MIT Research Ramp Up Information

MIT is in the process of re-opening campus to researchers, faculty, staff and students in a measured approach that places the safety of our community first and foremost, and that is consistent with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts guidance for non-essential businesses. The Office of the Vice President for Research, in consultation with the Research Ramp Up Committees (described below); the Campus Space Contingency Working Group; the Legal, Ethical and Equity Committee; IS&T; the Department of Facilities; and MIT Medical, among others, has implemented a phased approach to the return of on-campus research activity.

Research Ramp Up Phases

Latest Updates

Research Planning Committees and Town Halls

The quick ramp down of research at the beginning of the Covid-19 shutdown, the continuity of vital research, and the planning for research ramp up could not have been done without the participation of the entire MIT research community. We would like to acknowledge and thank the members of the Research Continuity Working Group, and the Research Ramp Up “Lightning” and “Thunder” Committees for their expertise, guidance and tireless work to develop processes and procedures to ensure the safety of all MIT researchers and staff, and to all who gave feedback directly to the Committees and who participated in the Research Town Halls, providing vital input during the planning process.

Covid Access System and Covid Pass

Covid Access System

COVID Access is a web-based central database to support the campus ramp-up effort and system of record of MIT community members who need access to campus buildings. It allows DLCs to upload approved planning spreadsheets in order to manage access to necessary facilities. Once a community member is confirmed in the system, they will receive a “Return to campus” email to complete access requirements using the Covid Pass.

Covid Pass

Covid Pass is an app designed to ensure that MIT community members fulfill certain requirements to return to campus, and to maintain their approved access. Researcher requirements are:

  • Signing a form acknowledging risks of return and requirements to be on campus.
  • Completing the required EHS training.
  • Completing a daily health attestation. Researchers need to complete a health attestation each day they plan to come to campus; the pass expires after 25 hours. 
  • Complete regular Covid-19 testing. The frequency will depend on how often the researcher is accessing campus.

More detailed information and instructions on how to use the Covid Access and Covid Pass systems can be found in the “Planning Guidance & Building Access Information” section below.

Covid Travel

While MIT community members who have access to campus are advised to refrain from travel when possible, those who must travel are advised to register their travel in the Covid Travel section of the Covid Pass app.

Health Data Collection and Analysis

The Covid Pass and Covid Access system are parts of the MIT Covid Response System (MCRS). The MCRS will allow the Institute to gather deidentified data and analyze it to inform future decisions as we continue research ramp up and other return to campus activities

Planning Guidance and Building Access Information

During ramp up, all campus access plans and requests must be approved by the DLC head in accordance with the most recent guidance. DLC heads are responsible for uploading approved access plans into the Covid Access system, which is part of the MIT Covid Response System (MCRS) and will initiate building access protocols. Also, each DLC must have a DLC Monitoring and Compliance Committee in place to ensure compliance with current guidelines. Finally, all DLCs must comply with current guidance on common space usage.

Current Research Ramp Up Guidance & Planning Materials for Laboratory Spaces: Phase 3

Current Office Access and Use for Laboratory and Non-Laboratory Researchers: Phase 2

Covid Access & Covid Pass Instructions

Building Access

Library Access and Use

Information for Researchers, Research Staff and Visitors

MIT remains in Research Ramp-up Phase 3 for the spring semester 2021. 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has announced its return to Phase III, Step 2 of its Covid-19 guidelines, effective March 1.

Faculty and Staff Working Abroad

Due to the pandemic and travel restrictions, a number of faculty and staff have been working temporarily outside the U.S. As of December 2020, those working outside the country are advised to return to the U.S. no later than February 16, 2020, if possible. In some cases, faculty/staff may not to able to return by then; the Deans and Provost will review exception requests to remain abroad. Future requests for staff to proceed with international appointments – for example, those working at research facilities outside the U.S. – should continue to go through the International People Placement (IPP) process managed by the International Coordinating Committee (ICC). See the link below for the latest information.

International Scholars

The International Scholars Office (ISchO) is processing requests for visa documents and employment-based petitions. On February 24, 2021, President Biden released a Proclamation revoking the prior administration’s suspension of immigrant visas due to the 2019 corona virus outbreak (Proclamation 10014, section 1 of Proclamation 10052 and section 1 of Proclamation 10131). The “immigrant” visa allows an individual to enter the US as a permanent resident (I-551 stamp). For the latest information, please refer to the links below or contact the Office at [email].

Postdoctoral Scholars

Postdoctoral scholars must follow the same guidelines for research activity and campus access as all other researchers. Postdoctoral scholars with specific questions may reach out to their key administrative contact or email Postdoctoral Services [email].

Graduate Students

Graduate students involved in research should be in contact with their advisors and supervisors regarding any work that can be done remotely, and any access needed to campus.

In December 2020, graduate students that have been living and/or working remotely from outside the U.S. were advised by the Office of the Vice Chancellor to return to the U.S. by January 30, 2021, in order to maintain their RA, TA, or fellowship appointments. Please see the guidance for details and the exception process.

