Research reactivation planning

May 22, 2020

Dear Cornellians,

For the past four weeks, the Research and Operations Reactivation Committee, comprising faculty, staff and students, has worked to develop a set of recommendations to guide the safe restart of the university’s critical research and discovery enterprise. The goal was to have a workable plan in place to enable our faculty to do the things that they do best – discover, create and innovate – as soon as New York state provided the requisite approvals.

We are pleased to be able to share with you the final committee report, as well as the welcome news that we have been cleared by the state to restart some of our research activities, albeit in a staged, limited manner. Specifically, research that is related to health and disease, agriculture/food, and national defense, and in support of other essential businesses, can begin in a limited manner as soon as May 29; however, buildings must be cleared for restart, sufficient protective equipment must be available for all personnel and individual lab plans must receive departmental and college approvals before research can resume. It is also important to note that because the pandemic has impacted different regions of the state to varying degrees, this first stage of research reactivation excludes activities in New York City.

We encourage you to review the committee’s report, which lays out a plan that faculty must follow in order to obtain explicit approval to restart their research operations. The plan includes comprehensive safety measures that will need to be in place prior to reopening. Importantly, as individual faculty plans are approved, staff and graduate students who are associated with those research facilities will be notified by faculty; until you are contacted, you should assume that you will continue to work remotely. The default option for all of our Phase One restart activities continues to be that those who can productively work from home should continue to do so. Moreover, only those faculty, staff and students who are already in Ithaca and Geneva (or in the direct vicinity of their field research) will be able to return to their labs. The report makes clear that individuals who would need to return from other geographic locations will need to self-quarantine before they may return to Cornell facilities.

While the first stage of academic reactivation will be limited to the areas of research described above, subsequent stages of reactivation will include a more general return to research and scholarly activities on campus, including creative and artistic practices. We look forward to being able to restart these additional research and scholarly programs and facilities over the coming weeks, as New York state clears additional restart phases for our regions.

We thank the many faculty, staff and students who worked to develop this comprehensive plan under an extremely tight timeline. We look forward to continuing to update you on our ongoing restart deliberations and are excited to see many of you, in person, over the coming weeks and months.


Michael Kotlikoff

Joanne DeStefano
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Emmanuel Giannelis
Vice Provost for Research