Revised Contingency Plans for Research Involving Face-to-Face Interaction with Human Participants
Since mid-March 2020, the University has been through a series of different protection measures to protect our staff and students against the spread and impact of the COVID-19 virus. During this period guidance for researchers in relation to research involving face-to-face in-person interaction with research participants has been provided and regularly updated to reflect the changes in both the University’s measures and the guidelines produced by the Government.
The University has now moved to the Steady State operational level. Steady State is defined as the operational model where the risk to the University and its community is considered low enough to allow emergency COVID-related restrictions on campus to be lifted. Under Steady State the University would operate without reference to time-limited measures in place, save where these are part of the ongoing management of COVID. This means that the University will be operating under standard arrangements, developed through its usual processes and approval routes. Some of these arrangements will differ from those that were in place prior to the pandemic, to accommodate the continued existence of COVID-19 and potential future variants.
As a result, any restrictions around face-to-face in-person interaction with research participants have been lifted. In addition, there is no longer a requirement to provide a separate COVID-19 risk assessment as part of an application for ethical approval. Instead, measures to mitigate for the COVID-19 risk should be incorporated into the general risk assessment for the activity which is still a requirement. Researcher should note that there may be instances for non-standard activities where there could be an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission and, in such cases, the Head of Department will make the decision as to whether a separate COVID-19 risk assessment is needed. This might be the case if an activity is to take place overseas.
This guidance will apply immediately. However, researchers and those undertaking ethics reviews should be aware that the guidance could be subject to change if there is a substantial increase in infection on campus or in the local community, or if there is an upgrade in the national pandemic response.
Professor Chris Greer
Research Governance and Planning Manager