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Field Research

The intent of this standard operating procedure (SOP) is to minimize the risk of COVID-19 disease transmission and protect the health and safety of personnel conducting research activities at field sites. Failure to follow this SOP may result in suspension of field research.

No work can begin until approved by the department chair (or unit manager) and College Dean (or designee). If there are any required deviations from the SOP, these must be approved by the Research Office.

  1. Each returning researcher who has on-site supervision of graduate students, undergraduates, staff and/or postdocs are required to sign a pledge indicating that they will abide by the university, college, departmental and group plan, find the PI/Faculty Pledge here. Supervisors are encouraged to be flexible with their employees. More information regarding expectations can be found on the Employee Expectations page of WVU's return to campus website. 

  2. Standard Operating Procedures for Field Research include:

    1. List of all personnel that will be in the field should be shared with the department chair.

    2. Field research activities must be carried out in a safe way to prevent the spread of COVID 19 as much as possible. Each person on the team is expected to have a face mask and to use their mask at a minimum when they cannot physically distance from others by at least 6 feet.

    3. Field research must comply with the overall University guidelines for research – if they cannot comply they must outline why and non-compliance must be for safety reasons and not cost or convenience.

  3. If non-WVU agencies or research partners are actively engaged in the research, the research should be engaged using the guidelines that are the most stringent unless expressly permitted by the partner agencies.
  4. No one should participate in any field work if they are feeling ill or if any members of their household are experiencing flu-like symptoms. All participants must be provided with the University handout on the list of COVID symptoms that includes a link to the latest CDC guidelines and should self-isolate if experiencing any COVID symptoms.
  5. A log of each day’s activities should be recorded for potential contact tracing purposes.
    1. This log will include locations sampled, public or private venues accessed or visited, personnel in attendance, and any operation anomalies that may have occurred requiring assistance from persons outside the field crew (e.g. mechanical issues).

  6. We recommend that researchers develop a contingency plan for carrying on research if one or more personnel becomes sick or is no longer willing to risk conducting the research
  7. Both in-state and out-of-state travel are allowed. Please follow the university guidelines on travel.
    1. If traveling long distances, stops should only be made for fuel and restrooms. Sanitize and/or wash hands after these activities. Each person on the team should have their own hand sanitizer bottle clearly labeled with their name and bottles should not be shared. Hand washing with soap and water is an acceptable alternative and a highly encouraged practice every few hours.

  8. No more than two people may occupy the row of a vehicle to, from, and at the work site. Masks (i.e., cloth face coverings) are to be worn in vehicles when there is more than one person (unless said persons are already in the same household). If possible, travel with windows open. High touch areas (i.e., keys, door handles and steering wheel) must be disinfected before and after each trip and between drivers if there is a driver switch.
  9. All crew members should bring ample water/liquids and food for themselves in clearly labelled bottles and containers. No sharing of drinks or food is allowed.
  10. Upon the completion of the research all equipment must be disinfected and if safe to do so, should be disinfected during the day if multiple people are using the same piece of equipment.