Current Research Operations

Will I continue to have access to my research building?

  • Laboratories on campus are currently in a maintenance-only mode of operation, unless the research group has been granted a limited essential activity exemption by the Office of Research. Access is restricted to personnel who are necessary to maintain our research enterprise and to provide essential support services. These access restrictions are in place until further notice.
  • When entering research buildings, all personnel must sign in with the Public Safety Officer (PSO) and present their building credentials. Personnel must sign out upon leaving the building.
  • PIs and supervisors should be setting the expectation that all personnel work remotely, unless there is a critical task that must be performed in the lab or from the office. Please refer to the main COVID-19 page for more information.

Where can I find agency specific information and guidance regarding COVID-19?

What if I or any of the members in my research group are unable to come to campus due to reasons related to COVID-19?

  • Anyone experiencing symptoms of illness should stay home. The University will make accommodations for students, faculty and staff concerned about exposure to COVID-19 because of their health, age, or other factors or who are unable to return to campus due to self-isolation. Personnel needing modified or flexible work alternatives should contact their supervisor or laboratory PI. This includes graduate students in research laboratories who need accommodations. If laboratory personnel (graduate students, postdocs, technicians) do not have a reason to be on site at the University laboratories for mission critical data collection, then they are encouraged to work from home.

What about my research travel? What is allowed by UTD and how is canceled travel handled on sponsored projects?

  • UT Dallas has suspended all University-related domestic and international travel. The University continues to strongly discourage personal international travel as well. If you are returning from any international destination, you will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon your return. Please consult with the Office of International Risk and Safety.
  • As documented in the COGR guidance Opens in a new tab., if a traveler has charged (e.g., through prepayment or a travel advance) an airline ticket or other travel cost to a sponsored project and then that trip is later canceled, the credit must accrue to the sponsored project (see 2 CFR 200.406). Some airlines are offering full refunds for trips that need to be cancelled due to COVID-19; in these instances, the refund should accrue to the grant, either directly through the institution’s travel system or via reimbursement from the traveler. If a traveler cancels a trip and accrues a credit on their personal account, the traveler should follow institutional policy for how to track and manage the credit.
  • Guidance for travelers from countries planning to visit or returning from an area with community spread of COVID-19 is available from the CDC website Opens in a new tab..

How can I support my graduate students and postdocs to continue their research? Can I still pay them on my project?

  • Principal Investigators and research managers should work with each of their students and postdoctoral trainees to develop a personalized plan that allows each person to conduct research remotely to the fullest extent possible, e.g., performing data analysis, literature review, modeling and computation, writing manuscripts and applications, and planning. If the individual is working remotely and still contributing to a sponsored project the expense may still be charged to the sponsored project.
  • In response to local shelter in place guidance, we are in a maintenance-only mode of research operations. If essential lab work continues, it is expected that standard protocols regarding social distancing, hygiene and personal protective equipment use (as required per lab) must be followed without exception.

What guidance should I provide to the international postdocs, graduate students and researchers in my research group?

  • Due to the changing nature of U.S. immigration policy, the rapidly evolving COVID-19 outbreak and its impacts on global travel, the Office of International Risk and Safety does not recommend international travel. Please visit its website for any updated information.
  • Any students returning from international travel need to contact the Dean of Students office prior to returning to campus. A 14-day self-quarantine period will be necessary.

Can I ask for a no-cost extension from my sponsor?

  • Researchers should document the actual impact of COVID-19 on the progress of their grants to provide substantiation for any future no-cost extension request. It is not known if agencies will consider longer-than-normal no-cost extensions or multiple no-cost extensions in this situation, but no-cost extensions covered under expanded authorities will still be available for federal awards.

Can I bring visitors to UT Dallas research groups and facilities?

  • No. Please move all of your meetings and consultations online.

What guidelines apply to visiting scholars and visiting student researchers?

  • Note that UT Dallas visiting scholars and researchers on campus must follow all the University’s COVID-19 guidance, including regarding working remotely.
  • Visiting Scholars/Visiting Student Researchers scheduled to arrive on campus: Please consult with the Office of International Risk and Safety.

What about research involving human subjects?

