Guide for staff & students engaged in research

The Government measures to restrict the spread of COVID-19 have resulted in the halting of most research projects which require access to the University’s campuses.

Since the beginning of the lockdown, an exception to this restriction has been made for COVID-19-related projects, given the key role of research in the fight against the virus.

Restarting research activities

The University is now planning a gradual return of research activities to our campuses.

Restarting research activities is a challenging exercise that will require a pragmatic approach. We must strike a balance between the need and desire to restart research, and the need to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff and students. We must also coordinate the priorities of restarting research with the priorities for space utilisation for teaching or other essential non-academic activities.

We appreciate that the research of our staff and students has been disrupted to varying degrees by the lockdown and that, right now, many of you will be concerned about the interruption to your work. We fully understand that for unavoidable reasons, over the past weeks, your research productivity will have been lower than you are comfortable with. Our aim is to restart as much of our research activity as we can, while preserving a safe working environment and ensuring a fair approach to prioritising the activities to restart.

Principles relating to phased approach to restarting research

Below we outline the principles and issues that specifically relate to the phased approach to restarting research on our campuses safely.

Consistency across the University will be achieved through this set of principles, which will be applied locally by Colleges, Schools and Research Institutes. We will evolve the information in this document based on emerging Government guidance and on consultation across the University, including with individuals who will be implementing the restart of research and with the campus trade unions.

We encourage researchers to use these principles to think about how they would restart their research activities safely. This consultation will feed into University-wide planning to help us to understand which activities we can support at any one time.

In planning the University’s phased restart of research activity, we will follow the Scottish Government’s route map for easing the lockdown. According to this route map:

  • on-campus University laboratory research and research activities that require access to campus-based facilities or other resources (e.g. archives) will restart in Phase 2, subject to physical distancing. 
  • all other research and University activities will commence in a phased restart in Phases 3 and 4, in line with public health measures.

We appreciate that a large amount of the University’s research is not laboratory-based, especially in the College of Arts and the College of Social Sciences. However, many of the safety concerns that we have to manage overall, and in the immediate future in particular, will relate to laboratory-based research activity. As such, the details of laboratory-based activity feature heavily below in our approach to planning.

a) Overarching principles

The principles in this section build on the University-level Principles. Responsibility for implementing the principles below is outlined in Section b.

  1. The health and safety of staff and research students is paramount. Government guidelines will be followed at all times, and physical distancing rules will remain in place, possibly for a long time. Health & Safety and maintenance checks will be undertaken on all facilities before reopening. University-wide induction briefings will be provided to everyone ahead of returning to work. These briefings will be augmented with local guidance outlining the requirements for the buildings to ensure that rules and responsibilities are clear.
  2. The return to campus will be gradual and phased. Access to the University will be restricted to ensure low building occupancy, driven by the need to protect colleagues. An equality impact assessment will be undertaken to ensure that decisions do not disadvantage any staff group.
  3. University buildings vary in their suitability for restarting research. In planning our return to campus, we will consider the capacity of washrooms, changing facilities and breakout spaces, ability to accommodate one-way systems, security arrangements, and the use of shared spaces, resources, or equipment.
  4. Arrangements will be made to avoid having excessive numbers of staff or research students on campus, in specific buildings, or in specific spaces at any given time. These arrangements might include locally-managed rotas, staggered start and finish times, one-way systems for corridors, managed access to lifts, strict policy on use of kitchen space and toilets and reformatting of social / break space to allow for use while maintaining appropriate distancing. Access to and exit from buildings will be managed to avoid congestion at certain times. Safety signage will be in place throughout the campus.
  5. We should not assume that working conditions will resemble pre-COVID-19 ones. It might be necessary to make different use of available space; for example, reallocating meeting rooms and large offices for teaching purposes or using lecture theatres for purposes other than mass lecturing.
  6. Remote working will remain the default option for those who are able to do so. In addition, all work at desks or computers should be undertaken from home. Even where research can be undertaken safely within buildings (e.g. in single-occupancy offices) consideration must be given to containing the concentration of staff or research students on campus in order not to jeopardise safety or place a strain on services. Priority for on-campus research at desks or computers will be given, for example, where temporary access to offices is required to collect or access materials that are only available on campus, and where colleagues cannot effectively work at home.
  7. Consideration will be given to individuals’ personal circumstances and whether they are able to safely return to work. Individual decisions about when to return to campus will be affected by several circumstances, including personal risk or risk to other household members, or caring responsibilities relating to COVID-19. Individuals who have returned to their home country might face challenges in returning to the UK to complete their research. We will also use a range of measures to minimise the need for staff to use public transport at peak times.
  8. A collegial approach will be required to ensure equitable support for research activities from University or College Services.

