OU’s Vice President for Research and Partnerships Tomás Díaz de la Rubia outlined procedures for nonessential research and creative activity programs to return to the Norman campus after being suspended due to COVID-19 in an email to faculty Monday afternoon.
In the email, Díaz de la Rubia described the Phase 2 return to campus, which follows the Phase 1 return to campus which began May 6. During Phase 1, approximately 600 faculty, students and research staff were authorized to return to campus.
According to the email, Phase 2 “significantly expands the types of activities that will be contemplated, but maintains certain requirements related to safety in the research and creative activity environment, such as the approval of a detailed conduct-of-operations plan,” and will be open to all research and creative activity — not only sponsored research — that cannot be accomplished remotely.
The Phase 2 cohort is expected to commence work on July 1, according to the email. Conduct-of-operations plans are due to the Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships from college deans by 5 p.m. June 24. The office will notify primary investigators of the results of their conduct-of-operations plan evaluation between June 29 and 30, through text or email.
The Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships’ Phase 2 builds on the June 11 Human Resources memo, which details the university’s policies for returning to campus and also said employees unable to “complete their job duties fully from home,” as determined by their supervisors, must return to campus July 6.
According to the email, requirements for safe fieldwork will be set by each college and should be described and approved through the conduct-of-operations plan.
There will be no PCR testing requirement prior to returning to campus for Phase 2, although a voluntary program may be offered at a later date, according to the email. Employees are asked to follow guidelines for symptom-checking, COVID-19 testing and isolation, per the OU Human Resources memo.
According to the email, researchers who are able to continue their research and creative activity from home should continue to do so, and those activities not requiring access to Norman’s campus or a field site will not be approved for the Phase 2 return.
Activities requiring more than two people per 500 square feet of workspace will not be authorized for the Phase 2 return, according to the email. The office advises staggering shifts in order to meet this requirement, or if safety requirements demand a higher density of people, such requirements should be outlined in the conduct-of-operations plan.
Human subjects research will be authorized — subject to approval — so long as participants are able to use mandatory face masks, and are also encouraged to avoid being in close proximity for periods in excess of 15 minutes, per the CDC definition of COVID-19 exposure. According to the email, undergraduate students will also be allowed to participate in research and creative activity.
According to the email, all faculty, students and staff participating in the Phase 2 return agree to comply with the safety measures detailed in their approved conduct-of-operations plans and any subsequent instructions from the Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships or OU President Joseph Harroz, noting that "failure to do so may require immediate termination of the activity in part or in its entirety.”
“Please remember that transmission of the (COVID-19) virus may occur from people with no symptoms,” Díaz de la Rubia said in the email. “At this time, in the absence of a vaccine, consider that everyone, including yourself, may be infected with the virus and always use all appropriate precautions.”