Field Research: Principles and Procedures for Restart

Last Updated: 16October2020

For Field Researching involving Non-Clinical Human Subjects, please also refer to the Non-Clinical Human Subjects Research section.

As Stanford begins a phased re-opening of campus, field research may be permitted with approval. All field work (research and academic course support) must follow the same process for approval as outlined in the section “Field Research Approval Process” of the Research Recovery Handbook.

The university will consider the threat posed by transmission of the coronavirus to the researcher and to the surrounding community in reviewing proposed field research activities. The safety of Stanford personnel and the local community remains the highest priority. It is acknowledged that addressing safety concerns may require additional costs and increased logistical complexity. Guidelines and best practices for mitigating COVID-19 related risk associated with typical field research activities can be found in the Field Research COVID-19 Prevention Best Practices. Deans may approve field research on a case-by-case basis, subject to travel restrictions, local restrictions at field sites, and the ability to adhere to the guidelines in the Field Research COVID-19 Prevention Best Practices. Field research that includes human subjects is not covered here and may be subject to additional restrictions and protocols. The permitted field research activities will generally follow the same stages of restart as the rest of the university. Undergraduate students will not be permitted to participate in field research during campus stages 0-2.

Campus Stage 1. Essential Research Functions and Minimum Basic Research Operations that were allowed in Stage 0 may continue. A limited number of additional activities may be allowed to prepare for resumption of some high-priority research projects that may be allowed to resume during Stage 2.

Campus Stage 2. Certain research that has a high priority due to the time sensitive nature of data collection, data type, or researcher status may resume at this stage. Research can be conducted by Stanford affiliates (with approval) following appropriate scheduling and safety procedures.

Campus Stage 3. Research can be conducted by any user (with approval) following appropriate scheduling and safety procedures. Details of Stage 3 are still tentative and may change at any time.


  • Stanford Field Stations
  • Local Field Research (<50 miles from a Stanford campus)
  • Local Field Research (<50 miles to researcher residence)
  • Field Research (involving travel >50 miles or overnight stays)

Section 1. Stanford Field Stations
Field research conducted at, and out of, Stanford facilities at Hopkins Marine Station and Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve should follow general principles similar to those that govern lab-based research on campus, suitably modified to fit field situations. Research activities must be approved, registered and scheduled, and safety plans for research activities must follow guidelines developed by the facilities and registered with the cognizant Director. Staging of return to research should follow the staging of the reopening of Stanford campus. For more details, see Research Recovery at Jasper Ridge or Hopkins Marine Station COVID-19 Field Research Protocols.

Section 2. Local Field Research (<50 miles from a Stanford Campus)
Field research that requires only local transportation (and no overnight lodging) should follow stages similar to those that govern lab-based research on campus. Transport to and from field sites should be conducted in ways that minimize the risk of virus transmission (e.g., only researchers from the same household should travel to and from the field site in the same vehicle). The researcher must present a fully documented, written plan for the research that specifies how their field work will adhere to the Stanford University Field Research COVID-19 Prevention Best Practices as well as any supplementary guidelines for activities not explicitly covered in the “Best Practices” document.

Section 3. Local Field Research (<50 miles from researcher residence)
Field research that requires only local transportation (<50 miles from the home of the researcher at any domestic or international location but more than 50 miles from a Stanford campus) may be permitted with approval. Researchers must ensure the work is in compliance with public health guidelines at the site of research. Where Stanford policies and local guidance differ, researchers must adhere to the more stringent policies. This research must also follow the same approval process noted above.

Section 4. Field Research (involving travel >50 miles or overnight stays)
Until further notice, any field research that involves travel >50 miles or overnight stays will generally not be permitted. Rare exceptions may be made. For more information on travel, please see the Recovery Handbook section on Travel and the Health Alerts Page for Stanford Travelers. This research must also follow the same approval process noted above.