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.

PDF of Research Ramp Up Phases Graphic

Research Ramp Up Phases

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

On June 7, 2021, in accordance with guidance from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the City of Cambridge, MIT lifted all of its Covid-era limits on building occupancy, returning spaces to their pre-Covid capacities. What this means for MIT researchers and research staff:

  • While capacity limits have been lifted, access to buildings remains restricted to members of the MIT community who are authorized to access campus using Covid Pass, with regular testing and attestations required. Covid Access authorizers and MIT gatekeepers may still limit access to certain areas via MIT Occupant Access Points (see MIT Campus Access Map).
  • Campus visitors may now enter non-residential campus buildings if accompanied by a Covid Pass user who is authorized to access buildings; such visitors must be escorted by a Covid Pass user while inside campus buildings. All visitors must follow MIT’s pre-Covid visitor policies, as well as posted Covid safety precautions. MIT Research Visitor Guidelines  are being updated to provide more detailed guidance.
  • Well-fitted face coverings remain required in all MIT buildings except when an individual is eating, drinking, or alone in a fully enclosed space.

On June 1, 2021, MIT leadership communicated COVID-19 vaccination requirements and a preview of fall policies to the MIT community. All MIT faculty and staff must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 30, 2021, in order to work on campus. Exemptions to this requirement may be granted for medical or religious reasons, or for staff who are approved to work remotely full-time.

The Office of the VPR is working to provide more detailed guidance regarding campus access and will be updating the information provided below as those details become available.


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.

Covid Access & Covid Pass Instructions

Building Access

Library Access and Use

Information for Researchers, Research Staff and Visitors

On June 7, 2021, in accordance with guidance from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the City of Cambridge, MIT lifted all of its Covid-era limits on building occupancy, returning spaces to their pre-Covid capacities. What this means for MIT researchers and research staff:

  • While capacity limits have been lifted, access to buildings remains restricted to members of the MIT community who are authorized to access campus using Covid Pass, with regular testing and attestations required. Covid Access authorizers and MIT gatekeepers may still limit access to certain areas via MIT Occupant Access Points (see MIT Campus Access Map).
  • Campus visitors may now enter non-residential campus buildings if accompanied by a Covid Pass user who is authorized to access buildings; such visitors must be escorted by a Covid Pass user while inside campus buildings. All visitors must follow MIT’s pre-Covid visitor policies, as well as posted Covid safety precautions. MIT Research Visitor Guidelines  are being updated to provide more detailed guidance.
  • Well-fitted face coverings remain required in all MIT buildings except when an individual is eating, drinking, or alone in a fully enclosed space.

On June 1, 2021, MIT leadership communicated COVID-19 vaccination requirements and a preview of fall policies to the MIT community. All MIT faculty and staff must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 30, 2021, in order to work on campus. Exemptions to this requirement may be granted for medical or religious reasons, or for staff who are approved to work remotely full-time.

The Office of the VPR is working to provide more detailed guidance as to how these updated policies apply to researchers and research staff, and we will be updating the information provided below as those details become available.


Faculty and Staff Working Abroad

Due to the pandemic and travel restrictions, a number of faculty and staff that were working temporarily outside the U.S. were advised to return to the U.S. no later than February 16, 2021. In some cases, faculty/staff may not have been able to return by then and the Deans and Provost reviewed 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 coronavirus 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 ischo@mit.edu [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 had 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)

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program is publishing regular updates to policies and procedures for UROP participants in alignment with MIT policies as COVID-related restrictions are lifted. Please check the links below for the latest updates and guidance.

Visitors/Visiting Scholars

Though MIT has greatly expanded campus visitor access, please note that all visitors must be accompanied by a Covid Pass user at all times while inside campus buildings, and must comply with all current Covid safety protocols, including the wearing of well-fitted face coverings.

Visitors are invited guests coming to MIT buildings (in Cambridge or at MIT off-campus facilities) for a meeting, occasional equipment repair, research seminar or collaboration, lab tour, campus tour, social visit, to drop off a catering order, etc. This is not to be confused with MIT visiting student/scholar/scientist appointments (VPR-facilitated), exchange or cross-registered students (OVC-facilitated), or with contractors (MIT-contracted service providers whose work requires planned access to campus buildings). Invited visitors in these categories will be issued MIT ID cardsnd must be entered into MIT Covid Pass and meet requirements for vaccinations and testing. (Note that research visitor guidelines for fall are still being finalized.).

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.

As of June 7, 2021, well-fitted face coverings, such as cloth coverings or masks, must be worn in all MIT buildings except:

  • When eating or drinking
  • When alone in a fully enclosed space
  • When with podmates or in gatherings of fully vaccinated groups within residential buildings

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) – updated May 5, 2021

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

Though the guidance issued on June 7, 2021, lifted capacity limits on both indoor and outdoor campus space usage, please note the following:

  • Social distancing: MIT has lifted all Covid-era policies on social distancing, except when eating.
  • Eating indoors: Eating indoors is now permitted in all campus buildings. When dining indoors with others at MIT, members of the community are encouraged to limit group size to four people; maintain 6 feet of distance between individuals and 8 feet of distance between groups of people dining together; and limit the time spent eating together to 20 minutes. MIT continues to encourage those on campus to dine outdoors whenever possible.
  • Campus events: Events sponsored by MIT departments, labs, centers, offices, and student organizations are now permitted. Event sponsors are expected to register all attendees for events that include non-MIT visitors; for contact-tracing purposes, all attendees at such events must provide their name, contact information, and voluntary information on their vaccination status. Visitor access for events must be managed as described above. All attendees must wear well-fitted face coverings while at indoor events on campus. While events that include food are permissible, buffet-style serving is not permitted.
  • Face coverings: Regardless of vaccination status, well-fitted face coverings remain required in all MIT buildings except when an individual is eating, drinking, or alone in a fully enclosed space.

Human Subjects Guidance

Researchers must certify and apply for approval to start or direct person-to-person human subject research via COUHES Connect, as stated in the guidance released on September 11, 2020. 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

Effective June 1, 2021, Covid-19 vaccination is required for MIT-related domestic and international travel. This requirement applies to undergraduate and graduate students, staff, faculty, and postdocs. The requirement does not apply to local travel (within the 6 New England states) or to MIT travelers with an approved medical or religious exemption from the vaccination requirement.

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.

Note: All MIT community members must register their MIT-related travel through Covid Travel and are encouraged to register their personal travel as well.