FAQs Related to Research and COVID-19

Office of Research and Scholarship

The following FAQs provide information and guidance regarding UT Tyler research during the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID‐19 represents a fluid and rapidly-evolving situation. We are working diligently to make decisions about University response and recommendations relative to research, and we will share that information with you in a timely manner. Watch your email and the Office of Research & Scholarship website as information evolves in the coming days and weeks. Please e-mail questions or suggestions for content to research@uttyler.edu. Thank you for your understanding as we work to respond to the COVID-19 circumstances.


How can I ensure social distancing in my research work?

Social distancing is of paramount importance. Faculty, researchers, staff and students should take immediate actions to implement social distancing strategies:

  • Researchers should work from home as much as possible; PIs should ensure good communication channels with their researchers;
  • Prioritize campus work to focus only on the most critical experiments, especially those that are required for a graduate student to make progress on their degree – see the Guidance for COVID-19 Research document found on the Office of Research & Scholarship website;
  • On-campus research schedules should be staggered with flexible work schedules to enable minimal staffing at any given time and to ensure social distancing standards. For safety reasons, ensure two people are present in the lab or other research space;
  • For on-campus studies, create flexible work schedules and staggered schedules with shifts to reduce numbers of researchers in labs or offices at any given time and to ensure social distancing and safe operations;
  • International travel is restricted and domestic travel should be limited to what is absolutely necessary – see the travel guidance on the March 11, 2020 COVID-19 Update.

What else should researchers, research groups and labs do now to reduce the risk of spreading illness?

Visit the Office of Human Resources Employment-Related Information Concerning COVID-19 FAQ, which has the most current information and employee-focused guidance. Refer to Guidance for COVID-19 Research for research-related details on COVID-19 and its control.

In addition, please practice self-care:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with tissues when you cough or sneeze;
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing; and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to avoid spreading germs;
  • Improve your immune system by getting enough rest, exercising and eating a healthy diet;
  • Stay home if you are sick, and avoid close contact with those who are sick; and
  • Instead of a handshake, use a wave or elbow bump to avoid spreading germs.

How do I promote social distancing when conducting field studies?

For field research, ensure that employees practice social distancing for all activities, including travel to and from the research field site. Stress employee safety so that a single employee is not put in a high-risk situation by working alone around equipment or animals. Employee safety is paramount, so even with social distancing, all field work should include enough personnel to mitigate risks.

How do I handle packages and deliveries safely during this time period?

For information about all inbound campus packages (UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc.) contact Mail Services at 903.566.7086. The Mail Services and Central Receiving unit is located at the Physical Plant Building.

What are the University’s policies for working remotely?

If an employee feels their work can be conducted remotely, the employee must contact their direct supervisor to discuss available remote work options. For more guidance, check the Employment-Related Information Concerning COVID-19 FAQ on the Office of Human Resources website. Human Resources will provide any and all new information, so referring to the page on an ongoing basis will ensure you have the most current guidance and direction.


What should PIs and Research Managers do right now to plan for research continuity?

All researchers should also immediately begin contingency planning to prepare for curtailing all but the most essential on-campus research and creative activities. Some actions to consider are listed below. We have developed a Contingency Planning Guidance document to assist in creating a research contingency plan.

Actions you can take right now:

  • Update your research group or lab member contact list (e.g., name, title; UT Tyler location, office phone, email and cell phone number). Share the list with each lab member and with your supervisor and/or department chair as well as the building manager (if applicable). Keep both hard copies as well as electronic versions of the list.
  • If your research requires functions that must be supported on campus during a disruption, please identify key lab members, personal protective equipment and equipment needed to perform these functions. As a PI, you should provide this information to your supervisor and/or department chair as well as the building manager (if applicable). Supervisors and department chairs should notify the interim associate provost for research and scholarship.
  • If required on-campus functions depend on vendor supplies for ensuring research facility or lab safety (e.g. liquid nitrogen), please plan ahead appropriately to meet this need.
  • Ensure that standard operating procedures and Materials Safety Data Sheets are available in a visible location and all safety procedures are being followed. Dispose of hazardous waste in a timely fashion, especially if working with time-sensitive materials.
  • Ensure you and your research team have remote access to files, data and software systems while maintaining data control assurances.
  • Develop plans for backing up data on University servers if you are working remotely or plan to work remotely.
  • Continue to follow compliance guidelines for each project protocol. Be sure to submit modifications to the appropriate protocol review committee prior to making changes in protocols.

What research should I do now to maximize continuity in the face of disruption?

Be strategic about how you plan and conduct your research at this time. Depending upon the nature of your research, you might consider:

  • Prioritizing work that is essential;
  • Advancing work in progress to the point that it could be paused if necessary;
  • Identifying the work that has the highest future potential; and
  • Factoring in the relationship of projects to graduate student theses and postdoctoral training objectives.