Undergraduate Students (UROPs)

On February 2, 2021 Michael Bergren, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Research, issued updated UROP guidance for the spring 2021 semester. Please review this guidance carefully and check the UROP website for additional COVID-19 updates using the link below.

In December 2020, the Office of the Vice Chancellor issued guidance regarding paid UROPs being performed by undergraduate students who are not physically located in the U.S. during IAP or the Spring 2021 term.

Visitors/Visiting Scholars

MIT’s first priority is to enable our faculty, staff, postdocs, and students to have increased access to MIT campus in order to pursue their educational, research, and operational support activities as safely as possible. To maintain low building density and allow this to happen, visitor access to campus will be significantly limited and discouraged through the spring term 2021.

Research Visitor Guidelines [PDF] – Updated February 1, 2021

Guidance for Researchers and Staff During Ramp Up

COVID-19 Testing and COVID Pass Warnings

The primary concern for the Institute during this time period is protecting the health of the community while maintaining research and academic continuity. With that in mind, it is important that MIT researchers and staff know how to respond in the event that they or a member of their team test positive for COVID-19, or experience any symptoms that could indicate a possible COVID-19 infection. Please read the information below and be familiar with the correct protocols for your situation.

If you have symptoms or were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, do not go to MIT Medical’s testing trailer. COVID Pass testing is for asymptomatic individuals only. If you feel you are ill, stay home and log your symptoms into COVID Pass or call MIT Medical’s COVID-19 hotline at 617-253-4865.

Face Coverings and Other Personal Protective Equipment

When on campus, all individuals MUST adhere to state and local regulations, and Institute policies regarding face coverings and other forms of personal protective equipment.

Face coverings, such as cloth coverings or masks, must be worn at all times on campus and in common areas and public spaces both inside and outdoors, per order of the City of Cambridge. While face coverings and masks are available from MIT for free, as needed, it is acceptable to provide your own. More details about MIT policies on face coverings and other personal protective equipment (PPE) can be found at the link below.

Policy Statement: Gloves, Face Coverings, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – September 30, 2020

Laboratory Safety

In addition to the above policy statement on gloves, face coverings and PPE, the MIT Environment, Health & Safety Office (EHS) has compiled information and resources for additional laboratory safety precautions during this time.

Working with the SARS-CoV-2 Genome

Researchers are reminded that work with nucleic acids encoding for any portion of the SARS-CoV-2 genome may not begin without approval from the MIT Committee on Assessment of Biohazards & Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight (CAB/ESCRO) (MIT certificate required). Consult your biosafety officer for more information. If you are planning to work with the SARS-CoV-2 N gene (Nucleocapsid), please review the guidance document for amplifying the SARS-CoV-2 N gene (MIT certificate required).

Common Space and Outdoor Space Usage

When coming to campus it’s important to practice appropriate safety protocols at all times, whether in any shared or common indoor space or outdoors. There may be specific requirements for common space usage in certain areas, so we ask that everyone adhere to posted signage and the guidelines outlined in the resources listed below:

Human Subjects Guidance

Guidance for restarting direct person-to-person human subject research was released on September 11, 2020. Researchers must certify and apply for approval to restart via COUHES Connect. COUHES approval is necessary, but not sufficient, for the resumption of human subject research; additional policies may apply. Also, any human subject research activities which can be done remotely, such as online surveys, virtual interviews, and analysis of data already collected, must continue to be done remotely.

Animal Research Guidance

The Division of Comparative Medicine is following their Emergency Disaster Plan that includes coverage during pandemics to ensure the health and welfare of the animals. Also, the Committee on Animal Care (CAC) has remained fully operational remotely throughout the COVID-19 response.

Travel Guidance

MIT has suspended MIT-related international travel for students, faculty, postdocs, and staff until further notice. MIT-related domestic travel also remains suspended for most travelers.

In November 2020, with Covid-19 cases on the rise in Massachusetts and across the country, MIT issued a revised travel policy providing more detailed guidance regarding travel restrictions. Please review the updated policy before making any travel arrangements. Additional guidance was issued to encourage COVID Pass Users who require regular access to MIT’s campus to register travel and remain vigilant while traveling.

  • Faculty, research staff and postdocs: All MIT-related domestic travel is strongly discouraged. All MIT-related international travel for this category of travelers remains suspended though exceptions for essential travel may be granted.
  • Graduate students: All MIT-related domestic and international travel remains suspended though exceptions for essential domestic and international travel may be granted.
  • Administrative staff: All MIT-related domestic and international travel remains suspended though exceptions for essential domestic and international travel may be granted.
  • All individuals with regular access to MIT’s campus: Personal travel must also be registered.

We encourage everyone to read the full policy, which includes details and the necessary application for the exception process. In addition, individuals traveling internationally, whether for approved MIT-related or personal purposes, are reminded of MIT’s guidance regarding international travel with MIT data and materials.