Updates and Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)
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COVID-19 Research Activity

Scaling Down Research Activity

In an effort to limit face-to-face interactions and keep faculty, staff, and students safe, the university has greatly reduced research and creative activities (limited to that which is absolutely necessary for student graduation, required maintenance, and to meet required milestones for externally sponsored programs). Researchers on campus were asked to develop contingency plans in the event that we should have to move from reduced to essential research only. These plans are under review by department heads, deans, and Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Matthew Mench but have not been implemented at this time.

It is important to note that the university has not shut down research or support operations but is encouraging researchers to continue their work remotely, if possible. We also ask the research community to perform meetings remotely and reduce gatherings as much as possible. Working on data analysis, report writing, publications, proposals, and other activities that can be performed remotely is highly encouraged. PIs are to work with students to determine opportunities to continue work remotely.

Submitting Proposals

The university encourages all researchers to continue to submit proposals and seek funding for research, scholarship, and creative activities. The Office of Research and Engagement is fully operational; staff are keeping regular business hours and maintain responsiveness online in order to provide support to the research community.

ORE has posted a list of COVID-19-related funding opportunities, which will be updated regularly as additional opportunities become available.

If you have any questions regarding the submission of proposals or sponsor guidelines, please contact the Office of Research and Engagement (research@utk.edu) or UTIA AgResearch Office (UTAgResearch@tennessee.edu).

Funded Research

  • Federally funded
    The Council on Governmental Relations has been compiling and updating guidance on their website from several of the federal agencies.
  • Non-federally funded
    Please contact either the UT Knoxville or UTIA Office of Sponsored Programs to discuss your specific project. We also recommend contacting your agency’s program officer to discuss questions regarding changes in the scope of work.

Ordering and Receiving Research Supplies

University printing and mail has issued guidelines on sending and receiving mail:

Mail Services will be responsible for the delivery and collection of all incoming and outgoing mail and packages for faculty, staff, and students. Due to the reduction in the number of people on campus, we are asking departments to cancel or delay any non-essential recurring shipments, where possible. This will better assist all involved since we have limited storage capacity to hold shipments for an indefinite time period.

All mail to UTIA offices, with the exception of mail to the College of Veterinary Medicine, is being held at mail services for pick up on demand.

All outgoing US Mail should be left (without stamps affixed) at a departmental mail drop, in a campus mail drop box or dropped off at Mail Services operations. The mail must be banded and identified with an “Instruction to Mail Room” form, which are available through your campus mail carrier.

If you have any questions about these processes, please email mailserv@utk.edu or call 974-5408.

Minimizing Spread of Virus if Working in Essential Research Functions

Working groups should reduce close contact within the workplace by using the following measures where possible.

  • Maintain a ‘social working distance’ of 6 feet from others.
  • Move to virtual meetings whenever possible.
  • Establish flexible work schedules to reduce the number of people working near each other on a given day at a given time.
  • Ask staff to work from home if possible. Research-related work could include, but is not limited to, preparation of manuscripts, analysis of data, review of papers, reading of literature, planning for grant applications, etc.

Field Research Activities

Information about conducting field research activities during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on the Research Facilities FAQ.

Experimental Work

Researchers can conduct new lab-based activity that can be completed in one or two days, but work that cannot be safely shut down in 1-2 days if a change to essential-only conditions is made (such as in the event of a rapid outbreak or state/federal order) should not be initiated at this time.

It is acceptable to start a sequence of work that can run for weeks and months, but only as long as it can be safely shutdown/ceased within one to two days during the sequence at any point.  If there is a sequence of work that runs for weeks to months that would be lost if stopped in the middle of the sequence, and a research group leader feels that it is extremely important to be able to initiate and continue said research if the university goes to essential-only research activity, PIs must work with their department heads to initiate a written exception request. A description of the need for the exception, and steps which will be taken to ensure safe operation must be approved at the department level, sent to the college for approval, and then to Matthew Mench, interim vice chancellor for research, (mmench@utk.edu) for approval.

Student Research

We remain flexible and creative in addressing the needs of our students to make progress toward degrees and meeting the needs of our research programs, while maintaining a maximum possible level of safety in our labs and shops. To achieve this outcome, we are seeking a significant reduction in on-campus lab and shop activity. The goal is to reduce activity as much as possible, with as few people as possible, while maintaining the ability to continue to complete required progress for the students and sponsors.

Graduate research assistants should continue to work on projects for which they are paid. Students should work with their supervisors to develop plans to continue the funded research, according to the research guidelines.

Will I Still be Paid?

Researchers (students and staff) who are under contract are still to perform research duties as assigned and will be paid accordingly. We suggest that, where possible, activities be performed remotely, students work away from campus and at home where possible, and lab directors and leadership to work to minimize student-to-student contact.


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