In order to maintain research operations at Montana State University during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of the Vice President for Research, Economic Development and Graduate Education has defined research operation levels for the university.

See frequently asked questions about research and graduate education.

Current Status

MSU is currently operating at Level 2.

Laboratories and research units may voluntarily proceed to higher levels proactively if their circumstances warrant.

Levels of Research Operations

Level 0

  • Normal operations.

Level 1: Caution and Preparation for Modified Operations

  • Social distancing (i.e., 6 ft perimeter) required.
  • Teleworking encouraged when possible. Work with supervisor and HR for approval.
  • Consider slowing down and/or temporarily halting data acquisition if possible.
  • If you cannot reasonably slow down or halt a study, develop a written plan you would propose to manage during Level 2 research operations. 
  • These written plans do not need to be formally submitted during Level 1, but you are encouraged to consult with your supervisor, staff and/or the Office of Research Compliance with questions. Plan Template available as Appendix A.
  • Consider key laboratory functions or field work that must remain in working order for your research to survive a prolonged shutdown (e.g., cell lines, animal colonies, transgenic lines, equipment needing liquid nitrogen, etc.).
  • Consider mitigation plans to prevent loss of critical supplies, reagents and other materials.
  • Determine if you can work without certain shared resources being available on campus (i.e., mail services, fiscal shared services, janitorial work, routine pick-ups, etc.).
  • Consider working with IT proactively to ensure access to data remotely.

Level 2: Modified Operations with Approved Exceptions

  • Lab or field-work research slowdown or shutdown plan (or exemption from slowdown) submitted to department head or director and Office of Research Compliance within 24 hours of the announcement of Level 2.
  • This plan must designate no more than three lab members as essential staff.
  • This plan must outline procedures (e.g., rotations, driving separate vehicles, etc.) to ensure social distancing.
  • No new experiments, unless approved by Office of Research Compliance.
  • Essential experiments allowed under guidance of an approved plan (see Appendix A) – those experiments that, if discontinued, would generate significant financial or data loss.
  • All research buildings will be locked and should only be accessed by the PI and lab members designated as essential staff.  Do not prop open any doors or allow anyone that is non-essential to piggyback in.
  • Maintenance and access of key shared resources continue under appropriate guidelines and approved plans (i.e., animals, plants, cell lines, liquid nitrogen, etc.)

Level 3: Mandatory Shutdown with VPREDGE-approved Exceptions

  • Mandatory laboratory and field-work shutdown for all research labs, unless designated by the Office of Research Compliance and the Office of the Vice President for Research, Economic Development, and Graduate Education.
  • Initiate the Outbreak Response Operations for the Animal Resources Center ABSL1 and ABSL2, Jutila Research Laboratory ABSL3, and the Johnson Family Livestock Facility ABSL2.  For additional details for animal care, refer to ARC Human Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan that was distributed on Feb 28, 2020.

Level 4: Mandatory Shutdown with Presidential-approved Exceptions

  • Mandatory laboratory and field-work shutdown for all research labs, unless designated by the Office of Research Compliance, the Office of the Vice President for Research, Economic Development, and Graduate Education, and the Office of the President.
  • Maintain and modify as needed the Outbreak Response Operations for the Animal Resources Center ABSL1 and ABSL2, Jutila Research Laboratory ABSL3, and the Johnson Family Livestock Facility ABSL2.  For additional details, refer to ARC Human Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan that was distributed on Feb 28, 2020.

Response Planning

Available for download below is a document listing the Research Operations levels above with an appendix containing a template that researchers can use to plan in case the university needs to proceed to levels 2-4.

Download: Research Operation Levels during COVID-19 pandemic (.docx file)

Information current as of March 27, 2020.