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

As the state of Illinois manages the COVID-19 response, NIU has developed some guidance to assist researchers who conduct human subject research activities. This information can and may change depending on the mitigations, tiers, and phases the state declares.

Below, ORCIS lays out guidance for researchers who are considering returning to face-to-face data collection with human research participants.

In summary:

  • Face-to-face data collection is permissible
  • Face-to-face data collection must follow state, local, and university guidelines for human interaction

Important Considerations

  • This is a fluid situation; therefore, it is important to check the RIPS website regularly for possible changes to this guidance.


Verbal or written pre-screening is required prior to face-to-face contact with participants on campus. Adding a 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:
    • Cough.
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
    • Chills.
    • Repeated shaking with chills.
    • Muscle pain.
    • Headache.
    • Sore throat.
    • Loss of taste or smell.
    • Diarrhea.
    • 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.
  • Wear masks – labs must provide masks and gloves to participants if requested.
  • Social distancing – maintain a distance of 6 feet (unless the research requires brief contact).
  • 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.

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.

Please contact Patty Wallace at in ORCIS with any questions.


Contact Us

Research, Compliance, Integrity and Safety
Shannon Stoker, director

Patty Wallace