Research Guidance Update
May 20, 2021
Sent on behalf of Mark A. Barteau, Vice President for Research
Research Guidance Update
The May 5, 2021 communication from Human Resources, “COVID-19 Protocols Beginning June 1” included the following information regarding research activities:
In response to Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-36, Texas A&M University has announced that face coverings can no longer be required on Texas A&M University campuses, effective immediately. This applies to research activities and laboratories as well. (Note that GA-36 exempts state supported living centers, government-owned hospitals, and government-operated hospitals, as well as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, and any county and municipal jails.). However, the elimination of the face covering requirement does not remove any requirements associated with your potential participation in a respiratory protection program related to your research.
- As the process for establishing infection control plans approved by the Clinical Research, Education, and Service Advisory Committee was kept separate from IRB approvals, removal of the mask requirement or other changes to the infection control plans do NOT require amendment of protocols approved by the IRB, unless a change to the study approved by the IRB is anticipated.
- Effective immediately, new infection control plans or modifications to previously approved infection control plans for human subjects activities are not required to be submitted to the Clinical Research, Education, and Service Advisory Committee for approval.
Although these requirements have been eliminated, the following practices are strongly recommended in conducting research involving human participants.
- Researchers have an ethical obligation to protect the well-being of research participants. Therefore, vaccination of all research personnel who have direct interactions with research participants is strongly encouraged. As a reminder, vaccines are readily available for students, faculty, and staff through Student Health Services. For researchers who have not been vaccinated, face coverings are strongly recommended for self-protection and reduction of the spread of COVID-19.
- High-touch objects (objects and devices, including computer peripherals, routinely touched by research participants) should continue to be disinfected between subjects.
- Opportunities for research participants to congregate inside buildings, especially in spaces where research is being conducted, should be avoided. Researchers are encouraged to continue participant entrance controls and procedures designed to minimize contact between participants.
- No person, whether researcher or participant, who exhibits COVID symptoms or who is considered to be a close contact of someone testing positive in the previous 10 days, should be permitted to participate in any in-person activity. Therefore, continuation of existing screening practices for researchers and participants is strongly recommended.
Additional resources and recommendations can be found in the CDC Toolkit for Colleges and Universities.