Research ramp-up expands to non-laboratory facilities

MIT is expanding its on-campus research ramp-up to non-laboratory facilities, according to the Office of the Vice President for Research website.

MIT reduced research operations by about 90% in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vice President for Research Maria Zuber and biology professor Tyler Jacks wrote in a June faculty newsletter article.

Phase 1 of MIT’s research ramp-up began June 15. By June 18, over 3,000 researchers had returned to “labs and research spaces working on in-person experiments that require campus facilities,” Zuber and Jacks wrote in a letter to colleagues.

Jacks chairs the Research Ramp-Up Lightning Committee created in April to plan MIT’s return to on-campus research. The committee focused on research activities that require laboratory facilities and equipment and cannot be done remotely.

The Research Ramp-Up Thunder Committee, chaired by MIT Libraries Director Chris Bourg, was formed June 17 to plan the return to non-laboratory on-campus research activities in the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences; Sloan School of Management; School of Architecture and Planning; MIT Libraries; and MIT Museum.

The Research Ramp-Up Thunder Committee will focus on issues such as off-campus fieldwork; “human subject research”; “accessing and using tangible collections from libraries, archives, and museums”; and “analysis of restricted data sets that must be analyzed on campus,” according to the committee’s charge. The committee will also “establish guidance for travel related to the execution of Institute responsibilities.”

During Phase 1 of the ramp-up, researchers who return to campus may enter the buildings designated by their principal investigator (PI) at specific “Access Points.” The campus has been divided into 13 “Access Clusters,” and only Access Points within a researcher’s designated cluster are active for their MIT ID card, according to a webpage on the site. Researchers are also required to carry a valid “COVID Pass,” which lasts 25 hours and “requires a daily health attestation.”

Zuber and Jacks wrote in the faculty newsletter that each PI’s on-campus research activity will be “capped at 25% of full capacity” during Phase 1 and “50% of full capacity” during Phase 2. On-campus research activity will not be capped in Phase 3. There is no determined start date for Phase 2, but Phase 1 is “expected to last at least several weeks.”

The ramp-up process has been overseen by the MIT Senior Team and the Legal, Ethical, and Equity Committee for Campus Planning.