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The following FAQs address some of the key current concerns related to the continuity of SFU’s research activities. As the response to COVID-19 is subject to ongoing changes, these questions will be reviewed and updated daily as necessary with the latest available information.

Planning

Given the escalating danger to the community from COVID-19, and tightening policy response from governments, SFU has decided to further restrict on-campus research, effective at the end-of-business on Friday, March 27, 2020. As of March 27, end-of-business, we expect all research activities to be performed remotely, except where an exemption has been granted by a Faculty Dean or the VPRI. We will revisit the decision on a regular basis and will communicate with the research community when the decision is reversed. 

We know that we perform a very wide variety of types of research on our campuses. This is why Faculty Deans maintain discretion in allowing specific research projects to continue. However, with this announcement we are changing our posture from encouraging remote work to requiring it, unless there is explicit approval for on-campus activity. For off-campus research work, such as fieldwork, please check this FAQ for further information.

If you require and exemption from the remote work requirement, please download an exemption form (.docx). This form includes guidance on valid reasons for an exemption, including for research programs that directly address the COVID-19 pandemic. The collection of these forms gives us a clearer picture of who is on our campus and which rooms are still in use. This is valuable information for health and safety reasons. In all of our exemption-approved research spaces, we expect supervisors of research assistants and graduate/undergraduate students to:

  • Cease in-person human subject research, except REB-approved research related to COVID-19. Please refer to the SFU Research Ethics office for updates on REB clearance
  • Implement protocols for social distancing and for appropriate cleaning of equipment for personnel that need to be in the laboratory or research facility
  • Show understanding and provide accommodation for staff or students who are ill, who choose to self-isolate, or who have concerns about continuing to travel to campus
  • If you are operating a facility alone, or if you are working in an office alone, please refer to SFU's policy on Working Alone or in Isolation (GP39) for guidance on appropriate additional safety measures.
  • Environmental Health and Safety has also created supplemental resources for researchers working alone in labs and safety and risk considerations for researchers working from home.

If you have concerns, please connect with your department chair, school director, or Dean. Deans have the authority to close research labs and other facilities that they feel are not being run in a responsible manner.

Support services normally provided by SFU’s Environmental Health & Safety Department (EHS) will be limited at this time, including spill and incident response assistance. Consideration should be given to postponing all higher risk activities and experiments. Please refer to EHS for further updates.

Please refer to IT Services for resources to assist you with working remotely.

Core Facilities

  • 4D Labs: Currently running operations with skeleton on-site staff. Protocols are to screen users and maximize social distancing in equipment operation.
  • Big Data Hub (BDH): The BDH has moved operations completely online. Those with offices or labs in the facility will still be able to access, subject to social distancing requirements.
  • Imagetech Lab: The Imagetech lab at Surrey Memorial Hospital has shut down on-site operations, but staff are accessible and working remotely. All non-clinical essential research within Fraser Health has been shut down.
  • eBrain Lab: On-site operations have been shut down, and staff are working remotely.

Research involving animals

SFU’s Animal Care Services (ACS) has a crisis management plan to mitigate specific issues pertaining to the current COVID-19 situation. As an essential service, ACS anticipates being able to maintain current animal colonies with designated staff in ACS facilities. Please refer to the ACS webpage for specific updates to services.

Fieldwork and international research collaborations

The following should be considered for all researchers undertaking fieldwork. Please note that any ethnographic research must also follow current Behavioural Research Ethics Board guidelines.

  • Are you able to travel to and from your research sites in compliance with current travel advisories? The current Government of Canada Official Global Advisory is to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice.
  • Does the size of your team allow for social distancing?
  • Do modes of travel at your research site allow for social distancing?
  • Do living conditions at the site allow for social distancing and/or for self-isolation should it be necessary?
  • Are plans in place should a member of the research team feel unwell while conducting fieldwork?
  • Will your research lead to close contact with local communities?
  • Are there any factors that could impact your ability to transport/send samples home?

Research Funding

The federal Tri-Agency funding bodies are looking at a number of issues relating to grant applications and funding and providing updates on an ongoing basis. We encourage you to visit the our Funding Opportunities Database for major external funding deadlines and to check funding agency websites such as NSERC, SSHRC and CIHR for the latest updates.

The federal Tri-Agency funding bodies previously communicated that they will consider the costs associated with canceled and postponed travel events paid through agency funds as allowable project expenses, provided they align with agency policies. Please see their announcement for more details. For funds from other sources, be sure to check with the appropriate funding agency/sponsor regarding eligibility. The current Government of Canada Official Global Advisory is to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice. The Agencies are also canceling or postponing non-essential events and travel at least until early April. Please refer to CIHR, NSERC, and SSHRC websites regularly for updates.

At this time, SSHRC and NSERC have officially recognized that agency-funded research delayed on account COVID-19 may be eligible for extensions.

If you have a SSHRC or NSERC Grant that ends February 1, 2020 through to March 31, 2021 that is being delayed due to COVID-19 related issues, regardless of whether it has been previously extended, Research Services is authorized to directly approve extension requests for up to 12 months. Please note that Grant Amendment Forms do not need to be completed for extension requests that meet this criteria.

CIHR is providing an automatic one-year extension to the authority-to-use-funds date for all active grants. This will give researchers an additional full year to use any residual funds not yet spent to compensate for disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Please note that the CIHR extensions are automatic and that no action is required from primary investigators or SFU.

If you wish to have your grant extended because of delays caused by COVID-19, please email your grant information and a brief justification of the delays to Research Services (ors@sfu.ca).

Faculty supervisors are expected to maintain existing contracts for grant-funded personnel to the end of their current term. This includes Research Assistants (RA). If an RA cannot perform their duties due to illness, self-isolation requirements, or inability to work remotely, NSERC announced on March 17 that their salaries can continue to be paid from grant funds. We are expecting similar announcements from other federal funders.

Please refer to CIHR, NSERC, and SSHRC websites regularly for updates.

At this time, Mitacs has cancelled the Globalink Research Internship Program this summer. Visiting research students have been instructed to discuss deferment with the Faculty of Graduate and Post-Doctoral Studies. Please refer to Mitacs for ongoing updates on fellowships/internships. 

Research opportunities related to the investigation and mitigation of COVID-19 continue to arise on short notice.

We expect that similar announcements will continue to emerge. Please consult the Funding Opportunities Database Bulletins and its regularly-updated list of opportunities related to COVID-19 research for the most current information.

For application development support on programs related to COVID-19 research, please contact ISA at isa@sfu.ca. For any other questions, please contact the Office of Research Services at ors@sfu.ca.

SFU Response

The SFU community can find information and resources related to the university’s response to COVID-19 at https://www.sfu.ca/covid19. The information is updated as frequently as possible.

Key Contacts

Research Ethics: dore@sfu.ca
Institutional Strategic Awards: isa@sfu.ca
Research Services: ors@sfu.ca
Office of Animal Care Services: ckennedy@sfu.ca, nba36@sfu.ca
Other VPRi operations questions: trevor_davis@sfu.ca
All other questions: vprdir@sfu.ca

 

Resources

Last updated: April 3, 2020