COVID-19 Guidelines for Research, Scholarly, and Sponsored Program Activities
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
We continue to face challenges associated with COVID-19 infection rates in our region. Prior to the Fall 2020 semester, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research issued guidelines to ensure safe engagement in research, scholarly, and sponsored program activities. For the most part, these guidelines are anticipated to be in place throughout the Spring 2021 semester; however, please note that further guidance from state or local governments and from UTC’s Chancellor may supersede this guidance during this dynamic time. Check UTC’s Covid-19 Information Page for additional information.
To protect the health and well-being of our employees, students, and the general public while fulfilling our critical educational and research mission, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga via the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research has adopted the following guidance concerning Research, Scholarly, and Sponsored Program Activities. Priorities of this policy are: (1) protect the health and well-being of employees, students, collaborators, and research subjects; (2) care for animals and plants grown under certain conditions; (3) maintain and protect UTC’s research resources and infrastructure; and (4) support essential/critical research.
Research Involving Human Participants
- Research that requires in-person / face-to-face (F2F) interaction between participants and researchers continues to be suspended based on the current severity of the pandemic. Additional information regarding the rationale for research restrictions during the pandemic, the criteria that will be used to assess each protocol, and guidance regarding the review process can be found on the UTC Institutional Review Board website.
- For research activities embedded in coursework, faculty should eliminate any requirements for students to conduct in-person data collection or other activities resulting in F2Finteraction with research participants. Faculty are encouraged to maintain rigor in teaching research design and methodologies but to avoid requiring, as part of graded coursework or assignments, students to engage inF2F, in-person interactions with research participants. Avoiding direct interactions will minimize risk to students and research participants and remove barriers to changes in course modalities should those become necessary during the semester. There may be extenuating circumstances related to research conducted in the context of student placements or internships; such studies may be eligible for an exception if the research does not increase virus transmission risk between researchers and participants. Guidance regarding how to request an exception can be found on the UTC Institutional Review Board website.
On-Campus Research, Scholarly, and Sponsored Program Activities
- Faculty, staff, and students engaged in research, scholarly, and/or sponsored program activities authorized by UTC must adhere to UTC Health & Safety protocols when performing work or conducting research on behalf of UTC on- or off-campus. Appropriate face coverings and use of PPE, social distancing, and sanitation procedures should be followed at all times.
- Upon arrival to laboratories, studios, or other campus facilities, all participants should immediately implement social distancing and sanitation practices that are suitable for the location. Normally, social or physical distancing would mean allowing a minimum of 6 feet of distance from another person. Allowing additional distancing space is strongly recommended for individuals who will be in sustained proximity. In other words, the longer you are in a space, the more distance is required to minimize the risk of disease transmission.
- Limit working group size to maintain groups as small as possible - generally not exceeding ten people – while practicing social distancing. Keep in mind that many of the activities conducted in laboratories, studios, and/or related facilities are safer when at least two people work together. Proposed research, scholarly, and/or sponsored activities involving more than 10 individuals in F2F contact (excluding students enrolled in and attending regular class and lab sessions) require approval via the COVID-19 Research Approval Form and may require additional approvals for facilities usage depending on the location.
- Group activities that bring visitors on campus (e.g., trainings, workshops, camps, etc.) are generally discouraged and must comply with the Interim Covid-19-Related Policies established by the institution. Campus stakeholders are strongly encouraged to consider utilizing Zoom or other modalities rather than F2F gatherings due to the risk of spreading COVID-19. For events that are part of a grant- or contract-sponsored program, contact ORSP ([email protected]) to discuss options. If is not practicable to carry out group activities as proposed, it may be possible to get an end-date extension, waiver, approval for a change in your project scope or strategy, or similar accommodation.
- For sponsored projects, PIs are responsible for completing and submitting all required reports in a timely manner. If project activities cannot be maintained, please notify ORSP staff for assistance. All campus rules should be followed in the conduct of sponsored program activity whether on- or off-campus.
Off-Campus Research, Scholarly, or Sponsored Activities
- All employees (including student employees, graduate assistants, etc.) will be expected to adhere to UTC health & safety protocols when performing work on behalf of the University at off-site locations. If the off-site location has more stringent protocols in place, then those must be followed by the UTC employee when at the alternate site. Consult the Interim Covid-19-Related Policies for details.
- For fieldwork or other remote research/scholarly activity, faculty should coordinate and manage student and staff travel to external sites to ensure the most current rules and policies are followed. Department Chairs, Deans, and the Vice Chancellor for Research should be contacted prior to travel to external sites to discuss and secure approval for planned work. In addition, please consult & comply with the travel restrictions and requirements included in the Interim Covid-19-Related Policies.
- Minimize group travel whenever possible. When travel is unavoidable, consider traveling to and from each external or field site with a maximum of two people per vehicle utilizing PPE or in separate vehicles; vehicle surfaces should be disinfected, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), handwashing/sanitizer, and other recommended safety practices are expected for any university-related travel.
COVID-19 Research Approval Form