College of Liberal Arts

Levels of Allowable Non-Virtual Research Activities On and Off Campus

The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) and the College of Liberal Arts (COLA) are overseeing a plan to incrementally reopen various categories of research activities that cannot be conducted remotely during the pandemic. The five research levels of this plan are structured by changes in the public health environment. Once the University decides that it is safe and prudent to enter a new research level, new categories of lab-based, human subjects, and archival research and other categories of research conducted by COLA faculty can resume on or off campus.

For more information, please go to the OVPR Research Restart website and the UT Research Restart Plan and Levels. More specific information about restarting human subjects research can be found at the OVPR Human Subjects Research Restart website.

Here, COLA faculty, staff, and students can access information about this process, including how to apply to resume or start research activities, including:
- Current Research Level (and associated guidelines and application deadlines)
- Selection of Projects to Proceed within an Allowable Category of Research Activities
- Additional Information about Human Subjects Research (including current allowable tiers)
- Additional Information About Research in Libraries, Archives, and Collections
- Information about Undergraduate Involvement in Research Activities
- Application for Approval to Conduct Research Activities
- Shift/Cohort Scheduling for On-Campus Research Teams
- More Information about Procurement of PPE

CURRENT RESEARCH LEVEL: 3A (effective September 23, 2020)

As explained at UT Research Restart Plan and Levels, Level 3B allows research of all types that can be conducted virtually. The general guidance is that any research that can be conducted virtually should be conducted virtually until further notice.

Level 3A will allow certain non-virtual research activities that can be conducted on or off campus under specific conditions, including—beginning September 23, 2020—research with human subjects. Whether on-campus or off-campus, research is allowed that balances the risks to individual participants and research personnel with benefits to individual participants and to research/scholarship.

For on-campus research, those conditions include a cap on team capacity. Beginning September 23, 2020, a maximum team capacity of 50% of the total size of a team of researchers (with exceptions for smaller team size) is allowed to work on campus at a time. This maximum capacity can be managed by following a building-specific shift/cohort schedule that enables a larger proportion of a team to work on approved activities on campus over the course of a week while maintaining the 50% capacity at any one time. See below for a fuller description of shift/cohort scheduling in COLA. For off-campus research, these conditions include approval of any community partners where the research activity will take place and attention to social distancing and other safety guidelines.

For more on shifts and cohorts, workforce management, the procurement of PPE, community partners, and other important information, please see the Research Restart Toolkit and the Research Restart FAQs. For more on human subjects research (e.g., general guidelines, risk-benefit tiers, participant consent form, and symptom screening), please see the Human Subjects Research Restart website.

DUE DATE FOR APPLICATIONS TO CONDUCT NON-VIRTUAL RESEARCH DURING RESEARCH LEVEL 3A: Beginning September 25, 2020, applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

Selection of Projects to Proceed within an Allowable Category of Research Activities
Importantly, even though the transition into a new research level might open up a new category of on-campus research, not all on-campus projects and scholars conducting on-campus research within this newly allowed category can operate. That is because social distancing guidelines, other safety-related guidelines, and the availability of testing and PPE limit how much research can occur on campus during a given time.

As a result, some on-campus research activities will need to be given priority independent of the quality and merit of the research. In line with the principles for research activities adopted by the OVPR, COLA will take into account the following factors in prioritizing on-campus research activities within a category when the University enters a new research level. These factors include:
- Size of team and location on campus in relation to density (most important factor)
- Time-sensitivity of research
- Involvement of early career scholars (including students) with tight timelines
- Relevance of research to COVID
- Careful consideration of COVID effects on the quality of data collection and analyses
- Completion of ongoing research (vs. starting new research)
- Safety and social distancing plan (see Research Restart Toolkit and the Human Subjects Restart website

This need to prioritize projects within an allowable category will not extend to off-campus research, although certain factors (e.g., location off campus, safety plan) and other university policies (e.g., travel restrictions, library access policies) could influence approval of a project that falls within a general category of research activities that is otherwise allowed.

Additional Information about Human Subjects Research
For the specific case of human subjects research, selection is organized around a tier system that compares risks (to individual participants and research personnel) to benefits (to individual participants and to research/scholarship). The Human Subjects Research Restart website has the matrix of risks to benefits that defines Tiers A, B, C, and D. Each project needs to be positioned within one tier. Projects that involve multiple tiers should be split into multiple applications according to the tiers associated with each activity.