You may wish to focus on work amenable to remote support, such as data analysis, planning and writing. If you are carrying out a long-term experiment and if it is feasible to freeze or store samples at specific steps, consider doing this more often.

How can I ensure that my graduate students stay on track?

The safety of UT Tyler’s trainees is fundamental to our research and educational mission. PIs and major professors should prioritize work to essential activities (e.g. animal care, equipment maintenance) and research experiments that must be conducted to prevent a serious or permanent loss of data. Social distancing is of paramount importance, and more information is available below the question – How can I ensure social distancing in my research work? – within this FAQ.

Our students and postdoctoral researchers are partners in our research activities and may voluntarily agree to participate in essential research activities. However, it is not appropriate for them to be pressured into this role or assigned an active role that requires in-person participation in a laboratory or research site without their consent.

How do I manage undergraduate student employees?

The best and most current guidance is available in the Guidance for student workers and grad assistants section in the March 17, 2020 COVID-19 Update.

What can I plan to take out of my lab or office?

Researchers should carefully evaluate whether on-campus research functions can be conducted off-campus. Many restrictions apply that are enforced by federal, state and UT Tyler regulations, policies and guidelines. Please contact your department chair or college dean for any questions you have regarding what can be taken from your research space. Your associate provost for research & scholarship is a valuable resource in determining appropriate approaches to remote research operations.

All research must continue within the confines of the appropriate research space. In evaluating your options for remote work, please note the following:

  • Researchers are not allowed to set up an off-campus laboratory site.
  • Researchers are not allowed to take materials, equipment or other laboratory supplies – other than laptops, data storage devices, or computers – offsite (e.g. to their homes) from their labs or workspaces.
  • Researchers may arrange with their PI or lab manager to take notebooks, data storage devices or computers for remote work.
  • Under no circumstances are researchers allowed to transfer or transport Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) or other data that require a controlled environment. Ensure that such information is properly stored and secured.
  • Under no circumstances is it appropriate to remove animals, plants or other materials from UT Tyler-approved housing or research spaces.

How can we prepare for a possible shortage of crucial supplies or vendor disruption?

  • Assess which supplies or services are truly critical.
  • Contact vendors now regarding the potential for disruption. Identify alternative sources.
  • For supplies or services that would be needed even in the event research would be interrupted, work with your research group, department and/or building manager to plan appropriately ahead of time to meet this need.

My work involves core facilities or shared usage space. What should I do?

  • Some core facilities and service centers are operational and are currently expected to remain open.
  • For other UT Tyler research facilities, contact the manager of the facility to coordinate regarding ongoing operations and availability.
  • Given UT Tyler’s strong focus on social distancing, off-campus users should contact the appropriate facility for guidance on how to obtain services before coming on campus.


May I travel for my research or to attend a conference?

All University-related non-essential domestic travel is prohibited until further notice. Faculty, staff and students are not to travel out of state for non-essential university business. Submit travel exception requests to your department head or college dean. Requests must demonstrate that travel is essential to University operations, that no alternative method of convening is possible; and the health and safety of UT Tyler employees will be appropriately managed.

Travel within the state of Texas can continue. That said, the University strongly recommends decisions are made to reduce in-state travel, consistent with our goal of taking reasonable actions to reduce transmission risk. Some factors to consider when evaluating in-state travel include: whether the activity is necessary to enable a student to remain on-track for degree completion; whether the activity could be postponed, moved online, or conducted by phone; the number of attendees and whether the attendees can practice social distancing (e.g. sitting at least six feet apart); and whether the activity supports a critical issue or need in the Texas community.

Monitor the latest UT Tyler information and guidelines on the Coronavirus Precautionary Information page.

Is the Office of Research and Scholarship (ORS) operating as usual?

The Office of Research and Scholarship (ORS) is currently working remotely. The office expects to provide normal service levels for both pre-award and post-award, and research@uttyler.edu will be monitored. If ORS becomes aware of changes in proposal deadlines, information will be posted on the ORS website. We will also share updates with department chairs, deans and other stakeholders via e-mail.

If you need to talk to someone about a proposal submission or about a grant award, click here to find the contact information for the ORS awards team.

Will ORS continue to submit grants to sponsors?

Yes. ORS will continue to submit grants to sponsors. Please contact Kay Jenkins at kjenkins@uttyler.edu or Carla Reichard at creichard@uttyler.edu.

Will ORS work to finalize contracts and grants?

Please contact Debbie Gibson, grant accounting manager, at dgibson@uttyler.edu.

I need to ask for a one-year no-cost extension, what do I do?

Please email Carla Reichard at creichard@uttyler.edu to discuss a request for a one-year no-cost extension.

I need to talk to someone in ORS about a proposal submission, who do I contact?

Please contact Carla Reichard at creichard@uttyler.edu.