b) Implementing the principles

  • University-level policies will be followed regarding how to manage spaces in accordance with physical distancing requirements and exceptional use (or otherwise) of face coverings and other PPE, as well as other protective measures (such as checking the temperature of individuals on campus).
  • Criteria for prioritising which specific research activities will recommence will take into account several factors, including: the nature of the work (e.g. related to COVID-19); the ease of establishing safety and physical distancing requirements; the degree of disruption to the research activity; projects or funding that are near to completion.
  • Planning in each College will be undertaken as follows:
    • Each College will have a business partner within the University Estates team to support their preparations for return.
    • It is the responsibility of each College Management Group (CMG) to devise the best approach to ensuring safety in their local area, including which responsibilities to devolve to Schools/Research Institutes.
    • Similarly, CMGs will identify a local lead contact from the appropriate job family and at the appropriate organisational level (e.g in a School/Research Institute) to work with Estates to develop and implement local priorities and plans.
    • The local lead contact will develop a locally-managed risk assessment for each building (a COVID-19 specific template is available from H&S) that will be signed off by.
    • PIs will also conduct a separate COVID-19 risk assessment for individual laboratories/areas and activities. A risk assessment template is available from the University’s Safety and Environmental Service.
    • CMGs will decide on the best way to coordinate activities across the College to achieve coverage, consistency of approach, and to ensure that interdependencies are considered.

Expectations of PIs/area owners (e.g. lab owner, facility manager) at the planning stage

  • PIs will judge how to plan to restart the research activities in their laboratories/facilities, including the prioritisation of tasks. In making decisions, PIs might wish to take into account funding end dates, particularly where staff are supported by the funding and where PGR students are reaching the end of their studies.
  • PIs will be required to devise plans for the safe restart of their research using the principles in this document and the risk assessment template. Where work is undertaken in shared spaces, these plans should be developed jointly. The plans will be reviewed by the relevant School/ Research Institute and College to ensure that e.g. technical and other underpinning support can be equitably deployed.
  • Activities with a lead-in time that could be initiated early (during stage 2 in the table below) will be identified on a building by building basis.
  • PIs should plan for resuming non-COVID-19 research activity within a strictly limited occupancy level for their laboratory space.
  • In their planning, line managers and supervisors should include discussions with staff and PGR students about their personal circumstances and availability to return to campus
  • Line managers should take into account how personal circumstances might be accommodated by flexible working arrangements. This could include avoiding busy times for use of public transport, childcare responsibilities, having a medical condition or living with a person in an at-risk group for developing COVID-19.

Proposed staging of return




  • Local lead contacts to develop building management plans with support from Estates
  • Small-scale increase in specific building access to support ongoing COVID-19 research
  • Short-term access to buildings to collect or access materials that are available only on campus (e.g. from offices or desktop computers)
  • Health & Safety checks prior to scaled up reopening of buildings (a risk assessment template is available from the University’s Safety and Environmental Service)
  • Line managers/supervisors to check availability of staff and PGR students

To be agreed

  • Limited access to buildings and facilities e.g. for activities with a short lead-in time

To be agreed

  • Gradual phased return to agreed safe occupancy levels
  • Return is phased by building and will require sign-off in advance
  • Additional guidance for PIs relating to restarting specific types of research

CMG will be accountable for ensuring adherence to the area policies, and each College will devise and communicate how policies will be monitored and enforced in communal areas. Individuals will also have a personal responsibility, which will be outlined in the induction materials.

c) Additional guidance for PIs relating to restarting specific types of research

Wet laboratories

To comply with UK Government Guidance on social distancing, we will operate laboratories on a significantly reduced capacity.

Estates (working with Colleges where appropriate) are in the process of defining building level maximum occupancy levels, which will impact on the number of researchers allowed in at any one time.

In order to aid planning, it is recommended that you develop reopening plans based on a 20% capacity level. 

Access to Library/archival materials/research resources

Plans for accessing the Library will be guided by the University’s interpretation of Scottish Government advice. Opening of libraries is currently included in Phase 3 of the Scottish Government’s route map.

We hope to facilitate access for researchers to Library collections during the Summer (possibly from the end of June/beginning of July). It is unlikely that the Library building will be open at that point, but we expect to be able to offer a ‘click and collect’ service, or access to materials by appointment.

Researchers should contact their College Librarian for access to online content that will support research activities remotely.

Access to overseas sites (e.g. for fieldwork, access to research resources)

We are unable at present to state when it will be possible to commence travel. We will be guided  largely on this matter by government advice and will provide updates to researchers as information becomes available.

d) Mental health support

This is a very stressful time for all staff, students and their families.

Local managers are encouraged to direct staff and students to local support for mental health issues, as well as to the University-level assistance.

University assistance

1. PAM Assist

PAM Assist is an external and independent service, based in Glasgow, offered to all staff at the University of Glasgow. It is an independent and confidential resource available 24 hours a day to provide you with immediate support, information and guidance for any concern at work or in your personal life that is causing you some level of worry, anxiety of distress.

  • Contact PAM Assist on 0800 882 4102
2. Support for students

Big White Wall is a safe space online to  explore your feelings and learn how to improve and self-manage your mental health and wellbeing.

Big White Wall is:

  • Free to use by University of Glasgow students
  • Completely anonymous, meaning no one will know you have chosen to use it
  • Accessible 24/7 and provides online peer and professional support by trained counsellors