CURRENT ALLOWABLE TIERS FOR HUMAN SUBJECTS RESEARCH: A, B, and C
(beginning September 23, 2020)

The Human Subjects Research Restart website and the Human Subjects Research Restart FAQs provide guidance about how to categorize a project within a tier along with other information and forms, including:
  • Participant Consent Form-COVID-19 Addendum (in English and Spanish), which will be required of all participants in human subjects research.
  • COVID-19 Symptom Screening Checklist (in English and Spanish), which must be completed by any participant in human subjects research.

Additional Information about Research in Libraries, Archives, and Collections
Many COLA faculty conduct their research in libraries, collections, and archives on and off campus. These sites operate under their own guidelines that dictate when and how COLA researchers can access them, regardless of the Research Level set by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the application and approval systems set up by each college.

Currently, UT Libraries enables faculty, staff, and students to access special services for research, including contactless book retrieval and pick up service, a scanning service, some study and work space in the Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL) and a few other libraries within occupancy limits, and inter-library loans services. These services are in addition to virtual services being offered for research support, such as accessing a large amount of materials through the HathiTrust and the availability many online materials from on-campus collections (e.g., LLILAS Benson). Appointments for in-person access to archives and collections are not available now but could be in the future. Please check with UT Libraries for updates on services and supports for researchers, including the Library Services Continuity Guide. As soon as UT Libraries allows in-person appointments for research in libraries, collections, and archives on campus, COLA will use a notification system for faculty, staff, and students (with a sponsoring faculty member) to inform COLA about who will be on campus for research and where. That notification system is crucial to managing on-campus activity.

Off-campus research in libraries, collections, and archives on campus is allowed if the site allows in-person research and the appropriate travel authorizations are in place. COLA requires that faculty, staff, and students who have been cleared for off-campus research under these conditions use its notification system.

Information about Undergraduate Involvement in Research Activities
Beginning October 14, 2020, undergraduates can be approved to join faculty-led research teams and to conduct their own faculty-supervised independent research under certain circumstances. In both cases, the faculty supervisor must go through the restart application process, either by including the undergraduate researcher as personnel on the faculty member’s own project application or by submitting a new application on behalf of (and in collaboration with) the undergraduate researcher.

This document describes the different categories of undergraduate research on and off campus and offers instructions for how faculty can apply for approval of undergraduate involvement in research, including information about:

  • Adhering to capacity, social distancing, and shift/cohort scheduling guidelines for on-campus activities
  • Gaining necessary authorizations for off-campus activities
  • How undergraduate researchers will need to consent to regular participation in community testing at UT regardless of whether conducting on- or off-campus research
  • How supervising faculty should manage this testing process.
  • Special guidance for undergraduate researchers seeking to conduct faculty-led or -supervised research in libraries, archives, and collections
Please see Undergraduate Research Restart for details and FAQs about the process from the Office of Vice President for Research.


Application for Approval to Conduct Research Activities
When the University enters a new research level, COLA will begin receiving applications to start research activities. Please note:
  • Applications are project-specific, meaning that there will be no blanket approvals for all of a scholar’s or lab’s various activities. Each project requires a separate proposal.
  • To give scholars time to propose and receive equal consideration, these applications will be due by a specific date for each new research level, and all applications that arrive by that date will be reviewed together (later applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis).
  • Approval will be for a specific time period rather than open-ended, and, for the sake of equity in the face of space, density, testing, and PPE constraints, some approvals granted in earlier research levels may need to be reconsidered or shortened as the University enters each new research level.
  • Approval will require regular updating, as requested by OVPR and COLA, of the number of personnel working in each space on and off campus.
  • No personnel should be pressured to work if they are uncomfortable doing so, and there should be no disciplinary or retaliatory action taken against anyone who prefers not to return to work due to concerns about infection.

There are three general research applications for three general types of research.

For approval from COLA for animal research and other forms of laboratory research not involving data collection with human subjects, please complete this application.
(you can review the list of questions in this application beforehand)
* See information below about shift/cohort scheduling

For approval from COLA for on-campus human subjects research, please complete this application.
(you can review the list of questions in this application beforehand)
* See information below about shift/cohort scheduling

For approval from COLA for off-campus human subjects research, please complete this application.
(you can review the list of questions in this application beforehand)

To notify COLA for non-human subjects research in libraries, archives, and collections, please use this notification system.
(you can review the list of questions in this notification system beforehand)
Please note that, currently, UT Libraries does not allow in-person appointments for research activities (check for library updates). Off-campus research in this category is allowed depending on site approval and travel authorization.

