Updates and Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)
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COVID-19 Research Update: June 30

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

Reduced Research Activity During Phase 2 Conditions

We understand that the recent restrictions to research activity have been difficult for researchers and laboratory personnel and appreciate the effort UT faculty, staff, and students have made to keep our community safe. Our focus at this time is on maintaining safety while avoiding damage to people’s research programs. If everyone working in a laboratory or research setting follows the safety guidelines in place, we will minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread among our campus community.

As a reminder, laboratory health safety plans must be in place and approved in order to conduct lab work. These plans should be updated when a) persons are added to the group of individuals working in a lab; b) there are any changes or additions to experimental work that affect health safety plans; or c) there are changes that would lead to persons working alone.

Remote work is still encouraged whenever possible, and the lab environment should not be used for activities that can instead occur off-campus.  Work in laboratories should continue to follow the approved health safety plan for the lab.

Requests for approval of long-term experiments—Should conditions related to the pandemic worsen, the research activity level for the university could rapidly decrease. Therefore, if a longer-term experiment is initiated that is unable to end in five days without loss of experimental results or purpose, investigators must submit a request to approve the continuation of a long-term experiment. Requests will be reviewed by appropriate departmental safety officers, department head, research center director and/or associate dean for research. If approved, the request will be considered by Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Matthew Mench (mmench@utk.edu) for final review and approval.

UT Core Facilities continue to be operational. Users must review and agree to the facility’s Health Safety Plan prior to usage. Please contact facility staff for information regarding availability and to receive a copy of the facility Health Safety Plan prior to booking instrument time or services. A full listing of facilities and contact information listed on the Research Facilities page of the COVID-19 Research FAQ.

Human Subjects Research—Effective March 18, 2020, the Human Research Protection Program designated that all research activities involving in-person contact with participants must be postponed or remain on hold unless a formal exception was granted based on a limited set of criteria. As the university is in Phase 2 of reopening, the process of requesting exceptions to resume in-person research has expanded to include a wider set of criteria:

  • Protocols that are critical to the treatment of a participant’s significant and life-threatening condition
  • Protocols that provide the potential for direct benefit to participants
  • Protocols studying COVID-19 that could provide beneficial information to the County and State Public Health Departments
  • Protocols that are off-site at other facilities (e.g. clinics, hospitals, etc.) that follow guidelines for reducing risk and exposure to COVID-19

For a full explanation of HRPP guidelines, visit irb.utk.edu/covid-19

Thank you all for your continued activity and effort to keep us all safe during this time.