I have a question about a grant award, who do I contact?

Please contact Trisha Brinton at tbrinton@uttyler.edu.

How are federal agencies addressing research grants during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The situation with agency policies is changing very rapidly right now. On March 19, 2020, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released new guidance to federal agencies to provide administrative relief to federal grant recipients impacted by the loss of operational capacity and increased costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Administrative relief efforts include:

  • Flexibility with proposal deadlines;
  • No-cost extensions on expiring awards;
  • Allowability of costs not normally chargeable to awards; and
  • Other provisions.

Exceptions in the memo are time-limited and will be reassessed by OMB within 90 days.

Each federal agency is required to issue its own individual guidance to grantees. Visit this Council on Government Relations page for the latest updates and guidance from the various federal agencies.

COVID-19 issues are negatively affecting the progress on my grant. What should I do?

For programmatic issues affecting your study, contact your agency program officer or sponsor contact. If any issues should persist, they may need to be reported in future progress reports, or you may need a No Cost Extension (NCE) to complete your study. NCE requests can be initiated by emailing Carla Reichard at creichard@uttyler.edu.

Can I be reimbursed for research-related travel costs due to a cancellation?

For reimbursements for cancelled travel plans, please see the Travel Services FAQs.


Is the IRB office operating as usual?

The IRB services are operating as usual. We expect this to continue even if UT Tyler temporarily closes. IRB staff can work remotely, and IRB members will be monitoring their email and submissions in Cayuse. IRB meetings are temporarily on pause.

Can I still interact with research subjects?

To protect research participants, researchers and the larger UT Tyler community from risk of COVID–19, UT Tyler has implemented restrictions on face-to-face interactions with research subjects. Until restrictions are eased, research interactions with human research subjects must be performed remotely. Research procedures involving face-to-face interaction with research subjects must be paused, unless the interaction is essential to ensure the health, safety or well-being of the subject. Researchers must work with their department chairs, research center directors, deans and associate deans for research to make appropriate decisions on whether a research visit(s) is essential. See Employment-Related Information Concerning COVID-19 for important details.

Consider these alternatives to in-person interactions:

  • Hold study visits remotely using UT Tyler-supported teleconferencing software (e.g. Zoom or Microsoft Teams).
  • Questionnaires, interviews and similar procedures may be conducted online or via phone.
  • In many cases, informed consent may be obtained remotely.
  • Instead of group interviews, plan for remote individual interviews.

In most cases, you must obtain IRB approval prior to implementing any changes to approved research. For details, see the Human Subjects Research document on the Office of Research and Scholarship website.

IRB staff will prioritize review of modification applications for changes due to COVID-19. To facilitate review, please limit proposed changes to those necessary because of COVID-19. Please use Cayuse to submit modification applications. Cayuse will automatically notify staff of an incoming modification.

What is the effect of the restriction on pending IRB applications?

IRB review of submitted applications will continue as usual. Studies that involve face-to-face interaction may be approved with the condition that face-to-face interactions cannot begin until after the restrictions are lifted.

What is the protocol for notifying participants of visit cancellations?

If a study visit needs to be canceled, participants should be informed of the reason and that they will be contacted again when the visit can be rescheduled. These messages to subjects do not require prior UT Tyler IRB approval.

Do I need to notify the UT Tyler IRB of visit cancellations?

Visit cancellations related to COVID-19 do not need to be reported to the IRB.

Is IRB approval needed to modify study procedures for remote implementation?

Federal regulations require prior approval for changes to non-exempt research, unless the change is necessary to eliminate apparent immediate hazards to participants. We offer the following guidance regarding changing from in-person to remote procedures:

You must obtain IRB approval before implementing changes if:

  • The study is not exempt and changing to remote procedures alters the IRB-approved protocol or consent form(s); AND/OR
  • Remote procedures increase risk or adversely affect privacy/confidentiality protections.

IRB staff will prioritize review of modification applications for changes due to COVID-19. To facilitate review, please limit proposed changes to those necessary because of COVID-19. Please use Cayuse to submit modification applications. Cayuse will automatically notify staff of an incoming modification.

Prior IRB approval is NOT required in the following instances:

  • The study is exempt and administering procedures remotely does not adversely affect confidentiality protections or otherwise increase risk;
  • The study is not exempt, but remote implementation does not change the content of the approved IRB application or consent form (e.g., the approved IRB application or consent form does not describe whether visits are in-person or remote).

Can study personnel work remotely on human-subject research projects?

Yes, but the privacy and confidentiality of research subjects must be protected. Investigators should develop protocols and train study personnel on methods of protecting privacy and confidentiality during remote work. Advance preparation, such as removing identifiers from data sets and establishing folders to permit remote access, is also advised. Click here for additional guidance and information on privacy and confidentiality considerations for working remotely with human subjects research.

