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 Plans and Levels at UT-Austin PDF from the VPR's Research Restart website.
We are currently in Research Level 3, which allows for all non-human subjects, non-contact research to be conducted on campus. Beginning September 23, 2020, principal investigators may apply to resume certain types of human subjects research that have been paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Efforts to resume human subjects research will follow the principles outlined in UT’s Research Restart plan but also require attention to new issues, including informed consent of participants, required processes for COVID-19 screening and positive test notification, and assessment of COVID-19 transmission risk as well as potential benefits to study participants.
- Required Steps to Restart or Begin Human Participant Research
You must do the following in preparation to reactivate or begin face-to-face human participant interactions in the College of Education:
- Carefully review UTs Human Subjects Research Restart Plan and Research FAQs.
- Identify the Activation Tier for each study you wish to apply to resume by referring to the Human Research Activation Tier Framework. Only Research that falls into Tiers A, B, or C can be resumed or begin on September 23, 2020. Principal investigators may modify (with appropriate IRB and sponsor approvals) features of the study to reduce risk and thus change the Activation Tier of the study.
- Prepare a plan for how you will mitigate virus transmission risk if performing face-to-face human subjects research. A description of your plan will be required as part of your activation application.
- For research performed in shared-use (core) facilities, contact the director or lead of the facility to understand and plan for the facility’s specific operational requirements. Shared-use facilities may have more stringent protocols than the universal guidelines set forth in this document.
- Consider how resumption of human subjects research will impact the density of research personnel in on-campus research spaces. As a part of your activation application, research personnel working in on-campus facilities must be approved to work in an assigned research cohort determined by their buildings' research operations schedule. Contact COE's Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Studies with questions about current building operations.
- Apply to resume human subjects research: Use the COE Human Subjects Research Restart Form
- Prepare your study team to adhere to policies for human subjects research and general UT policies for research operations during COVID-19.
- Ensure that you have the necessary PPE for human participant interactions.
- Carefully review UTs Human Subjects Research Restart Plan and Research FAQs.
- Research Restart Committee
The College of Education has convened a Research Restart Committee. This committee, headed by the Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Studies, includes the chairs from all five COE departments; the director of Data, Assessment, and Evaluation; the Kinesiology and Health Education executive assistant; and two Building Coordinators who will work with the ADRGS to monitor occupancy in the two COE on-campus buildings. The building coordinators are Mandy Salinas for Bellmont Hall and John Smart for the Sánchez Building.
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.
Currently, 50% of a researcher’s personnel (i.e., graduate students and other researchers) can resume on-campus activities. However, there are also social distancing requirements. 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 college 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.
The following criteria will be used 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 50% 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 p.m. - 6 a.m. 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 50%.
Prohibited Methods to Occupancy and Workforce Management
- A cohort model with an interval of fewer 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 3B is 50% 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 VPR's 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 VPR's 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 VPR's 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 VPR's Research Restart Toolkit for more information.