  • Face-to-face human subject research that does not benefit the participant directly must be paused immediately. If the study design allows transitioning to an online or telecommunication medium, the Institutional Review Board (IRB) Office will accept modifications to such projects for continuation of data collection. 
  • Federal regulations state that the IRB must review and approve any changes to an approved study prior to initiation, unless it is necessary to avoid imminent hazards to subjects. The IRB Committee will work diligently to review and process protocols as expeditiously as possible.
  • The IRB staff and IRB Committee are fully operational and working remotely. All IRB email addresses continue to be monitored with the same or greater frequency. The IRB staff will be available via phone and email during normal business hours.
  • If you have questions about whether a study provides direct benefit or may require assistance with a modification request, email [email protected].

Are there special considerations for filing an invention disclosure or a request to send or receive tangible materials for my research?

  • The Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) is fully operational and is working remotely. Complete the Technology Disclosure Form and submit it to [email protected].
  • Material transfer agreements for tangible materials to be sent from and to campus will continue to be negotiated and signed. It is unclear if service delivery disruptions will occur or if special measures will be taken by shipping and receiving units to manage or inspect the contents of shipments.

What guidelines do I or any members of my research group have to follow before engaging in COVID-19 research?

  • All principal investigators must register their protocols with the Institutional Biosafety and Chemical Safety Committee (IBCC) prior to performing any coronavirus research or work on campus (including to help state and federal agencies to screen patient samples). This includes requesting or accepting COVID-19 samples (patient or otherwise).

Planning for Research Continuity

What time frame should I plan for, and what assumptions should I make? Updated 5/19

  • Laboratories on campus are currently in a maintenance-only mode of operation through May 25, with the possibility of further extension.
  • The deadline to request exceptions to the maintenance-only mode to pursue of essential research was Monday, May 18.
  • Currently, plans are in place to resume limited, up to 25%, on-site research activity throughout the University on Tuesday, May 26. For example, in a laboratory with eight assigned students/staff, the maximum number of people allowed in the lab at a time would be two individuals, plus one PI. These individuals must be appropriately socially distanced, using face masks in public areas of buildings and practicing good hygiene.
  • During the limited on-site research phase, laboratory building access should be dedicated toward data collection, whereas data analyses, group meetings, manuscript preparation, etc. should continue to be performed remotely. For the time being, no undergraduates will participate in on-site research activities. More details about the process, which includes completion of a required training module, daily health surveys, and use of a reservation system for scheduling, will be made available soon. Guidance for human subjects research will be communicated through the IRB.

Can I access my on-campus space to perform required, periodic maintenance of specialized laboratory equipment or support functions?

  • The Office of Research prefers that you do not return to on-campus buildings for laboratory support, if at all possible. In some cases, our safety team has planned with you to handle basic equipment maintenance operations, and we are happy to provide this service as needed. Please contact [email protected] to arrange for our team’s support of basic maintenance procedures. The LARC is also available to support your needs in regard to animal health and welfare.
  • For specialized laboratory maintenance operations, it may be necessary for you to access your space on a limited, infrequent basis to perform critical equipment support functions, control system verification, stabilization of preserved biological/chemical models, or similar short-term tasks required to sustain specialty laboratory systems. If you must access your lab space for this reason, please adhere to the following guidelines: 
    • Maintenance support personnel for each lab should be limited to one lab member. It is preferred that faculty/staff members perform on-campus laboratory maintenance activities. However, if it is necessary to designate a graduate student to perform the maintenance activity, the physical and mental well-being of the student must not be at risk. Under no circumstances should graduate students be coerced or compelled to be in the lab under present conditions. Undergraduate students should not be designated to access laboratory spaces.
    • Ensure that your laboratory visits are as short as possible and are conducted during the hours of 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday only so that safety and security in the laboratory areas can be supported.
    • Without exception, adhere to current CDC guidance for protecting yourself and others Opens in a new tab., including standard protocols regarding social distancing, hygiene and surface decontamination.
    • If your laboratory is in BSB/NSERL, check in and check out at the Public Safety Officer’s desk using your BSB/NSERL badge.
    • Post a copy of your completed laboratory-specific Continuity Plan on the main entrance door to your lab space.
  • Our team of safety and laboratory waste specialists will be working in all lab areas on campus to safely collect and dispose of any accumulated laboratory waste, as well as ensuring that the laboratories are in a safe condition. Please contact us at [email protected] with any questions, concerns or requests for support.

