COVID-19: Reduction in Research Operations

MARCH 19, 2020: Restriction in University of Pittsburgh Research Operations to Only Essential Work on Campus

Members of the Pitt research community,

The COVID-19 public health emergency has challenged the University in unprecedented ways, and at a pace that requires us to accelerate our response. Today, we have determined that, in the interest of the health and safety of our community and our partners, and in consultation with our own faculty and staff, all on-campus research work will be restricted, where possible, to only essential activities by 5 pm on Friday, March 20. Use of shared core research facilities will be impacted.

Accordingly, all faculty, staff, and students conducting research efforts should begin to work remotely where possible by close of business on Friday. Pitt will restrict use of all non-essential facilities on campus at that time.

This is not a closure of the University, but a change in our research posture that allows remote work, and only the most essential on-campus work to continue. Please follow this ramp-down guidance:

Principal Investigators (PIs) need to take the following actions to ramp down your research:

  • Identify all non-essential research-related activities that can be delayed, ramped down, curtailed, or suspended using your best judgement, and begin the process to do so now.
  • Essential activities include but are not limited to:
    • work for which a stop or delay could cause harm to human subject well-being or maintaining animal populations;
    • work whose suspension would cause a critical loss of unique or irreplaceable materials or data; and
    • management of equipment, instruments, or research infrastructure where lack of maintenance could create damage or endanger safety.
  • Essential employees are those whose physical presence on our campuses is critical for ensuring the safety of our community, managing essential clinical activities, maintaining critical infrastructure, and providing bare-minimum operational support, including for the students who remain on campus.
  • No new on-campus research activities should be started until further notice.
  • Discuss with your department/school/research unit leadership, if you have questions about how to ramp down your research, especially if your lab or activity is shared with, or used by others on campus.
  • With the exception of research related to COVID-19, minimal access to laboratories will be maintained so that critical activities, such as maintaining animals, unique reagents, or essential equipment and materials, can continue.
  • Use this reporting tool to inform Pitt on essential operations. Your input will help deans and university leadership understand the scope of the impact of COVID-19 on our research enterprise.

This change does NOT mandate that your non-essential research/scholarly activities should stop. Indeed, those that can be carried out remotely (planning, writing, literature review, remote data collection, data analysis, remote meetings, etc.) should continue during this time.

We are fully aware of the difficulties this restricted on-campus activity will pose, and will work closely with the appropriate evaluator bodies within your unit to minimize the impact on your professional advancement and the advancement of your students and staff. Faculty should be mindful of the needs of students approaching critical time points in their studies (e.g., Ph.D. defenses). Online meeting tools should be utilized rather than in-person meetings unless absolutely essential. Avoid all in-person activities (including dissertation defenses) unless absolutely necessary. Also, be mindful of your students’ personal and family situations, which also may be disrupted.

To continue your operations:

  • Follow all the recommended safety guidance, in accordance with CDC guidelines as those may evolve, including modeling safe behavior, and encouraging sick people to not come to work.
  • Continue charging to research grants as normal. Federal guidance continues to evolve here, but we note that NIH has announced permission to charge research personnel, even if they are not actively working. Pitt will support charging to research grants through August 31, 2020. We will provide additional guidance for the period after August as federal guidance develops.


  • Completion of reporting tool to inform on ramp down details: 5 pm, Thursday, March 19.
  • Restriction to essential research on campus: 5 pm, Friday, March 20.

The situation is changing rapidly and we ask for your cooperation and flexibility.

Thank you,

Rob A. Rutenbar
Senior Vice Chancellor for Research

Ann E. Cudd
Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor

Arthur S. Levine
Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences