Skip to main content

Reopening Research

This page has important information about how to access campus research space in this first phase. Anyone requesting access, including their lab members, must read this page carefully prior to requesting access to check whether they can meet the requirements laid out to conduct research in university space and whether they can abide by the rules at all times.

President Khator charged a Task Force on Reopening to develop a strategy on how to open our facilities and operations in stages. The Task Force is co-chaired by University of Houston-Victoria President Bob Glenn and Vice Chancellor for Research and Technology Transfer Amr Elnashai. The Task Force developed Guiding Principles for Reopening and Questions to Answer Before Reopening.

The first phase of reopening was announced by President Khator on April 30 in her e-mail to the UH community. In this e-mail, she announced that researchers can resume their research on Tuesday, May 5, after they receive approval from their college and complete the online training and self-health check (details are below). The overarching goal is to protect the health and well-being of students, staff, and faculty who conduct research in university research. Below, PI refers to the person who leads a lab or research group.

The guidelines refer only to research that is conducted in university research spaces, such as the physical campus; the Technology Bridge; research labs, core facilities, on-campus clinical sites, research offices, or field stations; or UH research involving direct contact with individuals (including, human subjects) anywhere. It does not cover research that is done remotely. University research space also includes physical presence in campus libraries, archives, and museums to access any University material that cannot be accessed remotely, as well as performance work (arts) or other studio access that is done in university spaces.

In this first phase, we are only bringing research groups back on campus who cannot conduct their research from home. Typically, these are research groups who work in wet labs or need access to databases that can only be accessed when on campus. Access requests are carefully vetted by the Associate Deans of Research in the college of the PI.

To the greatest extent possible, research personnel should continue to work from home; in particular, all vulnerable individuals are encouraged to continue to work from home.

Researchers should be aware that depending on the situation, such as an outbreak of COVID-19 or Stay Home executive orders, research may have to be ramped down again within a short amount of time. The same process as during the ramp-down of research during the first Stay Home. Work Safe. Order applies for any future ramp-down.

UH Libraries

While the Libraries are not open to users at this time, UH databases, electronic journals and e-books remain accessible and staff in the MD Anderson, Health Sciences and Music libraries provide additional services. Librarians provide research assistance to UH faculty and students remotely via the Contact Us link — use either the ‘Chat with us’ function or the ‘Get expert help’ link on that page. To access print materials from the general collections, use the Contact Us link on the Libraries website to contact Libraries staff who are available to scan and email chapters and articles or mail entire items such as books and magazines.

To access materials from Special Collections, contact Christian Kelleher, Head of Special Collections, at cdkelleh@central.uh.edu. In-person access to materials will be by appointment only and will require the use of face masks and taking other protective measures. Appointments will only be granted to researchers who have received permission to return to campus.

Ordering new books has not yet resumed. If you have an immediate need for titles not owned by the Libraries, consult your subject librarian for possible available options. Use the Request a Purchase link for ordering of new print books that are not immediately needed or for requests for resources in electronic format that need to be purchased. You can also contact your subject librarian or use the Contact Us link if you need assistance for locating electronic materials, placing an Interlibrary Loan or any other needs not covered in this summary of services.

Research Stores

The Research Stores in the basement of the Lamar Fleming building is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.– 3:30 p.m. If you need to order something, email the Research Stores at rstores@central.uh.edu so that they can get your order ready for pickup. When you go there to pick up your order, make sure you wear a mask. If you cannot get into the building, call 713-743-2639 and someone from the Research Store will come to let you in.

The Research Stores also carry Personal Protective Equipment, such as face masks or face shields, at reasonable prices. They have been able to procure high-quality products from reputable manufacturers. For instance, 50 face masks only cost $75, have durable elastic straps and are made out of material that does not wrinkle easily. They also carry bleach, gloves, safety goggles, medical-grade wipes, hand sanitizers and other disinfecting supplies.

UH Mail Services is not equipped to manage chemicals, biological and radioactive materials. They do not have refrigeration to maintain package temperature. Coordinate with UH Research Stores and have your sensitive packages delivered there. They have trained staff and the necessary equipment to handle chemicals, biological materials and packages requiring constant temperatures. (Note: radioactive materials, by policy, can only be shipped to and received by Environmental Health and Safety.)

Anyone (PI, students, faculty, and staff) coming on campus, even if it is only to pick up something from the office, is required to complete the HR training modules, pass a self-health screening test and is expected to cooperate with contact tracing. The training and screening can be found on AccessUH (TAP Employee Online Training) beginning Friday, May 1. Only those on payroll received the e-mail from HR with the link to the training. If you do not have access to the training, contact your department chair and Raysa Caba (rwcaba@central.uh.edu) with the name and PeopleSoft ID to be added manually to the training module. 

PIs must submit an online form (one for each building to which access is requested) with a list of personnel and the building location (including room numbers) where research activities will be conducted. The PI must receive approval from the college prior to commencing any research activities in university research space. If approval is not granted research cannot commence (contact your chair and ADR for further discussion if this occurs). Any changes in personnel or spaces must be submitted through the same process. The form will be routed first to the college for approval and then to the Division of Research. The form will then be shared with the chair of the department, the Office of the Provost, Facilities Services, Building Coordinators, the Libraries, and Environmental Health and Safety.

EHS put together a Guidance Document for reactivating paused research laboratory activities. Please read prior to commencing research. Note that a Cougar Card is required for building access at all times. Because buildings will be closed, arrangements must be made for deliveries.

The PI is required to obtain consent from students and employees listed on the form to work in university research space prior to submitting the form. Students, faculty and staff who have concerns about their own or others safety and well-being regarding the implementation of our reopening plan should consult with their supervisor, and if they still have concerns or suspect non-compliance, they should utilize established grievance and complaint procedures, including the Fraud & Non-Compliance Hotline, which can be confidential, available online and hosted by Convercent.

Regardless of the type of research/scholarship performed, the following guidelines must be followed at all times.

  • Protect Yourself and Others: CDC guidelines of social distancing of 6 feet or greater, hand-washing (minimum of 20 seconds with soap), covering mouth and nose, cough etiquette, cleanliness, and sanitization should be rigorously practiced.

  • Masks: Effective Monday, April 27 until further notice, the University of Houston is requiring face masks for those faculty and staff working on-campus in situations where they are in close proximity (within 6 feet) of others. This requirement is also directed to all who are visiting campus, including students, contractors and visitors (10 years of age or older). Details are here.

  • Protective Equipment: It is the PI’s responsibility to determine what kind of protective equipment is needed and to ensure their availability to members of their research group while they work in university research spaces.

  • Health Checks:  Prior to coming to work, individuals must self-screen for any of the following new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19: cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, diarrhea, feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit, or known close contact with a person who is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19. If you have any of the symptoms on any work day, do not come on campus. Contact your immediate supervisor as soon as reasonably possible. Follow the guidelines at the UH COVID-19 websites in the case of a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 and contact Cris Milligan (cmilliga@central.uh.edu) so that we can work with Facilities to arrange for professional sanitization of the lab if needed.

  • Travel: Travel restrictions and self-quarantine rules continue to apply and are posted on the UH COVID-19 Travel Restrictions.

  • Contact Tracing: Every individual must maintain and regularly update a list of substantive and known face-to-face contacts that they have had during the preceding two weeks (i.e., lab members they interact with on a daily basis, human subjects they came in contact with during study procedures, family members, friends, etc.). In the case of a coronavirus infection, this list should be made available to the Houston Health Department to facilitate contact tracing.

  • Common Areas: People are discouraged from eating together or gathering in common areas, such as kitchens or break rooms and these areas, including appliances, must be cleaned regularly.

  • Closed Workspaces: Closed workspaces that are open to users in libraries, archives, etc. must be cleaned regularly. Single-occupancy workspaces that are small and enclosed should not be occupied by more than one person per day.

  • Reporting Symptoms: Make sure that everyone in your research group knows that if they exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms, they must contact their supervisor immediately.  Here is what supervisors need to do if they are notified by someone in their group that they have tested positive or are experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms:
    • Ask them to self-isolate immediately, that is, they should stay at home, except to get medical care, and should not go to work, school, or public areas or attend large gatherings. They should also not use public transportation or ride-sharing. The UH self-quarantine requirements can be found here.
    • They should call their doctor or local health department for guidance, next steps, and arrange for testing.
    • If they have tested positive for COVID-19 ask them to complete the Reporting COVID-19 Diagnosis form that can be found here
    • Collect information about the individual’s contacts among the lab group, up to 2 days prior to symptom onset, to identify other lab members who could be considered exposed.
      • If an employee is confirmed infected, inform others in your lab of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Do not identify the symptomatic individual by name.    
      • Send home anyone who has been in close contact, (< 6 feet) for a prolonged period of time, with this individual and ask them to self-quarantine until 14 days after last exposure and self-monitor for symptoms. 
    • Contact Cris Milligan (cmilligan@uh.edu) who will work with Facilities Services in case a deeper cleaning of your lab is required.
Texans Helping Texans: The Governor’s Report to Open Texas. ( https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/organization/opentexas/OpenTexas-Report.pdf; accessed on April 27, 2020)