What are the procedures that I should follow if the research was approved by a non-UT Tyler IRB?

Consult the Reviewing IRB for guidance on:

  • Whether COVID-19 screening requires prior IRB approval
  • Whether/how to report the restrictions on face-to-face study procedures
  • Whether/how to modify an approved study to allow remote procedures


Is the IACUC office operating as usual?

The UT Tyler IACUC are operating as usual. The IACUC staff can work remotely and IACUC members will be monitoring their email. The IACUC meetings are temporarily pause. If changes occur, the IACUC website will be updated accordingly.

How should I prepare for research disruption due to COVID-19?

Every PI working with research animals at UT Tyler should create a plan to manage animal experiments and ongoing care in case of decreased lab staffing or shortage of supplies. Every PI should create an emergency contact list and share that with the IACUC chair, Dr. Brent Bill. The attending veterinarian, Dr. Kirk Reese, may be reached at 903.360.5541. If he is not available, please leave a message and he will call you back.

Other considerations:

  • Research labs should prioritize ongoing essential research
  • Consider delaying new projects and delaying acquisition of new animal subjects
  • Reduce rodent breeding to only numbers required to maintain lines

How will animal care proceed?

The IACUC has continuity plans in place to provide routine care (food, water, sanitation, health checks) and routine veterinary care. The animal care facilities are stocked with essential items for animal care. Animal caretakers and the attending vet are considered essential personnel and will have access to the animal care facilities unless they become infected with COVID–19.

For any off-site animal care facilities, please contact Dr. Brent Bill, IACUC chair, or the individual who manages the off-site animal care facility.

What if I manage my own animals or conduct my work at an outlying facility?

Each group should have contingency plans in place for who will provide daily animal checks and what to do if this person is unable to perform them. If help is needed providing care due to illness of all caretakers and PIs, the attending veterinarian should be contacted to arrange for emergency backup animal care. The attending veterinarian, Dr. Kirk Reese, may be reached at 903.360.5541.

How will I be notified if there is a change regarding plans of care for animals?

If a serious disruption of normal research activity takes place, the IACUC chair, research compliance coordinator and attending veterinarian will organize virtual meetings or phone calls with researchers, veterinarians and animal care personnel as needed to ensure all animals are being cared for adequately.

Will the IACUC still review my protocol?

ORS and the IACUC office will be working remotely, and the IACUC will be convening virtually. Protocol reviews will continue.

Will my current animal study be discontinued?

Any studies that currently have animals in census in animal care facilities will continue on as planned, at the discretion of the PI. Animal caretakers or researchers will continue to provide husbandry and veterinary care for animals in census.

I have a study using animals in the near future, will it be allowed to continue?

All researchers should consider which projects and work are essential given the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, and its effect on University operations. That said, animal caretakers or researchers will continue to provide care for research animals housed in animal care facilities. If a study is planned, the researcher will confirm with the IACUC chair that the study will continue prior to acquisition of animals. Once animals are received, the researcher will ensure that support for the animals will continue as normal.

I maintain my own animal colonies, is there anything I should do?

Each group should have contingency plans in place for who will provide daily animal checks and what to do if this person is unable to perform them. If help is needed, providing care due to illness of all caretakers and PIs, the attending veterinarian should be contacted to arrange for emergency backup animal care. The attending veterinarian may be reached at 903.360.5541.

What animal research functions will be disrupted?

Nonessential internal animal transfers between studies or facilities will cease for the time being. Researchers should also consider what other activities might be stopped to lessen the movement of people.


How will plant care proceed?

For locally controlled greenhouses and plant growth facilities/equipment, please contact local facility managers. Employ social distancing and minimize use of the facilities as much as possible.


Is the IBC office operating as usual?

The IBC office is operating as usual. The IBC meetings are temporarily on pause. If changes occur, the IBC website will be updated accordingly.

How should I handle biohazards or agents requiring high levels of containment?

Biohazards and other agents should be handled as dictated by your approved protocols. If these materials need manipulation during any disruptions in operations, handle and/or dispose of them as protocols and SOPs dictate. If you have questions, contact Environmental Health and Safety by calling 903.566.7011 or emailing safety@uttyler.edu. Admin staff monitors the Environmental Health and Safety inbox and can pass questions on to the appropriate person.


How can I donate personal protective equipment (PPE) to support our community’s health care providers?

As the UT Tyler community continues to respond to COVID-19, there have been numerous offers of personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies from research and departmental laboratories. The most critical needs include: N95 respirators, surgical masks, face shields, disposable gowns, latex/nitrile gloves, hand sanitizer, biological disposable (red) bags, standard laboratory coats, safety glasses and non-contact thermometers. Chief Medders leads the University's incident response team, which is coordinating the University's response to COVID-19. You may contact Chief Medders by email, mmedders@uttyler.edu or phone, 903.566.7393.