March 17, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

We recently asked PIs of Duke research laboratories to develop contingency plans in the event of a campus shutdown as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. This message is to inform you that we must now implement these plans, which will severely curtail laboratory research activities on Duke’s campus and in our leased facilities.

Due to the rapidly deteriorating conditions, only hands-on activity essential to preserve the future viability of research programs will be permitted in most laboratories. All laboratory PIs should begin to activate their wind-down plans effective now, 3/17/2020. All non-laboratory research in Duke facilities that requires direct person-to-person contact must also cease at this time.

This directive does not apply to essential clinical research studies involving human subjects, clinical research that may be done remotely or laboratories actively supporting direct ongoing clinical care, which will be addressed in a separate communication. In addition, research work directed towards vaccination against, treatment or diagnosis of COVID-19 is exempt from this directive, but must be approved in advance by your Dean and communicated to me.

Each wind-down plan should have identified no more than three key individuals who have been assigned to maintain essential experiments/activities, and those that need special attention to avoid catastrophic financial and data loss. To the extent possible, these individuals should only be in the laboratory for the time it takes to secure the continuity of the research program. All research group meetings must be conducted virtually, as we have already specified for classes and other group gatherings.

Scholars whose research does not entail laboratory work should comply with the spirit of our current guidance in order to limit campus presence to essential personnel, while making contingency plans for a more extended period of reduced access to campus.

We understand your research is critically important, and during this period we urge you to devote your time to activities that may be accomplished primarily outside the laboratory. In addition to various writing and analysis activities, we also expect to sustain access to research computing resources during this time.

Duke officials are working with national associations and federal funding partners to determine allowability of certain costs during this unique time, including compensation for individuals funded on grants and other costs associated with travel, conferences, etc.  Guidance for how to charge to grants during this period, and other issues, are detailed at We ask that PIs not contact federal sponsors about this matter, as we are contacting them centrally. For grants from non-federal sources, PIs may wish to contact their sponsor if an interruption to research is anticipated.

We are not saying here that research must stop, only that research activities in Duke facilities must wind-down, with the aforementioned exceptions. Research can continue, with a focus on those things like writing, analyses and computations that may be done off-campus. Research group meetings should continue, implemented virtually.

We are living through a highly unusual interruption to activities at Duke, including our research. I thank you for the care you have given this matter, and the spirit of cooperation and understanding with which our adjustments have been implemented. We will get through this challenge together, and I look forward to soon seeing operations at Duke return to normal.


Lawrence Carin Vice President for Research