Updates and Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)
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COVID-19 Research Update: April 20, 2020

Memo from Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Matthew Mench regarding research continuity during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.

Continued Status of Reduced Campus Research Activities

Laboratory activities should be limited to those which are necessary for

  • Student graduation
  • Regular maintenance
  • Meeting required milestones for externally sponsored programs.

New lab-based activity that can be completed in one or two days may also occur, but long-term continuous activities that cannot be shut down over 1-2 days should not be initiated at this time. For cases where there may be a need to initiate longer-term research activity to meet these needs, PIs should 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 should first be approved at the department level, sent to the college for approval, and then to me (mmench@utk.edu) for VCR approval.

  • Undergraduates are allowable in the labs if they are required to conduct reduced research activities, and are housed off campus in non-University accommodation.
  • Hiring of Research Personnel is permitted as long as the resources used are coming from external sources.  However, ALL searches must now be approved through the exception process, regardless of funding.  For research, as long as they are 100% funded from external resources, they will be permitted.
  • Do not use Zoom for conferencing for projects that are export controlled, ITAR-related, or involve controlled unclassified information (CUI).  OIT is working on an alternative, please check with your collaborators and funding program for allowable communication software.
  • Please continue to operate any lab work safely, with continued social distancing, staggered scheduling, and proper hygiene and other PPE where appropriate for laboratory-based work.
  • Pursuing lab-based research off campus
    There should be no transfer of equipment off campus outside of basic computer and connectivity equipment without first acquiring approval through the Exception Request Form. Note that exceptions will be very limited, and only for cases where the personnel will face a sufficiently reduced risk by moving the laboratory-based research off campus. In some limited cases, temporary transfer of some items could be approved to facilitate safe research.
  • Guidance for conducting field research during the COVID-19 pandemic
    To ensure the safety of field personnel during the present pandemic, UT has developed guidelines for conducting field research activities while reducing risk and exposure to COVID-19. If you wish to continue existing fieldwork projects or initiate new field research, you must submit a plan requesting fieldwork approval.