Shared Spaces are defined as research spaces where members of a research group routinely interact with each other in the same space, such as science and engineering labs, core facilities, shared spaces in institutes or centers. These guidelines apply:

  • Spacing: The following guidelines must be adopted for shared research spaces: no more than one (1) individual per 200 sqft per room/workspace unless further density is justified and approved. The PI is responsible for ensuring that this rule is followed at all times. Space out desks and work stations: desks in common areas must be arranged so that individuals occupying desks at the same time are at least 10 ft apart (consider temporary walls between workstations if this spacing cannot be achieved). If a space is designed for single occupancy, the space should not be occupied by more than one individual on the same day.

  • Work Schedule: Consider implementing a staggered work schedule that minimizes the number of people who are in the lab or other shared research areas at the same time. Work shifts, including work during non-regular business hours, should be considered. The work schedule must be posted inside the shared research space in an easily accessible place. Allow for at least 15-minute buffers between shifts to avoid contact of individuals during transition. Minimize rotating individuals among shifts to reduce the number of unique contacts.

  • Protective Equipment: Masks and gloves must be available in shared research spaces. Obtaining these items is the responsibility of the PI. Masks must be worn at all times in spaces that involve close proximity with other people and when other people are present. Gloves must be worn and removed properly when individuals interact with human subjects in close proximity or share devices or equipment. Masks and gloves must be made available to human subjects and visitors prior to entering lab spaces. Human subjects and visitors must wear masks and must be given the option to wear gloves. If other protective equipment is needed, the PI must ensure their availability. If any of these are needed and not available to the lab, the lab is not allowed to remain open.

  • Visitors: No visitors are allowed in shared research spaces except for the purpose of delivery, maintenance, repairs, or research collaboration that cannot be conducted remotely. Deliveries should be left outside the lab, if possible. Visitors must adhere to the same rules as lab members if they enter the lab. If visitors come to university research spaces repeatedly (more than once a month), they should be included in the form.

  • Meetings: Routine lab/research group meetings should not be conducted face-to-face. If a face-to-face meeting is necessary, limit the number of participants and hold the meeting in a large, open and well-ventilated space continuing to maintain a distance of 6 feet apart and wear a face mask at all times.

  • Safety: If research is conducted by a single individual in a lab setting where under normal circumstances, two or more individuals are present, notify at least one other person outside the lab as a safety precaution prior to entering the lab and upon leaving.

  • Disinfecting Labs: Disinfect common research areas and frequently touched surfaces (lab benches, doorknobs, sink handles, freezer doors, fume hood sashes, keyboards, microscopes, etc.) at the end of each shift prior to the next shift arriving at the workplace. Designate one or more individuals responsible for cleaning and disinfecting and have them initial on the daily work schedule that they completed the cleaning.

  • Disinfecting Equipment: Minimize the sharing of equipment and devices. If they need to be shared, thoroughly disinfect the device between uses by different individuals.

  • Core Facilities: Core facilities are potentially visited by multiple researchers each day. To reduce the risk of infection, core facilities must establish rules consistent with the guidelines on this page to address (i) sanitization between visits; (ii) number of individuals allowed in the space at a given time; and (iii) following the social distancing guidelines, in particular when core facility staff interact with researchers. Core facilities must keep a log of who visited the facility with start and end times of each visit. Masks must be worn at all times by both facility staff and researchers if they share space. Consider installing plexiglass barriers between work stations. Minimize the frequency of contacts between facility staff and researchers by utilizing online platforms, such as Zoom, for consultations. Provide hand sanitizers at all entrances and high-traffic areas. Place appropriate signage at entrances indicating how to proceed. If necessary, schedule visits of researchers to avoid crowding.