How will the University decide when to end the curtailment of research activities?

  • UT Dallas will continue to work with state and local health officials to carefully monitor the situation.

My lab is engaged in critical research that cannot be moved off-campus. What do I do?

  • The Office of Research recognizes that we have groups with ongoing essential research activities involving time course studies that incorporate prior work over some time span, or COVID-19 related science and engineering endeavors responsive to the current crisis. As a result, the Office of Research will implement a systematic process for granting limited access to research labs and facilities to accomplish essential research activities. Research groups can notify the Office of Research of their lab shutdown status, and request limited access to on-campus research facilities, using this form Opens in a new tab..

What steps should PIs, research managers, and laboratory Responsible Parties (RP’s) take to create a plan for research continuity?

  • Each PI, research manager, and RP is accountable for developing and documenting their own laboratory-specific Continuity Plan, and ensuring that plan is communicated to lab members. These individual plans supplement broader continuity planning efforts undertaken by departments within the University, and the UTD Office of Emergency Management and Continuity Planning (OEMCP).
  • The Office of Research and OEMCP provide the following resources to assist laboratory personnel in developing their plans:

Who can help me with planning?

  • Research, Campus, and Environmental Safety ([email protected]) can help with interim plan development and guidance, including:
    • Risk assessment to identify those activities that may pose a hazard when unattended.
    • Safeguards to implement if high risk work will continue.
    • Handling and disposal of laboratory waste.
    • Questions relating to PPE, disinfection, and cleaning.

How should I prioritize my research activities to maximize continuity?

  • The following rubric can be found in the UT Dallas Continuity Planning and Recovery Guide for Laboratories and Research Facilities:
Priority Rating Importance Recovery Time
Critical Function directly impacts the life, health, safety, or security of the UT Dallas community and stopping would have significant consequences. < 4 hours
High Function must continue at normal or increased level. Pausing for more than 24 hours may cause significant consequences or serious harm to business operations, upstream and downstream dependent organizations or units, revenue and finances, reputation, or other core mission services. < 24 hours
Medium Function must be continued if at all possible, perhaps in reduced mode. Stopping for more than one week may cause major disruption to business operations, upstream and downstream dependent organizations or units, revenue and finances, or other core mission services. < 1 week
Low Function could be suspended for up to one month without causing significant disruption to business operations, upstream and downstream dependent organizations or units, revenue and finances, or other core mission services. < 1 month
Deferrable Function may pause and resume when conditions permit. Deferring this function for more than one month may cause slight disruption to business operations, upstream and downstream dependent organizations or units, revenue and finances, or other core mission services. > 1 month

I rely on a core facility. What continuity plans are in place for core facilities?

  • Research core facilities (RCF) have developed continuity plans for the facilities, but specifics for accessibility may differ. Contact RCF director Jimmy Gowrisanker or individual core managers about their plans and how to maintain your access.

What about accessing restricted or secure data from off campus?

  • These will need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis dependent on usage or contractual obligations. If you are unsure, please email [email protected] with your project ID and your intended use case for more information.

What if the “worst case” occurs and I am unable to maintain my laboratory operations?

  • Preparation now will help mitigate the impact if it becomes necessary to close out all of your laboratory operations. Please consider the prerequisites for this and their impacts. Guidance for safe laboratory close-out can be found here.

What must research laboratories do to prepare for the care of research animals in case of disruption?

  • Laboratories should be prepared to ramp down, curtail, or postpone animal research experiments if and when the need arises. For ongoing experiments, please limit or discontinue removing animals from LARC-managed facilities. The LARC will continue daily animal care in the vivarium and satellite housing rooms (including regular cage cleaning, feed and water assurance, and health checks). If you have animals in these areas, LARC staff will continue to care for them.

How will animal care proceed if access is limited?

  • The LARC expects to continue to provide regular care to LARC-maintained animals. The LARC has developed plans to respond to a variety of curtailment or reduced staffing scenarios, and will communicate directly with relevant PIs if campus circumstances change. Please discuss plans with LARC leadership if you have questions.