COVID-19 Update: IRBs, Working on Campus and More
04/21/2020, 11:00:01 AM
From the Vice President for Research at the U'niversity of Houston. View this message in browser.
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Dear Research Faculty,

We all heard Governor Abbott last Friday announce first steps to open Texas for select activities and services. While at this point only essential research activities are allowed in UH research space, we hope that we will soon be in a position to take advantage of the reduction in restrictions on movement announced in the Governor’s Executive Order, namely the opening of parks yesterday and resumption of some businesses this Friday. We will continue to strictly adhere to guidelines from the CDC and other agencies to limit the spread of the coronavirus. There will be further announcements if there is a safe and sustainable way forward to reduce the restrictions on research activities in accordance with the state of Texas directives.

Here are a few additional updates:

Approved Platforms for Interviewing Human Subjects

Our Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) continue to receive requests to modify human subject research protocols to conduct interviews online. As you can imagine, there are security concerns associated with information sharing through online platforms. We require that you use only UH officially licensed applications, not trial versions or personal licenses, to make sure that the appropriate security controls can be implemented and that there are UH-accessible logs for the sessions. The following platforms are approved: Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Skype for Business and Zoom with a UH-issued license. Check our Human Subjects page for additional information and tips for how to use these platforms.

Researchers conducting studies requiring HIPAA or healthcare privacy compliance, must use a HIPAA-compliant platform. You must contact Ruth Shapiro (Office of General Counsel; for approval prior to using any online platform for such activities. As part of this review, she will work with IT Security to verify that technology requirements are met, and ensure that an appropriate Business Associate Agreement (BAA) is in place.

Please ensure all source data obtained through these platforms is stored and maintained securely per the IRB-approved protocol.

Working on Campus

UH is currently requiring researchers to ask for an exemption for themselves and any lab members if they need to conduct essential research activities on campus. I want to stress that PIs must certify on the exemption request form that all individuals included on the form have agreed to work on campus. Non-essential employees and/or students should not feel compelled to work on campus or in the field at this time. Students and employees (students, staff or faculty) should use the Fraud & Non-Compliance Hotline to file a confidential report if they feel uncomfortable about their work situation.

VPR Virtual Office Hours

We are continuing our weekly VPR Office Hours. The next session is on Friday, April 24 at noon. I hope you will be able to join us. We have had 62, 53 and 73 individuals attending the first three sessions, respectively.

You can access the event through the Research & Innovation Teams site where you will also find channels for topic-specific questions you might have for our directors. I would like to encourage you to post questions prior to the event in our VPR Office Hours channel.

Questions and responses are visible to everyone at UH. If you have project- or team-specific questions that you do not want to share with others at UH, please contact our units directly. Area-specific email inboxes for DOR offices are listed on our Additional Resources page.

Faculty Café

We are offering bi-monthly 50-in-5 Faculty Café sessions on University Research Explained that focus on available funding opportunities in response to the coronavirus crisis. The first online session on this topic is scheduled for Friday, April 24, 1 p.m.–2 p.m. Please register for the online event if you are interested in attending.

COVID-19 Related Technologies

UH is committed to supporting the battle against COVID-19 and has seen some faculty come forward with innovative technologies that could potentially be used by external organizations and companies during the pandemic. If a company or other external organization contacts you about a technology they are interested in, please contact the Office of Technology Transfer and Innovation (OTTI) at  The OTTI team will support you through the entire process from the initial discussions with the organization/company to ensure everything is aligned with UH policies and processes.


Best regards,

Amr Elnashai, FREng  
Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer

Amr Elnashai | VP for Research and Technology Transfer |

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