The requirements can also be found in the "Reopening Research during COVID-19: Human Subjects Research" presentation.

During the current phase of reopening of the campus for research, only limited human subject research activities are permitted. Remote interactions remain the primary research tool. A summary of activities and precautions are provided here; more detailed information is provided on the COVID-19 Human Subjects page. We ask you to familiarize yourself with all requirements prior to commencing research.

IMPORTANT – permissions for human subjects activities may change on a day-to-day, or week-to-week basis, based on the current county/city/state or federal outlook. Ensure that you and your research team closely monitor emails from the Vice President for Research and Tech Transfer.

  • During this phase, social distancing must be maintained. If research procedures require less than 6 ft of distance from subjects, they cannot be conducted at this time, except in clinics providing paid health care services.

  • A verbal pre-screen is required for all subjects prior to coming on campus, to ensure that the subject has not received a diagnosis of COVID-19 in the past fourteen days, does not exhibit any of the COVID-19 symptoms, and to the best of their knowledge, has not come in close contact with a person who is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19 prior to coming on campus for research-related activities.

  • Subjects in known high-risk groups should not be invited to campus at this stage. This includes minors and adults >65, as well as other groups designated by CDC as high risk, if these conditions are part of the inclusion criteria.

  • Strict adherence to safety precautions is crucial, including the use of masks and gloves for research team members and subjects (including proper removal), thorough disinfection of lab and equipment between subjects, handwashing, non-overlapping subject appointments, and contact tracing.

  • The following research procedures may proceed with caution:
    • Online interviews, surveys, and focus groups. Note: important DOR/IT guidance for approvable online platforms is located on the COVID-19 Human Subjects page
    • IRB protocols switching to online methodologies, once a modification has been submitted and approved
    • Research conducted in settings providing paid clinical health care services
    • Other research conducted on campus if six feet of distancing between the subject and research team members can be maintained at all times. This will eliminate some research where close contact is required until UH proceeds to the next phase of re-opening.

  • External institution policy prevails for research conducted in external clinics and other established institutional settings (e.g., schools, prisons).

  • Research in non-institutional/community settings (e.g. homeless shelters or on the streets, famers’ markets or community social/church gatherings) is not permissible at this time.

  • Reporting of COVID test results is required if UH is utilizing an FDA-approved test as part of the research.

  • Any change to research procedures must be reviewed and approved by the IRB prior to implementation.

Following your review of the COVID-19 Human Subjects page, if you have additional questions,  please reach out to your IRB Coordinator, Ms. Danielle Griffin (dgriffi5@central.uh.edu) or Kirstin Holzschuh (kmholzsc@central.uh.edu).

As a reminder, we continue to fast-track new protocols related specifically to COVID-19 as well modifications to currently approved protocols to adjust for remote or alternate research procedures during this time.

  • Limit face-to-face interactions. The ACO team will not allow face-to-face interactions between ACO staff and individual researchers who are not on the ACO staff.  ACO staff will communicate with researchers via phone or through email or other electronic communication methods such as Skype, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams meetings.   

  • Restricting entrance to the animal facilities. ACO’s goal is to safely meet the needs of staff and investigators.  To limit staff exposure, ACO is restricting all investigators from entering the animal facilities until 10 am. Anyone not on ACO staff trying to enter before 10 am will be asked to leave.  This will allow the ACO staff to complete the duties within the animal facility prior to the investigators entering the facility.   By entering the facility, individual researchers certify that they do not exhibit any of the symptoms at the time of entering the facility: new or worsening cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, or feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit. If they exhibit any of these symptoms or if the investigator knows that they have come in close contact with a person who is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19, they are not allowed into the animal facility. Investigators not abiding by the social distancing or use of a proper PPE will have their animal facility access removed. 

  • Prepare for supply changes. ACO currently has enough inventory of PPE and cleaning agents to cover current needs within the animal facility.  The situation, however, may change rapidly. Investigators are prohibited from removing PPE and cleaning supplies from the animal facility. Failure to adhere to this policy may result in denial of future access to the animal facility during the pandemic. ACO will inform everyone if rationing of the PPE supplies is required. 

  • IACUC approval. If any modifications to the animal protocol are being made due to the COVID-19 situation (for example, shortening procedure durations or ordering animals over the number approved by the IACUC), please ensure a modification is submitted and approved through ICON.