The College of Education (COE) is following guidance by the Vice President for Research (VPR) to restart research. The VPR has worked with the Associate Deans for Research to develop a multi-level approach to manage access to research offices and laboratories and to shared/core facilities for human subjects and animal research. For a description of each Research Level, please download the Resuming Research Operations at UT-Austin PDF from the VPR's COVID-19 site. For additional information about restarting research, you should download the PI Research Restart Toolkit PDF on the VPR's website
- Overarching Goal
To keep everyone safe, while increasing research activity in a phased approach as safety becomes easier to maintain.
- Guiding Principles
Principle 1. Follow public health guidelines from authorities.
Principle 2. Resume research activities in alignment with the executive UT campus response to COVID-19.
Principle 3. Protect the overall health and safety of our human research subjects and our UT community.
Principle 6. Comply with ethical and legal requirements, as well as guidelines imposed by the sponsors of funded research.
Principle 7. Protect the careers of early-stage researchers, including assistant professors, post-docs and graduate students nearing completion of their degrees.
Principle 8. Ensure as rapid a research restart as public health and logistical conditions permit, while remaining agile in anticipation of a resurgence of COVID-19.
Principle 9. All research and research meetings that can be conducted remotely should be conducted remotely until the campus is 100% open.
Principle 10: Graduate students have the right to decline to return to on-campus research without fear of retaliation or retribution.
Principle 12: We will work as assertively as possible within public health guidelines to ensure that COE researchers resume critical human subjects research that impacts the educational and health needs and outcomes of children, families, schools, and communities in the post-COVID-19 environment.
- Research Restart Committee
The College of Education has convened a Research Restart Committee. This committee, headed by the interim Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Studies (ADRGS) includes the Chairs from all five COE departments, the Director of Data, Assessment, and Evaluation, the KHE Executive Assistant, and two members who are appointed as Building Coordinators and who will work with the interim ADRGS to monitor occupancy in the two COE on-campus buildings. The Building Coordinator for Bellmont Hall is Mandy Salinas and for the Sánchez Building Coordinator is Tino Garza.
The Research Restart Committee will review Research Restart applications from researchers and make recommendations to Dean Martinez for research that will restart at each Research Level. Dean Martinez will make the final approval decisions.
- Occupancy/Workforce Limits
During the Research Levels, there will be limits on the number of occupants in research spaces. The purpose of occupancy limits is to assure that proper social distancing is maintained within all research spaces/laboratories, and also throughout the COE buildings. These limits may be relaxed as UTs capacity for testing increases, and as the number of COVID-19 cases in the community decreases.
During Level 3, 30%-40% of a researcher’s personnel (i.e., graduate students and other researchers) can resume on-campus activities. However, there are also social distancing requirements: Only 1 research personnel is allowed in every 200 square feet of a research office/laboratory. Individual researchers may, therefore, need to prioritize the research projects they will resume and the research personnel who are working on-campus in their research spaces. The COE may also have to prioritize the projects that resume on-campus activity in cases where there are applications for more research projects to be resumed than we can accommodate given the occupancy limits across each of the buildings. See the COE Research Restart Website for how we will prioritize research.
The following criteria will be used by the COE to prioritize projects:
- Research by early-stage investigators.
- Research by graduate students nearing completion of a degree.
- Externally funded research that is time-sensitive (e.g., must collect post-intervention data, subsequent wave of data in a longitudinal study, or COVID-19-related data collection, etc.).
- Non-funded research that is time-sensitive (e.g., must collect post-intervention data or subsequent wave of data in a longitudinal study, or COVID-19-related data collection, etc.).
- Occupancy/Workforce Management
Given the occupancy limits and social distancing requirements, you might not be able to have your research personnel on campus at the same time. In this case, you may split the 30-40% of research personnel by creating daily shifts to increase social distancing. For example, some personnel can work during shift 1 and the remainder during shift 2. Shifts can occur between 6 am and 10 pm, but COE buildings will be closed from 10 pm-6 am for custodial services to clean common areas in a safe environment. If you use shifts, you must build-in time to disinfect high-touch surfaces in the research space before, during and after the work shifts.
The UT Health and Wellness Working Group recommends splitting research personnel into two cohorts that work on rotating, two-week schedules. Cohort A works on-campus for 14 days, then works from home for 14 days while Cohort B works on-campus. This 14-day remote work period slows the spread of the virus by enabling each cohort to self-isolate while monitoring themselves for COVID-19 symptoms. Importantly, the sum of researchers working across all cohorts cannot exceed the target occupancy/workforce number of 30-40% for Level 3.
Prohibited Methods to Occupancy and Workforce Management
- A cohort model with an interval of less than two weeks is prohibited.
- Using daily shift work to exceed the target occupancy number for a given Research Level is prohibited. Researchers may use shift work to increase social distancing among their research personnel, but the sum of the research personnel working across daily shifts cannot exceed the target occupancy/workforce number for that Research Level. For instance, the target occupancy during Level 3 is 30%-40% of your total lab workforce.
Bellmont Hall and Sánchez Building Hours of Operation
To allow custodial staff to adequately clean common areas in a safe environment, Bellmont Hall and Sánchez Building will be open only from 6 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Face coverings must be worn inside COE buildings at all times unless working, eating, or drinking in a single-occupancy office. See the VPRs Research Restart Toolkit for information about different types of face coverings.
Researchers are responsible for sanitizing/cleaning their own offices. Custodial staff will not enter individual research spaces to clean/sanitize these. See the VPRs Research Restart Toolkit for proper cleaning and sanitation of offices.
All researchers are responsible for keeping a log of individuals that enter their research offices/labs. These logs should be updated daily with the contact information for each individual. See the VPRs Research Restart Toolkit for more information about contact tracing.
Symptom Tracking, Self-Monitoring, and Illness in Research Personnel
To help protect the public and our community against the spread of COVID-19, we recommend that all researchers perform a daily symptom assessment before coming to campus. Before coming to work, researchers should take their temperature with a thermometer each day. If their temperature is 99.6° Fahrenheit or higher, they should stay home. Researchers should also monitor for coughing and respiratory complications and stay home if they occur. Call a doctor or use UT’s telehealth options if symptoms are a concern. Researchers must notify the Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Studies if any research personnel have COVID-19 symptoms or are diagnosed with COVID-19. See the VPRs Research Restart Toolkit for more information.