor Walsh if you have specific questions. 



The policies say that face coverings can be removed indoors for eating and drinking. Can face masks be removed outdoors for eating and drinking? If so, the policy should be updated to explicitly reflect this. In the MA order, there appear to be no exceptions for eating and drinking.

The MA order requires masks when social distancing is not possible. If you are eating or drinking outside and wish to remove your mask, you must be sufficiently distant from others.



So are we allowed to eat in buildings or not? We know that meal service (i.e., cafes) will not be available but we had originally gotten the impression that there would be no eating. The planning form Ancillary Space Considerations & Schedule table clearly says “Eating Area & Time.”

We are allowing carefully scheduled use of, for example, conference rooms for eating, with decontamination of surfaces before and after use. No eating in labs.


Where will my group eat their meals?

  • We encourage eating outside when possible and additionally have distributed eating areas in each building/floor. When inside, we will recommend that people eat alone, and if eating outside, maintain safe distances from each other. No eating in lab spaces will be permitted. 
  • Consider collaborating with other researchers on your floor and in your building to identify areas that can be marked off (e.g with colored tape) as single subject eating areas. This could be a single chair and/or small table, identified with one person’s name. Once different areas are identified we recommend each of these get assigned to a group of people that will all be using the same lab space(s). A sign up sheet can be used and breaks of 15 mins (or 30) between slots.



I have a question concerning parking for those current commuting to campus. Given the number of precautions taken on campus by researchers, the expectation that when parking is no longer available on August 15 researchers begin taking public transportations seems paradoxical. I was wondering whether the school might offer a remedy to this?

This is not a school-level decision, please continue to visit the transportation & parking website for updates & discounts:


Is there a shuttle to the testing location?

As of June 11th, there will be a Daytime Van Service to cover the testing hours of 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday. This will be a similar “general service” transportation to what was offered prior to shutting down the daytime van service at the end of April. The service will be available for faculty, staff and students who request rides through the app (only): Note, although it says evening van app, it is meant to be used for this service at this time.

Will there be an option to buy a discounted mbta passes? 

Yes, to learn about transit options including Harvard’s 50% subsidy on monthly MBTA passes for benefits eligible faculty, staff, and postdocs, visit here:


Will there be any additional shuttle service offered off-hours?

To review shuttle services, please visit here:


If researchers/students cannot travel to access free shared equipment offsite, are there funds available to help with the cost of using core facilities?

No, we are not able to provide funding for that.


Will computational groups be able to return to their lab spaces?

Any PI and researchers can request to return to do research on campus. That said, in the yellow phase, anyone who can continue to successfully work from home is advised to do that.