Volunteers in Research

Date: June 23, 2021
Policy No.: 2.300
Status: Final

Contact Office
Assistant Dean for Research
School of Medicine Dean’s Office
Office for Research
Phone: 434-243-7088

Oversight Executive
Senior Associate Dean for Research
School of Medicine Dean’s Office
Phone: 434-243-7088

Applies to
Any individual, aged 16 or older, who wishes to observe or assist in research (in a capacity other than a research subject) at the University of Virginia, School of Medicine, regardless of the length of their volunteer experience. This policy does not apply to: UVA employees (including wage employees) or postdoctoral fellows, or other individuals with a paid or contractual relationship with the University (including non-paid faculty, visiting graduate researchers, and visiting faculty and scholars); UVA undergraduate students performing research for academic credit at UVA; clinical research subjects; or volunteers in the Medical Center.

Reason for Policy
Qualified volunteers can provide meaningful assistance in laboratory, clinical, or translational research. Volunteers should be protected from injury or illness while serving the University without the protection of workers’ compensation. This policy outlines the conditions that must be met in order to ensure that both the individual and the institution are protected in this situation.

Policy Statement
Anyone observing or assisting in research on behalf of the University, and not referenced in the above categories excluded from this policy, is considered a volunteer. Individuals are permitted to perform volunteer research provided that they have authorization from the University. Visiting professionals who are not paid by the University should be appointed as postdoctoral fellows, non-paid faculty, visiting graduate researchers, or visiting faculty and scholars by the responsible department for the duration of their stays.

Documentation of permission to serve as a volunteer is required.  Such documentation shall indicate a volunteer’s status as an agent working on behalf of the University in order for the Commonwealth to provide legal defense and insurance protection for the volunteer.

Individuals who have pending employment may not volunteer for work. This includes persons who are awaiting final visa approval or who wish to work prior to their official start date. It is a violation of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour regulations for an employee to work without compensation.

Departments or centers that wish to allow individuals to serve as volunteers must request authorization by completing and receiving prior approval of a volunteer form (see link under “Related Documents”). Prospective volunteers who will work in sensitive activities must provide two references whom the department may contact before accepting that volunteer. Sensitive activities include, but are not limited to, access to equipment covered by federal export control regulations, or sensitive animal research.  Volunteers may be approved for an initial period not exceeding one year. Two (2) annual extensions may be requested by e-mail to the Office for Research.

Responsibilities of faculty/staff hosts of volunteers
Responsible faculty/staff shall: ensure that volunteers receive training and personal protective equipment appropriate to their responsibilities; restrict the volunteer to activities listed on the volunteer form; and provide direction and guidance to the volunteer as appropriate. Questions concerning the engagement of volunteers or host responsibilities should be discussed in advance with the Office of Property & Liability Risk Management (UVA) or the Office for Research (SOM).

Dependent family members of non-immigrant aliens
Visas held by non-immigrant aliens restrict their employment. Unauthorized employment of such individuals violates federal law, with potential liability for both the dependent family member and the University. These individuals may not volunteer at the University for activities that normally are performed by employees.

Completing the volunteer form
The items below correspond to the information required on the “Form for Volunteers Participating in School of Medicine Research Activities,” which must be approved prior to the onset of work in University facilities:

  1. Volunteer’s complete legal name and complete address. If their permanent home and local address differ, both addresses and phone numbers shall be listed. The volunteer’s cell phone or other contact number and e-mail address also are required.
  2. Volunteers must carry personal health insurance to protect themselves against the cost of medical expenses due to injuries and illnesses that may occur. Provide the name of the volunteer’s health insurance carrier. The department may require and retain a copy of a valid insurance card.
  3. Check appropriate boxes describing the status of the volunteer.
  4. Describe the volunteer’s work status and whether they are under 18 years of age. Citizens of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria must be vetted by the UVA Office of Export Controls; the host department or Office for Research can initiate that request.
  5. Provide the volunteer’s emergency contact information.
  6. A complete and accurate description of the volunteer’s activities is required. There should be no confusion about what the volunteer will be authorized to do on behalf of the University. Document any restrictions or limitations on the volunteer’s activities.
  7. Give the start and end dates for the period that the individual is authorized to act on behalf of the University in a volunteer capacity, not to exceed one year. If this time frame changes for any reason, a request for changes must be forwarded to the School of Medicine Office for Research.
  8. The volunteer’s safety and health are important to the University. Supervising faculty must educate volunteers about any foreseen hazards they may encounter during their research activity. Volunteers must be instructed in the appropriate departmental and institutional safety guidelines applicable to their activities. See “Overview of Research Safety Guidelines and Necessary Training & Certification.”
  9. Provide any additional information that the supervising faculty member wishes to have documented on this form.

The volunteer form must be signed by the faculty member responsible for the volunteer’s activities and the volunteer. If a faculty member wishes for a family member to volunteer in their lab or on a project, then another faculty member must sign as the “responsible faculty member.”  In the event that the volunteer is under 18 years of age, their parent or guardian must also sign. Documents must be kept on file by the department for three (3) years from the time the volunteer activity ends.

Related Documents

Form for Volunteers Participating in School of Medicine Research Activities:

HRM-001, Authorization of Volunteers in the Work Place

MC 0315, Management of Observers

Next Scheduled Review: September 2024

Revision history: Implemented October 8, 2002; revised 11/13/02, 12/4/06, 1/25/10, 2/14/2011, 4/16/13, 8/10/17, 9/23/20; 6/23/21

Approved June 23, 2021 by:

David S. Wilkes, MD
Dean, School of Medicine