Guidance on Editing and Submitting New Waivers for Essential Research

This memorandum is also available on Box as a PDF


To: Deans, Associate Deans for Research, Directors, and Department Heads 

From: Elizabeth (Betsy) Cantwell, Senior Vice President for Research & Innovation 

CC: Senior Leadership Team, Sangita Pawar, John O’Neil, Lori Schultz 

Date: May 6, 2020 

Re: Guidance on Editing and Submitting New Waivers for Essential Research 


On April 1, Research, Innovation & Impact (RII) announced a plan to define “essential research” for the University of Arizona and provided a mechanism for continued laboratory and facility operations for activities approved as essential. We approved more than 500 waivers for ongoing research ranging from COVID-19 studies and student completion to critical agricultural production and sensitive equipment maintenance. 

RII is now transitioning the waiver process to allow PIs to edit their existing waivers and submit requests for new work, subject to the same definitions of essential activities. We will continue to revise this process in alignment with the university’s future plans and instruction from the governor. In light of the ongoing situation, please consider how you will continue to work in a limited capacity until university reopening plans can be implemented. 

Last week, Gov. Doug Ducey extended his March 30 stay-at-home order through May 15. Our de facto position—that all University of Arizona research is considered non-essential unless it has an approved waiver—continues and likely will extend at least a few weeks beyond the governor’s order as the university develops and implements plans to reopen. I will be issuing guidance on a rolling restart as we prepare to ramp research back up. Until then, operations must continue to be limited, with minimal personnel on-site. 

If you already have an approved waiver, you can proceed under those approved plans. The new process allows for edits if you have added other personnel or facilities to your research. If you are starting new research, please submit an “Essential Research Activities Waiver” for your new work to start. 

Edits to existing waivers and new submissions are subject to approval by your department head/director, associate dean for research, and me.

Essential research/activities may include: 

• Research involving humans, animals, and plants/crops 

• COVID-19 research (studies of COVID-19 and/or the treatment of patients with COVID-19) 

• Catastrophic loss (experiments that cannot be stopped immediately without irreplaceable loss of important cells, human and animal subjects, crops, materials, long-term data collection, equipment) 

• Significant harm to a long-term program, the continuity of which is essential 

• Student completion (requiring final experiments or continuous data collection by a student who is scheduled to graduate this semester) 

This Essential Research Activities Waiver request applies to research and scholarly activity in all university units—every college, department, program, center, institute, and museum. You may submit one waiver request for multiple laboratories, activities, or facilities if they all have common parameters. 

All research that is now and can continue to be 100% conducted in a remote manner without face-to-face interaction is automatically exempt from this guidance and may continue. 

Your health and safety, and that of your colleagues, staff, and students, are among our top priorities. All personnel who will be on campus in order to carry out essential research must follow CDC guidelines of social distancing. We strongly encourage any employee, staff, or student who feels coerced to work in an environment in which the CDC guidelines are not met to contact the Ethics and Compliance Hotline immediately. 

If you have a question about whether your research falls into an essential category, please submit the waiver. 

Designated Campus Colleagues (DCCs) who are not students, trainees, postdocs, or clinicians must not be allowed in any research laboratory or facility until further notice under any circumstances. DCCs who are students, trainees, postdocs, or clinicians must be part of a waiver request to be allowed in any research facility. 

Laboratory and Facility Shutdown 

As a reminder, research that was denied a waiver, work that has ended under an approved waiver, and non-essential research (voluntary or determined) laboratory or facilities, including a core facility, should be shut down following the Procedure for Temporary Laboratory Closure guidelines and checklist as outlined in the April 1 guidance. Other sources of coronavirus information include COVID-19 Guidance for Research Safety webpage and the university’s official Coronavirus webpage. Compliance requirements under the Human Subjects Protection Program, Research Laboratory & Safety Services, the Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee, and other university policies have not changed. 

If you have questions, please first contact your director, department head or associate dean of research. Most of all, please stay healthy and safe.