COVID-19 Guidance for Resuming Face-to-Face Human Subjects Research Activities

The COVID-19 pandemic is a fluid situation and this guidance is subject to change. It is drafted under current CDC and state of Illinois guidelines and will be updated accordingly. This webpage was last updated on August 11, 2021.


All NIU employees, students and guests, whether vaccinated or not, are required to wear masks indoors. The only exception to this is for individuals alone in their private work or living spaces.

If research cannot be performed while wearing a mask (i.e need to observe facial expressions) the researcher may contact the Office of Research Compliance, Integrity, and Safety (ORCIS) who will try to obtain an exemption though this may not always be possible. If an exemption cannot be obtained ORCIS will work with the researcher to develop a plan to cause the least impact to the research. If a mask must be briefly removed (i.e. saliva swab) no exemption is needed and this research may proceed.

Social Distancing

There is no limit on the number of individuals who may be in one space at a time but, it is at the supervisor's discretion if they want to limit the number of people.

It is recommended to stay six or at least three feet apart if possible. Unvaccinated individuals are required to stay six feet apart. If they are in a smaller laboratory space than three feet apart is appropriate. While this may be difficult to enforce supervisors should be aware of this regulation.

Vaccination Status

Researchers may collect information about vaccination status including requesting proof of vaccination. In addition, researchers may require a vaccination as part of the eligibility requirements for a study.

Laboratory Reopening

If a principal investigator/laboratory supervisor has not done so already, please register your lab in InfoEd prior to reopening. There is training that must be taken prior to registering your laboratory. Read more about laboratory reopening guidelines.

Research Conducted in External Settings (not on NIU campus)

Researchers collecting data from human participants at established institutions (e.g., clinics, schools, prisons) must follow the external institution's policies for interactions with others.


Verbal or written pre-screening is required prior to face-to-face contact with participants on campus. Adding screening to a protocol does not require IRB approval.

Researchers will need to ensure that participants:

  • Have not received a diagnosis of COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
  • Have not had close contact with someone with a lab-confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis in the past 14 days.
  • Do not exhibit any of the following COVID-19 symptoms:
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
    • Repeated shaking with chills.
    • Muscle pain.
    • Sore throat.
    • Loss of taste or smell.
    • Fever (temperature of 100 or greater).

Required precautions when conducting face-to-face data collection

  • Self-screening: researchers should be aware of their own symptoms and exposure.
  • Wash and sanitize hands frequently.

Contact Tracing

Researchers must keep a list of all participants who came to their lab and who interacted with them.

If there are additional questions or concerns regarding face-to-face research or laboratory reopening please contact Shannon Stoker at

Contact Us

Research, Compliance, Integrity and Safety
Shannon Stoker, director

Patty Wallace