Shift/Cohort Scheduling for On-Campus Research Teams
Scholars can increase team capacity by using the shift/cohort model. In this model, the workday (6:00 am – 10:00 pm) is divided into two shifts, and a team is divided into cohorts, with no cohort exceeding more than 50% capacity of the total team. Cohorts are then assigned separate shifts, and research personnel can only work during their assigned shifts. Here are two examples for a team working in a building with two specified shifts per day:

One cohort 50% of the research team working in building—all of the team on a single shift—and 50% off campus.
Two cohorts 100% of the research team working in the building—split into two groups of 50% total capacity each, with Cohort A working the early shift and Cohort B working the later shift.

Here are some important points to consider when working with the shift/cohort model:

  • Shifts are set at the building level, and all scholars and research teams must adhere to the building-level schedule regardless of their own preferences or team size. See grid below for current building-level information.
  • Cohort rotations must follow the daily shift schedule and not any other schedule; for example, Cohort A cannot work one day followed by Cohort B the next day.
  • Shift schedules apply to all days of the week, not just weekdays.
  • All shift schedules contain a one-hour break between shifts to allow turnover between cohorts.
  • Cohorts are, by definition, non-overlapping, which means that any and all research personnel on a team can only be assigned to—and work in—one shift per day.
  • Shift/cohort schedules should be viewed as semi-permanent. Alterations will be allowed under certain circumstances, but maintaining the same schedules (including the same roster of personnel in a cohort) is important for safety precautions and contact tracing. A team member who needs to change schedules will need to take a 10-day break from on-site activity (i.e., work remotely) before that change can happen.
  • The shifts represent a window of time in which a researcher can work but does not have to work. In other words, a researcher assigned to a 6:00 am-3:00 pm shift does not have to arrive at work at 6 am or and be on campus until 3:00 pm but is allowed to work in any or all combination of hours during this window.
  • Shift/cohort schedules can only accommodate the capacity that is allowable to maintain social distancing (6 feet separation) and general occupancy buffering (1 person/200 square feet).

Current Shift Schedules of Buildings in COLA Buildings

Building Shifts Cohorts Faculty Coordinator
Patton (RLP) 6:00am–4:00pm, 5:00pm–10:00pm Cohorts rotate early/late by week Kelly Raley (SOC)
Rapoport (BRB) 6:00am–10:00pm No Cohorts Jason Abrevaya (ECO)
Seay (SEA) 6:00am–3:00pm, 4:00pm–10:00pm Cohort A early, Cohort B late Marie Monfils (PSY)
Powers (WCH) 6:00am–10:00pm No Cohorts Anthony DiFiore (ANT)

Note that these COLA buildings include research spaces with active research activities used by COLA faculty for approved projects for this research level. Schedules will be set for additional COLA buildings as COLA faculty are approved for research activities in those buildings.

Further note that COLA faculty who conduct their research in non-COLA buildings need to follow the guidelines for those buildings, which are set by other colleges and units, and their applications to COLA need to reflect that.

Adding new team members to a current shift/cohort schedule or moving existing team members to new shifts/cohorts does not require a new application. Instead, please fill out this form and email it to email laresearch@austin.utexas.edu along with a brief description of why the addition/change needs to be made. Please note that changing shifts/cohorts requires a 10-day break from on-site activity.

More Information about Procurement of PPE
UT is centrally organizing the procurement of mass quantities of PPE required for human subject research.
  • Supplies include level-2 surgical grade masks (note: cloth masks cannot be worn when engaging in human subjects research), hand sanitizer (personal use/portable, and 1-L pump bottles), disinfecting wipes (50-count and 80-count packs), face shields (for use when people must break the 6-feet barrier or have direct physical contact with human subjects), goggles/eye protection, and touchless thermometers (note: participants must be temperature-screened prior to participating in the studies).
  • This centrally procured PPE can be accessed free of charge in the STEM stockroom in the Norman Hackerman Building (NHB) unless supplies can be charged to a grant or funding sponsor.
  • PPE can be purchased on grants if a) the sponsor allows it; b) it is required under UT research restart rules, and c) it can be fully allocated to the sponsored project where it's being charged. Importantly, people cannot use grant-purchased PPE for non-research activities (e.g., general movement about campus, teaching).
If you have any questions, please email laresearch@austin.utexas.edu or Associate Dean Crosnoe at crosnoe@austin.utexas.edu.